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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.

There has been speculations Elop was planted by Microsoft at Nokia with the mission to slowly destroy the company from within to enable Microsoft to buy a company with long experience building mobile phone hardware for cheap. If that was his mission, he succeeded. If it was not, Elop is nothing but a very incompetent business leader. Interestingly enough, Microsoft is retaining Elop as the head of the company’s devices operation. Sounds like a pretty moronic move to keep someone who practically destroyed the company – unless that was the plan all along.

With the fall of Nokia, you can probably guess that Windows Phone hasn’t had a massive boost in market share over the last couple of years either. According to IDG, Windows Phone did have a 46.7% change in their market share from 2012 to 2013, but that doesn’t help much when the actual market share only went from 2.5% to 3%. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android has a combined market share of 91.2%, making Windows Phone a tiny, tiny player on the field. The same numbers are backed by Gartner.

But this new series of blog posts is not about Stephen Elop, Nokia, conspiracy theories or crappy market share. It’s about the mobile phone operating system Windows Phone. Even though I prefer Android phones, not testing other phones when I have the opportunity to do so would be a loss. That not many people is using something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad, the reason can simply be that not enough people has discovered it yet.

This time around I’ve laid my small, female-like hands on a Nokia Lumia 920. In terms of hardware, it’s almost identical to the LG Nexus 5 I’m normally using. GSMArena.com has a great comparison tool. The camera on the Lumia 920 is supposedly better, and even though both phones have exactly the same camera tech specs in terms of megapixels and picture resolution, the Lumia 920 has got high quality Carl Zeiss optics and optical image stabilization. This should result in better pictures, something I’m looking forward to trying for the A Picture A Day feature on this site.

Since the Lumia I’m testing is a used phone, the first order of business was to perform a factory reset to clear the phone of anything the previous user might have left behind. A factory reset is normally a straight forward procedure, you tell the phone to wipe everything and after a few minutes the phone should be ready for use. In the case of my Lumia 920, things didn’t work out that well, though. It got stuck on what is know as the Spinning Gears of Death, a condition that might not be attributed to the Windows Phone operating system, but still a great annoyance. After numerous attempts to ease the Lumia out of its comatosed state, I eventually ended up downloading and installing the Nokia Software Updater and used that to update the firmware on the phone.

With the Lumia 920 brought back to life, I was finally ready to start my Windows Phone journey. I’ve now turned off my Android phone and will spend the next three weeks with a Windows Phone 8 handset. In the next entry, we’ll focus on the operating system itself, settings, stock apps, the look and feel of everything and any unique feature that might enable Microsoft to challenge the current big players on the field.

Have things changed for the better since Windows Phone 7.5?

(This is part one of a three part series. Here’s part two and part three.)

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