Giving Windows Phone a Chance

Oh I can never leave well enough alone can I? I mean really, the iPhone is fine. It does phone things. But I’m just not a huge fan of iOS7 (more on that later this week). I don’t want Android. I tried that. Recently. And I’m sorry, there’s still not an Android phone with a camera worth a damn. So, I took a risk. Even with all of my concerns, I’ve gone Windows Phone.

Why Windows Phone?

Windows Phone Home Screen

My Windows Phone home screen.

Why in the world did I pick Windows Phone when Android has become so robust? For one, my recent foray into Android left me less than impressed. And secondly, my email and calendars are through Outlook.com. Outlook.com has free email for domains. GMail does not. Easy choice.

Plus, I really just like the OS. Its simple. It does what I need a phone to do. It gives me quick glance updates. If I want to do some heavy work I prefer a PC or my iPad. I need to look at my phone and just get a quick overview of what I need to know. Granted I was also one of two who had a Zune (the other being Tony over at GeekingInIndiana.com), and I loved the software behind it (the hardware was utter crap).

Besides, Verizon has a 14 day return policy if I hate it. At which point I’ll just get the iPhone 5s.

Which phone?

I went with the Nokia Lumia 928, basically the 920 with a flash(bad blogger! I read this in a few places and didn’t confirm. Release week at work makes me lazy at blogging). I looked at the 1020 but 41 megapixels is too robust of a camera for a phone. Because of the sheer amount of data, it takes 6-7 seconds to take a photo. Unacceptable.

The Good

Windows Phone Lock Screen

My super useful lockscreen that I love.

There are some features of my 928 that I’m already in love with.

  • The Charger is on Top – I use my phone when I’m falling asleep. The charger on top allows me to have it plugged in and use it without the awkward not-really-good-for-your-cable cable bend.
  • Disqus - I’ve wanted a Disqus app forever. Apparently it’s a Windows Phone exclusive. Who knew? (Really Disqus, what the hell are you thinking?)
  • Boxy - I like angles. I like boxy. So a square phone with a square OS is more visually appealing to me than the soft rounded corners we have on iOS and Android.
  • Combined Texting – Facebook Messenger and SMS are in the same app. Finally. Really, Facebook uses XMPP, so this should be a normal thing.
  • Third Party Apps - On iOS and Android, third party apps for major applications are shut down pretty quickly. But, since there aren’t official apps for all the services (Facebook Pages and Instagram for example) they allow third parties to thrive on Windows Phone. And you know what, a lot of them are more fully featured than their official counterparts.
  • Lock Screen - It shows me what I have to do and my notifications. It’s useful. I like useful.

The Bad

Most (but not all) the gripes I have about Windows Phone is around the ecosystem. I know technically this isn’t a problem with the phone itself, but you can’t talk about a phone without talking about it’s ecosystem. Microsoft, this is why you can’t’ have nice things.

  • XBox Music- Remember how I said I loved my Zune? Heck, even as recently this week Lifehacker readers voted Zune one of their favorite desktop media clients. XBox music is nothing like Zune. It’s web based. It has no features. You can’t even favorite or rate songs. And while the Zune software is still available for download, it doesn’t talk to XBox Music.
This does music better than Windows Phone.

My old Zune does music better than Windows Phone.

  • SkyDrive – SkyDrive is Microsoft Office in the cloud. Which is great, except that it doesn’t act like cloud software. It acts like desktop software, which means you have to click save instead of it happening asynchronously. SkyDrive does other things asynchronously like OneNote and photos.But the Office Suite, not so much.
  • No Gages – No battery indicator. No reception gage. No WiFi status. It’s awful. I need to know these things Microsoft!
  • “Contact the Manufacturer” – The support at @WinPhoneSupport is fantastic and responsive. But, then they said “contact your phone manufacturer.” Want to be like the Apple store Microsoft? Make it so I can take a phone in there and walk out with a new one if you can’t fix it.
Not Ok. Not anymore.

Not Ok. Not anymore.

  • Purchase History – If you buy an app, and reset your phone, and go to download the app, it will want to recharge you. If you want to redownload it for free, you have to go to WindowsPhone.com. Edit: This is how the Microsoft support rep told me to do it. You can do it through the app.

Worth the Risk?

I’ve only had the phone a few days, but so far I really like it. I’m leaning towards making it my phone permanently, but I do have concerns around the support system and ecosystem. It’s definitely not a phone for everyone, not yet anyway. You have to be willing to search and find the best alternatives to the apps you need. Not something I’d feel comfortable sending say my parents in to do.  Microsoft, you’ve got to double down on this platform if you want it to succeed.

Don’t Zune me bro.

Comments

  1. says

    I still think the best direction would have been an Android-based phone. As they are the majority holders of the market now. At least you are not with Apple and their sub-standard features that they keep selling at a premium. I know a few folks that love their Windows phones. I would stick with Android no matter what. LOL. I loved my Zune, and still have it is a darkened drawer. XBox Music and iTunes are two of the WORST media players around.

    • says

      Tell Samsung or Motorola to make a phone with a camera worth a damn and I’d try again. I take blog pictures with the phone all the time, I need that to be solid.

      • Heather Howard says

        We’re getting new phones next week, and over the last year our Motorola Android phones have become complete junk. The cameras crash about 50% of the time I open the software, and my husband’s phone will reboot whenever he opens the physical keyboard on his phone. I love the Android platform’s usability, but I can’t handle how unreliable it’s become. I have to reboot my phone about every other day now. That is unacceptable. I’m currently trying to decide between a Windows phone and the iPhone. I’m interested to see what you end up going with long term.

        • says

          It’s crucial to know your own use cases. I like both platforms, but right now I’m leaning towards sticking with Windows because it works for me. I don’t know if I’d be as confident if I didn’t always carry my iPad Mini around with me as well.

          • Heather Howard says

            That’s good to know. And I appreciate your honest review on here – the thing about the gauge might be the kicker for me. I REALLY need to know where my battery is at, and decreasing battery life is a problem I’ve had with every phone I’ve ever owned, so if/when that inevitably happens with whatever new phone I get, I’d like to know when I need to plug it in (with my current phone, ever 24hours or so).

          • says

            You can also always know the battery / reception gauge by swiping from the top.
            And if you are in an app that overrides this behaviour (it happens), you can always go into multitasking by keeping the Back Arrow pushed, and swipe from the top when in the multitask screen (and then releas to resume your app).

        • says

          I heard about those issues. I just have an LG model and I am very happy with them. I think my next upgrade will be another LG. All phones regardless of OS will have their own issues. My sister has an iPhone 5 and I hear about problems on it all the time. She drank the kool-aid and is invested now, with so many purchased apps. Apples has her trapped now. LOL.

        • says

          Lugging around my DSLR is a PITA when a photo is going to be compressed for web. And both my iPhone and Windows phone take better photos than my point and click. Not to mention the handiness of having it in my pocket all the time anyway.

          By your logic, you should be using a flip phone. They’re not phones, they’re pocket computers.

          • Dan Wilczynski says

            Really? I’ve never read those words before. Today’s point and shoots FAR surpass smartphone cameras with image stabilization, action photography, macro photography, burst mode shooting, zooming, and especially low-light shots. Source? Myself, and every other tech writer.

        • says

          Really? All the reviews I read said it was an “incremental” improvement on the S3 camera. I tried using my husband’s S3 camera when he got it and I was not impressed.

          The 920 camera beats at least the iPhone 5 camera which is pretty impressive. And my 928 has that camera with a flash.

  2. Lightning says

    No Gages –No battery indicator. No reception gage. No WiFi status. It’s awful. I need to know these things Microsoft!”

    Psttt. just swipe down from the top, they’ll show up.

    As for Xbox music, just tap the little heart next to the album art to favorite it.

    Finally, there have been stories of people going directly to a Microsoft store and having the problem immediately fixed, or a new phone was given on the spot. Their service is awesome.

  3. Black_Nightshade says

    Go to settings on your Windows Phone, then to backup, and make sure that apps and settings is checked. If you reset your phone, or get a new one, once you put in your Microsoft ID it automatically re-downloads your apps. No need to go and re-buy them.

    • says

      For my particular situation I did not want to do that. My WiFi password was not saving, and the @WinPhoneSupport rep told me to factory reset. I didn’t want to import some bad settings.

      • says

        Anyway, if you go back to the store to buy an app that you already bought in the past, you won’t be charge, you’ll get a message saying you’ve already bought it, and they propose to reinstall it instead.

  4. says

    Great article. I’m glad you’re liking the windows phone and hope you end up keeping it.

    Couple things.
    1. The 920 does have a flash.
    2. I agree that the XBox music is pretty bad. I hear good things about Nokia Music, however I made the switch to Spotify which is great for me, but I did have to suck it up and pay the monthly fee.
    3. You can definitely set up your phone to auto-sync with SkyDrive. I have my contacts, texts, apps, and pics doing so on my 920. If you go to Settings -> Backup you can turn all this on. Once there you can go into Photos to enable automatic uploading of your pictures and videos to your SkyDrive account.
    4. Battery indicator is available if you swipe from the top at anytime as mentioned in another comment. However there is a plethora of Battery apps that give you live time specifics and can even be pinned to the bottom of your Lock Screen so that you can see where you at a glance. This is also true for wifi/reception/bluetooth/etc.
    5. I’ve had success with taking my phone into AT&T and having them just swap it out. However, I’m not sure if Verizon will do that.
    6. I’m not sure what you mean about Purchase History. I’ve had 3 different Windows Phones and I was able to re-download all my apps from the Store without additional charge. Even before syncing to SkyDrive and on Two different phone companies. There’s also an app in the store called Reinstaller which you can ‘try’ for free which has no limitations, just ads, that will let you select which apps you want to re-install and do all at once.

    Hope that helps.

    • says

      1. Straight up lazy blogging on my part. I saw that on a few sites and didn’t confirm. I Britta’d it.

      2. I do love my Spotify, but I was really excited because Xbox music would work on my phone and my Xbox. Sticking with Spotify seems like the best option right now.

      3.I was speaking more to the document editing, both in the browser and the phone.

      6. I had to factory reset so I didn’t backup (I’d only had it two days at this point so I didn’t have much data). When it said buy, I got nervous.

      • says

        3. A valid point. OneNote is pretty good about syncing to your SkyDrive. It’s a little more collaborative and inline with what you’d see from Google docs. However, you’re right, Office is not as asynchronous as it should be.

        6. Aaah, I see. Yeah once you click Buy, the next screen will see that you’ve already paid for it, and instead of confirming your payment, it will just say ‘Install.’ They probably could make that a little more intuitive.

  5. Dan Wilczynski says

    Sorry to sound kind of rant-y, but I recently switched to a windows phone myself as kind of an ‘experiment’ (and my nexus 4 was smashed on the ground).

    Kind of a weak argument to choose Windows phone. Let’s look at your ‘good’..

    Charger on top – This is a hardware design choice, it has nothing to do with the OS.

    Disqus – That’s ONE app. Not comparable to a whole platform.

    Boxy? – Android is literally customize-able down to the last pixel. My personal favorite icon pack ‘Stark’ is pure boxy. Your android device can look however you want it to look.

    Text integration – Your only good point. Although I could give a damn about Facebook chat and would supplement that with hangouts.

    3rd Party Apps – I agree 3rd party apps are important but in the case of the big players on Android, for the most part the primary source apps ARE the best. Show me a better replacement Instagram app. Facebook has a myriad of providers – i like the original best. Twitter is often copied, and I personally use FalconPro as my daily. Even on Windows you probably use the ‘actual’ twitter client, and that is Twitter’s fault. ” a lot of them are more fully featured than their official counterparts” – Empty claim.

    Lockscreen – you’ve obviously not ever gotten into the android ecosystem if you’re not familiar with Dashclock. Degrees more functional than the Windows Phone lockscreen.

    • says

      As someone who (briefly) owned an Android phone I can say I was not impressed either.

      You make the point that the charger on top is a hardware choice not an OS feature, when half your other counterpoints in favor of Android require 3rd party apps/packs which are also not an OS feature. All in order to simulate functionality available ‘out-of-the-box’ on a Windows Phone.

      One of my biggest gripes with Android as a whole is that it’s too customization with lax restrictions on apps allowing for a ton of wannabe developers to put out sub-par packs/widgets/apps that end up causing an inconsistent experience at best, and crashing at worse.

      I think this article was intended to touch on both OS features AND hardware features as emphasis was put on the camera as well. Which honestly, the 928 and especially the 1020 dominate in that field.

      I think it just comes down to personal preference and experience within the UX. I think we can at least both be thankful that it’s not an iPhone.

      • Dan Wilczynski says

        1. I think you missed my point. I love Stock Android, I also love the ability to tweak stock android both for performance and cosmetics. The point is you have the OPTION to use whatever graphics you like. Want boxy? you get boxy. Want bubbly? you get bubbly. Other than that I’m not sure what you’re referring to. The Android Lockscreen can contain any widget you want, so the content you provide to yourself is almost limitless. I offered DashClock as an option to outperform what is offered by Windows phone. The point is there are options. Expanding on this, it is the Ecosystem built around these OS’s which empower the user. When the Android ecosystem provides more useful options (due to more developers and potential income) it empowers the user in more ways.

        2. Yes restrictions are lax which can lead to less than quality apps. Don’t use those apps. The ones that perform well and follow the Holo standards set by Google are the ones that become popular.

        3. Hardware on both Android and WP platforms lean to both ends of the spectrum, and I appreciate that. The new Lumia def holds the crown for the camera king, but my personal phone buying preference would not be looking at that.

        Don’t get me wrong, I actually do LIKE Windows Phone OS, but for now I like Android more, and I’m already invested in that ecosystem. As far as iPhone…. Amen Brother.

    • says

      Also, I agree with you on the Facebook and Twitter apps. The official versions are better on both Android and iOS, however a fully functional Instagram client named 6Tag was recently released for Windows Phone, that I have to say I like much better than it’s official counterparts.

      • Dan Wilczynski says

        I do use 6Tag on my WP, and can attest to its goodness. I wouldn’t call it better than it’s counterparts, but equal. 6Tag gives you a direct download link for images which can be handy, but its counterparts have received updates with more filters. Other than that as far as I can tell 6tag/official apps have identical functionality. The OP of this article quotes that “a lot of them are more fully featured than their official counterparts.” and I believe this to be a humongous stretch.

        • says

          I feel it’s better because you can download pictures and have multiple accounts. I can now have a personal instagram and a blog instagram. Makes me very happy.

  6. Martin Trasteby says

    You make a few mistakes:

    1. The 1020 takes pictures quickly if you use the WP default app and set it to 5 MP or something like that (and the photos are still great).
    2. You can favourite songs on Xbox Music, and of course it works with your local collection of music. Not the best music player though.
    3. Saying that it combines SMS with Facebook Messenger is misleading: it lacks important features like group messages and is quite unreliable.

    • says

      1. I tried this in the Windows Store. Still felt very slow. Preferred the zippiness of the 928.

      2. You can do it on the app but not the web which to me seems very weird.

      3. I haven’t noticed the group messaging (I haven’t had one yet) but I’ve not had any reliability issues. Granted it’s not been a week.

      • Martin Trasteby says

        About reliability of Facebook messages, based on people on /r/windowsphone I’d say it varies a lot. It works well for a lot of people and doesn’t work at all for many others.

  7. Wayne Walton says

    A few things I think need to be clarified:

    SkyDrive can do stuff asynchronously. It’s in the settings, you can turn that off or on so it will upload pictures and video to SkyDrive without your direct interaction. If that’s not what you meant, never mind. ;)

    There are 3rd-party tiles that can work as battery gauges if you want them on-screen all the time. Otherwise, a swipe from the top of the screen will pull down your battery and signal gauges.

    Since MS is buying Nokia, the “contact the manufacturer” issue will resolve itself in short order. ;)

    Purchase History: it won’t actually charge you after going through the payment gateway. It will register that you have already bought it and just let you install the app. A little annoying, but at least you aren’t actually going to have to buy things twice.

    Hope that helps your Windows Phone experience!

  8. chuey101 says

    just dropping by, but wanted to say if you like the charging port on top you should really try getting a wireless charging pad. Even better for plopping down before bed. Just drop it on top of the pad and pass out!

      • Mark Lambert says

        I obviously missed that announcement. I found an article in their product support pages that explains the grandfathering policy. Bummer for everyone else. You get a really nice suite of apps with this, great for small business or start ups.

        • says

          Yeah, it wasn’t a big announcement. I didn’t find out until I went to register. But I was kind of annoyed with some of the gmail changes (my mom loves them, so it must be good for the average user) so I was ready to switch anyway.Outlook.com is simple, and reminds me of old Gmail in a way.

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