Six months ago I decided to make the switch from Blackberry to a Windows 8 Phone. I am happy with my decision. I have been using a Nokia Lumia 920 and Windows 8 mobile to great effect. It is smooth, fast and stable. The Lumia 920 has the best camera on a mobile phone and works well in low light conditions. It can also endure a beating. The build quality of the device is high. It is extremely durable as evident in this video, which shows the Lumia 920 without a scratch and continues recording video after being hit with a fastball from a pitching machine. I have dropped mine several times without a single mark or dent.
I am a former ten-year Blackberry veteran. Leaving the Blackberry’s full keyboard was not an easy decision. Getting used to the on screen keyboard was easier than I thought. I will never be as fast without the physical keyboard on the device. However, other benefits outweigh typing speed, some of which I outline below.
I decided to go with Windows 8 over iOS and Android because of Microsoft’s well thought out interface design. Windows 8 Mobile adopts a new data centric interface design, where data is the centre of interaction as opposed to traditional application centric designs (like the iPhone and Android). In application centric designs, the information is displayed based on the icon you click. Microsoft has arranged the data into hubs by logically combining groups of information into a panoramic view that can be swiped to the right to left or vice versa. Instead of clicking on an app to show Tweets, followed by an app to show Facebook updates, followed by another app to show contacts, the People Hub (see photo below) is a one-stop shop that keeps you current with your social network in a more enjoyable way.
If you are considering buying a Windows 8 Phone, I strongly advise against the HTC 8x. Prior to owning the Lumia, I purchased the HTC 8x because it was thinner. The problem with it was that call quality on Bluetooth headsets was extremely poor. The HTC 8x has Bluetooth 2.1 and the majority of the competition has Bluetooth 3.1. The most likely reason is that HTC reduced build costs on their device by investing in cheaper Bluetooth chips. Here is a feature comparison of the HTC 8x and the Lumia 920. I was unable to return the HTC 8X as I was over the fifteen return day grace period with Rogers so I was stuck with it. The timing was good because my wife needed a new phone and she doesn’t use Bluetooth. This was a blessing in disguise as we use the “Family Room Hub” feature almost every day to stay more connected and work more effectively together as a couple and family.
“Rooms” is a new feature of Windows 8 Phone allowing you to invite people into a shared space where all the room inhabitants share Chats, Calendar, Photos, and Notes. The room’s contents syncs automatically. If someone adds a new photo or calendar appointment, it is automatically sent to all members. My wife and I share a room called the Family Room. The family calendar events appear as a different color interspersed with our own calendars. Now, we never forget a family event or who needs to pick up the kids.
The notes feature is great for tracking shopping lists. My wife loves it because she can easily update my list of to-dos (which she does frequently). We also share photos more than ever. Sharing photos to the room creates a notification on the Family Room Live tile so other members know that new content has been added. Like most busy parents who work late, I enjoy seeing new photos of current events. We have two young children and there is never a shortage of interesting memorable photos that make me smile or laugh.
Live Tiles make up the new start screen Windows 8 interface. The face of Windows 8 is not the standard rectangular grid of thumbnail-sized icons. Traditional interfaces have icons whose purpose is to launch applications only. Instead bright, colorful tiles of different sizes fill the screen of Windows 8. The Lives Tiles update with useful information in real time. You can pin or unpin, them from the start screen, rearrange and resize them. Twitter, weather, news updates along upcoming calendar appointments and to-do lists are some examples of what you can pin to your start screen. This makes the start screen dynamic and alive and you can get all of the information you need to manage your day at a glance as opposed to needing to launch several applications on other smartphones.
The strategic partnership between Nokia and Microsoft seems to be paying off. I am optimistic and excited the software giant and former mobile behemoth will together create great products in the mobile space in the coming years.
There has never been such a wide range of choice for smart phones. What you choose has to be right for your life – personal and professional. Have you made the switch to a Windows 8 phone? What has been your experience?