Windows Phone 8

Windows Phone 8

Back in September I posted a blog entry about the iPhone 5 and iCloud, you can read this here. Since that time a few things have changed including my mobile network provider – Vodafone.

I have decided to move away from Vodafone for many reasons, the main one being that their 3G coverage in Lincoln where I work and live sucks. Their 2G coverage for calls wasn’t much better and many times I had no signal at all. Whether this was entirely a Vodafone issue or a combination of Vodafone and the iPhone 4s I will never be sure of I had had enough so I decided to move to Orange (or is it EE? My contract is with orange but my phone shows EE). The second issue with Vodafone was that they had problems getting all of the latest phones in stock (with the exception of Apple’s iPhone) and Orange/EE had guaranteed availability of all of the upcoming phones.

orange-logo

I was ready to simply upgrade to the iPhone 5 but for all of the great things it offered over the iPhone 4s, for me it was simply a lighter version of what I had with an extra row of icons. Yes it has 4G but this isn’t really something I need at the moment; I don’t see Lincoln getting 4G for a year or two. And you know I’m getting a little tired of the interface, we have had the same look since the original iPhone and we have gained is folders and higher res versions (retina) with a slapped on Notification Centre.

Windwos Phone Logo

For a while now I have been really interested in Windows Phone (specifically 8) and now that I am running Windows 8 at home on the PC and the fact that I have a Microsoft account these phones started to appeal to me.

So after reading lots of reviews and the helpful people at the Phones 4u shop (St. Marks in Lincoln) I decided upon a Nokia Lumia 920 in red; yes you read that right – RED.

Lumia_920_Red_a

Why did I want a red phone? There are a lot of phones out there at the moment and they are typically black, silver or (to a lesser extent) white. The Lumia 920 is available with four colours in the UK: Black, White, Yellow or Red. Whilst the Lumia 920 is exclusive to Orange/T-Mobile/E, the Yellow and Red models are exclusive to Phones 4U. I didn’t want the yellow model which left the Red model – I wanted it to stand out so that I was asked what phone I wanted.

The Nokia Lumia 920 phone is probably the largest one I have ever used (with one exception being the awful HTC Clamshell Windows Mobile phone I had before the iPhone) and it isn’t the lightest phone but it is fast, has a nice display and is packed full of features. The 3G data connection is excellent and makes the iPhone/Vodafone combo look really dated.

Nokia Charging Plate

In the article I wrote in September I mentioned that I didn’t see the point with Wireless charging or NFC and whilst the usefulness of NFC in this country is in doubt, the wireless charging is something I will use as Phones 4U & Nokia are giving a free wireless charging plate with each Nokia 920 sold – you cannot order it straight away but once the return-phone-period is up (14 days) you can order the charger. Mine has been requested and I am now waiting the “allow 28 days” period.

I have asked for a Red Charging Plate.

I have asked for a Red Charging Plate.

OK, so we have established that I wanted a Red Lumia 920, but why a Nokia Lumia 920 and not the HTX 8X which is a smaller and much lighter Windows 8 phone? There are a number of reasons as follows:

Storage: The Lumia 920 has 32GB of storage whilst the 8X only has 16GB. I am moving from a device that has 64GB of storage and whilst I won’t be storing as much data on the phone I didn’t want to be restricted.

Screen: The screens on all of the Windows 8 devices are crisp and clear, I wanted a large screen with the highest resolution that WP8 supports. The only device that I am aware of is the Lumia 920 with its 4.5″ IPS TFT touchscreen with PureMotion HD+ 1280 x 768 screen.

Camera: The best camera of any device out there is arguably on the Lumia 920 with its 8.7MP camera. This uses PureView technology with Carl Zeiss lens captures blur-free videos even if the camera’s shaking or in low light. Thanks to its Optical Image Stabilisation.

920-nokia-lumia-pureview-jpg

Wireless Charging: (and free wireless charger) – does what is says on the tin.

Nokia exclusive Applications: Nokia seem to have a number of dedicated exclusive Windows 8 applications that are not available on any other provider.

OK, enough about the phone, what about Windows Phone 8 (WP8). The initial impression with WP8 is a far cleaner, superior interface where everything that is happening is presented without you launching a single application. This is in stark contrast to iOS 6 which with exception of the badges and the frankly annoying messaging system iOS requires you have to launch applications one-by one so that you can see what is happening, some applications don’t give any heads up at all. With WP8 I can see at a glance what is happening and I can have that information presented in one of 3 sizes too. The integration with Twitter and Face book on iOS has a bolted-on kludged feeling that I never used but on WP8 the integration is fantastic and has encouraged me to use Facebook and Twitter more. The overall “feel” of WP8 is refreshing and exciting too.

There are some features of WP8 that I am not too happy with though. As on example: each email message as they are opened won’t display any embedded pictures. You need to tap on one of the areas where the messages would have displayed to show them. Once the message displays the embedded pictures it will retain this setting. This “feature” is by design for security purposes and cannot be disabled even for known senders either. It has become second nature to do this but I would like some control over this.
There are some aspects of the iPhone that I thought were available in all smart phones but apparently are missing and some of these “niceties” are missing – most of these have also been overcome.

Neowin who has reviewed nearly all of the Windows Phone 8 devices have posted video covering some of the defecienceies of the WP8 platform. Whilst I don’t fully agree with all of their points most of them are things that should be sorted out (soon please Microsoft):

WP8 is a competent media device and can play any of the non-protected music in my iTunes library (which is nearly all of it) but the seamless nature of iTunes is of course not present. Microsoft have provided a preview version of a Windows 8 Desktop app that allows you to sync the iTunes Music but this falls over at the drop of a hat and the “preview” tag is rightly deserved. There is also a Metro app that allows data to be transferred to and from the phone but not via iTunes. This is something that Microsoft need to sort out as neither app is brilliant and you shouldn’t need two applications to cover all of the features.

Paul Thurrot has created a nice post which discusses your PC Sync options, this can be read here.

The Windows Phone App Store has a lot of good applications and although there are a few missing applications there are some key ones available and some good alternatives when they are not resnet:

Splash ID
SplashID
This essential app is present and whilst not as fully featured as the iOS version all of the key functionality that I require is present. The main issue is that the syncing is clunky as you need to enter the IP address of the desktop computer when you want to sync. I have been told this is because WP8 does not have the Apple Bonjour service.

ShopSavvy
ShopSavvy
This has replaced two iOS applicatons with one. I have one app to scan QR codes called simpley “Scanner” and another “Red Laser” for barcodes. This application can scan either type and seems to do a better job too.

SBUX
sbux
There is at present no official Starbucks application for WP8. There will be one in the future because the CEo has promised this. But for now I use the free application SBUX. This has allowed me to enter my card details and it tells me my balance and provides a barcode for my card too. The balance is in US dollars however and although there is functionality to check my rewards status it doesn’t allow me to log into this part – I am not alone and it seems to be a US only feature at the moment. Hopefully either Starbucks will release the official app and/or the developer of SBUX will allow the app to display other currinces and get the rewards part working.

What’s missing?
As this is a different less mature (and currently less popular) platform, there will obviously be some applications which are missing and no other application present which offers similar functionality, there are a couple (in order of importance):

GPS4Cam: This is the best way of logging GPS coordinates when on a photo shoot bar none. You can read more about this amazing app by clicking here for my review. There are two parts, a phone part (iOS and Android only at the moment) and a computer part (Windows and Mac supported). They work in conjunction to embed the GPS coordinates directly into the EXINF data of the pictures taken (RAW and JPEG supported).

I did email the developer about a WP8 version and this is not currently on their roadmap, they did state that they may do one in the future but there is an investment here and is there enough demand for this app to pay for its development? Even though it has no SIM card I could use my iPhone for this for now.

Subway: this isn’t one I use that much but allows me to collect points towards free subways and unlike Starbucks once you register the application onto your phone the card which I initially had becomes defunct. So I either have to hope that an app is released or I use my iPhone for now (which I have kept) until the current balance is used and then I will get a new card.

Photoshop Touch: Again this is available for Android and iOS but not for WP8 – to be fair I never really used this much.

So I will finish this post by saying that I have had the Nokia Lumia 920 for almost 3 weeks now and do not regret the switch. I am finding things that the phone can do every now and then so it’s almost an exciting experience. I tried switching to the Samsung Galaxy S Android phone when the iPhone 4 came out and this didn’t last more than 24 hours before I took it back and went for the iPhone 4s. Although things have moved on immeasurably with the Android phones I wanted an experience that matches Windows 8 and the Lumia gives me this.

Yes I have had a few negative things said about my “brick” of a phone and no I don’t think that Fisher-Price or Lego make WP8 phones yet. But this hasn’t deterred me from using the device and I am glad I went for it!

Links to useful sites:
Nokia 920 site here
Windows Phone 8 Site: here
Phone 4u Nokia 920 in Red site: here