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An iPhone user's (surprisingly positive) experience with Windows Phone

Kirk McElhearn | April 6, 2015
Hey, Cortana! Kirk McElhearn gave up his iPhone for more than a month to see if the grass is greener on Windows Phone.

The marquee feature of Windows Phone is the tiles that you place on the main home (or Start) screen. Each of these tiles is an app, contact, map location, website bookmark, Office file, album, or more, and they can be in three different sizes, as you can see below.

I especially like the way you can alter the layout so it isn't just a grid of icons. As you can see above, my home screen distributes different sized icons in different places, giving it a less organized look. It's also scrollable--instead of being frozen at the size of the display, you can add more tiles and swipe up to see them.

Note also that some of these tiles are folders: the Settings folder, at the top-right, and the Music+Videos folder on the left. Tap a folder tile and it opens to show the tiles it contains; tap once to launch its app or other items. You can choose an accent color for these tiles. I chose teal, but you can pick from 21 colors, and also choose a wallpaper image or photo to go behind the tiles.

Live Tiles can be live--they update with the latest information, such as weather, sports scores, and news headlines. Unfortunately, they can also be annoying at times, like flashing ads on web pages. For example, I use Flipboard to keep up with the news, and that app's Live Tile is constantly flipping between a red square with a headline, and a photo with a different headline. Depending on which apps you have on your home screen, you may have lots of tiles moving to show you what's new. In addition, folders constantly cycle their apps across their tiles to show you what's behind it.

Windows Phone has a software "home" button, the Start button you can see at the bottom-center of the above screenshot. Tap that once to go to your Start screen. Swipe to the left to access other apps, ones that you haven't added as tiles. The Back arrow takes you back to what you were viewing before, whether it's a screen in the phone's overall interface or an app--I'd love to see a standard Back button or gesture on the iPhone.

Syncing content to the device
Microsoft provides an OS X app called Windows Phone that allows you to sync content to their devices, and to copy files--such as photos--from the device back to your Mac.

This app has an astounding number of bad reviews on the Mac App Store. I didn't use it a lot, but it did sync music and videos (without DRM) relatively smoothly. It's limited in functionality, though, compared to iTunes. You can't sync contacts or calendars from a local app, if you don't want to use iCloud; you can only sync photos from iPhoto; and it doesn't sync photos automatically from the phone to iPhoto. (You need to browse the phone, and import them yourself.)


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