3 Weeks With Windows Phone 8 – Part III.

For three weeks now I’ve been using a Nokia Lumia 920 with Windows Phone 8 in favor of my usual LG Nexus 4 with Android. This is the third and final post in a three part series about the experience. In the first post, I had a look at how Windows Phone is currently doing against other competitors, like iOS and Android, and how Nokia has moved closer and closer to the financial abyss during their partnership with Microsoft. In the second post, I took a closer look at Windows Phone 8 itself and how the core features and stock applications work. In this third post, I’ll take a dive into the Windows Phone Store to see if it’s capable of competing with the selection in Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

Why are apps important? As the smartphone world works, it really doesn’t matter how good a smartphone operating system is if the apps available for it suck. This is particularly important for converters, people moving from another smartphone OS. They usually have a set of apps they are accustomed with, and changing people’s habits is hard. Personally, I have a few good third-party apps I use on my Android phone on a regular basis, and I’d prefer to continue to use them on my Windows Phone 8 handset. Either the same app, or a replacement app with the same features that works at least as good as the Android version.

So how is the third-party app situation on Windows Phone these days? Two years ago it was so-so, but since then the number of applications available in the Windows Phone Store has increased considerably. This means that the chance of finding the apps I’m using, or at least a good replacement, should be higher than it was two years ago. I made this handy not-so-scientific reference table to get an overview. I’ve also added a few apps that I don’t use personally, but that are popular among iOS and Android users.

Continue reading "3 Weeks With Windows Phone 8 – Part III."

3 Weeks With Windows Phone 8 – Part II.

I’m trying out a Nokia Lumia 920 with Windows Phone 8 for three weeks and this is the second post in a three part series about my experience. In the first post, I had a look at how Windows Phone is currently doing against other competitors, like iOS and Android, and how Nokia has moved closer and closer to the financial abyss during their partnership with Microsoft. That post is available here. In this second post, I’ll be looking more closely on Windows Phone 8 itself and how the core features and stock applications work. In the third and final post, I’ll take a dive into the Windows Phone Store to see if it’s capable of competing with the selection in Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

Windows Phone 8 is not that different from iOS and Android, and not at all different from Windows Phone 7.5. Turning on a Windows Phone for the first time takes you through a welcoming process that’s very similar to other mobile phone operating systems and it help you through everything you’d expect: Select language, set the time, connect to a wireless network, connect to you Microsoft account and so on and so forth.

What struck me when I went through the welcome wizard is how little Windows Phone has changed visually since we last met. Over the last couple of years, both Android and iOS has evolved considerably visually. Windows Phone, on the other hand, has not. I feel like it has almost stagnated completely. Although visuals are perhaps not what makes or brakes an operating system, it’s important for first impressions and, together with usability, an important part of the user experience.

Continue reading "3 Weeks With Windows Phone 8 – Part II."

3 Weeks With Windows Phone 8 – Part I.

Two years ago, I wrote a series of three blog posts about my experience with Windows Phone 7.5. For three weeks, I replaced my Android phone with a Windows Phone handset from LG and when the three weeks were over, my conclusion was that, even though Windows Phone isn’t a bad mobile phone operating system, it didn’t give me any good reasons to permanently throw Android overboard.

Since I wrote those three blog posts, a lot of things have happened with Windows Phone. In October 2012, Microsoft released Windows Phone 8, which added a number of software improvements. It also brought support for updated hardware, including support for multi-core processors and high resolution screens. Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 were often criticized for a lack of high end hardware support, but Windows Phone 8’s new hardware gave Windows Phone the ability to better compete with Google and Apple smartphones. In 2013 Microsoft released Windows Phone 7.8, a version of the OS that brought some Windows Phone 8 features to low-end Windows phones that do not have the hardware muscles to run Windows Phone 8. Version 8.1 of Windows Phone is expected to be released in April this year.

Perhaps the most interesting Windows Phone story of 2013 was Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s mobile phone division. In September 2010 Stephen Elop, formerly of Microsoft, joined Nokia as CEO. Six months later, Microsoft and Nokia announced a partnership in which Windows Phone would become the primary smartphone operating-system for Nokia, replacing Symbian. But instead of great success, Stephen Elop and the partnership with Micrososft turned out to be a disaster for Nokia. During the 3 years Elop was CEO, the company’s revenues fell 40%, profits fell 95% and market share in smartphones collapsed from 34% to 3.4%. Nokia’s credit rating went from A to junk, the share price dropped 60% in value and Nokia’s market capitalization lost 13 Billion dollars in value.

Ouch.

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3 Weeks With Windows Phone 7.5, Part III.

I’ve now completed my three week Windows Phone 7.5 Mango test. This is the third part of a three part entry: First part, second part.

In this last entry I’ll to look at the third party applications available for the operating system. Even though the pre-installed applications are important, third party applications are what make or break a smart phone platform. If you’re not able to properly fertilize a flourishing community of developers that spew out thousands of high quality flashlight and fart applications, you might as well call it the night and pack up.

My touchscreen smart phone adventure started back in 2007 when I got a first generation iPhone. While using it I grew accustomed to various apps and ways to do stuff. Thankfully, the transition to Android two years later was problem free because the same applications (or equivalents) I used on the iPhone were also available for Android. The morale of the story? If Microsoft wants seasoned smart phone users to make the move from their current platform to Windows Phone, the third party applications available have to be at least as good as the ones people are used to.

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3 Weeks With Windows Phone 7.5, Part II.

This is the second part of my 3 week test of Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. Reading the first part before this one would probably be a good idea. The phone is now connected to various accounts like Twitter, Google and Exchange and I’ve had a look at Metro, the new design guidelines for Windows Phone. Now it’s time to move on to the Windows Phone 7.5 applications.

All the standard applications you’ve come to except on any smart phone are pre-installed: Alarm, calculator, calendar, camera, internet browser, gallery, e-mail client, messaging, maps, a market for downloading third party applications, music and video player, phone dialer and a contact list.

The standard applications don’t really bring anything new to the table: The calculator turns into a semi-scientific one when the phone is used in horizontal mode, but this isn’t something we haven’t seen before. The calendar application is fairly standard, with the option to hide or show calendars synchronized from any accounts your phone is connected to. It only supports to date views, either day or month; no week view. The month view is also unbelievably tiny. Your appointments are displayed, but it’s impossible to read anything, forcing you to return to the day view to see what you are actually doing on a given day. Unfortunately, the weakest of the standard applications is the application many people use the most: The internet browser. It’s slow and it doesn’t support proper auto alignment of text when zooming in and out while browsing desktop versions of web sites. This results in a lot of scrolling, which makes it a hassle to read a lot of text.

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