The good news is that Microsoft saw a long way back that it wasn’t going to catch up across mobile install base numbers anytime soon, but that it could still make the best of a less-than-ideal situation by its unique features a whole lot less unique. That means you can find all your standard productivity apps (email, document tools, etc.) available far beyond Microsoft’s ecosystems. There are a few more interesting bits and pieces that Android users might want to try and test-drive though.
Cortana: Windows’ personal assistant
Microsoft embracing rival mobile platforms means that you can also happily download and use Cortana on Android, though it’s a bit more limited than on Windows, so it might not make a whole lot of sense. As a result, you might be better off installing Google’s new messaging app Allo for a more interesting smart assistant experience with sass.
The main reason to install Cortana on Android is if you’re already using Windows 10 on the desktop, as you’ll then be given reminders across your phone and PC, for things like location and meeting reminders. You can also use your PC to reply to missed calls on your phone via a text message.
Essentially, Cortana on Android is pretty good at helping organize and keep on top of your life and appointments, but isn’t so useful if you want to control your hardware. Switching Bluetooth on or off via Cortana isn’t an option, for example. ‘She’ll’ also tell you jokes on request, if you like that sort of thing.
Maps: Microsoft got lost somewhere
Microsoft had a useful mapping weapon before its purchase of Nokia in the form of the HERE Maps being provided alongside Bing Maps on early Windows Phone (7 – 8.1) devices. Since the acquisition, however, Microsoft has definitely lost some momentum.
While early Nokia Windows Phones sucked, Nokia’s mapping app, later spun off as HERE and renamed HERE WeGo, was a solid option. A core of those features continue to exist on Windows 10 Mobile’s mapping app, but HERE announced earlier this year that it didn’t think redeveloping from the ground-up for Windows 10 was a worthwhile investment.
The company has no such concern for Android though, so if you fancy an alternative to Google Maps, HERE WeGo is worth checking out. It’s even got options for booking a cab, with estimated fare, and ride-sharing features too. Definitely worth a look.
Continuum: A fluid experience where your phone is also your PC
While all services and apps are nice to have, the only single real feature that Windows 10 Mobile lauds over any competitor is the device-agnostic approach it’s been building towards for the last few years. This whole feature set comes under the banner of ‘Continuum’, and essentially provides a single computing platform regardless of device.
This means that app developers need few, if any, modifications to make apps play nicely across different form factors. For users, the Continuum feature also provides the option to dock your phone with any screen to, essentially, have your PC wherever you go.
Canonical’s Ubuntu OS, the only other platform to openly build towards a single codebase for all devices, is another non-runner in market share terms. That leaves a huge vacuum until Google and Apple ultimately announce their own takes on this problem.
On Google’s side, the rumored ‘Andromeda’ project should be what ultimately brings Chrome and Android together but there’s no official announcements as yet. There are, however, a few things you can do to bridge the gap in the meanwhile.
Aim for the clouds
Android already has a lot of multi-platform apps to offer, but if you want a seamless experience between desktop and mobile, your best bet is to only use services that offer both. You probably already use a cloud-based email service, and as a result have some cloud-based document and storage tools at your disposal, whether you currently use them or not.
While security should definitely be a consideration for anything you’re entrusting to the cloud, fully embracing it opens up a world of convenience.
A hybrid approach
Another answer is to use a fork of Android like Remix OS by Jide in place of your desktop. It’s a bit like Google’s homegrown desktop platform, but actually offers a far more useful middle ground between Chrome OS and Android.
There’s a pretty significant compromise, however: even though you’ll get some of the simulated functionality of Continuum, because there’s no ‘official’ halfway house between the platforms, the apps will all look a little uglier than you’d want, becoming stretched in many cases.
That said, it’s a great hybrid that’s worth a look for anyone interesting in going beyond core Android features. You can download Remix OS for free, or buy a device that comes with it pre-loaded, like the Remix Mini. Don’t expect too much from the computing hardware for your $79 if you do take that option though.
One convenient dual-boot option is to try something like Maru OS (though unfortunately currently limited to the Nexus 5), which provides a Continuum-esque experience by giving you convenient dual OS options in one package. That way you have Debian Linux and Android to hand on one device, but it’s not the same level of convenience that Continuum offers.
If you’re rocking a new Motorola Moto Z (or reading this in the future with another MotoMods compatible handset) , you can also check out the OneCompute add-on that’ll get you most (part) of the way to Continuum. Motorola claims it delivers a lag-free experience when you dock your phone into it, and it provides three USB ports and an HDMI connection to your TV.
It’s a convenience that’s sure nice to have, but if you’ve already moved a lot of your services and content to the cloud – music, TV, storage, etc. – it’s one that might not be entirely necessary in any practical workflow of actually using your devices.
The other advantage a docked/Continuum solution offers is a split-screen mode for more efficient multi-tasking. Of course, Android (in some forms) has been able to do this for a good long while, but without a larger display to truly take advantage of it, there’s not a lot of benefits for the average user.
Without one of the dock workarounds above, multi-screen will remain limited in use in the real-world. None of the options outlined above give a true ‘Continuum’ experience, but it gets you part way there.
Appearance: Live Tiles offer advantages
There’s no really easy way to say this one. Windows 10 Mobile’s Start screen is damn good looking, and practical too, but there aren’t really any good Android launchers that simulate that experience, without coming at a far higher ‘cost’.
What do you think?
If you still like the idea of having some ‘Live Tiles’ and few other tweaks reminiscent of Windows on your phone, you can check out the ‘Win 10 Launcher’ but be warned, it can play audio ads with no warning. Or perhaps you’ll want to try the 10+ but that suffers a similar assault of Amazon ads. Live Tiles do offer a few advantages over Android’s widgets, but not enough to suffer those ads.
Frankly, there are so many great launchers available for Android that can improve or alter the way it looks and works if you’re getting bored with your default, that using ones that are actively irritating shows an almost illogical dedication to Live Tiles.
You may be sensing a theme here. There are few Windows-only features left, and when Andromeda (or whatever Google’s converged OS is called) lands, the most compelling reason may well disappear. Microsoft’s not about to give up its mobile dreams, but until it can convince handset makers that it’s a dream worth investing in, it’ll remain an also-ran.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go ahead and enjoy the best parts it does have to offer though.
What other features from Windows 10 Mobile would you like to see on Android? Let us know in the comments below!
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