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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The truth is, you can do more with Google Docs than Office on Windows Phone 7, whereas on Android you can do a bit more than Google Docs with the third-party apps available. (Apple's productivity apps for iOS, by contrast, let you live without a computer for days.)

And neither Windows Phone nor Android has any way to present PowerPoint or other slide presentations to a projector or TV, as iOS easily does on an iPhone via a cable or over the air through an Apple TV.

The same dichotomy exists for other kinds of apps, from photo editing to financial management. Android offers both lightweight widgets and middleweight apps, whereas the Windows Phone Marketplace has mainly lightweight, data-feed-oriented widgets like stock tickers, weather checkers, and bill reminders. Widgets are the perfect fit for the whole Windows Phone tile metaphor, where the app "icons" are usually live tiles that can show status, such as current stock price or current weather. Opening a tile shows more of that data feed, but rarely lets you manipulate it in any deep way.

But even nonfeed apps tend to be more simplistic on Windows Phone; a survey of newsreader apps showed they contained less information generally than their Android (and iOS) counterparts. An exception is the USA Today app; despite Windows Phone 7's markedly different presentation style, the USA Today app proves an information app doesn't have to compromise on depth.

When it comes to games, both platforms have a good selection, including the modern standbys such as Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja.

The native apps included with Windows Phone and Android are comparable, providing email, contacts, calendar, maps, browsers, a music player, a video player, and SMS messaging. Windows Phone also includes the anemic mobile Office, whereas many Android devices include a trial or limited-function version of Quickofffice or Documents to Go. Android also offers a real navigation app, though some Android smartphones come with a trial or limited-function navigation app, and a YouTube app, though that's a free download from the Windows Phone Marketplace. Android smartphones typically have Facebook and Twitter apps preloaded as well, but the basic functionality is built into Windows Phone's People app. Additionally, the full apps are free downloads from the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Android has no native notepad app, a very odd omission for a mobile device. Windows Phone comes with OneNote, its cloud-enabled note-taker. Its version of Word is appropriate for taking notes as well.

Unlike Microsoft's Marketplace, the Android Market is not curated, which makes it easier for developers to get their apps listed but has also let cyber thieves create phishing apps that masquerade as banking or other programs to steal user information. There are few apps as yet in the Windows Phone Marketplace.

App management. A key addition to "Mango" was multitasking: Applications can now run in the background. Android has long had that capability.

Switching among apps is similar in Windows Phone and Android: In "Mango," you go to the Start screen, swipe to the left to see all your apps, and tap an app to open it. You can also pin apps to the Start screen so that their tiles are available for easy access. In "Gingerbread," you go to the home screen, tap the Apps button, then tap an app from the grid of apps that appears. You can also drag an app icon into the home screen for faster access later. But you can't just swipe among active apps as iOS 5 and the defunct WebOS allow.

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