Windows Phone: (almost) a year later

In November 2013 my wife’s iPhone 4 was replaced by a Lumia 925 and shortly after, in December, I followed suit. Farewell to my iPhone 5 and a huge leap into a new eco system.
Before this, I already knew the Windows Phone system, after having tested the first Lumia 800, which was still Windows Phone 7. Back then, I didn’t think much of it. Nice, refreshing, but still too limited for real use.

With Windows Phone 8 things changed and in my opinion it became a real viable option next to iOS. So we made the switch without much afterthought.

My wife’s Lumia 925 arrived. Broken USB port. Charging worked, data transfer did not. Returned to Nokia and got a replacement device instantly. No problems with it until today.
My own L925 arrived a bit later and worked fine without flaws. (Until september 2014 where it all of sudden did not want to wake up from sleep. Nothing I did worked and I sent it for inspection & repair to Nokia. Got a replacement unit a week later.)

My wife was completely happy. Finally Office worked as she expected and the interface was very clear to her. Heck, she even configured the whole device herself, something I usually have to help with.

After so many years using iOS (since 2008), I was expecting to have troubles adjusting, but the interface seemed to blend very nicely and pretty soon it seemed as if I never used anything else before. With WP8.1 the OS looks even more modern and I absolutely love the whole tile aspect. It also scales pretty nicely which is good, since my eyesight isn’t what it used to be.

Initially, I had some issues around apps. Like it or not, the WP Store only has a fraction of what’s available on iOS, and quite a few big players are not supporting the platform. This seems to turn around slowly and in the second half of 2014 you can see more and more popular games and apps in the WP Store. Unfortunately some are almost permanently marked as “beta”, which gives the developers an excuse to have support at low priority and keep the WP version behind the other platforms.

But I decided to ignore that and configure my L925 with the apps I really really use, and not the plethora of install, run once and forget apps. And when you look at it from that point of view, nearly everything is available. Facebook, Untappd, Instagram, Path, Twitter, all those social networks have a 1st party or 3rd party client.
In the tooling department I now rely heavily on Office 365 which works like a charm on any platform. Of course WhatsApp, Telegram are there.
The search for a simple shopping list app was more difficult. I used Shopshop on iOS, which synced across my and my wife’s device so we never missed something in groceries. There are a lot of todo and grocery list apps, including OneNote, but they are either too complicated (require too many actions to add/remove stuff) or don’t sync. After some time I found Shared Shopping List (Pro), which synced lists directly without having a server in between. Nice.

For passwords I am already using Lastpass for a number of years and although the WP app is not very advanced, it does the trick. Paypal works like a charm and has full functionality compared to the other platforms. Of course Spotify and Rdio are there, but WP has a much nicer alternative: Nokia MixRadio. Unfortunately MS has announced it is no longer developing MixRadio, which means it is just a matter of time that it will be ditched.

OneDrive is the new iCloud. Works a lot better as well. Skype works on every platform, so instead of Facetime we Skype. HERE Maps and Drive+ are brilliant. I used to have Navigon on my iPhone, but HERE Drive+ works just as well and HERE Transit replaces my public transport apps on iOS.

I could go on with the countless Bing eh MSN apps that Microsoft offers, but those are pretty standard on most WP device.

Back to hardware for a bit. My Lumia 925 still feels snappy and modern, even though hardware wise it is not really up to date anymore. This is partly due to the lightweight Windows Phone OS that needs very little under the hood to run properly. Windows 8 was great, Windows 8.1 is excellent. Battery lasts approx one full day (7-19h) with quite heavy usage, but slightly less use and you’ll easily get two days with it.
As I have an Apple TV at first I missed Airplay. Nothing was easier than just showing off your snapshots on the big screen by using Airplay. Since March I own a WD TV Live which essentially does the same, except it uses Miracast. Very easy zero-config streaming of video or photos or even screen mirroring. It seems slightly less advanced than Airplay, but more and more companies are integrating Miracast into their products, so improvements are imminent. So far, there is no difference in usage anymore compared to iOS.

So, after 10 months or so, what did I miss? If I was heavily into free-to-play games I would say quite a bit, since games like clash of clans and candy crush are not available on Windows Phone. But I’m not a big gamer at all, so nothing to see here.
My bank does not support WP, so there’s no app for that. Many service providers or companies look no further than the biggest players, so they usually offer only an iOS app, and sometimes Android app. Windows Phone app, not so much.

Google is still bullying MS so there’s no real Youtube app. Some TV channels do not have their app for Windows Phone, but I can live without. Netflix does, I’m good with that.

The major apps I miss from a personal hobby perspective are astronomy apps. Those are really lacking on Windows Phone. The ones that are available are rubbish compared to some on iOS (pocket Universe for instance). On the other hand, I really did not use them that much – I prefer desktop apps for this work – so it’s not that big of a deal. But it would be good for the eco system to see some higher end scientific apps.

Hilariously, somehow you are not taken seriously when you say you use a Windows Phone. The discussion usually ends there, no-one seems to be interested in your experiences with it. At least, if you talk to geeks and nerds, of which many either are Apple fans or Android fans, with nothing else existing in their world. If you look at the market figures, Windows Phone is still trailing way behind the two big ones, but slowly and steadily the share is growing, mostly due to the excellent low end devices. And the nice color options that are offered. Slow and steady is good, no?

I’ve been a Mac user since OSX was first introduced (2001 I think), having tried a lot of OS-es before that – BeOS anyone? I’ve played with quite a few mobile OS-es in my career as well. I stuck to Mac OS X and iOS for a very long time. I even convinced many people to switch to Mac or iOS. Now, I’m bored with iOS, couldn’t care less about the latest iPhones since my one year old Lumia 925 offers everything I need, and more.
I’m even going as far as moving completely out of the Apple eco system. OSX Yosemite is boring, Windows 10 looks modern, works fast and will eventually run on every device in some form. So, my next computer and tablet will most probably be a Windows device.

Our family is now mostly using Windows Phones, we still have iPad minis, but they are getting a bit old and worn. I also noticed the latest iOS update did not really help in the speed department. So, we may buy ourselves some new shiny Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 devices for the holidays.
I’m looking to exchange my Lumia 925 with a Lumia 830 in December and give the Lumia 925 to one of my kids.

Then, we’re a 100% Windows Phone family. It’s pretty cool on the dark side.

Counting down to AuroraTweetup

It’s just a little under three weeks until Aurora Tweetup in Nellim, Finland. About 20 people, of which at least 15 nerds will try to watch and capture the Aurora.
I’ll be using my Nikon 1 V1 set for the first time in these environments, so I’m looking forward to the resulting images. My goal is to shoot a timelapse for the dutch “star gazing days” (“Sterrenkijkdagen”) in March.

Apart from the Nikon, I’ll be trying what the iPhone 5 is capable of. Same goal again, only this time shooting with the iPhone 5, Olloclip and Timelapse app. Should be a fun experiment, since the maximum exposure time of the iPhone is 1 second. ISO however can be up to 3200. We’ll see how noisy that’ll be.

The only thing I wished for is that Nikon would send me a preproduction model of the 6.7-13mm ultra-wide zoomlens. I could use the extra millimeters on the wide end, but unfortunately release is scheduled for March. Hey Nikon, are you listening? I will write a review for you!

Since it’ll only be three full days, here’s hoping for clear skies!