Tag Archives: Windows Phone

Thank You Microsoft

My Lumia 950

I would like to take a moment to personally thank the team at Microsoft for giving us the wonderful Windows phone!

My first phone was a Lumia 620—it taught me what a smartphone was. Then I got the fantastic 830 which was amazingly powerful and allowed me to do so much more.

For the last while I have been using the brilliant Lumia 950. With its elegant design, it turns heads in Starbucks: “What is that old lady doing with that neat phone, wonder what it is?” I love showing it off!

Yes, I am a senior with shaky hands (thanks to WordFlow I am able to “type” quite fast). I heard rumours that Microsoft is going to discontinue Windows phones. If there is a business reason for that, I’ll understand and it’s OK. However, I need to tell you what an important part the beautiful Lumia 950 plays in my life.

With my phone, I stay in touch with family and friends by SMS, email and Facebook. As a senior, the one thing I have lots of is time. I fill it with the Lumia in many ways. I have been learning a new language, imagine at my age, using Duolingo. Of course, I read a lot with the Kindle app—I like how I can adjust the size of the text. A confession, I like to relax by watching movies on Netflix, and I can adjust the volume of the headphones without bothering anyone else.

Then there are the mundane things like checking the weather, finding out when the next bus is due at my stop (I have a tile for that), adding doctor’s appointments in the calendar (my memory is not so good anymore). Shopping online is wonderful.

I like how easy the phone is to use, and how I can set up the start screen with large tiles for the things I use. I deeply appreciate the attention to detail that has gone into building this wonderful phone and software.

So, thank you Microsoft!

What I’d Like in an Ideal Windows Phone

The Lumia 950
The Lumia 950

In a recent article by Jason Ward, he posed a rhetorical question: “what does the perfect Windows Phone look like?”

The many comments the article received, reflect the varying requirements and preferences of the readers. Clearly there is not a single ideal phone that would suit everyone.

In the final analysis, they all look pretty much the same, right? As long as they do the job.

It is hard to cover the subject adequately in a short post comment. In this rather long post, I will express my thoughts on the matter.

My History

I have owned three Lumia phones: a 620, 830 and now a 950. The first two I bought because that was all I could get in Canada. I really liked the size of the 620 – it was with it that I learned what a smartphone could do. I was excited to learn that I could actually browse the web, and send emails and texts.

After a while I bought the Lumia 830 and was pleasantly surprised how much faster and more fluid it was – the 1GB of memory and newer processor made a difference. While I was happy with the 620, I was now much happier. With the better phone, I discovered I could do Netflix and read Kindle books; I was now a very happy camper. And I really liked the design of the phone, although the relatively sharp edges can become painful when holding the phone for long periods.

I did not need another phone, I was happy with the 830. But it did not have Continuum, which I did not really need anyway. Then Microsoft had a huge discount on the 950 and included the dock for free! So, I succumbed to the temptation and bought it. That was really a good move. Compared to the 830, this phone was even faster and smoother, a real joy to use! And Continuum turned out to be really useful – just ask my senior citizen eyes.

The Ideal Phone

So, what would the ideal windows phone look like? For me, the 950 is pretty close to it size and performance-wise. But I recognize that some people might prefer a smaller phone. Therefore, the phone has to come in several sizes. The 950 case design works for me as it is easy on the hands and allows for the battery to be replaced which is a huge advantage. I did like the looks of the 830 at first but the plastic 950 case is more practical and still looks professional.

While I think that the 950 is more than powerful enough for my needs now, experience tells me that more memory and a faster processor would be appreciated provided that the cost is still reasonable.

I believe that the camera is an important part of the ideal phone, both for business and pleasure use. A Zeiss lens and optical stabilization is essential. Being able to use an external microphone during video shoots is key (this is both a hardware and software issue). The front facing camera is used for more than just selfies so it should also be high quality.

Front-facing stereo speakers would be nice, though not essential, as long as the headphone drivers are good.

Software

Software is not really part of the phone but the operating system and core apps do determine the functionality of the phone.

Overall, I find Windows 10 mobile very nice. However, I would like to see the promised improvements in Continuum. In particular, it would be useful to have windowing and more features for the Office apps such as table of contents in Word for example.

In many ways, the native camera app is very good. I would like to see monitoring and manual adjustment of audio levels for video work added, as well as an option to select either internal or external microphones.

Part of the “ideal windows phone” would be for Microsoft to use its resources to 1) enhance marketing, 2) encourage third party app development, and 3) provide real technical support. This would be the subject of a separate post.

In Summary

While it would be presumptuous to tell Microsoft what to do. I believe they should still cater for the consumer on a budget though. I would like to see an affordable phone similar to the 830 but with more memory and a bit faster processor for around $200. This must be capable of running Continuum.

Next level up I would like to see a 2017 version of the 950 series (970?) with an 835 processor, and optionally capable of 4/6K ram and running Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update. This should still be “affordable” i.e. in the $400 – $600 range depending on options selected.

Like most people, I think incrementally and find it hard to imagine a new category of device like the rumored surface, phablet-sized, phone with foldable screen and what not. Maybe once I have one, I will again discover why it is useful as I had with each upgrade of my old phones. That said, I feel that a smaller but powerful 970 phone, with Continuum for when I need to work more productively, is the best of both worlds.

Why Choose a Windows Phone?

lumia650
The Lumia 650, the current replacement of my first Lumia 620

In a recent blogpost I wrote that a smartphone was a good candidate as a computer for seniors and I showcased my Lumia 830. Some readers commented that nobody uses Windows phones anymore. But is that true?

In this post I will make the case for why you should consider a Windows phone.

Not Popular
Firstly, it is really true that Windows phone is not popular, it has a 1% market share. You would have a hard time finding a Windows phone in many of the big box stores, and if you do, the sales people are not very knowledgeable about the phone. They will probably discourage you from considering a Windows phone lamenting the cliché “there are no apps”. Surely they must be right…

My Story
Everybody I knew had a smartphone, so I decided I wanted to be “with it” and get one too. So off to the Telus store I went and they recommended a Samsung Galaxy. Oh my, was it ever confusing! So I dutifully got a book (300 pages) on the Samsung Galaxy. Many coffees later and a well-thumbed manual, I was not really more clued in—but at least I had worked out how to make phone calls.

Then I saw an interview on TV with Kevin O’Leary and he mentioned a Windows phone – I had not even heard of it up till then. So I ordered a cheap Lumia 620 on Amazon just to try it I out. I was amazed at how easy it was to use! Even though it was a low end phone, it did everything I really needed in a way that I intuitively could understand. My expensive Samsung ended up in desk drawer where it still remains.

The App Gap
When I bought my first Windows phone, I had not even heard of the “app gap”. What is it? Most articles on Windows phone will state something like this “Apple and Android have 1,500,000 apps but Windows has only 500,000”. And that is probably correct, give and take a few thousand, but what does it mean? Does it mean that one will have a less satisfying experience when using a Windows phone? Not at all. The core apps that people use 90% of the time are available on all three platforms.

In real life, people don’t spend a lot of time perusing the app store and downloading a suite of apps—it would take a lifetime to check even just the 500,000 Windows apps. Research shows that most people use Facebook 50% of the time, and a few other apps, the rest of their time on their phones. So the app gap is not a real factor when considering a Windows phone.

Finally
Don’t let technical review articles, or incompetent sales staff quoting the app gap ad nauseam, put you off. Windows phones are readily available from the Microsoft store, as well as online from Amazon.

You will appreciate just how easy it is to learn and use the phone. Your real life experience with Windows phone will be a pleasant surprise.

This old video, dating from the time I heard Kevin O’Leary mention Windows phone, still explains it well.

Windows on my Phone

nokia 620I tried Windows 8 and I hated it.

And now I have Windows 8 on my phone! That’s right, I have replaced my Samsung with a Nokia Lumia 620.

I never really mastered the Android interface but lately I have been playing with a Surface tablet to see if it could be a good platform for teaching computers (see my previous post). In the process I found Windows 8 being more likeable the more I used it.

So then the penny dropped. I now also know how to use a Windows phone. Not only that, I get the same access to Skydrive, the Office Applications, and more. As a strategy Windows 8 started to make sense to me.

As my budget is tight, I bought the phone through Amazon. It is not the top of the range of Windows phones but it suited my purposes. Oh my, then I discovered I had to assemble, install the SIM card, and activate the phone myself. It was a learning curve but only took about a half hour to do. I am quite proud of myself.

I certainly plan on putting online courses together for both the Surface and the Windows phone, and how one can use them together. This appears to be rather tricky as one operates the devices by touch. So I am planning a setup where I will have a video camera pointing to the devices. Hmmm, more on that later too.