Debunking “12 Reasons” of Windows Mobile

I have been a Windows Mobile consumer for the better part of 7 years, and have used Windows Mobile for my cell phone for the last 2.  First with the Treo 700w (quite possibly the worst phone ever made), and now with the Verizon XV6800.  I don’t hate Windows Mobile, but I’ve happened to have invested a lot of time and money (through applications) into the platform, and the phone I have is arguably the best one Verizon’s currently caring.

I’ve been tempted with getting an iPhone, but the psychological barrier of breaking my contract, combined with a few other application issues have prevented  me from offering Apple more than a passing thought.  I’m also mostly happy with my XV6800, but I’m not a Windows Mobile koolaide drinker.  What Apple has done with the iPhone UI is phenominal, and it’s crazy to think that Windows Mobile 6 holds a candle to it.

When I saw this article come through my RSS Feeds, "12 reasons to buy Windows Mobile phone instead of iPhone 3G" I just had to weigh in and clarify some of the spin job (as well as truths) of these points that Windows Mobile phones are superior to the iPhone 3G:

1. 3rd party applications in iPhone 3G cannot run in background: only one application can run at any given time in iPhone 3G so no background running of applications possible! In Windows Mobile phone several (many) applications can run at the same time so it is possible for example to simultaneously run in Windows Mobile: a) downloading a 50 MB MP3 file with a podcast, b) IM chatting with somebody including native Skype client for windows Mobile or native Live Messenger from Microsoft, c) edit Office documents, d) browse Internet, e) make a phone call, etc.

This is a blessing and a curse.  While the "no background" applications renders things like mobile AIM all but useless, Windows Mobile falls under the perils of allowing too many processes to run at the same time, at the cost of call quality/stability.  The Treo 700w was so bad that I made Mobile Task Manager a hotkey on my phone, regularly shutting down applications after I used them.  The extra memory in my XV6800 hasn’t forced me to get as bad, but there have been time’s when Bethany’s Motorola Q becomes horrifically slow from too many running applications. Windows Mobile also doesn’t recycle the memory very well, so I’m still forced to reboot my phone at least once per week.

2. iPhone 3G has resolution of only 480×320 what is 2 times less than VGA (640×480) and W-VGA (wide VGA = 800×480) used in several Windows Mobile phones, what practically means: you can read more text on the display at once and everything is sharper

This may technically be true, but resolution isn’t anything without the UI to back it up, and Apple’s UI is excellent.

3. camera in iPhone 3G is inferior to camera in many Windows Mobile phones: it has only 2 megapixels compared to 3 to 5 megapixels in Windows Mobile phones and it does not have auto-focus – also present in many Windows Mobile phones

This varies between phone models. When I bought my XV6800 4 months ago, it was the best Windows Mobile phone on Verizon’s market, and it’s camera is 2 megapixels. I still believe no mobile phone camera comes close to replacing a real camera, it’s a nice supplement to have on the go.

4. One cannot record videos with built-in camera of iPhone 3G, what is possible up to resolution of 640×480 pixels and 30 FPS (frames per second) in Windows Mobile phones

True, I just tried to take a video with my phone and it worked well.

5.  iPhone 3G supports HSDPA of maximal speed only 3.6 MB/second, while some Windows Mobile phones (including HTC Touch Diamond) suppport HSDPA of speed 7.2 MB/second

This may also be technically true but for US consumers this all comes out in the wash.  As long as the iPhone’s not Edge then that’s good enough.  I’ve been mostly happy with my EVDO phone speed, although I’m anxiously awaiting the next revision.

6. iPhone 3G does not have exchangeable battery that all Windows Mobile phones have, but only built-in battery so if you run out of battery you cannot replace it to prolong battery life – as it is possible with Windows Mobile phones

This is the biggest issue I have with the iPhone.  The first thing I did after buying my new phone was buy a second battery. I still charge my phone every chance I get, but there are rare instances when I don’t have spare power available, and it’s typically when I want my phone the most (e.g. football games, concerts).

7. original (i.e. from Microsoft) Office Mobile is built-in in each Windows Mobile phone and allows not only for viewing but also for editing of Office documents, so there is no need ot buy 3rd party software for it

True. The experience hasn’t changed much since 2000, but it’s true.  While carrying a laptop around, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve used mobile Office to edit documents.  Most of the time I’m just better off firing up the laptop.

8. there is much more 3rd party applications (programs) for Windows Mobile: over 20,000 compared to 500 for iPhone 3G

This is a bit unfair considering Windows Mobile is 8 years old. While there are some apps that I can’t live without (Pocket Quicken, PDAnet, and Evernote), I can tell that the hype & innovation is flocking towards the Apple side of the yard, and I personally think it’s only a matter of time before the Apps I need are in the iTunes store.

9. to make applications for Windows Mobile one needs either PC computer or Mac but to make applications for iPhone 3G one needs to buy a Mac computer – if you don’t have Mac computer then you cannot develop applications for iPhone 3G

This is true and lame for the Apple platform, but most end-users don’t care about this.

10. most Windows Mobile phones come without SIM lock so they can be used at any operator in given country and with SIM cards from abroad (important when traveling and you want to use local prepaid SIM card to avoid International roaming fees) while iPhone 3G has SIM lock and can work with only this operator at which it has been purchased

The reality of this is that many users on Verizon or Sprint are using CDMA and are just as hard to unlock as the iPhone.  I can’t speak much for the international usage needs

11. iPhone 3G has capacitive touch-screen meaning that it must be used with fingers and that it cannot be used with stylus or fingernails (what women like)

This is when you spin a limitation into a "feature". Windows Mobile doesn’t have multi-touch.  I use my fingers to touch the screen 10x more than I ever use the stylus.

12. iPhone 3G has no physical keyboard or keypad, so users have no choice but to use virtual keyboards on the display while Windows Mobile offers phones in various form-factors, including such that have both touch-screen and a physical QWERTY keyboard

This comes back to the personal preference as a user. I can tell you that I love my QWERTY keyboard, and the tactile interface makes typing exponentially efficient.  However, I’ve typed on both the Windows Mobile keyboard and the iPhone Keyboard, and the iPhone keyboard is far superior to the touch-screen keyboards from Windows Mobile.

While some of these points were valid, the list failed to highlight some of the iPhone’s biggest deficiencies: namely the fact that you still can’t copy & paste text, nor can you send or receive MMS messages.  Depending on your needs, Windows Mobile may better serve than the iPhone, but let’s be honest – the iPhone is more than a viable competitor in the smart phone market.