Joe Belfiore revealed that a Windows Phone File Manager app is coming, hopefully by the end of May. It is needed, but not for what you may be thinking.
If you haven’t read why, here’s an explanation why I recently bought a new iPhone. Having spent about a week with it, here are my quick updates on the whole package:
- For a company that prides itself in top-notch quality, I have seen quite a few spontaneous reboots on my phone. This will most likely be fixed soon, and for that I will be thankful as compared to Windows Phone updates, but the fact that there are some pretty severe crashes tells me something’s not right somewhere.
- I am still getting used to the Notification Center. I like it a lot but I am trying to optimize the use of it. Together with some apps that can provide their own notification sounds (like WhatsApp does), I feel one of my bigger complaints with Windows Phone is addressed nicely. Toasts (“banners” in iOS) could be captured in Notification Center so I can always go back and look at what I may have missed. One issue though, some notifications from Facebook app do not get registered in the Notification Center but some others do. I suspect it is a Facebook bug, but it doesn’t do away with the problem I have.
- I am glad I am finally able to connect to my work WiFi 🙂
- I am loving TouchID to unlock my phone and to make new purchases. However, it seems like restoring apps previously bought using iTunes password don’t work with TouchID so that is annoying.
- I am taking a lot of slo-mo videos although that could be only because it is a novelty. However, the huge downside there is that when I share the video via WhatsApp or upload it to SkyDrive, it does not maintain the slo-mo. That’s a bummer. I wonder what is the reason, but in the end, I am left wondering how I can easily share with non-iPhone friends and family.
As for my fears of missing key functionality as I move from Windows Phone:
- People Hub: Yes, absolutely miss it. My current workaround? Create a private twitter list with all those who I had pinned to my Start Screen, and separately, mark as “Close Friends” in Facebook all whom I had pinned to Start Screen. With Close Friends, I get notification for every post they make, which is somewhat of a compromise to achieve what I could so easily achieve with People Hub.
- Haven’t missed secondary tiles or camera yet, but have sorely missed the auto-upload of photos AND videos as well as wireless sync/download of photos and videos off the phone to PC. I cannot believe there is no elegant (read: native) solution to offload photos and videos from phone to PC. I know there is PhotoStream that sends photos to the cloud, but it doesn’t send videos. Also, there is iTunes Wi-Fi syncing, but it is only one-way from the PC to the phone. I tried Dropbox, Loom and Amazon Cloud Photos but none are as hands-free/worry-free as Windows Phone’s native auto-upload and wireless sync features. I really, really hope PhotoStream gets video support soon, even if it needs to detect Wi-Fi so it does not take away valuable cellular broadband bandwidth. More importantly, I cannot wait for wireless sync to PC so I don’t have to remember to connect my phone to the PC every now and then.
I will try to update more as I have more solid thoughts/feedback about my experience.
If you know me or follow me, you will know I am a big, big fan of Windows Phone. I bought a Windows Phone 7 device as soon as I was able to (2-year contract was not up until Thanksgiving that year) and have made the move from that Samsung Focus to a Nokia Lumia 800, to my current Nokia Lumia 920.
I love Windows Phone 8 and had written not so long ago about how I do not intend to be swayed by iOS despite some holes I saw in Windows Phone operating system.
Yet, I ordered the iPhone 5s. (I went with Space Grey, 32GB in case you care.) There are several reasons for doing so, and in no particular order, these are:
- Notification Center: Windows Phone 8, and especially hardware like Lumia 920 have come a long way from the initial Windows Phone 7. Notably, they have really improved the reliability of push notifications and I have many apps that send me toast notifications. Invariably, I find myself hearing a notification from the phone and not realizing what it was for by the time I pick it up from across the room. Could it have been an ESPN score alert, or a News360 breaking news alert? If it is a WhatsApp message, I know the live tile gets updated, but what if the tile already had a non-zero number? Was it a Twitter mention or a WhatsApp message then? See the issue? With Notification Center, I know those toast notifications get stored and I can always go back and see what happened while I was away. I really miss it now that I have so many apps sending me toasts and since all notifications except text message, email and voice mail have the same sound.
- Enterprise features: My new office has wifi everywhere on campus, but they use Microsoft Protect EAP (PEAP) for network authentication, which I couldn’t get to work on my Lumia. As I understand, it is not supported by Windows Phone 8 and is not available in GDR2 either. Similarly, our company uses VPN and I do need it occasionally and even though it is not a deal-breaker, I know that with iOS, I at least have the capability to use it.
- Updates (lack thereof): Speaking of GDR2, I haven’t received the update on my AT&T Lumia 920 yet. I know there are some features I really want to have on my phone that are included in GDR2 and Amber, the associated Nokia firmware. It is an extreme pain to have to keep checking for updates daily and realizing that it is outside of Nokia, Microsoft or your control. AT&T really has no incentive to push the update out. I was really hoping Microsoft changes this with Windows Phone 8 and the “Windows 8 underneath”. Sadly, it hasn’t happened, and I don’t expect that to change.
- iPhone hardware: I like the idea of TouchID, especially for buying apps. I also like that they have the motion co-processor M7 which will enable a new category of apps and look forward to being on the leading edge rather than patiently waiting for those apps to make it to Windows Phone a year or two later. Even though I dislike the fact that the iPhone is tall and narrow, I like that it actually has flat edges and not rounded edges like my Lumia. I find that the flat edges help me hold the phone much better than the rounded edges do. Finally, I really dislike the capacitive buttons which create mistaken taps all the time, especially when handing the phone to someone else for taking a picture. The simplicity of a physical, single home button is sorely missed.
- Family/Friends: Most of my immediate family (dad, brother, his wife, his two kids), friends and cousins are iPhone users. Needless to say, it would be great if I could iMessage with them and FaceTime with them for free. I know there is WhatsApp and we use that a lot, and I know there is Skype and it is quite pain-free to setup and use, but I have to admit, they end up using “SMS” without knowing it is iMessage and FaceTime because it is in the contact card. I think it is about time I gave up convincing them to be platform-agnostic and just join them.
- Windows Phone direction towards low-end: A disturbing (to me, as an enthusiast) trend I am noticing is that Windows Phone is being adopted in large volumes by first-time smartphone users and/or users very sensitive to price. Hence, the popularity of Lumua 520/521. I am afraid Windows Phone engineering team may switch priorities and assume that the current feature set is ok for that user base and the need to focus on the high-end is not as severe. Well, I wouldn’t blame them. They need market share at the moment, and the way forward for them in that regard is via the low-end. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for me. If that were the case, I would have been happily using my Samsung Focus or even iPhone 3GS that preceded it. Let’s hope that is not true and we see some high-end innovation come to the OS quickly. I am not talking about the one hardware device that is truly innovative, the Lumia 1020, where Windows Phone OS had to be modified. I am talking Notification Center, and Google Now-like features that leapfrog the competition.
- Waiting game: I absolutely love Windows Phone. I have waited patiently since Windows Phone 7 first launched, for the “next” release that would fix many things/everything. Even though Windows Phone 8 broke away from Windows Phone 7 in a way that my purchases of WP7 devices became sunk costs, I stuck around. I even bought a Lumia 920 off-contract, with a premium no less, importing it from the UK when it wasn’t available in India (where I was living when it launched). Yet, the “Early adopter and enthusiast program” which was publicly announced on stage at the time of Windows Phone 8 platform event in June 2012 is nowhere to be found. As a loyal customer and supporter of the platform, I feel cheated in multiple ways.
What I know I will miss 100% are some of the key features that I really love in Windows Phone 8 and my Lumia 920:
- People Hub: I have a few groups of folks pinned to my start screen and I cannot express how useful I find that feature to be. I am able to see my closest family’s, friends’ and cousins’ updates across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all in one place. I would ordinarily not see those updates, most likely, and I do need a plan to handle that in iOS. Maybe create some specific lists and somehow see if I can get notified? I don’t know.
- Live tiles/Secondary tiles: Many don’t like the flipping live tiles, but I happen to *love* them. In some cases like the People Hub, the flipping may be excessive and in others like the Music+Videos tile, it should have been there while it is not, but in general, I like apps that have live tiles for a quick overview of whatever that app does. Weather, stocks, news, People, calendar, etc. are prime examples. In addition to just the live tiles, I like the concept of secondary tiles where I can actually pin sections of apps to the start screen to get even more granular info. For example, in the Bing Finance app I have some specific companies pinned. In Pandora, I have a few of my stations pinned.
- Camera, especially low light: I have seen some of the 5s vs 92x vs 1020 photo shootouts and while the 1020 is a clear winner, 92x is very close to the 5s. Except in low-light, where even though the 5s does a good job and especially over the 5, the 92x produces better images. I will miss that.
Having said all of the above, it will be hard for me to switch 100% over to iOS. I do intend to use my 5s close to 50-50 with the 920. I may even take the 920 out when we have dinner plans at restaurants and so on because the low light pics with the Lumia are apparently superior.
Finally, to those whom I recommended Windows Phone, please note that I still stand by the recommendation. I don’t recommend WP blindly to all, so if I told you WP is best for you, I do mean it is.
Over the weekend, I had a twitter conversation with the Wordboxer developers, trying to get them to port their game to Windows Phone. It brought to light an important point about the Windows Phone (and for that matter, Blackberry) app problem: most cool games and apps are being built by small shops or single developers who just don’t have the time to build and maintain more than one or maybe two versions of their app/game. I really hope the Windows Phone (and Windows 8) teams realize this and create ways and means to reach these folks and help them out with the education needed to have them port their apps.
I know with the addition to C++ and support for cross-platform game engines on both Windows Phone and Windows 8, things are easier in terms of porting, but the point is most devs look at market share numbers and shy away from the platform. Of course, the market share going up and reaching some level of respectability (10% in the US?) may automatically help, but until then, Microsoft has a tough problem on their hands. They have to increase sales of devices, they have to attract the big brands and they have to make sure the indie devs also consider Windows Phone, if not at launch, at least soon after.
Fingers are crossed.
Windows Phone app problem
Small devs really don’t have time to develop and maintain code for more than one or two platforms. Even though Windows Phone dev tools are arguably better than anything else out there, and porting is easier with Windows Phone 8, it comes down to resources. Here is a great example of that.
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Finally, Windows Phone SkyDrive auto upload now supports full-resolution photos and videos worldwide instead of just a few markets.