Some of you may have read how I feel about smartphones. For the past few months, I went back and have been using my old Sony K850i which on one level has been great. I went through my stash of phones and that 2007 model got the best reception – you know, like they remembered it was a phone. I then remembered why sometimes a feature phone – or at least an older one – can be annoying. You start carrying around additional chargers for proprietary ports (imagine yay in 1pt font) and the battery life on 3G was/is terrible. Standby is great, but if you talk, you’re lucky to get 4ish hours. For the past few months I’ve been honestly looking for a good, normal phone with great reception. Sadly, nothing – and I literally mean that – has fit the bill.
Regardless of form factor, I just want a good phone. The old Xperia X1 was a good phone even though it ran Windows Mobile. In the past, I had two bad Nokia devices and swore off them but I heard so many good things about the Lumia 620 and it’s in the size I kinda like as a phone, so I figured I’d give it a whirl. Its selling point to me: loud speakerphone. It’s true. The 620 arrived this afternoon and a few hours in, I want to smash it against the wall. Why?
Annoying Factor One: No Battery Indicator Unless You Are On the Lock Screen
So you’re probably saying, “But Allan, if you had done your homework on WP8, you would have known that.” Fair point. But it’s asinine. Every mobile OS at a minimum shows the battery icon at the top all the time by default. I know iOS does it, and all of my Android devices have. This piece of junk? Nope. There’s an app for that which you can download to put on your Start screen to show you. I”ll get to the app process in a bit.
How can Microsoft ship a mobile OS with such a core fundamental piece “missing”? Well, technically It’s there … just not when you want it. Jorge Segarra (blog | Twitter) pointed out to me that you can swipe down to make the battery indicator appear but it disappears. How hard would it be to make an option to display it 24×7? Not very I would think. Fail.
I think my old Motorola StarTac just called and laughed at the Lumia 620.
Annoying Factor Two: Changing Your Regional Info
The unlocked Lumia 620 I got was from Hong Kong apparently. This is not a big deal. On Android if I want to change language settings, you just do it and it takes. The punchline on WP8? You need to reboot for it to take effect if you want to go from Hong Kong to US English for how you display date, time, etc. Unbelievable. What year is this?
Annoying Factor Three: Apps, Accounts, Contacts, and Synchronization Choice
To solve said battery indicator issue, I figured I would download an app which needed a Live/Microsoft account. I’ve got one of those I’ve had for years and years. Since my data is off, I used WiFi to connect to the store. So far, so good. Here’s where we go off the rails. Now, I’m not an app guy. I could largely care less. These are phones for making calls. The only app I used for like 5 minutes when I was on WiFi was Draw Something. I had the American Airlines one, but meh – I’ll stick to regular boarding passes. I’ll kill a tree or 10 in my lifetime.
Anyway, so I was trying to find something to show my battery life and needed to use my Live account. I enter my info, find an app, and download it. Little did I know behind the scenes it took anyone in that IM list and added it to my contacts. WTF? Apparently, all new mobile OSes do this silly sync thing without asking you if you want to. On the Android phones I never had that issue because I don’t use gmail.
The story gets better. I had imported contacts from my SIM card already. That’s all I wanted. There was a filter button, but you click that and all of the contacts went away. In WP8 there is NO WAY TO JUST HAVE SIM/PHONE CONTACTS. Another WTF here. Even Android can do that. But we’re not even at the best part.
The only way to fix this? Remove the Live/MS account. Only way to do it? Reset the phone and lose everything. Yup. Epic fail here. On the Android devices I’ve owned and used, I could remove that account used for apps and go all native and totally disconnected without basically wiping the phone. Terrible, terrible experience. One of the worst I’ve had with any piece of tech in recent memory.
I don’t want to sync jack with the cloud or accounts. I want to use my SIM contacts and have this be a phone. I should be able to have that experience but apparently not.
Annoying Factor Four: MMS Messages
I hate texting but people sometimes feel the need to send me a text with a picture (another 1pt font yay). I don’t have a text plan so I’m already annoyed as is. Android and WP8 devices function the same – to get these infernal things, I have to turn data on. With a feature phone, they just show up with nothing special. I was wondering if WP8 would be the same as Android, and sure enough, it is.
Annoying Factor Five: The Start Screen
I’ve been running Windows 8 (the OS, not the mobile WP8) forever. I even have a touchscreen device (the Sony Vaio Duo). I like it. So the Metro/Modern thing isn’t a nemesis to me. But the Start screen on WP8 leaves a bit to be desired. I can’t put my finger on exactly why the OS works but the mobile OS doesn’t here. And no, I’m not looking for a desktop or file explorer on my phone.
So Where Does This Leave Me?
I don’t know. I’m only a few hours into the WP8 experience and I want to bash my head against a wall. Sadly, as dysfunctional and fragmented as Android is, it just kinda works and makes more sense to me. I’m far from a power user of phones, but WP8 is supremely dumbed down. You’d think WP8 – which is, let’s face it – targeted at people more like me who hate smartphones but can’t really get a feature phone would work for me but I’ve had such a negative reaction to it. The whole sync/contacts/reset thing really bothers me.
With WP8, many settings seem to be obscured. Android tries to obscure some stuff (for example, if you had to manually set up AT&T info), but you can ultimately get there. I’m not sure you can do that in WP8, nor am I sure I want to find out. I’m not getting an iPhone, the Android devices are better in terms of OS for my tastes but the smaller devices are not great phones and I don’t want a device above 4″ in screen (sadly, the Galaxy Note had great signal strength and could be a good phone; I don’t want a phablet attached to my head). Nokia’s non-WP Asha devices? I’ll pass.
Maybe I’ll just move to a cave and not have to worry about any of this. Or not. Time will tell. In the meantime, Ben will happily use his WP8 phone (he doesn’t like Android, BTW). Short of buying a Vertu Ascent, I’m proabably screwed. I shouldn’t have to spend stupid money to get a basic phone that is newer than 2008, works, and has a good signal. Oh, and isn’t a flip phone. Hate them, too.