OS agnostic takes on a Lumia 800

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I recently bought a Lumia 800 on amazon for fairly cheap. Cheap enough for an impulse buy. As predicted my girlfriend wasn’t happy to find out I got another phone alongside my iPhone 4 and Galaxy Nexus, the latter which has been my daily driver since it was released.

When I first bought it and opened the box, I drooled over the hardware. The smooth matte plastic casing, the curved screen. It all seemed to melt together into one cohesive unit. I have to hand it to Nokia, they built some sexy hardware. For me personally, they nailed it ergonomically as it fits great in the hands. Oh how I loved the hardware. The fluidity of the software was great, the flourishes and touches made it really nice to use. Scrolling and panning around the browser suffered no stutters.

Once I settled down and began using it as my daily driver, the hardware, as much as I loved it, couldn’t make up for what I thought was lacking in the software department. I was saddened as I did have hopes for this WP7 device.

1) Multitasking
This was probably by far my biggest gripe. It made me feel like I was in 2009 again. iPhone in 2009 didn’t have multitasking yet and Android, while it did have it, was painfully slow at opening up apps. I use whatsapp and other chat mediums a lot and to see a splash screen as I swap between apps and conversations really bottle-necked my flow. As much as WP7 has always been about get in and get out this made me get out and stay out. Or at least until I could bear the wait times once more. I know in real terms it probably doesn’t add much time but as with all mobile OSes the perception of speed is important. That is why MS worked so hard in making WP7 as fluid as it can be.

If WP7 was meant to be so easy to use, why must one use the multitasking menu to swap back to an app state? Using this menu isn’t much better as the app is merely in a frozen state without actually having updated. (This is a problem I have with iOS that it has a notification telling you there is something going on and it requires you to open the app and then wait for the information to come in). Another irk I have with the multitasking menu is the fact that you have to long press home back to get to it. Long presses in mobile OSes feel like a stab in the dark, you’re not sure if there is a long press present and when it does appear you’re not sure what will come up. Having to long press the back key doesn’t scream as obvious to me. It also harks back to it feeling like you’re waiting for something to happen. This momentary pause (although in real terms, probably adds very little) just puts a break into your flow. It feels like when you’re driving along the motorway at a constant speed and someone suddenly pulls out in front of you and you suddenly put on the brakes. In real terms, it hasn’t really added much to your journey time but it feels jarring nonetheless.

2) Metro home screen
I love the idea of this. In practice, I used not that many of the first party ones and as a result I just had a block of colour with the icon that didn’t update. This is like iOS but worse as there are less icons on the screen! I’m not sure what is happening in WP8 but MS really needs to let developers really sink their teeth into the live tiles so that 3rd party developers can make their tiles as appealing and gorgeous as the MS ones. As there are only 2 sizes the look gets rather monotonous but I can’t wait for WP8 when they finally have the wee small one too! This will alleviate the fact that it feels there is a lot of wasted space on the start screen and the apps list.

3) Apps
Chicken-egg, egg chicken.

4) Freedom
This is one I’ve thought about for a while. Although WP presents itself as having more freedom than iOS but with less unruliness of Android, I didn’t find this to be the case. With such a great jailbreak community, I actually managed to change things on the iPhone and iPad without suffering any consequences. NCSettings and activator allow me to have toggles and essentially assign any hardware key or action to do what I want. Browser changer allows me to set Chrome as my default browser and I can change to use Sparrow as my email client on the phone. Microsoft, please let me to use something other than Bing as my search please? Please let me use Chrome so I can sync my tabs?

With MS having such a great hardware partner, it’s really up to MS to deliver with WP8 which I have quiet hopes for. My first two issues I’m pretty sure will be dealt with but the last 2 I’m not so sure about. I’m hoping Windows 8 will drive development of WP8 apps too which will increase the user base and maybe then we’ll have as great a dev community as Android/iOS.

So the ball is in your court, Microsoft.