Windows Phone 8 – an Experiment

I’ve done what many of my friends normally frown upon: eagerly and naively switch mobile phones willy-nilly.

The decision to sell my iPhone 5 and to replace it with a Nokia Lumia 920 came to me rather randomly. Nokia posted a marginal profit this past quarter and several blogs have been rating WP8 very highly. Like most things that nab my attention, it didn’t take long for the gadget itch to overcome my better judgement – I took these things as a sign that Windows Phone might actually catch on, despite market share numbers to the contrary.

This morning I visited my local AT&T store to buy the red Lumia 920. The clerk had an abject look about him when I mentioned my color choice. He thought it was too flashy. Heresy, I say: the phone reeks of Stark Industries innovation and I expected to find Jarvis packed into the device ready to help me build a powered suit. The white Lumia was totally the flashy one.

After clarifying some facts about sim cards for the good clerk (which was a painful experience for him, it seemed), I left the store and sat down in a mall chair outside Dick’s Sporting Goods. I put away my Galaxy Nexus and carefully opened the disappointingly nondescript AT&T cardboard box. I pulled the phone out and– oof! The device was much heavier than I expected! It was solid, clean and ergonomic – but damn is it heavy.

After tinkering with the switches and looking over the device for a few moments, I bypassed the sim activation and got the phone to the homescreen. Sadly, there was no Jarvis to greet me.

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I didn’t have the right adapter for my nano sim, so the Lumia had to depend on Wifi for most of the setup. At this point it’s prudent to mention that Pheasant Lane’s wifi is shitty. I kept dropping internet connection like crazy. Eventually I was able to sign in to some email accounts, but got frustrated enough to go to my parents house to finish up. At mom and dad’s, the wifi situation wasn’t much better. The router kept dying, so I needed to reset it every so often.

When I had internet connection, I installed most of the apps I needed: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a news reader, Netflix, etc. I was pleasantly surprised that many of the apps I wanted to see were there. Newegg, to my distinct pleasure, has a very well done app on the Windows App Store. However, some things are lacking. Two of my banks, Triangle CU and American Express, do not have apps for Windows Phone 8. I can use the web interface, but this does make me sad indeed.

Once I finished downloading all apps I felt I needed, I moved on to the integrated social services. In addition to the physical apps downloadable from the store, Windows Phone also allows system-level access to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. All their aggregated content can be found in the People app, which functions like one large news feed for all three services. Outgoing links work fine (the same cannot be said for the ‘official’ Facebook app by Microsoft) and simple things like commenting and ‘liking’ similarly operate as you’d expect. The Texting app works double duty as both an SMS and Facebook chat platform, though I wonder how difficult it will be to distinguish between a Facebook thread and an SMS thread.

After I finished setting up the device I decided to take a break and reflect on what my impression of it was. The phone is striking in its design and a few people turned heads as I tinkered with it at the mall. The software was a initially hard to navigate since the operating system is extremely text-heavy. You will not find gradients or distinct buttons in Windows Phone due to their commitment to minimalistic design sense. Once I understood where the settings were and how they interacted with apps I got a better handle on the phone and things got up and running faster.

Also, my wrist hurts.

This concludes my Windows Phone 8 brain dump. Post to the comments if you want to share your thoughts on my little experiment (judgmental or otherwise =]) or if you want to know more about today that I probably forgot to mention.

Thanks for reading!

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