Android

A Brief History Of My Nokia Lumia 920

Hi,

I don’t know where I was going with that title. Approximately three weeks ago, I received a Nokia Lumia 920 to try. My first Windows 8 Phone experience. It was grey, and not by choice – it was the only colour they had available. Still, it looked decent. Coming from using the Samsung Galaxy S III for the last several months, the first things I noticed was the extra weight and thickness of the Lumia. It’s also quite solid, it’s the phone that socks should be filled with if you were robbing a convenience store.

Fast forward a few days and I’ve sent the phone back to the carrier. What? Yes, close that open mouth and share my disappointment with the ear speaker being faulty. Some calls were OK, others sounded really muffled. The actual primary use of a mobile phone was faulty out of the box. I’m now waiting for it to be returned, and back on the Samsung Galaxy S III. I hate to say it, but I like it better.

The few days in between the two above events contained a lot of mucking around on the Lumia. The front screen with the tiles, I really like. At a glance of the screen you’ll see if you have messages, emails, or many other indicators as you deem fit. It’s nicer than Windows Phone 7.5 due to the 1/4 tile option, meaning you can fit a lot more on there without needing to scroll up and down.

The sub menu, which lists all your apps is OK. I’d rather have a screen of icons to swipe through, rather than swipe down a single list. I want lots of information at once! Nothing terrible there though.

Lying in bed, I noticed that the screen changed it’s orientation. As I would have done on the Galaxy, I looked for the option to turn orientation off and on. It doesn’t exist. After some research and complaining on twitter, I found out that the native experience doesn’t have the option, and each app controls it individually. That’s rather disappointing.

OK, so after playing with a bunch of settings (much less than I would of liked – on par with an older version of iOS and way behind Android) it was time to look at some apps. Most apps have a trial which is great, but the quality of the apps currently is rather poor. Both iOS and Android went through this, so it will get better – but coming from either of these devices, you will be disappointed.

A podcast app – surely something that’s easy to find. Several exist, but they’re incredibly basic. Subscribing to podcasts and have apps automatically download is not possible, which is crazy. Some developers have told me this is due to limitations with Windows 8 Phone not allowing background downloads unless very limited requirements are met. There is a native podcast functionality, but not enabled in most countries including Australia.

The official Twitter app is also poor in comparison to iOS and Android versions. You can’t see as much, and there’s not much customisation. That’s really my biggest complaint – customisation. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like iOS for my personal use, I don’t like being restricted. In saying that, Windows 8 Phone I can see working really well in a corporate environment. It’s basic, does a lot, and manageable.

Back to the Nokia Lumia side of things, there’s some extras you get vs other Windows 8 Phones. The most well known are Nokia Maps, which is awesome navigation software, and the high quality camera. I played with the camera and it really does take great pictures. One of the cool features is called Cinemagraph which will make an animated GIF from 5 seconds of video. The cool thing you can do with this is easily animate just part of the picture. Having someone perfectly still, but their hand waving is a creepy thing to see. I also found the autocorrect to be much more accurate than Android.

So, I will give the Lumia a second chance when it comes back with it’s high quality screen, but I’ll also feel crippled. It might be a different transition for someone using iOS and not fussed about many apps, but as it is now there’s more negatives than positives moving from Android. In a few months with some updates from Microsoft, and some more apps from developers, I’m hoping it’s a much closer choice.

Samsung Galaxy Note Review

Hi readers,
I have been trialling out the new Samsung Galaxy Note. For those of you who haven’t heard or seen this phone before – it’s  huge. Huge compared to any other phone you’ve seen with a 5.3” WXGA (1280 x 800) screen. Check out the official specs here: http://www.samsung.com/global/microsite/galaxynote/note/spec.html?type=find

The first thing that came to my mind when deciding if I wanted to test this device was this Dilbert comic:

Source: http://www.dilbert.com/2012-02-23/

So, can a device still be a good phone, while being large enough to be a tablet? After playing around with it for a while, my personal answer is ‘yes’, but it’s still not the best solution for every scenario.

The first thing I noticed about the phone after taking it out of the box, was the size. Suprisingly the phone is quite light, thin and study despite this. After realising I also needed to put the battery in, it was still quite light. Powering on the unit then displayed it’s next great feature, yes the display. 1280 x 800 pixels brightly showing on 5.3″ is a rather decent resolution, and the picture takes up almost the full front face of the phone.

Here’s a comparison on size. An iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy Note and finally an Acer Iconia A500:

Source: Me

As you can see, the Note is still much closer to an iPhone than it is a full 10″ tablet. if I had a 7″ Tablet that would have been a closer comparison.

The next difference is that this phone actually has a stylus. A great addition in my opinion, as you can interchange with using the fingers you’re used to for touchscreen devices, or the very old ‘stick technology’. It  means you can write your own notes/lists on the go, draw diagrams or doodle whatever takes your fancy. For me, the main use I considered was that I could Citrix into my work environment and use the stylus on a Windows desktop, which definitely isn’t designed for fingers. Sadly this didn’t work out the best, but this isn’t Samsung or Google’s fault – after logging in using the Citrix app, it seems that using the stylus on the screen does the same function as pressing the delete key along with what you’re selecting. This made a rather large mess of my mailbox as I deleted about 20 emails. Hopefully there’s a solution to this, but even the Citrix Connector Beta had the same issue.

Using the on screen keyboard is quite nice, due to the screen real estate you’ve got nice big virtual keys to press. There’s some extra functions for zooming/scrolling that I hadn’t seen before, such as putting 2 fingers on the screen (one from each hand ideally) and tiling the device backwards or forward to zoom in and out. Not a bad idea, especially if you’re reading something and already holding the device with 2 hands.

Anyway, I should mention the software. It’s running Android Gingerbread, with an Ice Cream Sandwich update coming out soon. Response times of opening, switching and scrolling are great. It’s a very smooth experience natively. I can’t say the same about the official Twitter app though, the scrolling in that was very jerky and clunky. I’m going to guess that this is the fault of the Twitter app developers, since everything else ran so smooth.

There are a bunch of pre-installed apps and widgets on the device. Nothing seemed to be bloatware, and the widgets are a really nice feature for your home screens. It’s really customisable!

I’ve also set up a full home screen just for my calendar (that was actually there by default) and added, removed and resized others. It really makes you feel like it’s your own device, instead of having screens and folders full of apps (sorry Apple).

Now, if you’re considering the device there’s a few things to think about, especially for men. Unless you’ve got large pockets, you’re going to need a manbag. This is something that I can’t do, but maybe you’re fine with that. My work pants are fine, but I could never wear a pair of jeans and manage to fix the Samsung Galaxy Note in a pocket (gangsta’s probably won’t have this problem). Women, well generally you don’t even have pockets and this will fit nicely in that little red handbag of yours.

In summary, I like it…. buuut it’s too big. I love the screen size, and it’s selling really well around the world, but I think for a single thing to carry around 24/7 I’d rather wait for the Samsung Galaxy S3, which comes in at a smaller but decent 4.6″ screen. Either way, I now look at my iPhone 4S and have size envy.

Update: Since writing this article, I obtained a Samsung Galaxy S3 and have been very happy with it.