Android vs WP7

A couple of months ago I blogged about my experiences with WP7 on the HTC Trophy.

Well soon after that I sat playing with Android 2.3.3 and began seeing holes in WP7 that I didn’t even know were there before.

The first point is location based, Google has got far more market penetration here in South Africa than bing has. In preparation for the Soccer world cup last year, Google beefed up their maps of South Africa including Street View, local business references, their geolocation quality and their routing engines. If I type something like “Roman’s Pizza” into my droid device it shows me the nearest Roman’s Pizza restaurants. If I type that into bing, it asks if I meant Romania.

If I were sitting in the USA this wouldn’t be an issue since bing’s market penetration seems to be far better there.

The next thing I noticed was the smoothness of apps. WP7 still has a few bugs to kill in its threading implementation which will hopefully be resolved by WP7.1. The result is that WP7 apps tend to jitter as you’re scrolling through them while visual states are updating, or when items are being added or removed from a list. The Facebook and Twitter apps demonstrate this clearly.

On Android I fire up TweetDeck and it’s silky smooth from the moment I open it. No jittering, no lagging.

That brings me to my next point, community apps. WP7 is still young and I was willing to hold on a bit for the community to catch up with apps, but it’s been slower than anyone expected to the point that it’s actually painful. At this point there is still no decent instant messenger for WP7. Whatsapp is nowhere to be seen, nor is Skype or Google Talk. (Yes… I know that Skype is on its way with WP7.1, but at the moment we’ve got nothing).

There’s just a much broader support for Android than WP7. A few other examples that have no close matching app on WP7 are the Formula 1 live timing app which I now use for every F1 race, TweetDeck, Winamp, SoundHound, Guitar tuner and Harvest time tracker.

I’ve also found that similar apps have better functionality on Droid – e.g. YouVersion Bible can stream an audio version of a passage in Droid which can’t be done in the WP7 version. I mentioned TweetDeck before, I know Birdsong is decent on WP7, but Tweetdeck is free and does an equally good job as the paid app on WP7.

When the WP7.1 update hits, I believe the two operating systems will be pretty much on par with each other – with WP7 in the lead for enterprise integration with Exchange and Lync Server.

WP7 has a great edge in a few areas already. I definitely prefer the IE based web browser in WP7 over any of the browsers on Droid. 3D graphics in games are absolutely stunning on WP7 with its Direct X based hardware accelerated rendering. Also the simple ability to fire up the camera from the lock screen is very useful.

App development for WP7 is also light years ahead of Android’s. While the tools for Android are very good (Eclipse + Java + ADK with Android Emulator), the tools for WP7 have the edge with the Blend + Visual Studio + Silverlight combination.

As things stand right now, WP7 really is a great phone OS, but its community is lacking and bing really sucks in South Africa. When the Mango update hits, when Whatsapp finally releases a client for the WP7 platform and when bing’s search in South Africa improves (or we can change over to Google search in WP7) I will probably change back over to using Windows Phone.