I would leave Windows Mobile, but…

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
John 6:67,68

It has never been easy

Windows Phone (now Windows 10 Mobile) struggled from the start. WP7 due to CE kernel has never been ready for its prime. Windows Phone 8 finally brought NT kernel and great innovative hardware (Lumia 920 with joyful colors, wireless charging, optical image stabilization and great camera). Update to 8.1 provided shared Windows Store and “universal apps” that can run on mobile devices and PCs. Unfortunately it has lost it’s hardware momentum. Lumia 930 was boring and 1520 too big for its times.

Fast forward to 2015 and we landed with Windows 10 Mobile, (true) Universal Windows Platform and Lumia 950 with iris scanner, great camera, boring design and… barely no marketing effort from Microsoft to sell it. New strategy announced by Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella clearly stated that the company is limiting its mobile hardware efforts focusing on enterprise, fans and budget segments. After few months it seems that the plans are even more modest — to focus only on business customer. Consumer market is already lost. Without Snapchat, Pokemon GO and other top consumer apps, Windows 10 Mobile just can’t attract younger users. This ship has sailed.

Despite UWP initiative, app situation is even worse than in 2013–2014. Windows 10 Mobile user often struggles with third party alternatives and half-assed first party efforts. Even Microsoft apps lags behind their iOS and Android equivalents. And it’s just sad. It made me wanting to leave Windows Mobile ship, but to whom shall I go? Theoretically I have number of quality options, but… There is always a “but”. Maybe my problem is I’m looking for a perfect option when nothing is perfect. There’s no perfect software. Nor hardware. So how lesser evil actually looks like?

iPhone?

Let’s start with iOS. It similar to Windows 10 Mobile in terms of security, stability (until recently), power management, maintainability and clean user interface. Years of incremental iOS updates however, made it very polished and glitch-free. It is a huge advantage over still young, growing (and buggy!) W10M. But even more important is overall polish and quality of thousands of apps in App Store. It’s unparalleled. Windows is not even close. And that is by far the biggest advantage of iOS over Windows 10 Mobile and even Android.

Not every aspect of software on Apple devices is perfect, however. Apple services usually lags behind their Google’s counterparts. If you want to do something (not consume), it’s better to choose offerings from Microsoft or Google. The good news it, these companies have all their major apps and services available on iOS. The bad news — these apps are not deeply integrated with the system because of limitations and compromises made by Apple to ensure proper stability, performance and security. And it feels like the Cupertino giant lacks innovation in software comparing to Google or Microsoft. That’s worrying.

My biggest issue with possibility of having an iPhone is surprisingly the hardware. Yes, I don’t like iPhone as a hardware device. Why? Few things:

  • It’s ugly. It’s boring, uninspiring and awkward. Yes, it’s my personal opinion, but still.
  • It’s heavy. 192g at 5.5" is a lot. It’s too much. My 5.7" Lumia weights 159g.
  • It bends. I can’t imagine not carrying my phone in my pocket “because it can bend”. And no, putting a case is not an option. If you have to put a case on your $800 phone, the design team blew it.
  • “Dat bezels”. 5.5" iPhone 6s Plus has bigger footprint than 6" Huawei Mate 8. This is just insane. The pursuit for thinness at the expense of the “pocketability“ is just dumb. It’s bad design.

Nexus?

If it’s not the iPhone, the next reasonable choice seems to be the Nexus smartphone. It’s made with close cooperation between Google and the manufacturer. It will get the latest OS updates first. There will be no bloatware. All latest and greatest from Google. For years, Nexus devices struggled in their camera department. It’s not the case anymore. Nexus 6P has great camera that produces quality photos and videos. The perfect phone? Not so fast.

I have two little issues with Nexus phones. It’s… their hardware and software. There is no Nexus device without its hardware story behind it. Burnt displays, throttling CPUs, “breakgate”, etc… The list is long. It’s hard to accept — opposite to software, it can’t be fixed by an OTA update, obviously. Latest flagship, Nexus 6P made by Huawei is a nice device, but still far from perfect. Not this time, Google.

Issue no 2 — it runs Android. It’s the biggest advantage and disadvantage at the same time. To illustrate that paradox, I’ll compare Android to desktop Windows. It’s mighty, full of features and customization options, but just like desktop Windows, it becomes a mess quickly. Getting slower with every week of use is a certain thing with practically all Android devices, including Nexuses, unfortunately. “With great power comes great responsibility”. Android doesn’t bear that responsibility. Problems with security, performance and responsiveness has plagued this operating system for years and there is no clear solution. New security features, switching to AoT compilation, switching back to JiT compilation — where are we going with that? At the end of the day, “Android still lags”.

Android OEM device?

So how about an Android device from Samsung, Lenovo, LG, Xiaomi or Huawei with custom OS layer? Unfortunately it just brings new issues to existing ones (ones that come with stock Android). Of course we will get even more features and possibilities with devices like Galaxy Note 7, but even the latest hardware and $800 phone is not without performance problems. It’s slower in real-life tasks than one year old iPhone. And it lags in very strange places inside its graphical user interface. When will Google and OEMs fix it? It’s THE problem for years.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 — the ultimate hardware (design, pen, screen, size), with under-delivering software. Samsung has got VERY close to perfection with this device, but we’re still not there yet. Note 7 with iOS (and digital ink support) would be my dream device — unfortunately it’s never gonna happen.

Blackberry?

Just kidding.

“Lord, to whom shall we go?”

Why is it always about choosing lesser evil?