Sunday, March 23, 2014

Windows Phone: Pleasantly surprised

I didn't expect much from the mobile operating system that was, at the time, just barely climbing out of last place in the market (with a majority of thanks to Blackberry's failure).  But, having a tendency to root for the underdog, I gave it a shot.  And honestly, I'm glad I did.

Those of you who know me, know I haven't been a fan of Apple's iOS for business purposes.  I highlighted some of my frustrations in a previous post that really haven't been remedied even in the latest iOS 7.  And sadly, my beloved Blackberry has all but gone the way of the dinosaur.  So onward and, actually, upward!  I've now spent a solid 6-8 weeks with my Windows Phone, a Nokia 925 running the latest version of Windows Phone, currently version 8 Update 3, and I've been impressed and content.  Here's why.

Apps

I'll admit, the number of apps still doesn't quite approach that of android or iOS, but I have been impressed with the quality of the apps and surprised at how many of the essentials are there.  And then some.  The staples are there right on my home screen: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Delta, Netflix, Skype, Chase, Pandora and eBay.  Then there's the goodies that are givens for a Microsoft product: OneNote, OneDrive, Office (yes, real Office! Not just read, but create and edit Word, Excel, etc), Bing News and Bing Sports.  I've got to take just a second to add that Bing Sports is a very nice app.  

And I'll also point out these aren't scaled down "ports" of other apps that might be missing half the functionality that made them valuable, they're fully functional and all very well done with loads of functionality.

Seamless Experience

One of my favorite things about this Windows Phone 8 OS is how everything flows together so well.  It doesn't matter if I create a new email in the Mail application, or if I tap on the Phone icon and need to search for a contact's phone number, everywhere I go I have the full capability to search my local contacts (which, by the way, can also include contacts and additional details pulled in from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) and search the Exchange global address book. 

Another nice touch: When I search Bing for a local business and I tap on the phone number to dial, it displays the name of the business in my phone call history, as opposed to just some phone number I don't recognize.  Little things like this really make the phone feel well connected and integrated.

More Nice Features

Tap & Send is built-in throughout.  So you want to share a contact with someone else?  Maybe a MP3?  Maybe a picture?  Just tap share, and tap & send, and tap the phone with another Windows Phone user's phone, and it transfers it.  Do it from almost anywhere in the OS.  

Powerful photo editing is built right in, which you might expect from a device made by Nokia.  

Tight integration with OneDrive is very nice.  Office and OneNote both load and edit files in your OneDrive cloud storage.  Other apps such as Photos also integrate naturally, and auto-upload your photos (if you wish).

It's Not All Bliss

Aside from all these things I like, there's still evidence that this is a fairly young mobile operating system.  Just recently they added the support to close apps.  The back button feels like it doesn't have a clear mission in life.  It's not for just "backing" out of an app, it also takes you out to the home screen, and then back into the app you used before that, but its not always consistent because some apps seem to get shut down behind the scenes at seemingly random intervals of time.  The ringer volume, media volume, call volume, are all the same.  So if you turn down the music in your headphones, you're also turning down your ringer.  Turning on or off wifi requires a trip into settings to find the wifi options. 

Thankfully most of these remaining grips will be resolved in Windows Phone 8.1.

Looking Forward

Overall I feel that Windows Phone shows great promise.  The experience feels much more productive than iOS or Blackberry.  I still find the occasional app that I wish was available for Windows Phone too.  But for me, the pros have edged out the cons, and I look forward to upcoming updates in Windows Phone 8.1 that will mature things even more.  Give a Windows Phone a try and see what you think.

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