Jerry Nixon on Windows: Choosing the Windows Phone That’s Right for Me

Monday, January 7, 2013

Choosing the Windows Phone That’s Right for Me

imageStop me if you have heard this one: so, a Microsoft Developer Evangelist walks into an AT&T Store and asks to see their Windows Phones. Which phone gets recommended?

Since time immemorial, the recurring trend is this: people like what they know and recommend what they like. This is true with cultures, languages, religions, movies, washing machines, and mobile phones.

Customers buy IPhones when the salesperson carries an IPhone, Androids when the salesperson carries an Android, and Windows Phones when the salesperson carries a Windows Phone (or remains silent).

My AT&T salesperson carried an Android, but she was unexpectedly knowledgeable and positive toward Windows Phone. She indicated her plans were to get a Windows Phone when she’s upgrades.

Though I usually try to mask the fact I work for Microsoft (it makes AT&T employees think they are being tested), I told her up front. I was there to upgrade from my Nokia 800 to something.

AT&T

For AT&T customers, there are really only two choices. The 8X is HTC’s entry into the Windows Phone marketplace. The Lumia 920 is Nokia’s flagship phone. Both run Windows Phone 8.

  1. Here are the 8X specifications on Wikipedia
  2. Here are the 920 specifications on Wikipedia

Back with Windows Mobile, I only carried HTC devices. So I was already aware of HTC’s fit and finish. Their attention to aesthetic. And, their overall commitment to user experience.

Having carried a Nokia 800 for some time and interacting the many Nokia ambassadors (a kind of Nokia MVP) I was well aware of Nokia’s quality and the subtle benefits from such a close partner.

Though my well-meaning salesperson told me the two phones were “basically the same” I had to take exception. This would be, after all, my 5th Windows Phone – and things are never so simple.

Phone in pocket

In the end, after touching and holding the phones side by side, I left the store with an HTC 8X. I simply could not get over how nicely the 8X fit in my hand. How nicely it felt to just hold.

I had the 8X for nearly a week before the remorse set in. And, I would like to share the 5 primary device deltas that compelled me to return my HTC 8X for a Nokia Lumia 920.

  1. As trivial as this may sound, Nokia’s unusual placement of the power button on the side of the devices proves to be the most fluid way to toggle a device’s state. Since using the 800 I took it for granted. After using the 8X, I started to twitch every time I turned the phone on.
  2. In retrospect, this is more important than I realized. But the Lumia 920 comes with a wireless charger. Though it sounds like mere decadence, it turns out to be one of the most refreshing ways to set a phone down and know it’s being taken care of. I love it.
  3. Nokia owns Navteq – the world’s premier map database behind Garmin, Bing Maps, Map Quest, Sirius Radio, and more. That data is given to Lumia users in the superior Nokia Maps (map replacement app) and fully integrated, turn-by-turn navigation app called Nokia Drive.

Note: not all phones have good maps :)

  1. imageNokia’s rear camera is not only higher resolution than the 8X (and IPhone) but it is also the only camera to be optically stabilized to help reduce motion blur (esp. in video!). The resulting images are not better than an SLR, but they are better than other phone cameras.
  2. Nokia is “all in” with Windows Phone – not just a player. As a result, Nokia is deeply invested and influential in Windows Phone. Case in point, the recent WP8 OS updates included a Lumia-specific update based on user requests. That’s what I want in a vendor.

Note: AT&T policy allows you to return any device within 15 days for $35 (even without the box). Over the Christmas holiday that was extended to 30 days. My switch to the Lumia cost me $35.

Reality check

There are some realities to a Lumia 920 that I don’t want to simply gloss over. Though I was sufficiently compelled to switch from the 8X, the Lumia is not all roses. To that end, my decision may not be the right decision for you. Please don’t just take my word on all of this. Visit a store.

  1. If you think the 8X (132.35 x 66.2 x 10.12 mm) is smaller than the Lumia 920 (130.3 x 70.8 x 10.7 mm) you would be correct. However, side-by-side the dimensions are nearly indistinguishable. Both phones are large (especially compared to the 800); the Lumia is larger.
  2. If you think the 8X (130g) is lighter than the Lumia 920 (185g) you would be correct. In fact, you would be very correct. The weight of the Lumia is astonishing. Though manageable, I sometimes wonder if it is lined with lead or something. The Lumia is not for the weak-of-fingers.

I believe those two (non-trivial) points summarize the only downsides to the Lumia. I also believe size and weight are important. But, I also believe the size and weight of the Lumia 920 are acceptable. I would like a smaller and lighter phone, but given my choices, the Lumia 920 is my ideal choice.

More candy

Nokia brags about some other cool features of the Lumia that don’t matter much to me, but might matter a lot to you. I will simply list them here so you can know that they exist. You can read about them more on the Nokia site (here).

  1. Pure Motion: this display technology claims to refresh pixels at twice the usual speed, reducing the blur from fast-moving object on the screen.
  2. Pure View: this low-light camera magic sure looks like it does a great job taking bright pictures at lower light compared to “the leading smartphone” out there.
  3. Capacitive and non-capacitive touch screen means you can use your finger on your smartphone or an ordinary glove to answer a call or mess around in the cold.
  4. Multi-microphone noise cancellation speakerphone means you get the best sound quality and least feedback when using your phone as a speakerphone.

Another cool Lumia feature that was introduced in the recent OS update is “reject with text”. You reject an incoming call, simultaneously replying with an SMS saying “I’ll call you back” or whatever text you setup. That wasn’t there when I bought it, but it’s just more Lumia candy.

Note: many other Nokia-only features are found in the standard Settings dialog

To be fair, one missing Lumia feature HTC has is “turn over to silence”. If your phone is ringing, just turn it to be face down on the table and it will silence (HTC has had this for years). Though hitting the volume buttons does this, too – the turn over options was cool. I would like that on my Lumia.

Some Lumia 920 Recognition

What about other people? What are they saying? It turns out the Nokia Lumia 920 has received quite a bit of fan fair. Check out these awards:

  1. The Top Smartphone of 2012, V3, UK
  2. The Best Mobile Phone of 2012, Readers Choice Award, Gizmodo, Australia
  3. iF Award for Outstanding Design, International Forum Design, Germany
  4. Mobil Award for Best Smartphone Design, Mobile Magazine, Denmark
  5. Best Smartphones of 2012, The Next Web, USA
  6. Top Score Award, Mobil, Sweden
  7. The Best High End Smartphones for the Holidays, CNET, USA
  8. Top 25 Tech of 2012, Mashable, USA
  9. Top Smartphone of the Year, Mybroadband, South Africa
  10. Best AT&T Smartphones of 2012, BGR, USA

“Microsoft’s platform is a breath of fresh air in a market dominated by two giants and for those looking to veer away from the crowd, the Lumia 920 is one of the best Windows Phones that has ever been built.”

Some people really like the Lumia!

Insane, huh?

imageOh, and the Nokia apps

Nokia is doing a great job to promote and encourage the Windows Phone app ecosystem. There are thousands of apps that exist solely because of Nokia’s active encouragement of developers and publishers to create Windows Phone titles. Some are good. And, some are just great.

Here are some of the titles in the Nokia collection:

  1. Photo Beamer: share pictures on ANY screen
  2. Smart Shoot: takes 5 frames you can pick the best
  3. Transfer my Data: use BT to transfer your old phone
  4. Cinemagraph: create pictures that seem alive
  5. Creative Studio: swipe through photo effects
  6. App highlights: a curated list of store apps
  7. Nokia transit: combine bus, train, underground options
  8. Panorama: stitch photos for a easy-to-use panorama
  9. Nokia music: it’s not Pandora. But you might wonder.
  10. Nokia Maps: the Navteq-based world maps; even inside malls!
  11. Nokia Drive: the turn-by-turn navigation with offline support
  12. Nokia City Lens: an augmented reality that shows you what nearby
  13. Nokia Trailers: the best app for viewing teasers and trailers
  14. 100th Day of School: an interactive read-aloud Sesame Street book
  15. Nokia Xpress: a content discovery app (just added, don’t know what it is yet)

Conclusion

I know I already said it, but this is my experience and your outcome might be different. Should you be on Verizon, and not AT&T, the 8X & Lumia 822 are currently your only choice. T-Mobile has the 8X and Lumia 810. You will need to do your own comparison. The 8X is a beautiful phone that feels terrific in your hand. But, for now, there’s a Nokia Lumia 920 in my pocket (white).

Best of luck!