A week ago, I was very excited to have the opportunity to give the Windows Phone another whirl. I had given it a chance first with the Lumia 900 release and in this last week the HTC 8x. It’s a great device. Feels good, music sounds great, and really could have made it work minus a few key things.
1. Battery – After spending a couple of days customizing the phone to make it work for me, I had it hooked up to a my various email accounts and spent a lot of time on de-duping consolidating and connecting my contacts and hooking everyone up right. I was careful this time not to over do it on contacts that were only in facebook or only in twitter. After day 5 I was only getting 4 hours of battery life. I then went in and turned off all of the background processing, that got me up to 6 hours. After doing everything I could I got it back up to 10 hours, but that really hurt the functionality. The black and white is cool, and I don’t mind it too much… I could have even lived with it, but I really liked the idea of sync to SkyDrive and having location services is pretty core to my use of the phone. So when I got it to where I needed it, it still required me to find charge time during the day. Not a good experience at all, especially with my travel schedule. (It’s possible this is just me and my 3000 people, that it’s not designed to keep that many updated.)
2. Camera – The phone for me is my camera. I will not go back to the days with carrying a phone and camera. In my tests throughout the week the camera was not as good. The pictures I took weren’t fuzzy, but the colors were not great. It didn’t deal with outdoor pictures very well. It was more than one step back trying to use the camera on the HTC 8x as a primary camera. It was ok for taking pictures of people in doors, but not that great for sunsets, mountains, and pictures of architectures. I really need lighting to not matter that much.
3. Getting Pictures Up – Something that is definitely part of my world now is being able to quickly take a picture and get it on facebook or twitter is more and more important both for my community, friends and family. I had way too challenging of a time. I’ll give kudos to WP8 for making it easy to update a status on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter all at once, but why do I have to go and use another app to add a photo? As well why can I not share directly from the photo app? I go into the facebook app, of which I’m not sure if it’s the right facebook app, because it seems to have a number of limitations itself. The facebook app on WP8 from Microsoft was a pain to use. I had to try a dozen times to get a simple photo uploaded. It did not fail gracefully, so it was a real challenge to have to re-write the status and re-grab the photo when it failed. I’m use to being able to hit a button to retry if there’s a network issue. It’s not my design to go tell everyone to go get an iPhone, I don’t think it is pushing our limits. It’s very comfortable, but one thing they have nailed is the ease of use of publishing multiple photos and getting them on facebook or twitter very FAST. I’ve also found when on a photo, the number of things I can do with it are much more limited. In some parts of the UI I can’t even save the photo I’m viewing to my device.
4. Quirkiness – I’m trying to call a friend who tweeted me on BYUI campus last week. I was excited by the prospect of WP8 because I knew if he had published his phone number anywhere I would be pulling it in. I click my phone and clicked search and no Diego. In fact no Diego’s anywhere were showing up. Then I noticed it was searching history. Well I haven’t talked to Diego in… well, maybe never. So after a few failed attempts in the phone app, I started searching contacts. WHY?!!! Why was he in people and not in the phone app? Looks like there’s a disconnect there. As well, I’m talking to a friend who tells me Diego’s phone number. While I’m chatting with him I get a phone number. I add the number to another contact for safe keeping. Then I try to copy and paste the number. Why can I not use paste in some areas? Why is copy and paste the worst copy and paste I’ve ever used? It seemed like it was designed by someone who was really mad. Pasting often doesn’t show up, it just keeps selecting the word instead of giving me the paste icon and in some places I just can’t paste. What’s that about? I use copy and paste a lot. (Much of this is learning what does and doesn’t work where and in what app, but even better would be a fully featured integrated contacts and phone app.)
5. The Marketplace – Trying to figure out what apps I should be using should be fairly easy by simply viewing the apps that have the top ratings and reviews. Wrong. Some of the least interesting apps are floating to the top of the windows marketplace. There are 10 free facebook apps and a few paid ones, and after a week I was still confused if I was using the right facebook app. I really quickly became a fan of notifications, but not being able to like comments was a real pain, as well, I would often hit a wall on what I wanted to do so I’d have to jump into the full fledged app and then find that I was using a mobile facebook app and not the rich UI. I’d see how I’d have to use the desktop client more often. When looking up new people the thumbnail was so small it was hard for people to find their own pictures… and that exercise alone was something that was buried very deep in the app, and a very slow process at that. It’s sad, but true that the marketplace is lacking, but the usability of only able to view a few at a time and not being able to really get a sense for how well used an app was, I found challenging. I’m sure with time I could work my way through more apps and trial and error, but I was definitely more scared to buy paid apps in the Winows Marketplace than on the iPhone. So much more fake companies using the authorized logos. How many companies can use the same facebook logo?
6. Notifications – I am a fan of the tiles. Really started enjoying the idea of building out the real estate on the phone and figuring out what was most important. I created a number of people tiles with various regions and enjoyed being able to quickly see the status of friends all over the world. Great scenarios. On the tile I’d see an interesting status, but then I’d click the icon thinking I could view the photo or link and be taken into the fray of contacts. I’d then have to look around to find it again, and hope that I could find the status again. Often taken to a situation where I’d want to interact with it, and then have to go into an app to like or read comments. Jarring. With the great notifications showing up on the tile, I was surprised to find so many apps that didn’t have any type of notifications. Why did it seem that only core apps had any kind of notification built into them? My favorite news app, AP was just an ugly icon, and it may have had some level of news notification, but because I had to turn off background services it likely limited my ability to discover much in the realm of notifications outside of the main ones that came with the phone. Trying to figure out the quirks and work around them is likely what happens with the 3-4 weeks that my friends said I really needed with the phone to feel the real power.
7. Chats and Texts – While I really enjoyed the conversations I had on facebook by simply having my phone. I got way too much conversation than I wanted. I was perpetually available. I’d have 6 or 7 facebook chats going and stop to look at my phone and see that I had missed important texts as a result of them getting piled underneath uninteresting facebook chats. Being able to quickly identify a text is #1, while the facebook chat is often something that can wait. Messages now are turned into chats automatically, so even when I’m not available it comes across as a chat that’s urgent.
I’m sorry I couldn’t make the phone replace my old iPhone 5… really. I read about the new Androids coming out (GS4 and HTC One) in the next couple of months and wish I had the opportunity to give them a whirl. It’s a tough and exciting time to be involved in mobile. The good news is I will definitely be giving the new iOS SharePoint Newsfeed app a chance. Amazing how much good feedback it has already received in contrast to the Windows Phone Newsfeed app. I hope it’s for real. You’ll hear more about that later.
There are some opportunities for Microsoft to fix a lot of these quirks and fix the store so it reveals what really are good qualified and apps. We almost need a tiered system so we can tell what has met the higher quality bar. Making the app store itself a little social would be nice. I’d like to see what my friends are running on their phones without having to ask them. I also like the idea of seeing what apps are popular from true install base not just from the junky fake reviews, designed to snow over the users who picked the knock off app instead of the official one. I see more people giving MS a chance with the phone, and I’m sure as the user base grows MS will get more feedback that will improve the user experience. There really are some nice features, but the software and to a limited extent, the hardware as well held me back this time around.
I hope this also helps you understand I really do try to be objective.