My Review of Windows Phone 8

My first smartphone was a Windows Mobile device – a Motorola MPX200 to be precise. And that was all I used for the next few years culminating with the Treo 750W on Windows Mobile 6.5.

Then, the iPhone 3G came around. Everything about my iPod and phone was combined into one. And everything Windows Mobile 6.5 did, the iPhone did better – or had an application for that. I have been a steady user of the iPhone, having used the 3G, 3GS, 4, and 4S and frankly never looked back.

With the debut of the Nokia Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8, it seemed to be time to give Microsoft another shot. So while in Canada I picked up an unlocked penta-band device and used it on both Bell Mobility in Canada and AT&T in the United States. And this is my take after some hardcore daily usage using the “Portico” update.

The Good:

  • Industrial design and build quality is fantastic
  • Voice quality is as good or better than any cell phone I have had since switching to a GSM phone in the United States
  • E-mail, contacts, calendar, and tasks are best-in-class; I live by Outlook and this is by far the best experience I have used on a mobile device
  • Integrated Office support is also best-in-class; zero issues opening and working with documents
  • Bluetooth contact pairing and caller ID support is better than any device I have used
  • Battery life has been outstanding
  • Contact filtering is truly useful – especially once you merge in all of your social networks. The search to then get back to all of your contacts is extremely well-done.
  • The Nokia application collection makes the phone truly stand-out (at least amongst its peers) and helps close the “app-gap”
  • Camera quality is absolutely fantastic (daylight focus issues fixed after the “Portico” update)
  • You can use the device while wearing gloves – very handy when working in and traveling to cold climates like Ottawa
  • Native QR codes support in the Bing application is seriously cool

The Bad:

  • Dial functions over Bluetooth break routinely in the car; after placing a call it becomes unpaired from my vehicle and I can never get it to repair without rebooting the vehicle
  • There is a serious lack of applications – including some promised ones. Notable misses from things I have become used to or depend upon:
    • Instagram (despite being promised)
    • United Airlines
    • Air Canada
    • Comcast’s series of applications
    • Tivo
    • Google+
    • Urbanspoon
    • Opentable
    • Yelp
    • Egencia
    • eBay Motors
    • Uber and Taximagic
  • Synchronizing the device with my iTunes Library was a disaster, despite this being a “feature”:
    • It took over 2 days to synchronize my photographs (8,000) – when continuously connected and synchronizing
    • Seemingly less than 15% of the music tracks I selected to sync actually copied – despite them all being either ripped from CD, pure MP3, or DRM-free music
    • I was never able to send an audio file to use as a ringtone successfully
  • IE10 is just not as smooth nor as well-performing as Safari on a handheld device
  • Some applications are substitutes and not as good as their original versions:
    • BoxFiles (in lieu of Dropbox)
    • MetroTalk (in lieu of Google Voice)
  • Other applications I use such as Evernote or Twitter or Facebook are lacking features from their iOS brethren
  • The Lumia 920 is not preconfigured for other carriers as an unlocked iPhone is; instead you have to know to download the Nokia Access Point application, find it (it’s in Settings and isn’t an application), and then occasionally tweak it further if a setting has changed – it is not a world-ready plug-n-play solution

The Verdict:

I wanted to make this my primary phone. I really, truly did. But it was actually the basics  that killed it for me. I use Bluetooth extensively; having it not work reliably is a non-starter. Likewise for sync. – if I have to dredge up an iPod and start carrying yet-another-device for a primary use case, it’s kind of defeating the purpose of having a multifunctional device.

The lack of applications is definitely annoying. But it not the end-of-the-world. Though I imagine if I had used it for more than a few weeks, it would have gotten on my nerves.

That said, I will definitely miss the superior e-mail, contacts, calendar, and tasks interface – coupled with native Office support.

So, for now, Windows Phone 8 and the Lumia 920 has earned it’s keep as my international phone for use while traveling on other carriers. I only hope that with further evolution some of the gaps can be closed and it will be able to make it to my primary phone.

It’s frustratingly close…

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