Wow, where do I begin? I’ll start by saying; I have no previous experience with Windows Phone (current generation). Years ago when I was an avid gamer (mostly Counter-Strike and other first person shooters), I was an all Windows man. I loved Windows as a desktop OS. I loved Windows as a server. It was pre-iPhone days, but I sure did love my PDA (HP iPaq). I loved my Motorola MPx220 with Windows Smartphone 2003 as the OS.
I have always been one who really loves and enjoys technology, specifically cellular devices. I don’t need to have the latest and greatest to impress anyone else; I need to have the latest and greatest to impress myself. Ever since 2007 I’ve owned every single iPhone generation. This includes the iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and the iPhone 5. I changed phones as often as I changed clothes. Somewhere in this time frame I managed to also use multiple different Android phones, (HTC EVO, Droid X) as well as keep a little somethin’ somethin’ on the side (Blackberry Curve’s anyone?). I found myself continuously going back to my iPhone, each and every time. And don’t get me wrong, there were features I absolutely longed for, that Apple just couldn’t provide me. For example, MMS messaging (this is a no-brainer). Android also has the option to send certain contacts automatically to voicemail (ex-girlfriend). There isn’t enough time for me to go into detail about the customisation that Android offered me, and that I took full advantage of when I was proudly sporting an Android phone. In addition, Blackberry kept me coming back because of BBM. If you’ve ever used Blackberry Messenger and have friends who used BBM at the same time, it was amazing. There really wasn’t anything like it at those times. Apple has since caught up on the MMS, and the “BBM” replacement, iMessage.
Let’s face it; I’m not one to turn down an opportunity to peek over the fence and see if the grass is greener on the other side. I’ve spent the last couple weeks using two Verizon Windows Phone 8 devices, and I’m here to share my feelings.
Windows Phone 8:
It most certainly takes some time getting used to a brand new mobile OS. But it was more than welcomed.
Windows Phone 8 offers quite a bit of fun, right out of the package. As most smartphones these days, the phone automatically walks you through a setup wizard upon first power-up. This includes linking it with your Windows Live account, or creating one if you have not previously created an account. Both phones that I have offer haptic feedback for the back button, the Windows home key, and the search key. I really like that as you’re sure whether or not you pressed the key. I often find with touch screens that if there is nothing to differentiate system wide “keys”, it can be tough to navigate when you’re not paying full attention.
My favourite Windows Phone 8 feature/setting – the lock screen. I love the fact that I can choose to show notifications from a specific app. And I can choose 5 more apps that show a quick status (live) on my lock screen. For example, I can show detailed calendar information, as well as how many texts are unread, how many e-mails are unread, how many Facebook notifications, and any Skype notifications. This is golden to me, since I really miss the lock screen customisation that Android has offered me in the past. This is a happy medium between a clean lock screen (Apple) and user customisation (Android).
Another system wide feature – the top most menu bar (that shows time, cellular/wifi signal strength, and any other icons) disappears when not in use. It allows you to make full use of the screen, but the space is dead anyway (unless you’re scrolling down, in which case that information not possible to view even if you pull it out). It feels like Microsoft wanted to give you more space, but didn’t really make the user experience fluid. Not sure what happened here.
I can’t accurately comment on how I feel about BING as a search provider. I can say for certain, that I do not personally know anybody who uses BING on a regular basis (or anyone who has ever used BING, at least not on purpose). That being said, guess which search engine comes pre-configured in your lovely mobile version of Internet Explorer? Yep, you guessed it; BING! The first thing that I did in Internet Explorer was pin “Google.com” tab as a tile to my home screen. It was necessary for me to do this. BING just felt so foreign to me.
As far as Internet Explorer in general, I don’t really have a strong opinion on it either way. It seemed to have no trouble loading pages, images, or content. The address bar however is located on the bottom of the IE app, which is a different spot than I’m used to. That being said, I truly feel that mobile browsers are very different to the normal browser experience. On my iPhone I use Safari, but I do not use Safari on my iMac at home. So, it’s just one of those things that was more of a “meh”.
You’ll find that the OS welcomes you at each unlock with a set of tiles. These tiles are very customisable. There are live tiles, and static tiles. You have the choice to move them around, “unpin” them, and re-size them. There are 3 generic options for resizing your tile; a small square, a medium sized square and a very large rectangle. I chose the small square for most of my tiles, as it allowed me to put more content in the “pricier real estate” of my home screen. For example, you can have a live tile for a specific e-mail inbox. You can have another live tile for the weather and the current time. You can have a 3rd party battery percentage live tile (from the store). You can have a static tile as a quick way to navigate to your Windows Phone settings, or your camera.
This is another feature that I am actually quite fond of. But, I have my reasoning here. I am fond of this as it is basically a rebranding of the old “Zune” pass. For music, you can pay a flat monthly fee and stream/download the extensive library that Microsoft offers. That is of course, until you cancel your subscription. At that point, you’re listening to a whole lot of dead air. However, I do really like the amount of music that was available. The entire process was simple as could be, from searching to music to downloading, to accessing your local collection. My only gripe was sometimes the content was tagged/marked confusingly – for example, it was tough to decipher what was Clean vs. Parental Advisory vs. Deluxe Editions vs. “Album version” – what is an album version? Which “album” version?
This is very cool, and likely one of my favourite features of Windows Phone. It was very refreshing to know I can create a document, or a spread sheet (or presentation, which I admittedly never used) on my mobile device and pick that up where I left of on my desktop/laptop computer. It did feel more like a notepad editor than a full-fledged word processor, but it most certainly got the job done. It offers more to me than say, Apple’s Notes. I should note that while not related to Office, the phone did sync very well with my corporate exchange. The inbox was nice, and clean looking. Conversation grouping of e-mail threads was there, but that feature is more standard now-a-days. The e-mail experience was good, nothing to rave about but nothing to complain about either.
Store (Specifically App’s):
I hate to say it, but this is where all the love for Windows Phone 8 dies. The app store selection is embarrassing. I was quite offended by the lack of apps available. Sure, Amazon Kindle was available, and Amazon’s Mobile Shopping App – two of the top applications in the store. You better believe I downloaded them and pinned them to the start. But there is only so much reading and shopping one man can do. Where is my Pandora? Where is my Spotify that I pay ~$10 for? Where are all the fun games that I could play on my iPhone or Android (or even Kindle Fire) to pass the time? A few big name apps exist; Facebook, YouTube, KiK, Netflix. But the selection was just nowhere near what I need in order to keep my phone entertaining to me. Honestly, when Spotify was missing – this was the biggest dent to my experience. Additionally, a lot of the top free apps were no-name apps, by no-name developers. The app store just gave me that splenda (fake sugar) feel. It just didn’t feel authentic.
Windows Phone 8 has potential. There are most certainly things I enjoyed about it (live tiles, Xbox Music). However, in order to meet the bar the iOS 6 and iPhone has set – the phone/OS would need to offer much more. There is a lot to be determined that could shape the market for Windows Phone. I believe that it relies heavily on what they can offer in terms of 3rd party apps though. The OS is pretty solid – I didn’t experience any crashes, issues, etc. But there just isn’t enough there to keep me busy, happy, and entertained. At this late in the game, Windows Phone is very far from being a contender in the Smartphone market. Think about it? If you’ve been buying apps, music, movies, books, etc for the past 6 years from Apple/iTunes – why would you switch? Windows Phone 8 doesn’t offer me anything (other than Office, but that didn’t exactly WOW me) that my iPhone 5 cannot do currently. Sure, I can’t customise my iPhone in certain ways – but that is less important to me than the App selection. Of course, your mileage may vary; I certainly don’t see this phone as anything but a place to conduct business at this time. As of now, I’d use a Windows Phone 8 to sync my corporate e-mail, create office documents, and that is about it.
In regards to the actual phones, I don’t have much to document. Both phones are on Windows Phone 8; both phones have a camera on the front and on the back.
I like the HTC 8x for the most part. I like the form factor, and that the power button is located on top. I think the phone is a bit too tall for my liking. The width is okay, but it’s not possible for me to reach the power button on top with one hand around the bottom of the phone. With Verizon, you can choose a bright red or a bright blue. I’ve held both models, and I’d go with the Red for the simple fact that they match my Beats by Dr. Dre headphones quite well. To each their own there though.
The HTC 8x does offer Beats by Dr. Dre audio integrated. This was a HUGE deal to me. Since hip-hop is the music genre that I listen to almost exclusively, I was very excited for this. Since I use Beats Studio headphones (MSRP $299.99), I was eager to conduct my very own sound experiments. I did find that for listening to hip-hop (or anything with a good, deep bass) that the HTC 8x’s audio outperformed the Nokia Lumia. For other genres of music, I doubt the beats offer enough to make this the sole reason you were to pick up this model over the Lumia.
Navigation? The phone does not have turn-by-turn navigation built in. The Verizon Navigator app is available at an extra charge to your monthly bill. Another downside to this phone is the front-facing camera. Wow, I do not think that I have seen this poor of a camera quality in quite some time. The front facing camera lag’s considerably, and it’s not just local – skype calling via the front camera was very poor experience for myself and the connected party.
Nokia Lumia 822:
The Lumia was a joy to use. I prefer the form factor of the Lumia over the HTC 8x. The Lumia is a bit smaller, and quite a bit thicker. I don’t mind the thickness, as I am able to effectively use the phone with one hand still. The Lumia has the power/lock button on the right side of the phone – this threw me off, I had to actually look for it when I first opened the packaging.
I can say without a doubt that both camera’s on the Lumia were much better than the HTC 8x. The rear camera had a better picture quality/colors. The front facing camera was actually useful, as opposed to the HTC 8x which is rendered useless for video calling due to the front facing camera.
Another PRO for the Lumia is that is comes with Nokia Drive (turn-by-turn GPS navigation). I enjoyed using Nokia Drive – I never had any issues, and it also had a quite accurate display of your current speed. You can turn on/off a noise to alert you when you’re speeding. I quickly turned off the speeding alert.
In regards to which phone, if you so choose you’d like to get a Verizon Windows Phone 8…it really depends on how important the following are to you:
- Front Facing Camera
- GPS Navigation
- Audio Quality
If the 1st two are important to you, and you don’t mind a little bit thicker form – the Lumia is for you. If audio quality is a huge issue for you, and don’t mind a thinner but taller form factor? Enjoy your HTC 8x.
The Nokia Lumia is available here: http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/store/controller?item=phoneFirst&action=viewPhoneDetail&selectedPhoneId=6396
The HTC 8x is available here:
Full specifications on the phones can be found on the manufacturer’s website, or on Verizon’s site listed above.