Allan’s Adventures with Windows Phone 8

By: on May 8, 2013 in Annoyed, Rant

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.


2 Responses

  1. Davos says:

    My Samsung Ativ S windows phone 8 has excellent reception and battery life.
    I suspect your reception issues are more related to network congestion or poor coverage by your carrier. Admittedly in Sydney the major carrier, Telstra has a 4G network that is supplemented by H+ that provides excellent reception across the city. There’s also not as many people here as in US cities which helps.

    On the battery indicator, as you were shown, you just touch near the top of the screen. You don’t like that they auto hide, that’s your opinion. I personally like the minimalism as the screenshot of your start screen suggests you would. The battery app I use is unobtrusive, has a customizable tile and pops up notifications when the battery level hits a threshold I determine. I don’t really care if the battery is at 87%, only when it’s getting low and needs recharging.

    I was also a bit put off by the contacts syncing to the live cloud. Having had a windows phone 7 device that died (HTC HD7), I can now see the point. On my new phone on adding my live account all my contacts synced back from the cloud to my phone. I still had my sim card, yes but imagine I had lost the phone or dropped it in a lake. This happens to people all the time and I think the cloud solution works.

    Live also combines all your different contact sources, ie twitter, Facebook, simcard, windows live etc etc which at first is confusing and annoying. But you can chain these accounts together so the route of contact becomes irrelevant. The focus is on people, not on specific channels whether it be phone, text, tweet etc and this is a good philosophy because one day we might move on from Facebook but not from our contact with the actual person.

    I wonder why you use a smartphone at all, they do have worse battery for being powerful pocket computers and they do have all these annoying apps but I think part of it is you wanting to do things the way we did 10 years ago, maybe because you don’t like being forced to change.

    Mostly I don’t get why you would get a smartphone and then not have data on your mobile plan. That just makes no sense at all. Maybe data plans are expensive where you are but they are pretty standard here. Admittedly I also use WiFi where possible because it’s always quicker and doesn’t deduct from my data plan.

    Why are mms pictures infernal? They aren’t from hell.
    Windows phone is not dumbed down, it’s just less complicated because it hides clutter and focuses on outcomes rather than technology or methodology. But I agree that Android is also a great system as is IOS, they just have different approaches that appeal to different people.

    • Allan says:

      YOu read my post a bit wrong. I wasn’t complaining about the Nokia’s battery life. I just got it today so I have no idea what it will do (nor will I find out – it’s going to eBay). I was talking about my K850i, which was one of the first ones with US 3G. It gets maybe 4h of talk time – same as day 1. With regards to receiption, I get good reception on the K850i, but most other devices since then have not had good radios which get as good a signal. It’s the phone in that case.

      Also, if you read again, I clearly state I don’t have any options for a GOOD, new, modern regular ol’ phone. Even feature phones lost the plot somewhere after 2007 because when I went back to try to use my K850i, anything I had which was made after was worse in terms of quality AND reception. If you saw my Tweet, here’s how I configured the Start menu: It’s just a phone. Literally.

      The thing is, I don’t like, need, or want the way WP8 does things with people. I don’t integrate FB or Twitter with my phone. I don’t need a Live account for my phone (I use it for my MSDN/Technet/MVP stuff). It’s a friggin’ phone. Neither iOS or Android do this silliness if you don’t want them to and they are technically smartphones, but I have more control over how I get at things. WP8 assumes you’re all in. I’m clearly not.

      Read my original blog post linked at the top. You’ll understand why I don’t need a data plan. This has zero to do with cost. And yOu clearly don’t know me because I’m bleeding edge with many other things with technology. This is one area I prefer to be untethered. Smartphones and people using them has made people less focused and distracts them. Many people can’t talk to each other. People have crap attention spans. Example: I was at dinner last night with a friend. As we were leaving, a mother and son were at their booth. She was staring into her phone doing e-mail or whatever, and the kid had his iPhone with earbuds in. Yay bonding. When it comes to communication, nothing beats good old fashioned talking.

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