Thinking of Switching From Android to Windows? Do This First

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

If you’re considering switching from one mobile operating system to another, chances are pretty good that you already have some apps that you can’t live without on your current smartphone. So the simplest way to decide whether you should make the switch is to determine whether or not those must-have apps are available on the platform you’re considering for your next smartphone.

So if you’re thinking about switching from an Android device to a Windows smartphone, you need to try out the latest tool that’s meant to address the biggest problem with Microsoft’s mobile platform: its app gap. Emil Protalinski reports for VentureBeat that Microsoft has just released an Android app, called AppComparison, to enable current Android users to determine which of their favorite apps are also available on Microsoft’s mobile platform. The app, available for download on the Google Play store, asks potential Windows device users:

Are you considering changing your Android device to Windows Phone? AppComparison identifies your favourite Android apps and matches them with apps available from the Microsoft Store. The application also introduces you to some of the most popular Windows Phone applications.

Microsoft released another Android app, called “Switch to Windows Phone,” two years ago. That app tried to find app alternatives on Microsoft’s platform, but in most cases, didn’t properly display the matches. Protalinski reports that Microsoft’s new app does show you the matches, but the app still needs work.

“We gave it a shot, and got some questionable results. I mean, we’re not even sure why this app says Windows Phone rather than Windows 10 Mobile,” Protalinski notes. “Clearly whoever developed AppComparison isn’t in the company’s U.S. offices (note the non-American spelling of the word favorite above) and probably started work on this app a while ago. But I digress.”

When you launch the AppComparison app, you’re able to select two or more app categories from a list: Entertainment, Education, Games, Health & Fitness, Lifestyle, News & Weather, Photo & Video, Productivity, Sports, Travel, and Friends & Family. Once you make your selections, the app “proceeds to serve you up the same list of apps regardless of what you picked.”

Protalinski writes that when he tried the app, it told him that he could get Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, YouTube, Twitter, Google, Uber, and Yelp on Microsoft’s platform. But he notes that for most of those apps, the user experience is significantly worse on Windows than on Android. The app also gave him some imperfect, but sensible, recommendations for alternatives to other apps. It noted that OneDrive is similar to Google Drive, Mail is similar to Gmail, Calendar is similar to Google Calendar, Translator is similar to Google Translate, HERE Maps is similar to Google Maps, etc.

However, Protalinski notes that in some cases, the app gave some odd recommendations, claiming that “apparently, GChat+ is like Google Hangouts, CloudMuzik is like Google Play Music, and UC Browser is like Google Chrome. Come on.” If AppComparison had been developed with Windows 10 in mind, the last three recommendations should have been Messaging with Skype integration, Groove, and Edge, which are all pieces of Microsoft software instead of “random third-party creations.”

Despite the shortcomings of the app, it can be a useful tool if you’re trying to figure out whether you should switch from your current Android phone to a new Windows 10 device. The biggest drawback of Microsoft’s mobile phone platform is the lack of apps, and the slow pace at which apps that are offered for the platform are updated with new features. But if AppComparison shows you that many of your favorite apps are available for Windows 10 devices, and you’re alright with waiting to get new features until after they’ve been added to Android and iOS versions, then you can consider going for that Windows device you’ve had your eye on.

Benefits of Microsoft’s mobile software include the home screen, live tiles, and Cortana. And Microsoft’s new hardware adds some attractive features to the mix, like the Lumia 950’s 20MP camera, the Continuum feature that enables you to plug your phone into the Display Dock and use it as a computer, and Windows Hello, which uses infrared camera technology to authenticate you. Continuum, in particular, one-ups both Android and iOS, and makes one of the new Lumias worth considering if you’re okay to forego some popular apps and compromise with similar software that is available on Microsoft’s platform.

Microsoft is trying to make it easier for Android developers to port their apps to Windows 10 Mobile, and, as Liam Tung notes at ZDNET, earlier this year showed off a form of emulation that will enable apps written in Java or C++ to be submitted to the Microsoft Store as APK files. Such apps will be able to do things on Windows Phones that they can’t do on Android; they’ll be able to be deeply integrated with Cortana, and will be able to be made available as Live Tiles. Their functionality will also be able to be extended with in-app purchases.

None of the mobile operating systems available to users are perfect. Whichever you choose, there are some flaws you’ll need to put up with. If you’re considering switching from one operating system to another, it’s crucial to evaluate what factors are the most important to you, and where you’re willing to put up with some shortcomings.

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