Nexus 6: Why I did the unthinkable and switched my Windows Phone

For those that know me, the last phone anyone would of expected me to go for would of been the Nexus 6. Actually it would of been any Android in general.

I’ve been planning to write this post for quite a while now. I’ve not been putting it off, it’s just I’ve not really found the time…2 kids, a job and a wedding to plan for just happens to hinder my ability to write a blog post (in the defence of this site and it’s blog posts in general, that’s just a sh**ty excuse to hide the fact I’m a terrible writer). Please note though that this is not a review. I’ll give my impressions of the Nexus 6, but in the end this is a little story covering a few of my reasons for making the switch.

Anyway, waffle done with, let’s get onto the elephant in the room and that elephant is the fact that after 4 years with Windows Phone (the Lumia 800 followed by the Lumia 1020) and a lot of rants around hating Google and never going back to Android, I ditched my Windows Phones and went back to Android. More specifically, the Nexus 6 (a device so big it could probably bring down an elephant if thrown with enough force).

This may take a blogs post worth of explaining.

First things first

Lets quickly talk about the Nexus 6 before I start moaning. This thing is beautiful to both look at and hold. Reading reviews of the device and more often than not the reviewer will state that the phone is too big and that this is a fault of the device. What they meant to say is, in their opinion, the device is too big for their tiny hands. I on the other (larger) hand have no problem with the size of the Nexus 6. Holding my girlfriends Lumia 925 makes me realise I could never go back to a smaller device. 6 inch’ish sized phones are now my default.

The Nexus 6 - Looks even better in real-life
The Nexus 6 – Looks even better in real-life

The Nexus 6 screen is gorgeous to use, with its (almost) 6 inches of real-estate and a tiny bezel it just oozes premium. On screen buttons are a great feature for any device and one I’m glad Microsoft allow OEM’s to take advantage of on Windows Phone now (no such luck on my old Lumia 1020). Front facing stereo speakers are a real bonus for someone like me who uses their phone to listen to a lot of music and watch a lot of video. People have said that they’re not quite as good as HTC’s Boom Sound speakers, but never having experienced those I’d have to take their word for it and just say for me, the Nexus 6 speakers are loud enough and clear enough.

The Nexus 6, like it’s Motorola little brothers & sisters; has curved back which is clever for a couple of reasons.

  1. It means the Nexus 6 sits very comfortably in hand and makes it much easier to grip. A couple of friends have the iPhone 6+ and wish that it had a curved back like the Nexus 6 as they find themselves constantly dropping the iPhone when holding with 1 hand.
  2. It makes the Nexus 6 seem thinner than it actually is. Whereas its quite thick in the middle of the device, your fingers wrap around the edge of the phone which is very thin so your senses are tricked into thinking what you’re holding is a super thin device.

Android Lollipop is beautiful. It’s not for everyone, but it is for me. I love the look of it. The UI is great to use and when paired with the Nexus 6 it flies. My previous Android history was with the original HTC Desire which shipped with Android 2.1 (Eclair) and the horrible HTC Sense UI. I spent much of its life flashing ROM after ROM trying to make it look & work the way I wanted too. with Android Lollipop, I have no wish to flash a custom ROM. Stock Android is now perfect for me.

Something that gets a lot of mention when talking about Android Lollipop is the animations. Everything you do has some kind of animation and it just gives the OS a bit of personality. It makes actions feel more real. Do I think the animations will get tiresome eventually? More than likely, but right now they’re more than welcome as they don’t interfere with using Android Lollipop. Pair those with the flat user interface which Google have named Material Design and you have a device that’s bright, colourful and just generally a pleasure to use. I’m sure Google would never admit it, but I do feel Windows Phone has indirectly had a hand in Material Design which is great.

As mentioned above, the Nexus 6 flies through tasks and I’m not surprised with the hardware that runs it and if finding out about that hardware is your thing, then click here to find out more.

Now onto why I switched

Windows Phone, Windows Phone, Windows Phone (or simply Windows 10…on a phone as it will be shortly). Where did it all go wrong? Actually there’s nothing particularly wrong with Windows Phone as an OS. It’s a great OS and if you want a smartphone that’s good looking, has an intuitive, easy to use OS that enables you to make phonecalls, send texts, browse the web, take good pictures and stalk the cute girl from accounting on Facebook then you won’t go wrong picking up a Lumia device running Windows.

If however, you also want to have a great media device, which is feature rich and has access to a store full of the latest apps & games, then I’d advise you to look elsewhere or to be more precise either an iPhone or an Android device…it’s this option, in particular the Android device that I went for. All I have to say right now is that I adore my Nexus 6.

Apps & Games

Should anyone read this and in particular be a Windows Phone owner/fan then they’ll argue tooth and nail against the App argument. As an owner of Windows Phones for 4 years, I will right now call bulls**t on your arguments. The app issue on Windows Phone is a lot bigger than most people will admit. It’s better than it was and continues to get better, but the honest truth is that part of my reason to switch was to have a huge choice in apps and not only that, but a choice of quality apps. On my Nexus 6 I have a whole folder full of games that I actually play regularly and I really enjoy gaming on the Nexus 6, I would even go as far as saying I’ve probably put in more game time on my Nexus 6 in the last few weeks than I did in 4 years on Windows Phone. There’s a serious lack of quality games and even apps for that matter. The stalwart fans among you will tell us that when it comes to apps there are plenty of 3rd party alternatives to the top 1st party apps and yes, you’re right, there are…doesn’t mean they’re very good though. Then the same few will cry out with “What about Rudy Huyn’s apps!!” Don’t get me wrong, the guy is clearly talented and is a far superior developer than me and at first I installed everything he did…and then I uninstalled everything downloaded the 1st party version of said apps where available. He’s helped Windows Phone a lot, but one gifted developer a savior does not make.

The Google play Store is full to the brim with apps & games. Not all are great and I’m sure Windows Phone users would love to tell me how many apps are pure s**t and just poorly built filler apps…and this is true, but my last flick through the Windows Store would suggest the exact same is true of that store too.

I also find navigating the Play Store much easier. The layout and navigation is much more user friendly and the categorisation means its much easier for me to find apps I actually want.

Google Play Store
Google Play Store – This is what an app store should look like.

Since I mentioned 1st party apps, the difference in quality & features between Android 1st Party apps and Windows Phone 1st party apps really is night and day. Even after all this time, Windows Phone for the most part is not where developers want to be and that’s a shame.

Lets move on to some of my other minor gripes.

Xbox Music vs Google Play Music

Oh my god, the Xbox Music app on Windows Phone is awful. It was split from the OS for a good reason, but the development of it has been atrocious. Bit by bit it got faster and more stable, but up until January of this year it was still an awful way to listen to music. As such, when switching to the Nexus 6 I decided not to keep my Xbox Music subscription and switched to a Google Play Music subscription instead and for someone who uses their phone to listen to music for large chunks of the day I can happily say the experience on Android is far superior to that on Windows Phone. Google Play Music is great to use. It’s great to look at, easy to use, fast and stable. The integration with YouTube is a neat feature which keeps my 3 year old & 1 year old entertained during bath times.

OS & App features

There’s often been a lot of talk about Windows Phone being behind Android & iOS when it comes to built in features and that was true for quite some time when looking at Windows Phone 7 and then Windows Phone 8 came along and brought a lot of those missing features with it and everyone cheered because Windows Phone was now on-par with it’s rival when it came to features…only its sort of not, not when you get deep down into it. I will say now this is a little quibble and only really applies to a tiny fraction of OS features. Microsoft have done a great job of feature parity on Windows Phone, but a quick example…notifications. Windows Phone has live tiles which were great, but I often found myself missing things unless I had an app pinned to my homescreen, whereas Android had a notification tray which in theory is a great idea so Microsoft added a notification pull down to Windows Phone, which in turn made live tile notifications obsolete for me, however stacking Android Lollipops notification tray (and homescreen notifications) against Windows Phones and although both OS’s have a notifications feature, Android’s is so much more fully featured. Notifications are really useful on Android and I feel like I’m really in control of them. Being able to actually see snippets of these on my homescreen is great, whereas the most I can hope for on Windows Phone is a limited number of app icons and a number…useful, but not as useful.

Another thing that confuses me, I have 2 step authentication on my Microsoft account and I had an authenticator app on my Windows Phone. When I wanted to log into my Microsoft services I would also have to open the app, get a code and type it. Doing the same thing on Android, but still accessing a Microsoft service means I get a heads-up notification on my Nexus 6 with 2 options, Approve / Deny. I hit approve and I’m logged in. Why can’t Microsoft do the same thing on their own platform? It’s crazy.

Microsoft

My final gripe and reason why I switched is a bit of a catch-all whilst also being a purely selfish reason, but here it is…I fell out of love with Microsoft. When Windows Phone was first announced, I was full of excitement and couldn’t wait for my contract to end so I could ditch my awful HTC Desire of the time and jump ship over to the simply gorgeous looking Windows Phone and when I finally got my hands on a Lumia 800 it was everything I’d hoped for. Then I also got excited for Windows 8 and its new start screen and loaded it onto all of my machines. I even got a Surface 2 with Windows RT when they came out.

I loved this new Microsoft. They were innovative & brave. Making changes in the way we interacted with our devices. Bringing new ideas. Even getting into the hardware game.

Microsoft - I had such hope for this young startup
Microsoft – I had such hope for this young startup

Then the business people got involved and made Microsoft think about what they were doing. Told them to stop being silly, grow up and go back to doing what everyone expects them to do, because apparently companies need successful products & services (please don’t think this is me saying Microsoft don’t have any successful products & services. I’m well aware of how successful they are).

Suddenly Windows 10 had a start button with Start menu again. My Surface 2 appears to be on its way to the scrap heap and if I’d wanted to get a flagship Windows Phone I’d of had to get the then 8 month old Lumia 930. I’d still be waiting now too and my guess is I’d actually be waiting until Windows 10 (on a phone) gets released before I could get the next real Windows Phone flagship.

The Microsoft I’d fell in love with a few years ago was bowing to consumer pressure and again reinventing itself into something that would sell.

See what I mean? This is a purely selfish gripe. Microsoft is actually doing with Windows 10 what it needs to do and I have no doubt it’ll work. I have no doubt I’ll own a Windows 10 phone in the future, but right now it feels like Microsoft ran away from a fight and that makes me love them a little bit less.

Things I miss

Cortana

I miss Cortana. I really do. She’s really clever and useful. Google now is ok and I like the cards on my homescreen, some of them are really useful. I don’t have a problem with Google knowing what I do online and suggesting content that it thinks might be relevant. However talking to Google now just isn’t as good or as powerful.

Quick example, I use my phone to remind me of everything because my memory is horrific. I’d ask Cortana to remind me of something at 3 in the afternoon and she’d set up a reminder for 3pm, I ask Google Now to do the same thing and it doesn’t seem to have any concept of afternoon. I still have to manually set morning, afternoon, evening, or say 3pm for the reminder to work. This is just poor.

So simply put, Cortana is the best assistant you can get on a mobile device (and soon to be PC/Laptop too).

OS Stability

Oh dear…Lollipop on the Nexus 6 had a few issues when it came to crashing apps and force reboots. During my first week with the device, I experienced a lot of crashes/reboots. This is something that practically never happened with either of my Windows Phones. They simply kept running without issue or a need to reboot them manually to speed things up. Thankfully though, I’ve been running the new Lollipop 5.1 update on my Nexus 6 and things are a lot better. Performance is buttery smooth and I’ve experienced no random app crashes or forced reboots. I’m not saying they’re gone completely, but so far things are looking great.

Final thoughts

there’s probably a lot I’ve meant to say, but have missed and maybe I’ll keep updating this post as I think of things.

I’m also sure this post has a lot of potential to annoy many people, but I’ll reiterate something; I’m not an Android FanBoy looking to slate Windows Phone. I was once a Windows Phone fanatic and praised it to anyone that would listen, but I’ve reached a point where I wanted more and right now Windows Phone can’t give me more…hell it can’t even give me a decent YouTube app (tried MetroTube and it’s ok, but I really struggle with the UI).

The majority of Microsoft’s services that I used are available on Android as Microsoft know that as a business they need to offer there services to where the customers are and alas most of the customers are on either Android or iOS, so I’ve not gone whole hog and dropped Microsoft completely. I still use OneDrive over GoogleDrive as OneDrive on Android is very good and the Office offerings are better than Google’s own.

As much as I don’t use my old Lumia 1020, I’ve still not had the heart to sell it on yet and I’m not sure why. Perhaps part of me is longing to keep one foot in the Windows Phone pool so that I can jump back in at a later date.

Who knows though. All I do know right now is that I enjoy my Nexus 6 and that for now its replaced both my Lumia 1020 and my Surface 2 and that’s saying something for a single 6″ device.