Microsoft + Android: A Fresh Start

Posted on October 16, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 91 Comments

Microsoft + Android: A Fresh Start

I’ve long recommended that Microsoft should release its own Android handsets. But you don’t need to wait for that to happen: All the pieces are in place right now if you want to Redmondize your own phone.

I’ve written about this topic in the past, for sure. Many times, in fact. But when Microsoft revealed over two years ago that it was surrendering the smartphone market to Android and iOS, I started investigating which platform would make the most sense to Microsoft’s fans.

The answer was obvious: Despite several big advantages for the iPhone—reliable performance over time, a more consistent user experience, higher-quality app and content stores, and battery life—it was clear that Android is the right choice. Android has several advantages over iOS and the iPhone, of course, among them superior cameras, more innovative form factors, and quicker access to new technologies. But the biggest advantage is that the platform is open.

That last advantage has several ramifications. But from the perspective of a Microsoft fan, it means that Android—like Windows—is infinitely malleable, something that can be customized and personalized to any degree you wish. And it means the same to Microsoft, which can turn a stock Android handset (or tablet) into something completely different: A Microsoft-focused device that can still run the world’s largest app collection. It’s a win-win if you care about this kind of thing.

But times moves ever on. And in the past few years, there have been a few major changes to Microsoft’s personal computing strategy, each of which benefits those running Android on their phones.

For example, Microsoft has brought Cortana to both Android and iOS, but only on Android can you actually replace Google Assistant with Microsoft’s technology. Microsoft is bringing Microsoft Edge and other “pick up where you left off” technologies to both Android and iOS, but only on Android will you get the full stack of capabilities. And of course, Microsoft makes its own Android home screen, now called Microsoft Launcher, and its own lock screen replacements, exclusively on Android.

In the coming weeks, I will continue investigating each of the ways in which you can customize your Android handset with Microsoft capabilities via new articles in my Android for the Windows Guy series. And to be clear, I don’t think that a blanket Redmondization of your phone necessarily makes sense: You should look at what’s available and pick and choose according to your needs and tastes. But here’s a quick rundown of some of the possibilities.

Home screen. You can replace your Android home screen—called the launcher—with Microsoft’s people-centric launcher, called Microsoft Launcher Preview. It’s a great update to what used to be a Garage project called Arrow Launcher, and it’s always been first-rate.

Lock screen. Microsoft makes a few lock screen replacements for Android, including Next Lock Screen, which includes a great Bing Wallpaper of the Day option.

Digital personal assistant. You can replace Google Assistant with Cortana on my Android handsets. (I’m not sure about the newer Samsung devices.)

Keyboard. You can replace Google Keyboard with Microsoft’s SwiftKey keyboard, which provides nice customization features with a wide range of free themes, Flow swipe-to-type functionality, and more.

Cloud photo backup. You should always backup your phone-based photos to two or more cloud services. And while I feel very strongly that one of them should be Google Photos, the other should be OneDrive.

Pick up where you left off. If you use Windows 10 on your PC, there are a few Microsoft solutions you should get for your phone, each of which offers interesting “pick up where you left off”-type functionality: Cortana, mentioned above, Microsoft Edge (Preview), and Continue on PC (which is installed with Cortana).

Account sign-ins. The Microsoft Authenticator app can be used for 2FA sign-ins, meaning you’ll (almost) never need to type in your Microsoft Account (MSA) password again. It works with other account types, too, of course.

Productivity apps. It almost goes without saying, but all of the core Microsoft Office apps—Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote—are available on Android, alongside newer offerings like Microsoft To-Do, Planner, Skype, Skype for Business, and others.

Games. Xbox, Xbox (Beta) and Mixer Create are all available on Android, as are a handful of Microsoft games, like Minecraft, Solitaire, and Age of Empires: Castle Siege.

Make your smartphone smarter. Microsoft’s incredible Office Lens app is a must-have on any smartphone.

So, a lot of stuff to explore there.


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Comments (91)

91 responses to “Microsoft + Android: A Fresh Start”

  1. creugea7

    Here is a crazy idea for Microsoft. Develop there own version of Android with Microsoft software and release a version for the the 950 & 950XL. Those would be a good test bed to start with if they wanted to test how it would be received. It would not be an easy update but I might start using my 950 XL again instead of sitting in a drawer. Just a crazy thought!

  2. Daekar

    I'm enjoying Edge and the new official version of Arrow. Sad to give up SquareHome 2 for a more Android-like experience, but I want the functions they're going to build into the launcher. I'll switch back if they don't come through with much, the tile-based home screen is too cool.

    Never had a use for special lock screens. The whole point is that the phone doesn't do much until it's unlocked... Weird.

    SwiftKey is great, and so is OneDrive.

    Cortana I want to be good. But since I don't even like the Google voice assistant, I don't think she'll be too helpful either.

    Best thing I've seen Cortana do is tell me when an Amazon package is shipped, delivered, etc, without me asking.

  3. bluvg

    A nu start, if you will.

  4. Nicholas Kathrein

    This is written for Microsoft fans but to them I say "why replace the Google apps with Microsoft apps that aren't as good"? Googles Pixel launcher is better and so is Google Assistant. You are just worsening your experience.

    • Bats

      In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

      Well, you have to accept the fact that Microsoft fans, don't like to have good stuff. (lol)

    • Rob_Wade

      In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein: Just be aware, though, there are a few of us who HATE Google/Android so passionately there's no reality where we use their garbage.

      • Stooks

        In reply to Rob_Wade:

        People really hate things like Tech companies and operating systems???? Whatever does the job best for me at a reasonable price is the way I roll.

        I use products from all of the big tech companies. I have a Macbook, multiple Windows machines. I have a iPad and a Samsung Tablet. I have both a Android phone (personal) and a iPhone (work provided). I use Gmail for email, Chrome, Youtube, Photos. I have used Google Doc's many times as so many aspects of my life, work, kids schools, church, kids sports use Google Doc's for many reasons. I use MS Office products and have a Office 365 Home sub. I sub to Amazon Music Unlimited. I have an Xbox One S and PS4, with a Xbox One X pre-ordered. I have a Chromecast and a Apple TV. We have an full size Echo as well. I subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Amazon Prime. I have hundreds of Amazon Kindle books and some Google Play books, even a few iBooks.

        Sticking to one company for brand loyalty (???) is crazy and weird to be honest.

        • Rob_Wade

          In reply to Stooks: Yes. I do, in fact. I despise Google and Apple both. In fact, I hate Apple bad enough that when I won an iPad Air because if a donation I made to a pet shelter I took it on a scuba dive and buried it at the bottom of our local lake. Yes, I hate those companies.

          • Andyd

            In reply to Rob_Wade:

            Then you’re an idiot. Why not sell it and either keep the money, or if you’re really so immature, give the money back to the shelter?

            I smell BS

          • pecosbob04

            In reply to Rob_Wade:

            "I took it on a scuba dive and buried it at the bottom of our local lake. "

            Couldn't A clever guy like you figure out a way to hate Apple and make a few cents at the same time? I mean come on. Did the words 'Hold my beer and watch this!" proceed your trip to the lake bottom?

      • jlv632

        In reply to Rob_Wade:

        THIS.... I Couldn't agree more. I had a Nokia 3 for this past week and yeah, I didn't agree to the Chrome or Play Store and If I could find a way to delete them I would. I used Pure APK to get some Microsoft Apps but it is no way ideal. Furthermore... any Podcast solution I could get was littered with Ads. Looks like I'll keep my Lumia 950 until the end and when that dies... it's either the new 3310 from Nokia or.... gulp... the World's cheapest iPhone.

      • Tony Barrett

        In reply to Rob_Wade:

        And then there are those who used to believe MS had a big plan and valued their customers. Now, those same look at Microsoft and see a company that's a shadow of it's former self, hell bent on a path of destruction, and they'll take whichever 'loyal' customers they have left with them. If Google/Android is a 'pig' as you say, MS is an obese sow covered in sh*t.

    • cayo

      In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

      Your answer makes sense if you are a Google fan...and not all of us are. If your computer(s) run Windows and you subscribe to Office 365, what Paul advises makes sense. You then have full access to Office apps, 1TB of OneDrive, etc. This gives you a chance to keep the crippled version of your pics on Google Drive for free and send the original version to OneDrive.

      While the big advantage is that the platform is open, the problem I see is that Microsoft apps are still much, much better on iOS. Not a big surprise as I am finding that even Google is making better apps for the iPhone than for Android.

      • Stooks

        In reply to cayo:

        And you sound like a Microsoft fan. This comment gives it away...

        " This gives you a chance to keep the crippled version of your pics on Google Drive for free and send the original version to OneDrive"

        Crippled? How so? Oh you mean if you pick the High Quality version? It defaults to the full image size version so you have to CHOOSE the other option.

        Even if you pick the high quality version it does not down sample unless it is over 16 megapixel. Both my older EOS DSLR and my current phone only have 12megapixel camera's. No down sampling here. If I buy a Pixel then the full image size is free. How is it crippled again?

        I back up to both. I have a Office 365 sub because I use Microsoft documents for work reasons. If I did not have that requirement I would dump Office 365 yesterday as I am fine with Google Doc's/Drive/Photos.

        Of the two Photo options Google Photos > OneDrive photos 8 days a week.

        • cayo

          " Crippled? How so? Oh you mean if you pick the High Quality version? It defaults to the full image size version so you have to CHOOSE the other option."

          The image won't be resized, but Google does compress your pics smaller that 16 mpix in order to reduce the size. Something like this:

          • Original image (4032 x 3024 = 12.19 MP; 16.7 MB)
          • Google Photos “High quality” (4032 x 3024 = 12.19 MP; 1.05 MB)

          It's up you if you want to trust their compression algorithm. I don't.

          What matters is that if you do want the full image size version on Google would need to pay Google for extra storage. This does not make much sense if you already subscribe to Office 365.

  5. RonH

    I just retired from work and was able to keep my Samsung Galaxy S7. I reset it and put in my sim from my 950XL... time to play with Android.

    Can anyone suggest any tutorials or sites with good info? (Until Paul's Field Guide: Android for the Windows Guy 

    I like Microsoft Launcher and Next. OneNote and ToDo are nice.

    Android Pay. Awesome

    My issues so far...

    I wish Outlook could be the default and I would not have to use the contacts app.

    I can't use Cortana (I am in Canada)

    I can't get my People/Contact pictures to sync from MS Outlook/People.. I have been able to pin contacts, but without pictures it is not good. Hopefully the pictures will be able to sync automatically at some point. The feed back shows that a lot of people have requested that. I don't know how to browse to my pictures on OneDrive to use the photo from the contacts app. I may have to manually collect pictures to use and get them on the phone in the gallery or photos apps.

    Can't figure out how to get Groove to put my music on the SD card. I can download albums but I can't say where I want them to be saved.

    I wish I could sync all my saved places in the MS maps app to Google maps....

    My muscle memory is hard to over write... I keep hitting the app switcher when I just want to go back...

    • Stooks

      In reply to RonH:

      "I can't get my People/Contact pictures to sync from MS Outlook/People"

      I have an Outlook, Gmail and iCloud accounts. Email is forwarded to one of the three from the other two. If I move to another as the primary I adjust the forwarding.

      I tried to use Outlook as "the one" but just recently moved back to Gmail. The contacts issue is what finally killed it for me. Pictures and ring tones for both phone calls and texts per contact do NOT sync. This has been an issue for a long, long time now. Just Google it and you will get lots of hits.

      Also if you have contacts that also have Skype accounts then it will merge/inject that Skype Contact info into your Outlook contacts. There is NO way to turn this off right now. So some of my contacts, like my son has this "live:389t21968n90725a8710" added to his Outlook contact and I can't turn it off. Sometimes on both my iPhone and Android phone it will actually replace his name and so I get a phone call and it is from "live:389t21968n90725a8710". A reboot of the phone or modifying any contact on Outlook which forces a sync will fix it, as in his name becomes the primary for his contact.

      Anyhow Gmail contacts sync's pictures and ring tones all without any Skype krap. It also syncs changes way faster than Outlook or iCloud.

      • RonH

        In reply to Stooks:

        Samsung has told me that they need to do a software updated to fix the ringtone and contact picture issue. Right now I can assign a picture, and it shows up. If I close the app the pictures is gone. As for ringtone, I don't even have the option to set one.

        Still figuring out Android. The contacts app is from Samsung. I don't know if there is a Google contacts app. I wish I could remove all the Samsung apps, not impressed with them

    • Daekar

      In reply to RonH:

      Outlook has always been weird about contacts. Someone else will have to help you with that one because I gave up and bought Nine.

      In order to get the phone contacts to sync from my Microsoft account I had to create an Exchange account on my phone and point it towards At that point all the data except the photos synced. I believe you'll have to save the OneDrive photos locally if you're not offered an option to browse the cloud for them.

      Groove will not allow you to download to an SD card, nor play local music from any source except its own download process.

      • RonH

        In reply to Daekar:

        I contacted Samsung and W's told that the ringtone and contact photo issue is known and they have to do an software update. No Eta. Samsung support is pretty bad. It took 3 days of online chats to get any information out of them

  6. Bill Russell

    "You should always backup your phone-based photos to two or more cloud services"

    While I understand that advice in general, I use google because they provide a free photo backup service and I also have watched a video demonstrating how they have something like 3 HDD based redundant backups and a 4th tape archive backup. I am not going to also pay MS to back up as I would have surely exceeded any free tier by now and the whole point is free reliable photo backups. Plus the additional headache of worrying about 2 separate backup accounts. I'll take my chances with google alone.

  7. Rob_Wade

    Two pig analogues immediately come to mind. It's like putting lipstick on a pig (Android being the pig, of course). And, it's like trying to teach a pig to sing... It sound horrible and annoys the pig.

  8. Shel Dyck

    way too much of this stuff doesn't work for non-americans.

  9. MKairys

    Have you done any comparison of Office Lens and Google Photoscan?

  10. bigjon-x64

    I call it a MsAndroid (ManDroid).

  11. littlejohnjt

    I'm finally moving to Android, going to put this series of articles to good use :)

  12. Brian Mueller

    I think it would make more sense for MS to make the Android bridge for WOA. It would be preferable to have someone on your ecosystem with apps from another than the other way around. Without Android bridge, I don't think WOA on mobile will get much traction. With Android it becomes a killer platform. UWP, Win32, and Android in one mobile platform, I would buy that!

  13. Winner

    This entire article is really something I don't get - it presupposes that a user is driven to company loyalty, in this case Microsoft.

    I try to get the best experience and ultimately while the company is important, it is not the end-all and be-all of my experience.

    As an example in my earlier years I was loyal to one car brand. I had a used and then a new vehicle from them. And then a premium vehicle from them. But enough expensive repairs and eventual cheating on emissions and I am done with that company.

    For this article, it assumes that you love Microsoft so much that it is MORE important to use all of their products than to use the set of apps that provide the best experience. For example, install a launcher because it is from Microsoft - not necessarily because it is the best launcher! I just don't get that kind of motivation.

    At least it is good that Android gives us choices. Sort of like how Windows did on the PC.

    • peterh_oz

      In reply to Winner:

      You obviously missed the following:

      And to be clear, I don’t think that a blanket Redmondization of your phone necessarily makes sense: You should look at what’s available and pick and choose according to your needs and tastes. 

      Some of us choose Microsoft for the integration with other services we use, whether it is the email service ([email protected], or with integrated (rather than syncing) contacts, or OneDrive integration with Windows rather than the clunky google uploader. This isn't zealoty (zealotness?), it is the best overall (for that user, ie me!) rather than best of breed.

      Paul wasn't saying "use all these services", he was listing the ones to choose from.

    • TheOneX

      In reply to Winner:

      Believe it or not there are people who are motivated by brand loyalty. It is probably more common than you think, just most people are not zealots about it.

  14. Jorge Garcia

    I'm all Android these days, but I really loved those live tiles of Windows Phone. It was an elegant and awesome way to do a home/launch screen. I'd love to have an Android phone where the home page was just a faux (but well-integrated) MS Metro (Live Tile) interface. MS could easily bundle their own apps and have them take advantage of the live tiles, and maaaaybe over time a few third parties could be convinced to add a little live tile support to their android apps as well. MS could also offer to pay Google for the engineering work required to make some of the core Google Apps (Gmail, Drive, Photos, Maps, Assistant) able to update their own respective tiles.

  15. worleyeoe

    Personally, I think the Andromeda OS will be named Microsoft OS, and Windows will cease to exist. This is one of the reasons Windows 9 was skipped so that Windows would end at a friendly 10. More importantly, Microsoft OS will natively run Android apps via the Linux subsystem and a Google Play license. Of course, it will run Windows apps as well. Microsoft OS total componentization and CShell will be the primary enablers of this. This would be completely in-line with that all of the MS head honchos are claiming about Windows Mobile being end-of-life, but they just don't want to quite let us know that Windows is dead. And finally, all of this friendliness of MS porting its apps to Android won't seem so crazy.

    • Jeremy Petzold

      In reply to worleyeoe:

      You pulled that one from a dark place.....Windows 9 was skipped because so much old version code looks for Windows 9x.

      • worleyeoe

        In reply to Jeremy_Petzold: Maybe so along with several other reasons. Also, they're renaming the Windows Store to the Microsoft Store. I just think that MS realizes that the time is right for MS to kill off Windows and start with something new that creates somewhat of a paradigm shift. This will also coincide with the rise of AI over the next 10 years.

        • TheOneX

          In reply to worleyeoe:

          Part of the reason for that is because the Microsoft Store is not limited to just Windows. It is also on Xbox and is not limited to just selling software. Calling it Windows Store would be improper naming.

          With that said, you are right in that they are trying to minimize the importance of the Windows brand. That doesn't mean they plan on killing it anytime soon, but it probably will be in the books at some point in the future for many reasons.

          • Jeremy Petzold

            In reply to TheOneX: Yes, killing is not going to happen....positioning for a future where people do not use Windows because the world has moved on to a new modality for 90% of the interaction they do with computing? Absolutely....but until that time, they won't be closing up shop in favor of Linux or Mac OS (Maybe they will move to a Linux platform someday...)

  16. Tsang Man Fai

    Almost no people know Microsoft Android Launcher. Only the tech enthusiasts know. That's a big problem for MS. Just too few people know MS products/services, even for some really useful stuff.

    • peterh_oz

      In reply to tsangmanfai:

      Almost no people know what a launcher is, nor why they would bother with one.

    • TheOneX

      In reply to tsangmanfai:

      That is exactly why he has advocated for Microsoft to release their own Android phone. The truth is very few people change the stock launcher their phone comes with. So if they want people using their launcher they need to either create their own Android phone, or partner with a manufacturer.

    • jsritsr7488

      In reply to tsangmanfai: I think it’s well documented that Microsoft’s marketing department is full of deadbeats. Their approach to advertising is rivaled by a sign in front of a lemonade stand.

  17. nbplopes

    I think if MS is aiming any kind of robust integration between Windows 10 PC workflows and Android its has at the moment no option but going this path. But it order for this to work properly the Arrow launcher feature set need to unlock more depth than it has at the moment.

    The experience although good looking, it feel gimmicky at best.

    For me, nothing but a curiosity at the moment.

  18. maethorechannen

    reliable performance over time, a more consistent user experience, higher-quality app and content stores, and battery life

    I've been an apostate Apple fan boy for about 20 years and it's still difficult to not say something along the lines "but if you cared about those things, you'd be using a Mac".

    • wspaw

      In reply to maethorechannen:

      I'll give 2 out of those 4. I end up doing all the tech support for my wife's Mac and iPhone and it's anything but reliable performance over time and good battery life on either of the devices. Consistent UX and high quality apps, though are unmatched.

  19. wright_is

    I installed Edge on my Nexus 5X. One word of caution though, LastPass needs to be updated! It doesn't recognize Edge as a browser, just as a Microft app, so if you try and use LastPass to log on to any website in Edge, it only offers to submit your Microsoft account!

    So please bear that in mind, until LastPass gets updated.

    I find the Edge browser is reasonably good so far, I will be interested how it works out after the Herbst Creators Update arrives.

    I wish the Microsoft Launcher would support a Tiles view. I have it scrolling vertically, but I still prefer tiles (even dumb tiles) to the Android icons look... But otherwise I am very happy with it so far.

    I do use Outlook as my standard contacts, mail and calendar app, it integrates nicely and, because I have Office 365, I use OneDrive for cloud syncing photos etc.

    • mmcpher

      In reply to wright_is: As for Windows Mobile live tiles, there's an Android Launcher called SquareHome that tries to replicate the look and feel of the Tiles. It looks like it needs work though.

      • prettyconfusd

        In reply to mmcpher:

        I use Launcher10 - works identically to Windows 10 Mobile and has an in-app purchase to make them live tiles.

        I splurged to buy the live tiles this week and now Edge is out it's genuinely like having a proper Windows Phone on my S8 now.

        • wright_is

          In reply to prettyconfusd:

          Prettyconfusd, I've used several Tile launchers over the years on Android (in the past, I had a company Android phone and a private Lumia). None of them were particularly good, but Launcher10 looks pretty good so far.

          Thanks for the tip.

        • Simard57

          In reply to prettyconfusd:

          thanks for that - will have to explore it more. I have grown used to Windows 10 on mobile.

          how much was the live tile splurge and was it worth it?

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to wright_is:

      This issue with LastPass not recognizing Edge as a browser is a definite pain point! My other big wish for Edge on Android right now is a dark theme.

  20. richfrantz

    Of all the Office apps, I use Office Lens the most.

  21. codekoenig

    The problem with those apps is that there's still a long way to a coherent experience. If you use Outlook, you can't use the calendar on Next Lockscreen or Microsoft Launcher directly. For Launcher, at least you can add Microsoft Accounts and Office 365 directly. On the other hand, you can't use on premise Exchange accounts with Launcher. And you can't use more than one Microsoft Account or more than one Office 365 account. Even worse, Next lockscreen does not support any of that - not Outlook app calendars and also not syncing with, Office 365 or on premise Exchange accounts. You can only use system calendars from Android.

    At least it's possible now to sync contacts from the Outlook app into Android without having to configure a 2nd sync for Android system contacts besides Outlook sync. But yea, due to the lackluster calendar support, you'll again need a 2nd sync configured for calendars into the Android system.

    If that mess is fixed, all those apps would be awesome. I like Outlook, Launcher and Next a lot and they might make me finally to switch from WP to Android. But for now, the Exchange/Office 365 sync experience is so much better on WP still ...

    • Stooks

      In reply to codekoenig:

      Because of the Outlook app security issues we can't use it for work. I have moved my personal email/contacts from back to Gmail because of all of the crazy contact sync problems.

      You still cant sync contact photos, phone/text ringtones with, nor can you separate Skype Contacts which add weird stuff like "live:389t21968n90725a8710" to my contacts which I think comes from contacts that have Skype as well.

      I use Office 365 for OneDrive and the mobile MS apps to properly open the files on OneDrive and everything else is Google.

    • dhallman

      In reply to codekoenig: I would like to be optimistic - but I won't hold my breath. For years Microsoft built Surface, Lumia and Windows. Was there a coherent experience there? No. And they had full control. So it does not make sense to me that they will now deliver that seamless end-to-end solution on a 3rd party platform. Especially before Google/Samsung do. And even if they get it on PCs and phones, will they extend Google Home? Android wear? The link will break at some point.

      • codekoenig

        In reply to dhallman:

        At least for Mail, Calendar and Contacts the coherent experience was (always) there. Even in the Windows CE days - if something really worked great coming from Microsoft, it was Exchange and everything connected to it. And it still works bloody awesome on Windows Phone. But yea - it's probably also the only thing that really works in Windows Phone nowadays. But that's ok, because it's the most important thing for me - give me awesome Mail, Calendar and Contacts sync and I am happy.

  22. chrisrut

    Thanks for the stream of ideas Paul; great way to start the day!

    How about that: hidden in plain view all this time...

    In some was this was expected - although I half-expected an Android shell running on Windows (which, come to think of it, could still happen - so the full user experience including apps is reverse-portable from phone to desktop). But I like the idea of the Window's User Experience (UE) running as a shell over Android - the Operating Environment (from the user's perspective) is becoming agnostic as contrasted with the Operating System (from the system's perspective). Which, also come to think of it, actually dates all the way back to HASCI in the 80s, but I'm dating myself.

    Well, looks like two Microsoft 950s will at long last be retired when the new Pixels come to town :-)

    • wright_is

      In reply to chrisrut:

      I switched last year to a Nexus 5X, but I still prefer my Lumia 950... If only Fitbit and WhatsApp would run reliably on Windows...

      • RickEveleigh

        In reply to wright_is:

        I love my Lumia 950 but can see the writing is on the wall. I have borrowed a Samsung 6 (I think it is) and am dipping my toe. Feel like I'm having to relearn lots. Any tips other than Paul's above and Launcher10?

        • wright_is

          In reply to RickEveleigh:

          Launcher10 or the standard Google launcher or Microsoft Launcher. I never got on with the Samsung skin. Launcher10 provides some home comfort for Windows users, but it is epensive to get rid of the ads and to add live tiles (I think around $10 - $12). The Microsoft Launcher, formerly Arrow is nice and the Google launcher is fairly straight forward. See which one you get on best with.

          At work, we have 3 different standard company phones, plus private individuals' phones. It is a pain to set them up for corporate email, because each ones settings app is different and they use a different mail app and they all need different settings... That is why I like running stock Android, but I would say, if you get used to the Samsung settings and apps, then I'd stick with Samsung, otherwise you will have to relearn a lot when you get a new phone.

  23. RM2016

    What to do when a company stumbles over its own two feet and desperately tries to recover.

  24. mmcpher

    I'm running most of the above on a Samsung Note 8 and it's an improvement on the running squabble between the Samsung overlays and the stock Android that came out of the box. But there are a few problems, particularly with going into and out the lock screen and with fully implementing Cortana. And you have to be vigilant following updates as the thing wants to revert to original settings. I hope Microsoft continues to develop Outlook on Android in particular.

  25. Bats

    A couple of points, I think Paul has failed to mention.

    In order to get the max user-experience on your new Android/Microsoft smartphone, it's best if you a Pixel, (old) Nexus, or Motorola phone....or any Android smartphone that provides the pure Android experience. Any other phone, like a Samsung, LG, or OnePlus will have any of the Microsoft apps running in the background "tango" with those phone makers overlay of Android. For example, if you buy a Samsung Galaxy phone, the phone "Touch Wiz" UI will be an app that will always run in the background. If a person installs and uses Microsoft Launcher, it will work, but Touchwiz will still run in the background.

    Quite frankly, if you ask one needs the Microsoft Launcher. I tested it out this weekend, and it's basically the Microsoft version of the Pixel Launcher. I personally have had a bad experience with the Arrow Launcher and added that the my ever-growing list of things Paul Thurrott got wrong. Readers of Paul know that he has highly endorsed the Arrow launcher. Based on his recommendation and my curiosity, I used it on my phone for a week. Paul called it the best Android launcher, but it was definitely the worst. The launcher drained my Galaxy Note 4 battery. I even tried Arrow Launcher on my Note 4 with a different ROM, as in removing Samsung Touchwiz for a more Nexus-like experience. It was still horrible. Anyway, I am assuming the new Microsoft Launcher is better and improved. However, I am not recommending the use of that Launcher, especially if the features of that launcher is the same as Android's. 

    Please keep in mind that Paul is an Android Noob, and really doesn't know how Android works. For example....Paul has been talking about how Microsoft/Arrow Launcher gives the ability for users to add a contacts face to the Home Screen, so all the he or she needed to do was press the icon. LOL...duh....there is a Android widget for that. As a matter of fact, I use it all the time. It's in the widget section under Contacts. With the widget-shortcut, you can direct dial, direct message, or have the contact on your homescreen and have all that persons contact information available to you with a click of a button. LOL...when I heard Paul mention this functionality as an Arrow Launcher feature, I was like ....huh? Believe, I am not the only one. I mentioned this in the Android Central Messageboards, and those guys were dumbfounded too. LOL...boy, you should read the thread about the "performance consistency." That got Jerry scratching his head and other users thinking Paul probably downloaded a bad app.

    • Jim Lewis

      In reply to Bats:

      Maybe I'm missing something but I don't find the Touch Wiz interface draining my battery while running the Microsoft Launcher. I have a Galaxy Note 8. If I go to Settings, Apps, the Touch Wiz Home app says that it's used 0% of my battery since the last full charge. I have Cortana (not set as default) and many of the other apps Paul mentions. I also have a Galaxy Gear S3 Frontier hooked up to my phone via Bluetooth. Overall, I get excellent battery life (I've gone to my Sleep settings and forbid MANY of my apps to run in the background same as I've done for my Lumia 950 XL phone). When I don't need all of the goodies on my new Android phone, I switch to the Maximum Power Savings mode, which still allows me to have phone, e-mail, text mgs, camera, calendar, contacts, and web-browsing (but not hook up to my smartwatch). On this setting on idle, I could easily go 4 to 5 days without recharging. Having the Microsoft/Arrow launcher doesn't interfere with entering this mode. I switch to the Maximum Power Savings mode whenever I don't really need my phone, e.g., at home around many computing devices, and usually only run it full blast when I'm out and about.

      I'm looking forward to the Android Oreo update as in that OS, Google has given the user even more power over app background behavior. But a lot of the posters here sound like they're dealing with Urban Legends rather than actual facts. I'm impressed with the Nougat OS and Samsung software as to how much control they give me over my Android phone. My previous Android phone (before several Lumia's) was a Galaxy Nexus still stuck on Jelly Bean (4.2.2) and apps run wild in the background.

    • Stooks

      In reply to Bats:

      "it will work, but Touchwiz will still run in the background."

      I have read this before. However so what?

      I have a Samsung Tab S3 2017 9.7inch tablet. It has Touchwiz. I installed the Google Now launcher. I never see anything Touchwiz so if it is running what is it doing?

      Before I installed the Google Now launcher I pretty much shut down anything Samsung/Touchwiz anyhow, like that news app when you swipe to the right or notifications from Samsung apps that I will never use.

      I do use the Samsung browser because it is Chrome with ad blocker support!

      I do agree with you, the Arrow Launcher is way too busy and not needed. The only thing I liked was the wallpaper changing app. Bing search is still not as good as Google.

  26. Paul O'Flaherty

    My 950XL is on its last legs so I might have to give this a try.

    Is there a good mid-range Android phone that is open enough to let me configure it as a 'Redmond Phone' (I guess Samsung are out as I understand they lock in their assistant and some other features) and is likely to get updates and patches for a few years?

    Also, for those of us not in the US, can we claim to be US based when configuring our accounts and be sure to get access to the software? It is easy enough with Windows Store to switch countries but I seem to recall (from using my old Nexus 7 tablet) that Google PlayStore locks you to the market in which your credit card is registered.

    • dhallman

      In reply to PD_OF: I'm going to order a new battery. Otherwise the 950xl can get me another 6 mo to a year. Or I may get an HP x3 for the stronger processor when the fire sale begins :)

      • Paul O'Flaherty

        In reply to dhallman: Think maybe I will do the same after all. After a little research it seems the following is the case (please correct me if I'm wrong, I'm no expert on Android).

        1 As far as I can see, for the Google Play Store, you must enter a credit card before you can download anything, and this locks you to the location of the credit card. If you don't have a US credit card you likely won't be able to download certain apps or use certain services (yes, this is partly MS fault for ignoring the rest of the world, but at least with Windows and iPhone you can switch countries so you can pick up the apps you want if you are not US based).

        2 If you don't need/want to spend the money on a flagship phone, it seems difficult to get an 'open' version of Android that doesn't keep lots of unwanted junk (e.g. the manufacturer's bundled launcher) running in the background.

        3 Unless you spend flagship money on a Google phone, you're unlikely to receive updates and patches for a reasonable period of time - my phones stay in use for around 4 years as they are passed on to other members of the family.

        4 Basic things like synching contacts may not work properly (i.e. my contacts from my Outlook and Exchange accounts may not make it into the phone's contact list correctly/reliably). I've managed my contacts in Outlook for years and am happy with the way it works, I don't want to have to move contacts/mail/calendar to Google just to get a phone working properly.

        My primary computing device is my PC and I want my phone to play nice with the apps and services I already use on that device. I'm not convinced Android (or iPhone) can do that.

        • dhallman

          In reply to PD_OF: I can only comment on point 1. All 3 of my children (well 2 are adults now)have moved to Android (LG G5, Nexus holdout and GS7) and have no issues with purchases or Apps. They have a VISA hybrid product that is actually a (Canadian) Debit card tied to their account, but runs through VISA to ease online purchases (under our watchful eye of their accounts). One of them is on Google Play as well and has a Google Home. I should also point out that all 4 of us were Windows Phone users before they moved away. 2 of them went to iPhone first and then ended up on Android.

          • Paul O'Flaherty

            In reply to dhallman:
            Thanks for that. I'm currently working in the Middle East. I used a credit card from a local bank with my Google account one time, and now I appear to be locked to that region and can only download apps from the Play Store that are available in that region. I had similar issues with MS and Apple stores, but there are work-arounds to change your country with those stores. I haven't found a way of changing country with the Play Store and I would like to 'register' as US based so I can be sure to have access to all the major apps.

    • Winner

      In reply to PD_OF:

      Moto G5 plus is a pretty nice phone at a fairly low price. And almost pure vanilla Android.

    • TechnologyTemperance

      In reply to PD_OF: Moto G5 Plus and Nokia 6 are a good bets for pure, mid-range, android phones.

  27. glenn8878

    Absolutely not. Releasing any stock Android phone makes no sense since there is risks from hardware inventory not selling, plus the problems of not having an App Store and any other mobile issues that Microsoft has failed in. Amazon failed already with a stock Android install and moved on.

    How about a different approach? Combine forces with Samsung with its latest Note 8, which is quite impressive. Put out a Microsoft Enterprise edition with all the bells and whistles and Microsoft apps pre-installed. It will still have Google Play that everyone wants.

    The “what if” is any success means Microsoft will think it can make a second try with Windows Phone. They won’t ever abandon Windows on phones. They always go back to Windows.

    • maethorechannen

      In reply to glenn8878:

      Amazon failed already with a stock Android install and moved on

      It wasn't stock. It was FireOS and lacked Google Play Services. And it was outrageously over-priced (which I think is what really killed it).

      • glenn8878

        In reply to maethorechannen:

        It’s a fork. Any changes made on Android would be a fork since stock Android has nothing. That’s what Microsoft will do to Android especially since they are likely to not offer Google Play.

        • maethorechannen

          In reply to glenn8878:

          I really don't see Microsoft releasing an Android phone without Google Play. It would be both dead in the water and be against their "use whatever you want, it's all cool" mantra they have these days.

          I don't even see them releasing a phone. Partnering with a phone maker, maybe. Releasing a new phone with their logo on it? No.

  28. dhallman

    Too bad many of these apps and services are still US only after 2 years. No real option for the rest of us.

    But the idea that Microsoft + Android is a long term solution is, what does Paul call it, oh ya 'wrong headed'. Once you move to Android you may start with a Microsoft forward experience. But then you will play with Google VR/AR, add Google home, subscribe to Google Play, put a Chromecast on your TV and start looking to move off Win32/64 programs for cloud solutions. Those cloud solutions may be on Microsoft - or they will be on Google or Amazon or other. You will cancel Office365 and then you will wonder why you pay so much for a Windows laptop and consider a Chromebook. After a few new versions of Android are pushed to your phone you will see you use the Microsoft apps less and less. You may even remove some to clean up your phone. On the next phone upgrade you find yourself without any real Microsoft apps or devices. After all, Google solutions are paid for by ads, so you are saving money and all your solutions work. If the ads start to bother you, I am sure they will introduce 'Google365' to enhance your experience and remove those ads. And then you ask the office manager why they pay so much for Microsoft solutions in the workplace.

    Where does this leave Microsoft? In the retirement home with Commodore and Blackberry. Remember DOS first shipped with many OS options on IBM PCs. Microsoft had to win the market by getting the other options kicked off. And they did it. Now Google's job, after killing Windows phones, is to kick Microsoft off Android. But only after Microsoft, and their partners, convince us all to move.

    So why go for a Franken-phone solution for now? I have started looking at my remaining Win32/64 needs to see what cloud services can replace them. In all cases the vendor has a cloud alternative solution (on Amazon). If Microsoft is going to open this door for their competition, why take a half step out the door? For me, I'm all in - or all out. The fact that many Microsoft services are not available to me on mobile is pushing that along.

    But what I am using (Surface Pro/950xl) works for now and accesses the cloud just fine - once I move these programs. So I will wait until the next Surface announcements to see if a full solution mobile device is announced with Qualcomm and Windows Core OS. But when the devices I own fail, there is eigther something worth moving to from Microsoft, or Samsung/Android/Google will be my next ecosystem. Exclusively.

    • Stooks

      In reply to dhallman:

      "and consider a Chromebook"

      I 100% agree with you until the Chromebook part. Maybe some people can go that route but my experience with them feels way too limiting.

      Once you do start using the Google software in many cases I could move to it over the Microsoft software easily. However Visio and Onenote for me have no alternatives.

      • dhallman

        In reply to Stooks: When we get to the point that any cloud connection will do, Chromebooks will be enough. We are not quite there. But getting much closer.

        Many people like Evernote. But I do not use these services so I cannot comment.

        • Stooks

          In reply to dhallman:

          I used to use Evernote because is was all the rage and honestly is was on all platforms and Onenote was only on Windows. Then Microsoft rolled it out to all platforms, Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. Also Evernote got rid of their free version which also sucked because it had ad's.

          Evernote is seriously declined in popularity.

  29. mee123104

    Why doesn't SwiftKey have the nub yet???