Let me start with what I love about my new Windows Phone. Then I’ll get to the rest.
I am not good at keeping up with my personal email. I don’t always have the motivation to sort through yet another online account every day. For the past week, I have been just as bad as usual at checking that account … but I haven’t missed a single message from my family or friends, thanks to my Windows Phone.
If you’re not familiar with Windows Phone, this is how the feature works: I’ve pinned tiles representing each of my closest contacts to the Windows Phone 8 Start screen. Any time any type of message comes in from one of them — phone call, text message, Facebook, etc. — Windows Phone lets me know (via a counter on that person’s tile) that there’s a message waiting from them.
When I press the tile, I can go straight to the message in the dedicated section for that person. I can see the recent history of all the messages between us, and I can also respond to them from there using any one of the ways we’re connected.
This is Windows Phone’s People Hub. It’s awesome.
So why, a week after switching to the Lumia 920, am I still walking around with my old iPhone in my other pocket? Ugh, you guessed it. It’s the apps. I’m sorry.
It started out so well. A short time after I got the new phone, a friend on Facebook suggested that I install the “Elmo Calls” app for my daughter, not knowing that I had a Windows Phone. Much to my surprise, there was the Elmo app in the Windows Phone Store. Success!
Shortly thereafter I was pleasantly surprised to also find a Windows Phone version of CanIStreamIt, a very helpful app that tells you which online services let you stream specific movies and shoes. (A past GeekWire App of the Week.)
But the streak didn’t last long. There have been just enough missing apps to keep me hanging on to my now SIM-less iPhone 4S. A big one, for me, is Stitcher, the “Internet talk radio” app. It’s not on Windows Phone 8. This app is a mainstay for me, and I have had a hard time giving it up.
Yes, I know I can download and listen to the same shows through the podcast section of the Windows Phone Store, and I know there are other streaming radio apps. But I’m a Stitcher fan, and I’ve continued to use my iPhone over WiFi mostly for this app.
At work, my colleague Emily Shahan suggested a fun new app to try, Spaceteam, and of course, it’s iPhone/iPad only.
By far my favorite mobile search experience is the latest version of the Google search app on iPhone. The real-time speech recognition is pretty amazing if you haven’t tried it out. Google’s search app for Windows Phone was last updated almost a year ago, and you can tell. Forget the lack of access to YouTube metadata, this is what Microsoft should really be complaining about when it comes to Google and Windows Phone.
This is the type of stuff that Microsoft is up against. It’s not easy.
A few more notes from Week #1 …
Bluetooth pairing with the hands-free system in my car worked well. Some people in the comments on my earlier post said they have had trouble with this on the Lumia 920, but it’s seamless for me so far.
Yes, this is a large phone, with a 4.5 inch screen, compared with the 3.5-inch iPhone 4 and the 4-inch iPhone 5. I’ve had trouble adjusting to the Lumia 920’s size — it’s almost too wide for one-handed typing. My pinky gets strained when I use it to support the phone in one hand for too long. It’s amazing how comfortable it feels to pick up the iPhone again.
Cross-platform syncing: I haven’t been able to get the Lumia 920 to work with the Windows Phone software on Mac, even after updating the desktop program. I’ve spent a good half-hour trying to make this work, and it just doesn’t. However, the SkyDrive plugin on the Mac works well, and all my pictures from my phone show up in the SkyDrive folder quickly.
Speaking of syncing, pictures transfer automatically and seamlessly from the Windows Phone to the Pictures app on my Microsoft Surface, in contrast with my failed attempt to get the iPhone synced up with the Surface in the past. Yes, this is one of the inherent advantages of owning multiple Windows devices these days, but it’s nice that Microsoft didn’t screw it up.
So why in the heck doesn’t Windows Phone 8 work with Windows 8’s Xbox Video service for PCs and tablets? For example, if you’ve purchased movies or shows on your Xbox 360, or Windows 8 PC or tablet, for some reason you can you can’t access the videos on your Windows Phone 8 device. This is a known issue, and it’s a major gap in the seam between these two Microsoft products.
Here’s a tip for any new Windows Phone users, related to the People Hub notifications feature that I described at the beginning. Make sure to spend some time linking the various data sources for all of your key contacts; there’s a link button at the bottom of each profile in the People Hub. Note that Skype contact integration with the People Hub is temporarily disabled.
That’s it. I’ll have more to share in future entries, but I’ll stop there for now.
And yes, for anyone wondering, my SIM is still in my Lumia 920. I don’t give up that easily.