A desperate plea to Microsoft
One of my favorite features/apps of the Windows Phone echo-system was Xbox Music, a service so awesome I was willing to go beyond the "free" services and actually PAY FOR IT! My second favorite feature/app was Cortana, she was everything a digital assistant should be and was well poised to become a selling-point for promoting the use of Windows Phone! I even recommended that she (Cortana) was good enough to find life outside of the Windows Phone echo-system as a licensed (for hire) digital assistant for other platforms.
Xbox Music was simple, solid and useable. It had no bug issues, the catalog of music available was vast and it performed splendidly (fast and fluid). Yes, it lacked some features that kept it from being premiere, but it was better than iTunes and comparable to many other vaunted services (minus a few tweaks in design and features).
Cortana was intuitive and user friendly and took personal assistance by an artificial helper away from being just a novelty and gave the idea life as a go-to utility and resource. Cortana was more useful than Apple's Siri and Google's Now. Only when reduced to the mundane voice-search was Google Now a better option, but as a full-on digital resource; Cortana was a winner!
Now the bad news:
Microsoft has built a mobile OS (Windows Phone) where the foundation is now comprised of Cortana; with a roof of entertainment supported by Xbox Music as at least one of the design elements. For some inexplicable reason Microsoft has shaken the foundation and set the roof on fire with its most recent updates.
Is a complete and total disaster! To put this in context, one of the worst forms of software entertainment to be unleashed on the public was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial a 1982 video game developed and published by Atari, Inc. for the Atari 2600 video game console. Xbox Music is so bad right now that somewhere there is a landfill where these cartridges reside where I'm sure laughter can be heard as the game gleefully thanks Microsoft for giving it something to look down on other than itself!
Xbox Music is so bad now someone should be fired! You could use it as an example of bad design in aesthetics an even worse design in terms of stability and function. It has "0" redeeming value, It should be rolled all the way back to pre-8.1, it's that bad! I could describe in detail just how many things are wrong with Xbox Music post updates but because most Windows Phone user don't use it as a paid service (or perhaps not at all) that it would not be worth the read.
Thankfully, such low user numbers is probably why nobody has yet to make a major issue of just how bad Xbox Music has gotten. But before you wipe the sweat off-of your brow in relief; what I'm about to say next IS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL to Microsoft's mission of adding market share!
Cortana has been significantly damaged by recent updates to the Windows Phone 8.1 OS integration…
She has become buggy and the bugs all show identical patterns to the bugs that have ruined Xbox Music! I feel Cortana can be saved without a complete overhaul (a good patch would do).
This comes at a horrible time when Microsoft is just starting to impress and turn heads toward its offerings in Mobile. Building a house, inviting people in and then setting it on fire while the in-house development team responsible apparently chants "we don't need no water let the Mother F***** burn" is NOT the way to treat existing users or potential users standing outside watching the madness.
If the "Denim" update does not reach us soon and fix this issues (assuming "Denim" can fix these issues); I'm afraid Windows Phone will simply lose endorsements as a credible alternative to the dominant two echo-systems.
For now I'm doing my best "Disco Inferno" impersonation and dancing between the flames; but I'm not most people! They are not as embedded as I am in the idea of Windows, your Mobile unit is now living up to the expectations of most of the Microsoft critics, and your window of opportunity is closing, act fast!
Sept. 8th 2014
I've been running the (Cyan) update for several days now on my Lumia 920 on AT&T.
The update makes my user experience feel like I'm on a new device; this is the best update I've gotten so far for my Lumia.
Cortana is not a gimmick; the ability of the software to learn your habits and add useful info and shortcuts to the experience is awesome.
Although it would probably never happen, Cortana could easily enjoy life as an OS of its own for hands-free navigation in autos, home automation, and other areas. Voice recognition is the best I've ever experienced and the ability to speak normally and not rely on commands makes it more practical.
The forthcoming (Denim) update promises to add passive-listening so you won't have to manually activate Cortana. If they can pull that off without a hitch, it will make it a fairly compelling reason to give it a try for those not already tethered to Android or the iPhone.
Outside of the Cortana addition, the rest of the update is great but let's be honest, these are all things that should have been in the OS at least a year ago.
However, the OS is now on par with Android and iOS and in some regards is better than either.
I won't bore anyone with specific details because it would only be relevant to the two other people in the U.S. besides me running the OS ;-)
Nonetheless, if you haven't given Windows Phone a look lately, try a device running (Cyan) it might impress you!
Feb. 27th 2013
Bad news...and then good news:
My phone stopped "wireless charging" so I had to take it back and get another one L
They think it's a bad battery, I think it is the inductive coils in the phone, but it's a done deal now as I have been given another unit.
My phone was set to back-up to cloud so essentially I just logged into "windows live" on the new phone and accepted the "recover" feature as an option, it restored messaging, email, contacts, settings, I was asked to reboot and after a reboot it started downloading all the apps I had on the old device using a list it backed up to the cloud. This was a solid recovery from the cloud and I was impressed with ATT service and the MSFT cloud features. However, you still must organize your start screen and "in app settings" from scratch, so it is not a complete solution/replacement for a full local backup to a desktop or stand-alone HDD or memory card (not available on WP8).
There is a new app for Windows 8 that syncs your Win8 device with your WP8 but I'm not running Windows 8 on anything yet so I don't know what all it does or does not allow concerning backup.
I'm running Office 2013, Skype and SkyDrive on my desktop, and SkyDrive, Skype and Smart Glass on my XB360 as well as using Windows Live to sync it all and Outlook.com tossed in the mix. My Lumia 920 fits in nicely with that configuration. I love Office 2013, it has a minimalist approach and works really well with SkyDrive and Outlook.com, and I think I'm going to try Win8 on my desktop to fully integrate everything. If I go this route I'll post some more updates to let you know how it went.
Despite the issue with the wireless charging going out, I love my L920 and it has become my favorite gadget, Smart Glass is becoming more of a go-to to control my XB360 as a media aggregate and content consumption tool. "Here" maps, Nokia-Drive, Nokia Music and Nokia City Lens are fantastic, they never let you forget you have something different and better than just another Smart Phone.
ATT in store customer care is much better than I remember from my days of loathing ATT (the actual ATT stores and phone support). However it is still aggravating to discover that the phone support "1/800" still is INCREDIBLY UNFAMILIAR with the L920. Still a long way to go in the U.S.
Nov. 14th 2012
The more I use the camera the more impressed with it I've become. It's not just the quality of the photos, it's the speed at which you can shoot, the fluidity of the software and the intuitiveness of the auto features that quickly adust for subtle changes in light; angle; motion. I got my unit on a $99.99 with AT&T but for those who got the $49.99 Walmart deal you have to feel like you got the bargain of the decade.
There has been some rumblings in the online article and blog communites that the pictures produced by the Lumia 920 suffer from a lack of color saturation. I will cosigne that statement and validate it as truth. Compared to some high end smartphone cameras, the colors are more muted. However, the sharpness and clarity of the pictures eclipses those other smartphones. If I had a choice between color saturation and sharper images, I'll take sharper images, why…because you can apply a decent filter (and I'm sure Nokia will add to the software) 3rd party and improve color interpretation.
Call quality is very good, although I would appreciate louder volume. The audio-out quality produced to head phones and external speakers is a little bit disappointing (matter of taste). It was not as impressive as my HTC TITAN II, the "Dolby" option for headphones is welcome and is a huge improvement over the sound quality without the Dolby activated. On a scale of 1-10 I give it a 7.5 they did not drop the ball but I think there was room for improvement. Sometimes it's a matter of finding just the right set of cans and speakers for the particular device, I'll keep experimenting.
I have experience a bug:
On two occasions, the "drop down" audio "what's playing" menu would stay open and would not close without powering down and powering back up. This is interesting because I had an issue with my Samsung Focus and HTC TITAN II where the audio playback for any audio being used on the device would not "release" the "microphone" to be used on incoming calls (I could here them, they could not here me). The only fixes would be to repeatedly call the person back or bite-the-bullet and reboot. The same problem across two different OEMs and different software builds (7.0 - 7.5). This seems like a Windows Phone OS issue and it would not surprise me if the bug I'm having on the Lumia is of the same origin.
The more I experiment with City Lense the more I'm convinced that this has multiple applications for location based advertising and marketing for any sized business. If they strictly pitch this as a selling point for consumer choosing a Nokia device they are missing out on a huge opportunity. They need a team pitching this to retail, there are some amazing services they could offer to companies looking to capitalize on turism, local events, holiday shopping, fund raising, charitable organizations, you name it.
I've hear gripes about battery life, I'll have to get back to you on that one, it has been my experience that the battery life takes a few weeks to get as good as it's going to get before you know what you've got. So far it is inline with the first 2 wks I owned my TITAN II
I've already had one low and one high impact collisions involving the device so far:
1st encounter, I drop it from about 4ft high on to a ceramic tile floor, it landed on the "back" and bounced over onto the "front", there was not damage (the phone has no protection on it yet, has not showed up in the mail yet).
2nd encounter, I hit the brakes while driving and the phone flew off the center console and into the dashboard "impact on corner" then hit the carpeted floorboard, again…no damage. Any of today's smartphones should have easily done as well, so this is not an endorsement of the build quality, however the added heft of the Lumia compared to other smartphones in the same class leads some to believe that the added weight might cause the Gorilla Glass to break during impact due to added stress. Personally, I believe that depends on whether or not the body rigidly "distributes" shock or "arrests" and/or "absorbs" shock. I have no idea how Nokia addressed the problem, so far my Faux pas have not exposed any build quality issues.
Nov. 10th 2012
After getting all my apps and services up and running:
Xbox Music: Hey look, all this is...is a name change, if you liked Zune, then you'll love Xbox music, if you didn't, surprise...you'll probably still hate it cause it's not iTunes.
City Lens: If you travel or shop a lot, this is the app for you, more personal than a map. However, using it while driving yields useless results that are better viewed on a map (moving to fast). Although, while walking however yields FANTASTIC user friendly results especially in shopping centers, city streets and tourist areas. Verdict, wait till you're out of the car, which I believe was the intent.
Camera: Takes great pics and video but if you were hoping to ditch the DSLR, you might want to hold off...camera phones aren't there yet. Low light abilities and stabilization are as advertised but the filters are not as abundant and impressive as I hoped, however, 3rd party apps and updates are probably going to close the gap soon.
Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive: Accurate and reliable but the lag is an issue with loading maps and with zooming and scrolling. It should be noted that where I live ATT does not have LTE so it may work a lot better for those who are in areas with LTE. Overall it worked as fast as all of the other mapping services I ran on my previous Windows 7.xx devices with ATT in my area.
Windows Phone 8 looks better on the Lumia 920 than it does on any other Windows Phone I've looked at. Video playback looks great, I still have not tried "flash" support yet (don't know if it does or doesn't support it).
IE10 works really well on Windows Phone 8 but I've heard rumblings about it elsewhere on reviews, my experience so far has been much better than IE on Windows Phone 7.xx
Side note: WALMART now selling Lumia 920 "online only deal" for $49.99
Nokia Lumia 920 first day experience
After I received my Nokia Lumia 920 my first impression was the classy design, with curved Gorilla Glass a glossy finish on the white body and noticeable heft of the device (it is weighty, but not too much in my opinion) it feels lighter than the HTC Titan II I am replacing and is solid in the hands.
It is slippery due to the glossy finish, some may find it more desirable to go with the matte finish which may have more grip. I like to use thin gel skins on my devices so it is a non-issue for me. The micro USB charger has really tight and solid lock up at all connection points (which I prefer) and is made of solid well sheathed cabling (which you expect from Samsung, Nokia, Apple). The buttons feel solid and are well placed for ergonomics and I like that both the audio jack and micro USB port are centered (top and bottom) on the unit. I love the uni-body design and do not consider the width too thick.
I would have traded the uni-body for a removable battery but if you've chosen to buy the phone you've chosen to not gripe about it, this is the second phone I've had consecutively with a non-removable battery.
Because I ordered the phone on a different line than the one I use (to get the upgrade) I had to take the phone to an ATT store to get it switched over to my line. While I was there here is the experience I scribed on the device after I left the store with my activated device:
"Holy cow...I'm so satisfied
All opinions are my own and this has nothing to do with stock of Nokia but I have a new 920 and it is better than I expected. I have not been impressed with handheld devices since my Tungsten T5. This phone feels awesome in my hand. The screen is gorgeous and super responsive and crystal clear. Typing is a breeze...auto complete lightning fast...curved Gorilla Glass looks classic. I opted for white.
Explorer 10 is fast and friendly...The att rep that set me up was super knowledgeable and said the choices he recommends to people undecided are Android and Windows Phone. I got a chance to play with Windows 8 for the first time on a Samsung (crap I've never typed this fast on a phone) tablet. I don't know what all the crying was about...it was super easy...there is a $100 dollar off deal on tablets at att.
The camera on the 920 is best I've had on a phone and the video looks awesome as well. They may never sell another unit but they have one happy customer here. I plan on test driving some Window 8 tablets and hybrids over the holidays...I plan to get one next year based on my experience with the Samsung ATIV."
Ok it's around 10:30 pm CST and the euphoria has worn off, I set up most of my services and installed a pile of apps. I will post some comments on apps and feature use tomorrow, thanks for reading!
Disclosure: The author is long NOK, MSFT.
Additional disclosure: I have not been paid for my opinion, it is my own and is not investment or trading advice nor is it a recommendation or solicitation to make a purchase.