Windows Phone 8.1 has my attention now
I've had an iPhone since the 3GS (I have a 5S right now) but I'm always flirting with the Windows Phone. It's just prettier than my iPhone, but my iPhone has a lot of apps...so I stay with it. Folks tease me at work and at conferences for not using a Windows Phone. I always say "when it's an awesome phone platform, I'll use it."
Man, Windows Phone 8.1 is definitely more than "point 1 better." Seriously.
It's the platform Windows Phone should have been from the beginning. From a general functionality perspective, this 8.1 update brings the Windows Phone (finally) on par with my iPhone 5s, and in some cases, takes it beyond. It's REALLY tempting now.
There's a lot of new stuff, but a few things really grabbed my attention that my iPhone doesn't have yet:
- Notification Center - Finally. Swipe down from the top and get notifications in one place. Just like an iPhone you get quick access buttons for airplane mode, wireless, etc. Even better, those buttons are configurable. I added Internet Sharing to mine. You can also swipe down then press Settings as a fast way to get to the main settings page.
- Transparent Live Tiles - You can use a background image for your whole start screen, and it will show through transparent tiles. It also has a nice parallax effect when scrolling. Check it out in the video below.
- "Show more Tiles" on smaller resolution devices - The 1520 on the right has the 1080p screen, while the 920 is a lower resolution screen. Previously only high-res screens got the extra column of tiles. Now smaller screen devices can choose their start screen size and add LOTS more info to a single screen.
- Pinnable Website Tiles - This one surprised me. I recently added support to my blog for IE11 Pinned Tiles, so you can pin this website to your start screen and get an updated Live Tile showing the latest stories. I talked to the front end developer at The Verge and he added the feature for theverge.com as well. His implementation is REALLY impressive. The surprise was that Windows Phone 8.1 now supports that same technique and I didn't need to do anything. See on the 920 on the right, at the bottom, that's a pinned flipped tile showing a story from my blog. Very nice.
- Cortana Voice Assistant - You could say this is the Windows' Siri, but it's more like Google Now with a personality. The voice recognition happens as you speak as opposed to after the fact, which is nice. You can ask questions like "How old is Oprah" and she (or he) just knows. You can say "Call my wife" and she'll say "Who is your wife?" then associate a contact with that nomenclature.
- Quiet Hours - I use Do Not Disturb on my iPhone. Quiet Hours takes this a little further with the concept of an "Inner Circle" and a more sophisticated series of configurable rules like "Don't bother me at night on weekdays unless it's these three people, and text everyone else back that I'm not answering calls."
- Driving Mode - This was added in a Windows Phone 8 update but I love it. It knows you're driving because you associate your cars' Bluetooth with it, then it will text folks "I'm driving, I'll get back to you" if they text you. You can choose to never see the text until you stop. Very cool.
- Keyboard Swiping - It's built into the main keyboard now, no separate app. The predictive text has gotten better as well.
- Battery Sense - The phone can tell you what apps are eating the battery, and when they are eating it. It'll show if the battery is being used by apps in the background or in the foreground.
I recorded a video on a real phone (the 1520 above, in fact) and demonstrated a LOT of the new feature. Check it out as part of my Windows 8 YouTube video playlist, or embedded below. I used the Project My Screen app (MSI) and turned it on in Settings on the phone, connected with USB.
If you have a Windows Phone 8 now and want to get the preview of Windows Phone 8.1:
- Go register free at http://appstudio.windowsphone.com.
- Then go to "Windows Phone Preview for Developers" and install the "Preview for Developers" app.
- Go to Settings, then System Update and update your phone. Depending on how up-to-date your phone is, this might take 2-3 visits. One of my phone needed just one update, another needed 3. It'll take 10-15 min.
If you get the Preview today,your phone will update to the final version automatically, I'm told. Go check it out!
- From Concept to Code in 6 hours: Shipping my first Windows Phone App
- Updating my Windows Phone App to Windows Phone 8
- Trying a Nokia Lumia 1020 - A Camera with a Phone Inside
- "I can't even think about switching phones without these apps." Windows Phone 7, a Nokia Lumia 800 and the Essential Apps
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Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
No matter how good a mobile phone OS is, if the majority of popular apps are not on it, the OS doesn't matter much. It will be an isolated phone whose longer term usability will wear off soon.
I used to have a Windows Phone 7 and I would get disappointing when a popular app I felt is useful to me was not available. I switched to Android and I am happy with how open it is and the number of app options available and how easy it is to sideload apps.
SwiftKey is a cool keyboard replacement app. iOS doesn't allow keyboard replacements. I don't know if Windows Phone allows them. I bet SwiftKey with a whole company behind it is going to beat any OS built-in keyboard. The fact it's a separate app has no bearing because it's totally seamless across all the Android apps. That's a big win for Android.
Still, good job for MS in continuously improving WP and not giving up.
Cortana is cool, though I don't know that I'll ever use it enough to really take full advantage of all the features, voice control is just not for me. Works great for setting reminders, though.
As far as apps, all the major ones that I care about are there (though the Flickr app looks like it hasn't been updated since WP 7 - still works, but doesn't integrate with some of the newer social features).
The "quick settings" on the notification screen are great, though ostensibly the most useful toggle, cellular data, is presently not available as an option there.
Overall, I think it's a great update to an already strong platform and definitely worth a shot. The things people spend most of their time on a smartphone doing (taking pictures, texting, using social media and browsing the web) are all best in class experiences.
I think the "lack of apps" is mostly a myth outside of goofy vendor specific things which are generally just website wrappers anyway.
I'm not a really big app user so I don't really miss any.
I've been with Windows Phone since the HTC8X and 8.1 really made my day.
My Samsungs have done this forever.
"Transparent Live Tiles - You can use a background image for your whole start screen, and it will show through transparent tiles."
Some widgets have transparent sections, so again this has been on my Samsungs forever (and you can also have live backgrounds if you hate your battery).
"Cortana Voice Assistant - You could say this is the Windows' Siri, but it's more like Google Now"
Again, had it forever.
"Quiet Hours - I use Do Not Disturb on my iPhone. Quiet Hours takes this a little further with the concept of an "Inner Circle" and a more sophisticated series of configurable rules like "Don't bother me at night on weekdays unless it's these three people, and text everyone else back that I'm not answering calls."
I've used Blocking Mode on my last two Samsungs. It also allows a contact list of people that can get through.
Of course. Again, forever.
"Keyboard Swiping - It's built into the main keyboard now, no separate app."
Samsung comes with Swype as an option. Has for years.
"Battery Sense - The phone can tell you what apps are eating the battery, and when they are eating it. "
This, too, has been on Android forever (since 4.0?)
It's nice that Windows Phone now has the capabilities of a Samsung Galaxy S2 (except for the selection of apps). But, I guess this list shows how truly behind Apple is these days.
@davidcoder - you're going to have to hold on to that iPhone 5 since Apple is hotly rumored to be going bigger with their next wave of phones. I personally would love a bit more weight if that meant a bigger batter and wireless charging.
@Abdu - things have changed since the Samsung Focus. A significant majority of the mainstream/popular apps are on Windows Phone. Candy Crush is not. If Candy Crush is your concern than do not get a Windows Phone. If you must have the latest fad apps, I'm not sure why you haven't gone iPhone...they get apps MONTHS before Android.
@PRMan - ALL of my tiles that show in the main section of my start screen are transparent. Cortana goes beyond Google Now is areas. GN doesn't have People-centric reminders. Google Now doesn't keep the data mined from email LOCAL and off Google Servers. Wordlow swipe typing is more accurate than Swype and faster too. A low end Windows Phone just beat a big fancy Samsung for the World Record. I'm not sure why you feel the need to minimize what Windows Phone has done, but if you enjoy your Samsung, enjoy it. It's not a religion - no one is forcing you to convert. A little investigation would reveal however that Windows Phone has taken steps to move beyond the competition. I'm sure the competition will respond and that is why competition is great.
Background pictures are distracting.
However, I found out that they are are great feature nonetheless. Because I can create unicolored pictures, I can circumvent the useless limitation of only 20 colors Windows Phone makes me choose from and can set virtually ANY color I want for my live tiles after all!
I developed a little Windows Phone 8.1 app that takes on the business of creating an image with the correct screen size. This way you have the color of your (real) choice at your fingertips (literally) and have your live tile color changed in no time. Great for corporate identities!
You can get an impression of what the app does here:
You can download the app from the Windows Phone Store here:
Do us little people (who don't know how to code), simply underestimate the difficulty it takes to create this stuff? Were we just being impatient? Was MS building a mountain from the ground up and they simply could not get this stuff in from the start? Or do they really move so slowly up there at MS that 3.5 years is an acceptable time to wait?
I'm very happy the wait is over, and I really hope the apps start raining down.
Recording Windows Phone screens using tools like Camstudio is a pain in the ass... and prone to performance problems. I believe, Microsoft can do better. ;-)
Do you know anything about further development plans?
Are updates controlled by AT&T or Microsoft? I had a Lumia 900, and the update lag was intolerable. Worse than Android.
The Windows phone looks great. And in the desktop space, I like Microsoft software (including Windows) far better than Apple software, so it would be nice to be 100% in the Microsoft ecosystem on both the desktop and mobile platforms.
But until the app selection on Windows phone is at least comparable to what's available on iPhone, I won't seriously consider switching.
Scott, who can you talk to about this? :)
If the app ecosystem starts to level off as well, I could see myself going back to Windows Phone. Some of the really simple things like pinning groups of contacts or individual contacts to the home screen were so convenient. I just always felt I was lacking an apps here and there. Maybe that's changed in the last 12-18 months. I hope so.
Hack to get around it, if you want to try out Cortana:
Phones are phablets now, and that's the direction they'll continue to evolve in. Even Apple is realising this.
Probably time to stop justifying why to stay on the slowly eroding IOS and hop into the future. Apple is so old school and uncool now it's not funny. Those cutting edge days are long gone.
I'm on a Lumia 1520, yes its massive, but combined with WP8.1 this truly feels like a leap-ahead device. Absolutely loving it, and a real experience to use every single day.
And even without Cortana (french here, no Cortana available yet), the update makes my 18 months 920 is looking like a new phone (not really sure I will change in near future).
I am noticing few changes there; but I hope this is developer preview only thing and final Windows Phone 8.1 will continue to have that transparent Facebook + Twitter integrations and Hub concept and will add even more social services! (Flickr + Instagram in Pictures Hub?)
Worked on a Lumia 625.
Would be totally kick-ass!
What about transparent tiles for pinned site?
Also, I hope they fix all IE11 issues with rendering and animation. There are few new CSS3 features but rendering and animation gotten worse over IE10.
The way it handles email, office docs and social media in a way that strips away the android eye candy leaving me to focus on just responding to events is just awesome. The increase in tiles and display real estate is just awesome.
I tell people it is the iPhone replacement and has a higher uptake in Uganda amongst te BYOD and business phone crowd in Uganda.
1) Huge header/title texts and all those blocky rectangles.
--- Yup, hate those huge blocky rectangles inside any apps though it depends upon how the app is designed.
2) App list is a mess. No way to group apps. The search icon on All Apps screen is at the top left, violating the same Metro paradigm that places the search icon on the lower command bar.
--- Could not agree more on every single word!! The app list needs much revisiting.
3) The UI transition in WP is ugly and slow, with tiles slowing flying away on the start screen when u tap on an app. Transition should be a smooth fade in and fade out, almost flipboard'ish.
--- I like the WP transition effects. But hate the loading animation.
4) The start screen should scroll horizontally just like Windows 8, Android, or iOS and should be paged.
--- THIS! Wouldn't it be easier to swipe left right and access the tiles!
There should be a quick launch bar at the bottom where user can pin their app. The spacing between tiles should be slightly increase cause WP8 looks like a clutter mess.
--- No, please.
iPhone Do Not Disturb will let people on your Favorite list through with call and text.
But one also has to say that the dev preview is disappointing in parts for me as a WP user since 2011. I still can't download email attachments (we use Zimbra at work which acts as a Microsoft Exchange server and this problem can not be reproduced with iPhones and Androids)
Text selection has become so bad I regularly curse now while typing on the phone because the tap and hold doesn't create the cursor anymore which could be freely moved in a text box. I'm really really angry about that!
Last but not least I of course don't understand why Cortana and some other functions like Quiet Hours need to be locked to the USA. I used the workaround of setting my language/region to English/USA and Cortana works reasonably well. It understands me perfectly although I speak English with a German accent, and it provides useful answers most of the time. (tip of the hat to your colleagues in the NLP team!) So why can't this be offered to phones set to eg English as UI language and any region? Since it's declared beta no one could even complain.😉
Also, I don't know if it's a preview issue (hopefully) but no videos will play anymore. I get the audio, but the screen freezes. Back button or home button still work to get me out of it.
Also hate the dual volume controls... big step backwards IMHO.
You can set nicknames for your inner circle and Cortana will recognize what contact you want to do what with.
When in settings swipe to applications and locate "Photos & Camera"
scroll down until you find Default Camera app and from the drop box choose "Nokia Camera" this will override the default that says "Microsoft Camera".
Thank you to the team at Nokia for solving a mystery, you just made my phone take that extra leap to happiness!
You clearly can't appreciate European design. Look, If you would all take the time to learn the OS and stop looking at it with the eyes of an iSheep or a Fandroid, and just approach it with an open mind.
Everything in the consumer world is designed differently, each to the company's vision and design doctrine. And they all excel. Windows Phone is not designed to be an IPhone or Android replacement, it is designed to be a Windows Phone.
Is a VW designed to be a BMW or a Mercedes? No. A VW is designed to be of a high quality but cost less to buy and much less to operate.
A Nokia device is designed to be of a high quality, but cost less to buy and to own? They are also built to last. I know that because of contracts and upgrades, many don't realise that Samsungs and iPhones have an expiration date on them, as the not only have a lower resale value than legacy Nokia's but the are destined to spend time in the cell phone grave yard of eBay.
While everyone is spending more to buy a Galaxy or an iPhone ( you still are paying for it in your contracts) and then spending huge sums on subscription fees.
I will continue to buy a Nokia device, that not only cost less to own, but it includes many useful features at NO EXTRA cost. And the phone will last much longer meaning that I don;t have to spend extra in two years to upgrade. iPhones and Samsungs have been known to lose functionality of the WiFi radios and other problems (the evidence is all over eBay)
At the moment the hubs have pretty much disappeared, there is no longer facebook messenger integration in the messaging hub when I was expecting an API for all apps like kik, whatsapp, skype... to integrate more closely if anything giving us continuous conversation no matter the medium. Pretty much the same story for the pictures hub, perhaps this will change later when API's are available.
The other annoying thing for me is now games show in the App list not just in the games hub as before which was a nice logical separation it also had a coll feature of showing the last 3 used games at the top which covered 99% of my usage. The games hub now updates on every load making it too slow and useless. I want the old functionality back or even better a second swipe left for the games list.
I'm pretty sure that an iPhone has a much higher resale value than a Nokia Windows Phone. I'm not sure where you would read that is otherwise.
iPhone has always been considered one of the tops if not the top in terms of quality. It's weird that you could somehow perceive one of their known strengths as a weakness.
I've had an iPhone since the iPhone 3g. I've tried a couple of different Android phones and they just didn't "take" I'm seriously considering the Nokia Lumia Icon now. I think the apps in the Windows Phone apps store are sufficient for my liking and honestly I'm bored with the iPhone.
It also had the first xenon flash. it came with an FM transmitter, 12MP camera, Pentaband GSM, HDMI connections(the first with it) dual charging points, the first with Clear black display etc etc etc. They are very high on the resale market because they have many things in side.
Thats why I still have mine.
I have been tasked to buy the iPhone for my customers and that same iPhone 3g you sued to have develops faults, such as black spots, missing pixels, non working WiFi and other components.
The iPhone has a good quality outer design but the components are second rate compared to Nokia phones. It is the same issue with Korean brands. They don't last long.
I stick with Nokia because you get forward thinking, quality and a lot more for your money.
Nokia likes placing easter eggs in their phones.
That said, I think Microsoft is getting closer to realizing the goal that was interesting about the Ubuntu Phone project: the ability to dock a phone and have a desktop. Yes, Motorola and I imagine others have tried it, but Motorola's implementation, I believe, was more or less just screen mirroring with laptop peripheral support. Ubuntu and WinPhone seem to be going in the right direction here. Will it replace your gaming desktop? No. Will it allow you to do some "lighter" work in a pinch? I hope so. And for those that don't want a gaming desktop, it could eventually lead to having one device to do all of these things, which isn't bad, especially for those that can't afford various form factors.
Btw, Cortana holds the context. So, for example, you can ask:
- S: What's the weather looks like today?
- C: The weather in Portland blah
- S: What about Boston?
- C: The weather in Boston blah
- S: Good restaurants near me
- C: Here is the list
- S: Directions to the first one
- C: Giving you directions ...
For all the Windows Phone Fans (using 8.1). We have created an easy way where everyone of you can exchange his or her start screens with all other #WinPhans. Just click on the following link from your phone; it will install the free app and automatically redirect you to the Start Screen album: http://goo.gl/YRwl29
The app's name is Picturex (https://picturex.ch). It can not only exchange Start Screens but literally any picture taken at an event. So you can exchange your pictures with all your friends (soon also iOS and Android friends) in a private picture album where everyone can upload his pictures & download the ones of his choice! :)
André (one of the developers of Picturex)
Now, I will look at windows 8.1 phones more closely.
Until they're more universal a la iPhone, HTC, and Samsung, it is too much effort to get interested in. I don't have to have the latest and greatest, but while I like the Lumia 930's look and build, a lot, I won't be switching as the only real option is Verizon, and forget paying $130/month for 2GB of data and unlimited text/voice that you're forced into (really, I use maybe 500 minutes a month and that's generous). Lumia 930 with AT&T's LTE spectrum being supported? Would be awesome. However, even then I'd almost bet it would be a carrier branded one and considering I use MVNOs, that's pretty useless to me (not sure if carrier bloatware is on WP devices or not, but even still, having the carrier branding for a device I'd want to be "global" and would pay outright for seems silly).
The downside is that it'll change everything to English (not much of an issue if you're in an English speaking country...) and all the Bing apps will also assume that region. But, with the exception of Bing search, you can manually set the region in each individual app to whatever you like. Also, Cortana's weather forecast is in Fahrenheit, and you, as far as I can tell, can't change that.
The thing with the imperial units is silly, because even if I lived in the US, I'd still want my metric system. I have no idea what 70°F means...
The thing with Bing Search assuming you're in the US is even sillier, it should assume whatever my current location is. Because, you know, I want relevant results even if I'm just visiting some other country. Something I do often, what with the fact that Spain is just a two hour drive from here.
Also, the swipe keyboard is... odd. It works fine if I set it to PT-BR, but doesn't work if I set it to PT-PT even though the layout is exactly the same and the differences between both variants are minimal, way less than, say, between EN-US and EN-EN.
That said, all in all, this feels more like Windows Phone 9 than 8.1.
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The whole thing is actually a total mystery to me. You would think that SOME manufacturer would try to provide something with those specs for Windows phone. Isn't the whole idea here that one can get the best OS on a wide variety of handhelds, so that everyone finds something for his or her liking? But all I see is a drive for bigger screens and better cameras. Why isn't there at least one low weight phone in the windows ecosystem?!?
So, I'm stuck on my Samsung Focus, which is at 119g, which is not bad but also not great. The software of course is really showing its age.
I REALLY hope that once MS owns Nokia, that they will provide one model in that category.