Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Windows Phone 8: one month on

I got my Lumia 920 exactly a month ago...

I had an iPhone 5 before that and I wanted something new, something different. I had worked with a HTC Mozart (WP 7.x) two years earlier and I was impressed on well it worked.

It's been a month, and I don't know on how to choose between hating the thing but put up with it, or just go back to using an iPhone.

I like the physical shape of the phone, it's big, but not too big. While the specs state it's a much heavier phone than the iPhone, you can't feel it. The screen is beautiful. Navigating in the phone is very smooth, I like the look and feel. I love the tiles and the swiping left/right to see different views.
From a navigation perspective, very little have changed since windows phone 7: it was good then, it's still good now.

Using the phone for its primary purpose : making phone calls has actually been a challenge. Every time I use it, I get frustrated on how cumbersome it is.

First, there's no different volume settings. If I want to phone ring to be loud, I have to bump the volume to the max. Then everything is loud. I just want the ringtone to be loud. I don't need to be deafened when I type a number in the dialer !

Phone Dialer

The default one is terrible.
I found RapDialer which is a brilliant app and brings most of what's missing, but it doesn't show incoming calls or missed calls so you still have to use two dialers.
Favorites: I can't call a person with a single or two taps. I have to go into People, choose a person, then choose the number to call. Sure you can create groups but that only narrows the selection, still can't define a single number as favorite.
Even RapDialer whenever I select a favourite ask me if I really want to dial... Duh! why else would I tap on a name in my favourite?
I don't care to see facebook update status, or what their latest photos are when all I want to do is make a phone call.

Some people will comment that you can pin a contact to the start screen. That's true. But first, all you see there is a photo, usually attached to the facebook account: which can change, making it hard to find the right person. Then, how crowded can the start screen be, there's no pages there, it's a long scroll view...

It's fine to make a fancy, very socially oriented phone, and I think they've succeeded. But not at the expense of making the primary function of a phone cumbersome.

Answering a call

So I have to swipe up *AND* then select to answer the call???
Why can't it just answer the call when I swipe the screen up like any phones out there?


What a disaster that thing...
So yesterday, I search for bunnings warehouse. I live in Melbourne. the first result was for Bunnings in Ballarat, 2 hours away. 2nd one was in Sydney.

The results list showed the address and phone number and how many km away I was from it. Not sure how it's sorted, but it's certainly not by distance.

So I tap on the entry, and it open a new thing with "about / buzz / apps"... no phone number. So how do I call it? well, tough luck I only have to remember the number from the result list, go into the dialer and dial it manually, no copy paste for you !

So let's drive to that place.. I tap on the address field, and it opens maps. Great... but I want to drive there... I tap on the name in map, and ..... it reopens the "about / buzz / apps" screen
Oh, there I can "drive" using an app, get a choice between gMaps Pro or Nokia Drive
Nokia Drive.
Ooops, can't find the address I've just entered and the thing just sit there doing nothing.
Funnily, if I search for the exact same address (again, no copy paste there) it does find it.
And don't get me started for when I search: tiles. Even going into "local" shows me stuff that aren't local except a *carpet* place that I know is around the corner.
Search is a big fail IMHO compare to what I could get on google... Unfortunately, can't have anything but Bings in there.

Another example...
But search say "Tiles Ringwood"
Ringwood being a suburb
I get 3 answers:
1) Ringwood Melbourne, Australia
2) Ringwood Melbourne, Australia
3) Tills Dr, Warrandyty, 3113 Melbourne
Totally useless
Nokia Maps provides much more valuable answer !
1) Ringwood Melbourne, Australia
2) Ringwood Melbourne, Australia
3) Ringwood Health Centre
4) Ringwood Private Hospital
Very useful indeed.
Mind you, the only reason I tried to narrow to Ringwood is because it couldn't find any tiles place in Ringwood
Bing is a tad better , it does find a tiles store located in Ringwood and that's the first result. Interestingly the first result is in ringwood, the next result in ringwood is the 8th result and the 16th. None of the other are in Ringwood finds 10 tiles store, all in ringwood.

Web browser

well, nothing extraordinary there. I find navigating easier on an iPhone. on the iphone I can create a new tab with one tap. Here I have to go into the ... menu and select tabs.
More annoying is search in the address bar: auto-spelling is disabled there and with the very cramped keyboard it's much more difficult to get it right the first time. so you keep correcting what you typing.
Let's start about auto-entry here.
The auto-correction is brilliant, and does a great job. But really, why make the space bar so tiny when keys like [.] aren't required (I can get it with a double tap on space). I don't care about a dedicated smiley key, I only ever use type :( or :). Keep hitting the , key when I just want to enter a space. Maybe it's due to the length of my thumb when I type single-handed
I have my keyboard settings set to UK because I want to type colour not colour. Good luck finding a $. Have to type a pound, hold it and wait for the $ to appear. Cumbersome. Where are my Australian keyboard settings !!??

There's a big screen, yet typing a SMS, there's less than ¼ of the screen space available to what I'm typing. And how many times have I started typing something single-handed to find that I inaverdently tap on the search button: Bing here I come.

Which brings up to the back button. So you press back. Well too bad with what you were currently doing. It's a stack, it pops a level... can't get back to where you were earlier.

Oh, sure, I can tap the back button, hold it, wait, to see a list of where to go back to. Funnily the first thing you can go back to is the current application. Because really, I press the back button and hold it by accident very often. So it's useful to go back to where I am currently.

Internet Browser / Text Editor:

I can never easily select anything and copy it.. I just don't get it onw how selection works.
Trying to position the cursor to correct a word is convoluted. First you tap it puts the cursor where you tap great, but try to bit more precise and it places the cursor about 1cm above where you're holding it: weird. iOS or Android way is so much more intuitive
No password saving ??!! no text reflow so it automatically adjusts and reformats text so it's easier to read like on iOS..


Microsoft has an answer to Apple's iMessage and FaceTime. It's called skype.
So why can't I type a skype message from within the messaging application.
Why does entering Skype takes such a long time with first "loading...." then "resuming..."
Why can't I start a phone call using skype from the phone application? or even enter the skype details of a contact within the "People" entry.
No, it needs to have two address book and be in a separate applications.
What a let down.
And most of the time when people call me on my skype account, only skype on my desktop rings. Phone stays silent.
I find I'm using the phone less and less during the day, which is great for battery life cause when I'm using the phone for web browsing, it won't even last a day.


I like The Age application, it's actually more nicely done than on other platforms.
I've trawled the application store for hours and hours... it's pretty hard to find anything interesting or that works well with windows 8; they all seem to be Windows 7 that luckily still works on W8.
Content there is piss-poor, somehow I know doubt it will ever take off but one can hope.


Don't hope to print with it, cause there's nothing available.


There's a massive screen, yet the content shown is less than on a much smaller iPhone. And when you reply, the keyboard and icon bar takes over 2/3rd of the screen.
Destination recipient are dumb, I explained:
I receive an email, I press reply type my answer send.
Oh, I forgot to say something. so in the mail list I type reply again... And I reply.... to *myself*. I must select the original message in the thread, and then press reply.
Surely, few people will ever try to reply to their own message hoping to be the only one reading it !
It's all tiny usability details like that, that make a frustrating experience.

System Settings

Ok.. Can someone tell me how things are organised in there?
It's not sorted by alphabetical order, nor by type. Options that I access often are located toward the bottom, things I will access once are at the top like theme or email accounts.

No Wifi Setup

When you start the phone, you must link it a live account, and you can't change later. To change you must reset the phone.

Oh, that reminded me on something so dumb with WP8 I couldn't believe it they would miss something like this...
You can't setup you phone with just wifi access. You are being asked to set wifi *after* you've set everything else.
Knowing that a restore from a microsoft backup is only offered during the initial setup, if you have no sim card you're stuck. You can't do restore

There's a suggestion list there:

It's unfortunate that most of the top ones are already implemented on other phones (either iOS or Android)

If you've never used anything as a "smart" phone a windows phone, you probably won't know what you're missing and like it very much.
To me, it's a let down, because things that should be very easy and straight forward aren't.
If you're using your phone for facebook primarily, you'll be very happy. integration is brilliant.
Unfortunately, I still make phone calls and try to find things in shops.

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