Windows Phone 8 GDR2 update with Lumia “Amber” – Windows Phone Gets Even Better

Since April of this year, I’ve been using a Windows 8 phone on the Verizon network; specifically a Nokia Lumia 822, Verizon’s “free” Windows phone (when I received it – I dislike laying out money for handsets). I loved it when I got it then (Read Windows Phone 8: a Very Worthy Underdog); I’m more in love with it now that Microsoft and Nokia have released their updates.

Included in the Microsoft GDR2 and  Nokia Lumia “Amber” updates are better camera functionality, phone storage improvements, bug fixes etc., but some of the best updates for this user are also the most decidedly simple.

Glance Screen

Nokia has had this feature in the past, and now that it’s back, one has to wonder why it ever went away. Using the camera to sense a change in lighting, the Peek Screen shows the time and battery and ringer statuses without having to press a single button on an inactive phone. Having stopped wearing watches long ago because my phones have had clocks in them, it’s really nice to be able to simply remove my phone from my pocket, glance down at the time, and put it back without going through the gyrations of finding the power button and pressing it to see the time, then pressing it again to shut off the lock screen. When the phone sits on my desk, I simply wave my hand over the phone to see the time. After 10:00 PM, the “night mode” kicks in and the time is displayed in red so as not to disturb others in a darkened room.

FM Radio

Nokia sells its phones predominantly in European markets where monthly data plans are almost nonexistent; most people opt for prepaid services. In order to conserve data, Nokia has included an FM radio on the chipset they use in many of their phones. Windows Phone 7 supported FM radio, but the original Windows Phone 8 release did not. The GDR2 update brings back support for this functionality, and I use it almost constantly. Again, a low-tech feature, but one that lets me listen to ballgames and other local radio stations without using my precious data allotment and some app wanting to gather data about me before allowing me to listen. By plugging in a wired headset which the phone uses as the radio antenna, I can listen anywhere, even when there is no WiFi, or even cell service.

Flip-to-Silence

Another simple feature and another win for Nokia. Have you ever been in a meeting with a client or your boss and your phone starts ringing? You then have to find the “ignore” button, hit it, and apologize. With the Nokia 822 (and other Nokia phones) simply turn the phone over and it goes quiet. One has to wonder why this feature isn’t on every phone.

In Conclusion:

The new update has not been out for long, but I’m already spoiled by the added functionality. It’s like getting a new phone for free all over again. The new functions and improvements, added to an already great user experience, make me very happy indeed that I “took the risk” and went with Windows Phone instead of an Apple or Android product.

If you’re looking for a new smartphone, I would recommend that you at least take a look at the Windows offerings; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.