Windows Phone 8 – A Very Worthy Underdog

I’ve always been the fan of the underdog. I can go through “March Madness” rooting for one team, and then switch teams in the final game, just because the team I was rooting for became the favorite. I’m a Red Sox fan, and was long before they won a World Series. My tablet computer is an HP Touchpad (now running a dual-boot of WebOS and Android). Until recently, I had what Verizon “lovingly” called a feature phone. When it died, I was faced with the realization that there was really no good replacement for it. I would have to upgrade to a smart phone. So, with the choices available to me, I quickly narrowed the field to one… I went with a Nokia Lumia 822 running Windows Phone 8 (WP8).

WP8 uses the same “Live Tiles” setup as Windows 8, the OS I currently run on my laptop, so I can’t really even say that there was a learning curve at all. If anything, the WP8 experience is everything Windows 8 on a laptop wants to be. The start screen on the phone is easy to use. Tiles can be sized (3 sizes) and arranged so you can group your apps by importance, function, or any other way you feel like arranging them. The OS is blazingly fast using 4G or WiFi (I haven’t been in a situation where I’ve had to use 3G yet) and there are plenty of visual themes to play with. Voice recognition is excellent (at least it is for me), and the phone takes commands and dictation well.

In addition to all of this, the phone comes with Microsoft Office.

TAC (The Advisory Council) recently went to the cloud with Exchange 365, and as I said before, I run Windows 8 so I figured it should be an easy task connecting exchange to the phone… and it couldn’t have been simpler. It was, in fact, easier than connecting my laptop. My contacts, calendar, and email sync effortlessly, regardless of which device I use to enter information.

Let’s talk about the Apps and accounts for a minute. Email accounts set up very quickly, and if you have several accounts as I do, you can link (aggregate) them together in the email app to minimize clutter on your start screen. I have all of my personal accounts under one tile, and my business email under another one. Calendars are also aggregated under one app, with selectable colors for each calendar so your personal calendar events appear differently than your business ones.  Appointments are as easy to set on the phone as they are on a laptop with Outlook.The “People Hub” aggregates your contacts from Exchange, Facebook, and pretty much anywhere else you have contacts located. Just like with email, you can link contacts together so you don’t have 5 John Smith’s in your address book, all of whom are the same person. Getting your content (pics, music, movies, etc.) on and off the phone is done through an app that sits on your Windows 8 laptop or desktop. again the app is well designed, and easy to use.

While the app store is not as full as Google Play and Apple’s App Store, it has the apps that I need; primarily productivity and social media apps. There are even several “Siri-like” apps that work very well, although they don’t have Siri’s sense of humor. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress all have apps, and where an app is missing, there is generally a third-party one to take its place.

True multitasking (something you still can’t do on an iPhone) is simple; switching between open apps requires a “long hold” on the back button exposing the open apps, then scroll to the app you want and tap it. The only quirk in WP8 is that the only way to shut off an app is to completely back out of it, or go to the phone settings and kill it there. One would think that a swipe down or an “X” in the upper right hand corner would be appropriate, maybe it will be included with the next Windows Phone release.

As for the handset, the Nokia Lumia 822 works for me. For one thing, it was free (with a two-year contract and $30/month Data plan), and I don’t like paying for stuff when I don’t have to. I find the screen to be bright and easy to read, the screen size is more than adequate, it feels good in the hand and it’s not too big in the pocket. Memory is expandable; the unit will take a microSD behind the removable back cover – which means that you can also replace the battery, two things you can’t do with an iPhone. There are an adequate number of ringtones and alert tones, both from Nokia and Microsoft. An 8 megapixel camera with 1080p video is included, as is a front facing low res camera for video calls and “selfies”.

In all, WP8 is what a smart phone OS should be all about; fast, intuitive, customizable, and easy to configure and use. Being late to the mobile game, Microsoft is truly the underdog, but has the pedigree to make believers out of iPhone and Android fans.

I’m rooting for it.