Beauty and the geek: Windows Phone 'Mango' vs. Android

Microsoft's mobile OS reboot turns out to be a small update that lacks enterprise security and rich apps but is a cleaner alternative to Google's Android for smartphones

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From an operational perspective, the main differences between the Windows Phone and Android browsers center on the UI. Their interfaces are both spare, with a persistent URL box on both, an icon button to open a bookmarks window on Android, and an icon button to refresh the page in Windows Phone. Both use their OSes' standard Back hardware button to go back in your browsing history. To add bookmarks, go forward, open a new browser window, or refresh the page in Android, you use the device's hardware Menu button. In Windows Phone, to create or access bookmarks (which it calls Favorites) and to open a new tab (really a window), you use the More icon button to open a menu of options. Windows Phone 7 also lets you pin a Web page to your Start screen (as iOS does); Android can't do that.

Both Windows Phone and Android can share pages via email, but Windows Phone also lets you share the page via your social networks.

Android uses the smartphone's hardware Search button to do a Web search when you are in the browser; Windows Phone uses its physical Search button to open the Bing app. Neither can search your current Web page.

Windows Phone offers a .com button when entering URLs, a significant timesaver. Plus, it pops up a list of alternative domains, such as .edu and .org, when you tap and hold the .com button. Android "Gingerbread" has no equivalent.

In both Windows Phone and Android, you can select text and graphics on Web pages, but only Windows Phone lets you save selected graphics.

Both the Windows Phone and Android browsers offer settings to control cookies and history, but unlike Android, "Mango" has no option to manage other personal information such as cache, form data, passwords, image loading, autofill, fraud warnings, and debugging. Windows Phone does have the nice ability of being able to tell websites it's a desktop computer, not a mobile device, for when you don't want the mobile-optimized version of a site (which often strips out information and services).

Although not preinstalled with Android, Adobe's Flash Player is available at the Android Market as a free download. I found that the most current Flash Player (10.3) did well with videos and basic Flash animations, such as those that let you rotate views and open content via hotspots. Flash games worked sometimes. Windows Phone 7 does not support Flash.

The winner: Android "Gingerbread," thanks to greater HTML5 compatibility and better controls over personal information. If Flash is important to you, Android becomes your only option.

Windows Phone 7.5 vs. Android 2.3: Location support
Both Windows Phone and Android support GPS location, and both can triangulate location based on Wi-Fi signals. They also come with equivalent map apps, which can find your current destination, provide directions, and otherwise help you navigate.

The Navigation app that comes with Android is a nice addition unmatched by Windows Phone (or iOS) unless you buy a separate navigation app.

Both Windows Phone and Android let developers integrate location information in their apps, so location is just another native feature. And both OSes let you control your location privacy, but at only a gross level: by disabling or enabling the GPS and Wi-Fi location services for the entire device. Both Windows Phone and Android apps can ask if it's OK to use your location, but there's no central way to manage these location permissions as there is in iOS.

The winner: Android, thanks to its navigation app. Otherwise, they're evenly matched.

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