Nokia Lumia 1020: First week’s impressions of Windows Phone

CN Tower at night

The CN Tower in Toronto, shot at night without flash on Nokia Lumia 1020

It has now been a week since I got the Nokia Lumia 1020.
The phone feels great in your hand.
The photos are very good.
You do feel like you live on an island.

Windows Phone is still a novelty.

I love the flat design and once you get its implementation of panels, its interface seems more fluid than iOS’ dependency on tabs. The user interface’s fit and finish are polished and smooth, nothing like the noisy bumpy experience on Android.

I am what I believe is an enterprise user.
I need impeccable email and calendar experience, as close as you would get in Outlook (however frustrating it is sometimes). Windows Phone is not there. It is smooth, but close (see gripes below). Microsoft can and should improve on this, but who do you talk to in order to ask?

Presently, with a week left for me to return the phone, I am swaying between keeping it and getting the new iPhone 5s. Below are some of the impressions I gathered over the last week.

General Observations and Likes

  • To see Active/Backgrounded apps, touch and hold the back (left arrow) button. You can then switch apps directly. There is no way, as far as I found, to shut an app down this way.
  • Nokia put the phone’s NFC reader at the top of the device. I love this decision as most Android phones require you to rub phones against each other (more so than tapping) until you find the NFC antenna. What is odd is that the phone natively could not ‘understand’ an NFC enabled business card beyond offering me to dial the number. Further investigation is necessary.
  • The overall concept is to pin the apps you use most frequently to your home screen. Otherwise, searching for them in the alphabetical list can be tiring. Android offers you both home screen and app listing; iOS does not. Android wins for a change.
  • Battery life is generally very good.
  • My local library’s digital book and audiobook loan app, Overdrive, is available on Windows Phone.
  • I love the live tiles but most apps do not use it to the fullest extent. Twitter just makes an icon. Facebook reminds you of your latest post (real necessary) but shows a comment counter. LinkedIn seems to work better than its iOS or Android versions, but that’s setting the bar real low.
  • The People app manages your contacts. It is also fascinating tool that gathers all posts from any social network and mixes them up for you. Love that. But you cannot post using it. The app keeps track of your interactions with people, but misses out on showing their social activity even when it has that information. It is also impossible to actually contribute posts. You CAN share to multiple networks at once – you just need to know how.
    • To post simultaneously to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn you need to switch to the ‘Me’ view inside of the People app. To get there you tap the ‘Me’ tile on your home screen or the ‘Me’ icon on top of your contact list (see image). This is good stuff.

      The Me view icon

      The ‘Me’ view icon

  • You *can* share to multiple networks from Internet Explorer (share page) and the camera apps, but a textual post is outside the scope (or my comprehension) of this otherwise terrific app.
  • The People app even has a brilliant idea – rooms and groups – ability to share posts, imagery, videos, with other users in a controlled fashion. Something like Path or Google+ circles but many times over and under your control. Naturally, this is a difficult thing to accomplish because, well, who uses Windows Phone other than me?
  • The camera grip (free with phone purchase at the Microsoft store, saving you $75) is pretty cool. It gives you an external battery, adds a two-stage camera shutter button (focus, then shoot), as well a tripod mount. Very lovely.
  • Rebtel does not work on WiFi, or I was unable to find out how to coax it to use WiFi for calls.

Deficiencies and Issues

  • I expect Microsoft, as the company cornering the productivity market, to give me power when it comes to email and calendaring. Instead, the same dumbification route taken with Outlook for Mac was followed by the Exchange email client:
    • It is impossible to add or edit text in an email reply. This matters in situations when an email holds a lot of questions and you want to answer them in context. Android has this limitation as well; iOS does not.
    • You can only add attendees to a meeting if they are in your contact list. In other words, it is impossible to just enter an email address to invite a person to a meeting.
  • There are a bazillion camera apps. It gets cumbersome rather quickly and you find yourself at a loss mapping what tool to use in what situation.
    • Nokia Pro Cam offers the most options. Almost pro – no control over aperture, but the results are still fantastic, period.
    • Smart Cam has tricks of its own
    • Panorama? Got another app. Like the iPhone and Android, it captures a disappointing resolution to avoid creating a big file.
    • The native Windows Phone camera app,
    • Cinemagraph handles god knows what
    • Creative studio allows you to add effects
    • The photo gallery offers you the ability to edit a photo, but in most cases that did not work (e.g. crop as much as you want, it does not save the crop)
  • The phone has to be on when charging. iOS does that too. You need to put the phone into airplane mode to avoid buzzing or alerts (no ‘Do not disturb’ state as in iOS).
  • Want to play videos and skip ahead? you cannot. The native video player seems unable to skip to a later point in the video. Tedious.
  • Internet Explorer, while generally capable, has no incognito or private browsing (needed for testing web projects without any cookies applied)
  • The phone’s magnificent 38 megapixels images can only be downloaded to a PC. Not even Skydrive gets those, apparently, which is a shame and pain. LTE and 802.11n or ac were born to transfer 12MB image files without breaking a sweat.
  • Getting the phone in and out of the camera grip is a bit ugly. The plastic snaps holding it require you to use some force.

Posted from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *