14 May, 2013
I’ve liked Nokia phones ever since I got my first mobile, an analogue Nokia 1000 back in 1993. I stuck with them for over a decade, while my other half flirted with Motorola and Samsung. At the time nothing beat Nokia’s build quality or the ease of use of the Symbian operating system.
But I wanted to do more with the device I was lugging around. In 2004 Symbian was starting to look a bit dated and limited. I decided to try Windows Mobile and bought an HTC device, the “i-mate Jam” or “the ponce pad” as my wife liked to call it. I liked Windows Mobile so much that next two phones ran on Windows too.
Then I got bitten by the Apple bug and switched to the iPhone 4 as soon as it was available on Vodafone. I currently have an iPhone 4s.
Nokia Lumia 920 Trial
I really hoped that “Nokia + Windows Phone = WIN”.
The Nokia Lumia 920 feels very well put together. Its body is plastic but it’s solid, it doesn’t feel cheap at all.
There are three physical buttons down the right hand side, a volume rocker, the power button and a camera shutter button. Having the power in the middle seems a bit weird, but you get used to it.
Beneath the screen there are three virtual buttons: Back, Windows & search.
Like the iPhone, the 920 has no removable battery or external storage, but neither of these things are too much of an issue.
The Lumia is large. You certainly know you have it in your pocket. It has a lovely big screen which is great for video.
While the screen is certainly very attractive it’s also the biggest issue when it comes to the physical usability of the phone. Despite being averagely endowed in the hand department I found that I couldn’t comfortably type on the 920. Letters towards the left of the keyboard (particularly Q) and the back button were just a bit too much of a stretch. I got thumb-ache if I tried to text or email too much.
I didn’t get sent a SIM card until nearly 2 weeks in to my trial, so evaluating the phone while out and about was initially quite tricky. When I did get connected the Lumia worked fine as a phone, voice calls were as clear as they are on my iPhone. The messaging app was OK… I didn’t use it a great deal and I missed some of iMessage’s features. The ability to continue a conversation you started on your phone on your Macbook or iPad is something I’ve come to take for granted.
At one point the phone just stopped responding. I thought the battery had died & put it on charge. When that didn’t work I emailed Nokia, thinking the phone was dead. It turned out it just needed a “soft reset” but I lost a weekend testing.
Nokia primarily wanted me to evaluate the Lumia 920 as a work phone, so that’s what I set about doing. I’m a web developer and don’t really spend any time in Microsoft Office (a mobile version of which ships with the phone). I mainly use my phone for keeping in touch using messaging, email & Twitter.
I use my iPhone for testing web pages from time to time using Adobe Edge Inspect. Adobe don’t currently have a client for Windows Phone 8, so I couldn’t do that.
Windows Phone 8
Windows Phone is interesting. The home screen looks very pretty, I liked the fact that it was set up to use the yellow theme (matching the phone’s body colour). The large tiles are great, allowing you to see what’s going on with your apps without having to launch them. This is definitely a feature Apple could borrow for the next version of iOS.
The way that Windows & Windows apps show you that there is more content either side of the panel you’re currently viewing, cutting off the heading text and showing a slither of the adjacent pane’s content is pretty neat too.
The People Hub or “Me” tile on the home screen allows you to see the latest updates from Facebook & Twitter in one place, as well as your Outlook.com email (if you use that). It’s nice to be able to see those updates at a glance, but I found replying or posting my own updates through that route clunky and ended up installing the Twitter & Facebook apps.
The flatness of Windows Phone 8‘s the design does mess with your head after a while. It’s often hard to tell read & unread items apart. There is very little to visually separate items when you start using the messaging and email apps. I dare say this is something you get used to.
Many of my favourite iPhone apps like Instagram & Tweetbot are not available for Win Phone 8. Twitter’s Windows app is OK, but I didn’t have my blocked keywords & hashtags or sync my timeline between devices. Where there were Windows versions I often found some of the features were missing. For example Spotify doesn’t scrobble from Windows Phone 8.
On the other hand, Foursquare on Windows Phone is exceptional. It’s really pretty, well executed and a joy to use.
I don’t want to sound too down on it, the Lumia 920 is a really great phone and I liked it a lot. Windows Phone 8 has some really nice features, some of which I’d like to see in iOS. But it feels like the first version of a product, it needs refinement. The same goes for the third party apps, most of them just weren’t as polished as their iPhone cousins.
For people that don’t already have a smart phone and those who really love Windows or Office it’s probably an excellent choice, but as someone who’s really invested in the Apple ecosystem it’s not for me.