My first week with Windows Phone 8

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Background on my digital lifestyle

Last week I took the big step of moving from an iPhone 4s to a Nokia Lumia 820. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Nokia runs Windows Phone 8. Given that I have used an iPhone for a good few years (3G, 3Gs, 4 and 4s) and still currently own a Macbook, iPad mini and an Apple TV, it was safe to say that my digital lifestyle was about to change quite dramatically. One reason and one reason only… iCloud.

iCloud is to put simply – Amazing. It is brilliant. It keeps my portfolio of digital content in sync seamlessly with no hassle or fuss. The obvious downside of course is that it is quite closed off and apps other than Apple’s struggle with it. Don’t get me wrong there are ways round it but it no longer becomes seamless. I was using it all to be quite frank. Mail, notes, reminders, backup, itunes in the cloud… I bloody hated how good it was. So much so that I was afraid to move to anything other than Apple. I work in IT for crying out loud and I only use Apple products. It was definitely time for a change.

The mobile UI landscape

I use Windows on a daily basis and I certainly do not hate it. If anything I quite like Windows 7 and some days I even prefer it to my Mac. Till I get back on my Mac and I realise why I prefer it. None the less there was something rather appealing with the tile design of Windows Phone 8. It’s something that hadn’t been done before and re-invented the mobile UI. Let’s face it, iOS is showing it’s age. Not because it’s rubbish, or trailing behind – more because it’s no longer a billion miles ahead of the competition. Android is catching up with an interface that looks similar but CLEARLY improves significantly every 6 months. Apple’s has barely changed but instead added new features and synchronisation but no real Interface changes. Change is what keeps customers excited whether it be good for them or not.

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Step in Windows

Windows on the other hand created something that Android (and Firefox and Palm and Blackberry while we are at it) didn’t have the moral decency to do. Build something very different to give itself an edge. I won’t go through the details that has been done a million times already however I will tell you that Live Tiles are fantastic. They really do present some great content in a far more personalised manner than any other OS. I can see my sisters Facebook status update as soon as I unlock the screen or go to ring her (which allows me to see if she is in a good mood or not!). I can pin groups directly to the homescreen which switches between the the photos, Facebook and Twitter updates of the people that matter most to me. I even have my own live tile to show my latest notifications.

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The entire UI is incredibly clean, something that I honestly believe Apple would even like. There is no bullshit surrounding the content that matters to you most. Simple swipes take you to different screens within apps. The top of the phone are for headers which not only look beautiful and work great with the multi touch gestures but also means larger phones can be used and fingers do not need to reach the top of the screen.

The Nokia apps are also very good and I strongly believe that the entire ecosystem would be struggling more so if Nokia had not stepped in. This is mainly due to the maps and navigation apps from Nokia as there is no Google Maps and thankfully no Apple Maps at all – even Bing maps is nowhere to be seen. There are however enough apps to satisfy most peoples needs (WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Last.fm, Linkedin, Skype, Evernote, Engadget, RSS Reader, eBay, Paypal, Shazam, WordPress, Amazon, IMDB).

The gotcha’s

There are several downsides which I have noticed the past week.

  1. Notifications for 3rd party apps are unreliable (as was iOS early on). Sometimes they do not go through and often are very late. This may be because I have had some bad luck regarding my data signal recently due to an unrelated network issue but it is annoying that Facebook notifications are not coming through when I expect them to.
  2. I really miss notification centre on iOS for that overview of notifications but I also don’t want to lose live tiles!
  3. The Marketplace is not great but not as bad as everyone was making out. There are A LOT of the same apps made by different people making it difficult to work out which are official and which are not (BBC News is a great example of this – I see about 5 apps none of which the BBC made as they have not made one yet!).
  4. Facebook app is terrible – although Facebook is also built into the OS so thank god for that!

Overall

It’s going to be touch and go from here. On one hand I am really enjoying the platform and enjoying even more that there are new apps available on a delay basis with plenty of updates and great features coming through. It feels like the emergence of something new which just reminds me of the iPhone 4 or 5 years ago. On the other hand I may just get annoyed with all the downfalls and decide to switch in a few months time. I dread to think what I may when iOS7 comes out. Or even an iOS X?! Those updates could just be significant enough for me to want to go back…

I guess we’ll see what happens.

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