Nokia Lumia 920 – Thoughts

It has been three months now with the Lumia. Its been an interesting device to own, not the least because its always a fun journey to make with a new fledgling ecosystem – an underdog really – that has just started to spread its wings. The phone and the OS both are head turners. I’m pretty much the only person I know to own a Lumia(or a WP device for that matter) so always stand out of the crowd when it comes to the phone. More than a few people have asked me about it – how good is the phone? is the camera better than the one in the iPhone or S3? Windows Phone looks great, but does it have enough apps? is it stable?

My answer is usually a Yes to these all. The hardware is absolutely brilliant – there are a few reviewers out there who crib about the Lumias ‘plastic’ body; I don’t agree the Lumia plastic is in a different league when compared to the Galaxy plastic. Pick them both up, feel the phones and you’ll see what I mean.

The camera is brilliant, for day shots its just as good as the iPhone or the Galaxy S3(white balance tends to be off sometimes, but when it gets it right it nails it; its not as noisy as the other two either) while for night or low light shots its on a different plane altogether. Windows Phone is very fresh – the main reason it still retains this quality, I feel, is because iOS and Android are still rooted in the old icon grid paradigm for their UI. Apps are a very subjective topic – whats enough for me might not be enough for others; my needs are met adequately. In sheer number, it lags behind both iOS and Android and some of the big names are still not there in the WP ecosystem. The prime example is Instagram – its become a kind of joke really, I have a few friends who cite its unavailability on WP8 as a big minus, yet they don’t use it on either iOS or Android. The only reason it needs to come out now is to silence people. Stability is about on par with iOS, better than Android which is to say very good.

We’ve come a long way from feature phones where a devices chance of success or failure depended upon the length of its feature list. Nowadays almost all smartphones have the same set of features and it is the small things that matter – how consistent is the UI? how good does it do media management? how responsive is the phone? how well does it multitask? how does it handle mails and calendars? how does it manage contacts? how well does it integrate with social networks?

I started this series in an attempt to highlight such niceties and irritations that come with the Lumia. This is probably the last one of the series, mostly because WP8 itself hasn’t received any update from Microsoft since Portico(which my phone came preinstalled with) due to which most of the quirks remain. As to the nice things that I used to come across on a regular basis earlier during my day to day interaction with the phone, these have pretty much dried up – my explorations have gone down with a regular workflow set in for most tasks.

Like the earlier two posts, this one carries forward the same format. Some of the sections are understandably empty.

Things I love:

  • I don’t know what’s different but when I use the Lumia as a hotspot my Kindle connects to it just fine. On my iPhone this was not possible, Kindle flatly refused to connect to it.

Things I need to adjust to:

  • As well adjusted as I can ever be.

Things I dont like and wish Microsoft changes soon:

  • I don’t think Microsoft enforces developers to submit meaningful descriptions for app updates which means App store updates don’t always tell you what new features were introduced or bugs fixed. In most cases, there is just an app description.
  • The Music player is borderline useless, more often than not I use Nokia Music even for playing songs and playlists save on device. When you tap on a song, almost always its not clear whether it will play just that song or queue an entire songlist/album/artist. Long pressing a song and choosing ‘Add to now playing…’ seems to be the only reliable way to play only the chosen song. Editing existing playlist is impossible. Can’t even change the order of tracks! This is a borderline dealbreaker.
  • Songs downloaded from Nokia Music sometimes play at a fixed volume in the default Music app(it works fine if played in Nokia Music though). I’m not sure if it is Microsofts fault or Nokias. There seem to be several variants of this issue not limited to the Nokia Lumia 920 – check this out for instance. My problems are a lot less serious than some being faced by others.
  • The Peoples app is very rigid with tags – I can have only 2 mobile numbers, categorized as mobile and mobile2. All other numbers are treated as landlines. The Phone app which is integrated Peoples app has implications because of this. Suppose I have saved the work mobile number of a contact as the work phone, then when I receive a call from this number I cannot decline and reply with a text message.
  • If I pause Music, leave earphones on and receive a call then when I finish talking the music resumes playing even though it had explicitly been paused before the call started. Looks like when wp8 hands over the token for music controls back to Music, it resumes playing.
  • There is no way to show Me tile notifications on lock screen. Something like a combined Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin notifications count. At least one other guy agrees with me and wants this feature.
  • I can’t get store updates and Bing wallpaper to work correctly when my region is set to India. Bing itself behaves slightly different, those little popover tips that you see below don’t show up in India.
Wp ss 20130412 0001
    Setting it to the US makes them work perfectly like clockwork, on a nightly basis it checks for updates and refreshes the lock screen wallpaper. I haven’t seen too many report of this specific issue online anywhere so it must be only me.

  • When an app or the OS itself crashes, I usually want to look for logs or diagnostic files to try and understand what caused it. I don’t see a way to see such logs or diagnostic reports anywhere in WP8. Its trivial on the iPhone(Settings>General>About>Diagnostics).
  • This was something which was not highlighted by too many people which surprised me. Microsoft and Nokia make a big deal about OTA updates, which is all good. What they fail to mention is that there is no way to update your phone using your computer. This realization came to me when I was in a remote location with no Wifi and no 3G connectivity and the 1308 firmware rolled out. I had my laptop with a wired connection, but with no way to update my phone!
  • The infamous ‘Other’ storage problems have hit me finally. About 4.7GB of my storage was last to the void. A firmware update later, after running Nokias ‘Storage Check’  utility, it came down to 3.3GB. Not a great saving, but somethings better than nothing.
  • Calendar updates are not stable, several times i ve entered an appointment only to have it disappear. Entering it again works. This is something that happens 9 times out of 10. I did a quick search online, but looks like I’m the only one who faces this.

Things I don’t like and hope App developers notice:

  • There seems to be a disconnect between toasts and live tiles. Admittedly I ve observed this only on Whatsapp so it might be an application problem. I receive a toast, tap on it and address the message right away. Yet the live tile for the app shows me an incremented message count.
  • Some apps tend to ‘take control’ of the music controls despite music playing in the background. Whatsapp is the worst offender in this regard. To understand what I mean, try this – start playing some music, exit to the start screen and open whatsapp. Now if you use the volume controls, you’ll see that the small dropdown at the top of the screen is owned by Whatsapp. What this means is that if your music gets paused(say due to an incoming call) you will not be able to resume it from here. Like I said, this is plain stupid and needs to be fixed asap.

Things I miss:

  • There is a dearth of good productivity apps in the App Store. I guess over time as the ecosystem matures and more developers move in we’ll something along the lines of Omnifocus.

Dealbreakers:

  • None

Overall the only disappointment has been Microsoft itself with its strategy. I think it is still sticking to its old ways to roll out large updates every 6 months or every quarter(I don’t know honestly, nothing has come since Portico with no release date for the next point update yet). I don’t think they are doing themselves any good – a quick run through Reddit shows the frustration of a lot of people due to Microsoft. Nokia on the other hand is very proactive with its firmware updates – since the Lumia 920 release there have already been 3 firmware updates to address a lot of issues and to roll out improvements. The ‘Other’ storage space issue was acknowledged by Microsoft but got a fix from Nokia instead – which is, to put it lightly, a shame. It leaves all non-Nokia WP8 device owners stuck with a phone on which they can install any more apps. Lumia is a great platform, mostly due to Nokia and a little due to Microsoft. This year, Microsoft is expected to release two more updates to Window Phone 8, before the much awaited and hyped Blue. It should be an exciting year ahead.

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