An unabashed Nexus fanboy writes about Windows Phone… What could possibly go wrong? Plenty, I’ll bet. So I’ll leave it to the experts here to drop some science on whatever I get wrong.
Not so long ago it was all about the Nokias for me. The first thing I would do after cracking open the box of a new S60 device — like an E71 or N86 — is spend an evening changing around all the menus and soft buttons so that they would make sense to me. In much the same way, yesterday afternoon I sat down with a Lumia 1020 to figure out its on-board OS.
Here are my observations…
I have to say that I’m an admirer of this “Metro” UI, or whatever the proper name is. I’m impressed that Microsoft has unified the interface across all Windows-powered hardware — and bringing touch screens to desktop computers makes a lot of sense, at least for casual use. If the jury is out on whether or not Windows 8 is a success on the desktop, on mobile the flat UI is now very much in vogue, being adopted by Android and iOS as well. That’s a pretty big deal.
But here’s something I don’t get: When everything else is flat, why isn’t the Windows button on the front of WP8 devices the same? It’s a small thing but this strange inconsistency still bugs me every time I see it.
As for the other navigation buttons, it took me a spell to figure out that app switching is enabled via the back arrow; in hindsight it makes sense. With regards to the search button I can see why voice search is disabled by default — voice recognition has been fairly horrendous in my limited use; I can only assume it will get better over time.
On the big screen the Lumia’s screensaver clock is pure genius. Double-tap to wake is similarly convenient, although I wish it took me right to the home — er, start screen instead of a wallpaper with the date.
In short, I like it. Simple, flat, refreshingly different. It would be damn near perfect if I could change the colour of the tiles as I see fit — at least for the built-in apps — rather than make do with Microsoft and Nokia’s arbitrary choices. Some Nokia apps have icons in the system colour, some don’t. I don’t get it.
Windows Phone users will notice the absence of the “People” tile on my start screen, which is quite deliberate — at the default size it has literally the most annoying and unnecessary animation ever. Fortunately, you can easily access the address book from the phone app, as it should be.
As you’ve probably read elsewhere, the Windows Phone Store is hit and miss. It’s not as bad as you might be led to believe, but for me there are a couple of glaring omissions.
I can still remember my first sighting of a Windows Phone device at SXSW in 2011. At that time there wasn’t even an available Twitter client; fortunately that’s no longer the case. Along with the official Twitter app (which probably sucks) there are some notable third-party alternatives. I’ve been hearing good things about Rowi, but I went for the free Peregrine app instead. It looks great and seems to work well.
But for me the sign of a healthy mobile platform is a good reddit app, and Baconit does a fine job. Two apps I’m missing, though, are Flipboard and something that integrates with Feedly. While we’re at it, an official Pocket app would be nice as well. Little help?
As for games, Xbox LIVE integration would be interesting if I had an Xbox; unfortunately I don’t.
I like how black is the default background for most apps — HowardForums notwithstanding… ಠ_ಠ
Using Baconit as an example, I’m especially impressed by the overlapping column headings, which seem to be standard in WP8 apps . They look good and also make sense, letting the user know that’s there more to look at by swiping to right.
I’ve deliberately focused on the Lumia’s operating system because it’s so foreign to me. But obviously the big draw of this handset is the massive 41 megapixel camera. More on that soon…