Windows Phone Diary: So long Lumia 920, hello HTC 8X

A couple weeks after switching from an iPhone to a Lumia 920 Windows Phone, I was struggling to explain why I was having such a hard time handling the Nokia device, until another Lumia 920 user put it in perspective for me: It feels like holding a Pop-Tart.

The combination of thickness, width and weight of the phone were just too much. I dreaded pulling it out of my pocket. It was uncomfortable to hold the phone with one hand for any length of time.

This past weekend I returned the Lumia 920 for an HTC 8X. I’ve been happier with the Windows Phone 8 experience overall since making the switch, primarily because it’s easier to handle and use. That said, it’s far from a perfect experience.

The HTC 8X also has a relatively large screen, 4.3 inches diagonal compared with 4.5 inches on the Lumia 920. However, the HTC device is considerably thinner and lighter (4.5 ounces vs. 6.5 ounces) with a rounded back and tapered edges that make it far easier to handle.

For the most part, the experience is the same as on the Lumia 920, but there are some down sides …

The physical buttons on the edge of the 8X, particularly the on-off switch on mine, are too flush with the casing, making them difficult to find and press without looking at the device. The on-off switch is also mushy, and doesn’t give anything close to a satisfying click when pressed.

The camera on the HTC 8X feels subpar compared with the one on the Lumia 920. Pictures are not nearly as clear or sharp on the HTC device. If a top-notch smartphone camera is important to you, the Lumia 920 is the better option, if you can put up with the weight and size.

I also miss the spoken turn-by-turn directions in the Nokia Drive app. The native Maps app in Windows Phone 8 doesn’t offer this feature anymore, one of the weirder elements of the transition from Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8. There has been talk of Nokia offering Nokia Drive on non-Nokia Windows Phones, but in the meantime, it looks like the main choice on my HTC 8X is the AT&T Navigator app, for $9.99/month. No, thank you.

Another big issue I’ve encountered on both phones is the lack of easy transit directions. I was a heavy user of transit directions in Google Maps on my iPhone. Have any other Windows Phone users found a good app or solution for this?

Switching from one Windows Phone 8 to another was a relatively seamless experience, although it fell short of my expectations in some ways.

Before turning in my Lumia 920, I went into the settings and made sure I was backing up everything possible, including apps, text messages and photos. When I logged into the HTC 8X with my Microsoft account, everything was there waiting for me, except the Start screen was in its default form. I had to spend time getting all my tiles and everything else restored to the way they were arranged on the 920. Microsoft needs to make this more seamless, similar to the experience of logging into an account on Windows 8 PCs and tablets.

One bonus: Microsoft last week updated its Windows Phone software for Mac, in part to stop it from crashing for some users. I’ve had an easier time synching the HTC device on my Mac this week, but I need to spend more time with the software before I give it the seal of approval.

That’s my update for now. I’ll post more as I continue to use the HTC device.

Previously on GeekWire

  • Patrick Husting

    Totally agree. I had the Lumia for about 2 days and ended up returning it for the same reasons. Yes, it was the size of a pop tart against my head, but felt like a brick against my head in regards to weight.

    • Urban_Phantom

      Go to the Gym. Yeeeeeesh.

    • mjs2430

      DYEL?????? BRO????

  • WP7Mango

    Nokia Transport is the app to use for transit, but I don’t actually have any need for it myself and therefore don’t use it. I don’t know if it’s available on the HTC.

  • guest

    Now it’s time to say “so long” to your Mac.

  • Guest

    I have a

    • LOL

      …ttention deficit disorder?

  • SilverSee

    My high school age son decided on an HTC 8X (AT&T) for precisely this reason (thinner, lighter form factor, taller screen aspect ratio, and overall handing). As a bonus, we both discovered that the audio quality for listening to music via headphones on this device to be superior to any other mobile audio device we have owned (including various iPods, iPhones, and a Zune HD).

    I will say the lack of turn-by-turn navigation for non-Nokia Windows Phone 8 devices is baffling, especially since this is a native feature of the Bing Maps experience on Windows Phone 7. Microsoft says it made this feature “pluggable” on WP8, apparently to appease Nokia, but in doing so it left it’s other OEMs without a default option, and it hamstrings Windows Phone overall by comparison with Android and iOS.

    Nokia Transit is what you want, but I believe it’s another Lumia-exclusive app that is unavailable for HTC handsets.

  • guest

    However, should you happen to walk by a mechanized pitching machine in the days ahead and it lobs a fast ball at your head, you’re now without adequate protection ;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/J4rrod Jarrod Justus

    Typing this on my 920 right now, and I gotta say I think you’re crazy. This phone is amazing. And as for a transit app, I have Nokia Transit :)

  • Guest

    These described criticisms are real, not just trolling by Apple fanbois. The Lumia 920 is too big and too heavy, its polycarbonate body isn’t that convincing, the W8 ecosystem is far from sufficient for most people, the tiles concept is very controversial etc. Some will love everything about it, but the majority rejects Windows phones and the Lumia for exactly those reasons. For example, while some very big men like the Lumia 920 because it fits well into their big hands, it’s way too big for most women (and teens), so Nokia by default loses more than half the population. That’s why the Lumia was previously labeled the “dad’s phone”. Windows 8 itself narrows down the addressable target even more than that. It’s simply a suboptimal solution, the excellent camera doesn’t overcome this overall impression. Pretending that things miraculously will get better is just being in denial.

    • Urban_Phantom

      WP8 is a dad’s OS? Then how about Android and iOS, which have no changed their fundamental UI in the past few years. Neither is particular innovative or different, with Google and Samsung ripping off key features from Apple, and then being found guilty for it in the courts. At least WP8 has something new and different, and Nokia has genuine quality. Also, nobody in their right mind will ever adopt Android for the office, given the HUGE amount of malware and lack of security…

      • guest

        A quick search shows that you’re a Nokia/Windows Phone troll/astroturfer/bullyboy.

        So leave. No one cares what you have to say.

  • Doug Miller

    You should definitely look at the Nokia 820 as well. Smaller than the 920, has expandable microSD slot and still has all the Nokia apps. We got one and have been very happy. Also check out the Garmin StreetPilot app for Windows phone. Turns it into a Nuvi. Pretty cool.

  • Nick

    For transit, I highly recommend “Mango Transit” paired with “OneBusAway”. Mango Transit runs very well on WP8 with nice options to plan trips in the future and see many different routes for your trip, as well as keep favorites (if you buy the app). Not as nice as Nokia Transit, which is such a beautiful app. I miss it dearly. But it has the same functionality, sans the UI that shows how the different trips occur over time. But even with Nokia Transit, you need OneBusAway just to be proactive about bus delays.

    I was in the exact same boat as you. I had the Nokia 920, loved it for about a week. Then all the nagging little issues show up. It’s too heavy, the vibration mechanism seems loose and makes a bunch of noise. But the biggest problem was the highly-acclaimed Nokia Maps had to update, but couldn’t install; it kept erroring out and told me to try updating again. I reset the phone to see if that would fix the problem, as people had had luck with this online. Instead of fixing the problem, I was not able to boot the phone past the Nokia screen. Hello glossy paperweight!

    So I went to AT&T, and they immediately said they needed to send me a new phone, they had no idea or suggestions on fixing this. This is baffling, and with the demand, it meant I was without a phone for about 5 days. You’d imagine that the Device Support team at AT&T would have the tools to even peek into what happened to the device, since there was not any physical or other damage otherwise, just a software error.

    I switched to the 8x, which does have those weird issues with maps and lack of awesome Nokia Apps, but overall, feels so good to hold and doesn’t have any problem with the vibration mechanism. I do miss how big and pretty the screen was on the 920 (8x has a weird aspect ration that makes certain apps pad the extra length with black bars on the top and bottom of the screen), but trust me, this comes at such a huge price that I can’t recommend the 920 anymore :(

    PS. You can still get driving direction, not turn-by-turn, but place a pin in maps, and then click the directions button on the app bar, instead of clicking into the pin and asking for directions.

  • Dave from WhichBus

    We’re working on a Windows Phone app for WhichBus, but in the mean time you can just visit http://whichbus.org in the browser on your phone for King County transit (bus, light rail, and ferries) trip planning and real time info.

  • User

    hmm, the 920 is thinner and about as heavy as previous versions of iphone with a case, but I guess in the last 4 months since the iPhone5 people all lost a bunch of muscle??

    I also no longer feel the urge to check my phone everytime i accidentally drop on hard floor, because I have done that quite a number of times and not a single dent or scratch is showing, while my friend gets nervous every time her precious iPhone drops onto the table from her hand (1ft height??).

    The phone has also been winning and nominated for design awards, now iPhone might have gotten those too back then, but obviously not this year, because, well there’s on new design element to it.

    And I remember when people were taunting about how nice the Retina display is not too long ago, now its worse than the 920′s screen, sadly.

    But of course, when they announce a bigger screen on the new iphone this year, the same people will be telling everyone that whatever size apple announced is THE PERFECT SIZE, even though today they laugh at how “big” the other phones are. Just like how they used to brag about the simplicity in colors for the ipods, but got soooo excited when Apple actually released more colors this year. lmao

    • Guest

      We get it, the Nokia phone doesn’t dent when you drop it, it doesn’t break when you hit it with a fastball, it just ain’t that good as a smart phone. You can laugh all you want, it won’t prevent WP8 from failing.

      • Urban_Phantom

        Oh, just like the xBox 360?

      • Joseph Marnell

        WP8 failing??? You can’t be serious. You really need to quit drinking the iboys and androidbots cool aid and expand your thinking. No phone OS is perfect. But the WP8 is a dramatic, fluid, highly personalized and welcomed departure from the static and oh so boring aforementioned mobile os systems. The WP8 ecosystem is growing nicely and will continue to expand. The enterprise capability of the WP8 is spot on with the burgeoning “bring your own device” workplace environment. And with the new, upcoming Blackberry 10 software and suite of mobile devices, even more choices and options will be available for the consumer.

        I for one welcome product innovation. I am so pleased that Microsoft is finally getting mobile right. Is it perfect? Of course not. It still has room to grow and will be better with each subsequent upgrade (pushed out by Microsoft I might add and NOT the cell phone companies). But now, with WP8 and the upcoming Blackberry 10, the stranglehold by Android and Apple on the mobile platform will start to unravel. And this, my friend, will ultimately be good news for all of us!

        Joe M

  • Andy

    I would choose the Nokia over the HTC everytime. For the Nokia apps its worth it alone, then add in the quality of the camera and screen of the 920 it made the decision easy, One thing I would take from the HTC is the Beats Audio feature, makes a big difference to the audio experience on Windows Phone if you use it to listen to music.

  • bibleverse1

    I dont have noodlely arms so the weight of the nokia doesnt affect me.

  • Trevor P

    Nokia > HTC any day. Bad review.

  • http://twitter.com/allenrklein Allen Klein

    Nokia Transit is the best, such a shame that HTC doesn’t have that!

  • http://www.braddobbs.com Brad Dobbs

    Dave from WhichBus – that’s awesome that you are making a WP app. I am glad to see that local devs are taking the time to port to Windows Phone.

  • LD

    Short comment list:

    - Nokia Transit. Works fine on the infrequent occasions I use public transit, here in the transit-poor Seattle area.

    - Nokia Maps + Nokia Drive. Of the 3 main reasons I got my Lumia 822, those are 2 of them. Downloadable maps, no issues there, just works. Much faster & better mapping and turn-by-turn than anything I’ve used on either iPhone or Android phones (I’ve been coding for and using cellular devices since 1999, so I have something to compare with).

    - Weight, size. This phone is my new primary device, moving from a much older HTC (Touch Pro II) which was a WinMo 6.5 device. It’s much lighter and thinner, and although it doesn’t have a keyboard, it is still easier to use for me than the TPII. Plus, the battery lasts about 40% longer, on average. Not as thin nor light as a Moto Droid RAZR, but not a bloody mini-tablet like the Samsung phones either.

    - Radio. Again, it’s all about the RF. Holds a signal and does LTE just fine even when lots of others drop back to 3G. Only the Moto phones are equal. iPhones, no way, sorry.

  • jhutson102

    My wife and I both switched from i phones to lumia 920 windows 8….best move we’ve made..fantastic phone, fantastic features particularly city search and nokia drive…the added weight is from the Carl Zeiss 8mp camera….incredible pics on the go from a doting grandfather who can’t click fast enough…best phone/pda I’ve ever had…get spares if you can.

  • Guest

    Interesting, there seems to be tons of Samsung owners that
    don’t have an issue with a phone larger than the 920. The funny thing about all this is most Tech pundits have very little impact on consumer behavior.
    Of much greater impact is what a particular consumers circle of friends
    have/use/think is cool. And while admittedly a limited perspective, I’m starting to see Windows Phones popping up. The husband of a couple we know, both multi
    generation iPhone owners, recently switched to a Lumia 920 and loves it. His wife may be switching too as I saw one of her friends show her the low-light pictures she took on her 920 and how she customized her phone with pink tiles on a white background on her Windows Phone. Might be a simple thing but the iPhone owners wife asked her husband to help her personalize her iPhone… after much searching through settings, etc she sat back with a frown when she realized she couldn’t. Will she switch? I’m not sure but if she thinks there’s something cooler/funner she might.

    I expect by the time Windows Phone 9 ships the pundits will begin saying “well, now that it’s V3 you should consider it” because that’s the safe, acceptable thing to say, but by then they may very well be following the growing consumer interest not leading.. Time will tell so Todd it would be nice to see you focus on the things you do like on Windows Phone and lead rather than follow.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremybschroder Jeremy Schroder

    Todd – you no longer have to miss the spoken turn-by-turn directions in the Nokia Drive app. It’s now available for free to all Windows Phone 8 customers in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada

    http://blogs.windows.com/windows_phone/b/windowsphone/archive/2013/01/23/nokia-s-turn-by-turn-app-drive-beta-is-now-available-on-all-windows-phones.aspx

  • http://www.facebook.com/steven.irvin.714 Steven Irvin

    you don’t know your pop tarts from your pastry streudels. when your iphone or whateverphone hits the deck, it’ll crumble like one, though.
    the 920 fits the hand perfectly. you didn’t allow yourself to acclimate to it because deep down, you didn’t want to. and that’s OK.