A Windows Phone 8 and Lumia 920 Review from a platform agnostic

With the release of the Lumia and Windows Phone 8, I decided that it was finally time to make the change over to windows phone. I won't lie and say I didn't go into my switch with some major reservations. In the end some of these have turned out to be somewhat justified, and others, well they have turned out to be non-issues so far.

Let me start with the phone. I think the hardware is absolutely gorgeous. I purchased the matte black version, although my first desire was for the cyan one. Ultimately I went with what was in stock locally because color wasn't a deal breaker, and I had to get rid of my last phone.

The phone itself is well put together. It's a big device, and yes, it is a bit weighty, but to me it isn't anything I even notice or think about unless I'm holding another phone. And even then it really doesn't bother me. I think the thickness and weight issue is overblown, but I suppose for some people it may be a problem.

The rest of the hardware is fantastic though. The camera takes great pictures for a phone (and not horrible when comparing to many point and shoot cameras). The screen is gorgeous, bright, and just very nice all around. The placement of the power button took some getting used to, but after a few days I'm already used to is, and it is a non-issue. Reception and call quality have been perfect, and LTE speeds are fantastic.

Now, on to the real area I'd like to talk about, which is Windows Phone 8. For the last 2 1/2 years I've been using both Android and iOS, with Android getting more use from me than iOS. Prior to that I was using iOS for a bit over a year exclusively. So needless to say, I've got plenty of experience with both of those platforms at this point.

The live tiles were the first thing that really jumped out at me. I wasn't sure what I was going to think about them, because in all honesty videos and everything don't really give you any feel for how you'll feel about them in practice. There are good and bad for the tiles, with my feeling leaning towards good. I love that they are easy to quickly organize, and that they will generally show the information that I am wanting to view. Setting them up to show what I want them to from some apps is a bit of a pain, and I think that it is something that MS could stand to work on. The setting up of some of them was just a bit more trouble than I feel like it should have been. Also I have noticed that some of them have a tendency to stop updating info when there is updated info. Even when loading the app up to give it the most recent data. I don't know what the root of that issue is, but I suspect it's just a glitch that will be fixed eventually.

One of my top concerns with moving over to WP8 was a loss of funtionality that Android provided it's users through Google's many services. I was worried about how well the phone would work with gmail, and how well the maps would be in comparison to google's phenomenal maps here in the states. I will say that there was some loss of functionality or quality in the transition. The maps are good, but not as good as Google's, and launching navigation from the map is something I have yet to figure out how to do. I have had to either do my searches from Nokia's Drive app, or find the address in the maps and then put it into the navigation app. Not a deal breaker, but not as easy as it is in Android and iOS.

On the whole the maps situation mirrors the rest of the system level apps. Email is good, but android's gmail client seems a bit better. The NFC is nice, but not having google wallet kind of takes away from it a bit. The music player is fine, but the iPhone wipes the floor with it. The browser is quick and everything is smooth, but it doesn't feel as good as the iPhone's browser. Bing searches work......but when you're used to google it takes some getting used to.

Now before you take this all as me coming in here bashing and just trying to rile people up, I'll say that that isn't the case at all. Because here's the strange thing; individually each one of the system level apps is bettered or equalled on Android and or iOS. But as an entire package, I think Windows Phone actually outshines both of them. Everything in the software just seems to work together. The different services are tied together so much better than anything in Android or iOS, that the overall experience of the whole package ends up being more than the sum of the parts.

The final area I'd like to address is the 3rd party app situation. This has been beat to death here, and everywhere, and in some cases greatly overblown, and in plenty of cases massively swept under the rug. There are a good number of apps in the store, and there are the majority of the biggest apps out there. The problem I see is there are still plenty of holes in the app selection, and plenty of the "big" apps aren't really apps at all, just a script to launch IE and send it to the respective mobile site.

So in all, I actually have to say that I think Microsoft has done a fantastic job with WP8. The polish of the software is fantastic, and aside from some software glitches that I expect to be patched in the upcoming months I have little to complain about. A notification center will be nice, but with the live tiles I don't feel like I'm missing much without it. If Microsoft can work hard to lure developers into their platform, and to encourage them to release and update their apps with their best quality of work, I think the WP8 may actually be the ticket to broad adoption for Windows Phone. If not....well I'm sure they'll keep throwing money at it until it sticks. For me though, Windows Phone 8 is my now.