So is Windows Phone 8 any good?

Image

It was with a feeling of trepidation that I decided to ditch Apple’s iOS after having been an avid iPhone fanboy since the beginning. I loved the simplicity, wealth of apps and the solid design. So why change?

I found myself in the Apple trap, where you feel compelled to get the latest and greatest just because it’s new. However, each edition tended to only bring small improvements and change, and after upgrading from a 4 to 4s I started to feel a little jaded by the whole thing.

So having seen Windows Phone 8 arrive, I decided to make the jump and try something new. Having used Windows 8 on my desktop , I figured it would make sense to try for a more seamless experience. At the time the HTC 8X was an o2 exclusive and the Nokia (https://www.o2.co.uk/shop/phones/nokia/lumia-920/) was a Vodafone exclusive so on a wet and cold December evening, I tromped off to the o2 store and bought a shiny new HTC 8X (https://www.o2.co.uk/shop/phones/htc/windows-phone-8x/). Everyone said I’d hate it and would be back to my iPhone in less than a week!

Now, as an aside, the guy in the o2 shop was amazing! I was determined to change phone, but he also managed to switch me on to a more appropriate tariff as well (saving £25 per month!).

So first thoughts – the Interface is simple and friendly. Windows Phone uses “Tiles” on the home screen – these can be dynamic and show you bits of content (such as the weather, or News for instance). Applications not on the home screen are all grouped together in a list (which can get quite long) but you can click on the Search item and lookup). Typically you’ll put your most useful or favourite Apps on the home screen in any case.Windows 8 Home Screen

Setting it up was easy – as it’s essentially Outlook on the phone, setting up my Exchange email account was a breeze, as was getting it connected to my SkyDrive (if you use Office 365 that’s equally easy to set up). Apps are installed via the “Store” App (and you’ll see a distinct lack of Apps compared to Android and Apple – more on that later) and is a fairly simple and straightforward exercise. I’ll admit to not having purchased any Apps so I cannot comment on what that experience is like.

Apps

Anyway, to ensure my commitment to this new phone, I cleaned up my iPhone 4s and gave it to my mum (who promptly fell in love with it – but that’s another story!) and off I went in to this brave new world.

And you know what? It was ok. Some things took a bit of getting used to, and I missed some Apps (most notably the Barclays banking App) but after a week, it was starting to fit quite nicely in to my life. As a fairly simple user, my demands were not high, but it pretty much did what I needed it to and in a very easy and simple way. No fuss, no bother. It just worked. The limited choice of Apps did initially bother me, but new ones are arriving all the time, and it’s altogether possible that there is too much choice on the other platforms. It’s worth being aware that certain Apps are unlikely to appear any time soon, such as Banking and perhaps other manufacturers (such as BMW) will probably not find the investment in creating Apps for Windows Phone worthwhile.

And so time passed by, and the recent announcement of iOS 7 and (invariably) another evolution of the iPhone prompted me to think about my phone and write this little piece about it. Will I go back to an Apple iPhone? Possibly, although it would need to be pretty compelling considering the high cost of the phone and most likely very minor changes from the 5. The Nokia Lumia 925 (https://www.o2.co.uk/shop/phones/nokia/lumia-925/) is a very nice looking Windows phone (the camera in the HTC is rubbish – The Nokia camera is significantly better) and if I was in the market for a new phone that’s what I’d be getting.

With the imminent release of 8.1 it’ll be interesting to see what that brings although I suppose Windows Mobile 8.5 or 9 will bring the more significant change (and perhaps I’ll be bored of it by then and ready to jump into Android)!

 

 

Feeling Blue?

It seems like just yesterday that we were assaulted with Windows 8, and yet the release of its first major update – Windows Blue – is rumoured to be just around the corner.

Things are still very much at the rumours stage, as Microsoft have yet to make any official announcements about Blue (that’s it’s working codename, incidentally, rather than its official title), but here’s a brief roundup of the bits and bobs that have been unearthed so far.

Spoiler alert: don’t get your hopes up. It’s more Windows 8.1 than Windows 9 we’re talking about here, so really just little tweaks added on top of what’s there already.

  • You’ll be able to split your full screen apps 50/50 on the screen with other apps, instead of the somewhat limiting 75/25 restriction at present

  • You’ll get Internet Explorer 11 (Eric’s excited, the rest of us use Chrome)

  • And you might, you just might, get the start button back (although early suggestions seem to imply that it won’t give you back the old-skool “Start Menu”).

  • You might also be able to boot directly to the desktop, rather than the Start screen

And, yeah, that’s about it so far. It’s getting a lot of press for something so seemingly underwhelming, but frankly that’s more because of what it represents than the actual features it’s touting.

So, what’s the real deal then? Well, the process Microsoft is currently going through marks a significant deviation from their previous update process.

In the past, a major version of Windows (XP, Vista, 7 etc) would be released, followed up with minor updates and then a big “Service Pack”. Then another year or two of minor updates, then another Service Pack. Typically each version of Windows would see two Service Packs before starting off the whole process again with a new version of Windows.

The shiny new update model revolves around a series of more frequent updates, more akin to the Apple way of doing things. Apple have been rocking “Mac OS X” for 12 years now (!), issuing a series of updates along the way to bring us up to the latest 10.8 (“Mountain Lion”). Each update represents a series of changes based on the previous iteration, but nothing so major as to require much of a learning curve (although if you were to hop even from 10.4 to 10.8, you’d find it a slightly strange world).

Whether Microsoft will charge for an update to Windows Blue is, as yet, unknown. If they do I should expect it to be around the £20 mark, as has been the case with Apple’s most recent updates. Instinctively I feel as though even £20 will seem steep to a lot of people (remember, Windows 8 has sold 100 million licences) – especially given the freshness of this departure from their previous update model – but by the time Windows “Green” is released in 18 months or so, people will be pretty well used to it. It’s amazing how quickly people adjust these days.