A week with… Windows Phone

Once again I find myself coming up with a phone based challenge. This time I thought “could I use Windows Phone for a whole week”.

So this may sound a bit odd, as many people use Windows Phone alone and nothing else and they manage to live perfectly normal lives. I am different though, I spend a lot of time using a wide range of devices, laptops, desktops, tablets and of course phones. Android is my main area of interest and I have set up most devices to synchronize. So ditching Android would be quite a compromise in terms of multimedia, social networking and even just checking the news.


I have been using Windows Phone on and off for about a year now. I used the Dell Venue Pro first and then the Nokia Lumia 800 and most recently the HTC Titan. I mainly use Windows Phone for contact management, emails, sms and as a phone. In the past when I have tried to use Windows Phone full time it just hasn’t met my needs.

Day 1
Yesterday I got one of the supposed “flagship” Windows Phones, the HTC Titan. I have been interested in this phone since last year when we went to the press conference in London. Unlike a lot of other Windows Phones it has held its price well which put me off getting it as a second/third device. Luckily eBay came to the rescue.

A normal part of my day is deciding which phones I am going to take with me on my daily adventure (work). For the past few weeks I have been using a combination of the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Samsung Galaxy Note. One for phone, email, sms and contact management the other for social networking, multimedia, internet and anything that is made easier using a nice big 5.3” phone.

As the HTC Titan has a 4.7” screen I got thinking, could this replace my Note? I know the Lumia certainly couldn’t because of the smaller screen, as certain things like web browsing are just painful. So after charging both devices up I set off on my daily adventure with two Windows Phones to see if I could eradicate Android from my life.

My first hurdle came fairly early in the day. I play for a very amateur cricket team. We have a very amateur website, we upload our scoresheets to the cloud so players can download them and have a look. Today I got the scoresheet emailed to me, it was a scanned pdf. I would normally upload it to Sugarsync or Dropbox via my Android phone and I thought I would be able to do the same. Oh how I was wrong. As Skydrive is a huge part of the Windows Phone environment I assumed I would be able to do something similar. The Skyrive app will only allow picture uploads or Office Documents via the built in Office suite. Hmmm. Even Dropbox replacements only allow picture uploads. I was stumped and surprised. In the end I had to use my pc to upload it. I found the solution would have been to email the file to my Dropbox upload email address and wait for it to appear and then create the public link. A bit long winded. Cloud Storage management really could do with improving.

Day 2

I was feeling a little rough this morning so I decided I would listen to a bit of music before I went to work. I hadn’t synced my new Titan with Zune yet so it wasn’t quite as full of music as I would have hoped. I had several choices. I could use the built in zune store to buy some music, I could install 7 Digital and buy something, I could use one of the many “Free Music Download” type apps that fill the music  app section of the Marketplace, use a Google Music port for Windows Phone or just listen to the radio with Tunein or something.

I have quite a few different devices and getting media from one to the other is quite a chore. In the Android world I get round this buy uploading all my music to Google Music. I didn’t really fancy installing a Google Music port for Windows Phone as the experience is never quite as good as with Android. In the past the ones I have tried have lagged a lot or been full of adverts. I decided to try out 7Digital, I have had the app installed for a while and flicked through it. Today I actually signed up for it. I bought the album, it downloaded it and I was done.

7Digital is a great app, it doesn’t quite integrate into the Music Hub as you would hope, any music downloaded is only playable through the 7Digital app. 7Digital does have a cloud player where any music bought from them appears in the cloud so you can play your music on other devices easily.

A week with... Windows Phone A week with... Windows Phone

I guess one day I will get round to testing Spotify or the Zune Music pass. The thought of unlimited music streaming does appeal to me. Although the strange handling of wifi turning off when the screen goes off is rather tedious.

Today I also spent a bit of time trying out Twitter apps. Rowi, Carbon and Mehdoh were my main choices. The latest breed of Windows Phone Twitter apps are great. Lots of options, great use of Live Tiles and hard to choose between. Rowi comes out on top for me as you can add columns for searches.

A week with... Windows Phone A week with... Windows Phone

I wish that Google+ and Instagram had better support on Windows Phone, I feel a little lost without my third and fourth social networks (I barely use them anyway).

Getting a Live Tile to display weather in a nice way has also been a task for today. I used to use Gismeteo, which seems to be broken recently. I have emailed the developer and we shall see what happens. Acuweather seemed way to indepth, I settled for the Microsoft weather app in the end.

Day 3

Later on in week I was going away on holiday to Italy. Normally when I go away I will install some sort of city guide app that works offline. For Android I will normally go with one of the Triposo apps, they offer a huge amount of information and a map of the town. I wanted to replicate this on Windows Phone. There are lots of travel apps and point of interest apps, but they all need an internet connection, which for most of us on holiday this makes the app useless. I found an app called “Pisa” which offered quite a bit of the information I wanted but it had no maps. More research needed before I go away.

After spending the day downloading apps and going into flight mode I started to panic, the apps just couldn’t compare to Triposo. I can see how this is going to end.

Day 4

Today was a Sunday, so I had a few hours to kill before the rest of the world got up. I thought I would catch up on some news in the tech world. I just needed a decent app first. I was looking for a straight forward news reader type app that would just import my Google Reader subscriptions and not try to re-invent the wheel (I’m looking at you Flipboard). A while ago we covered Fuse and I thought things would have improved since then. A quick flick through the Marketplace and I couldn’t find many new news apps. There is the Pulse app which they seem to have took the Android version and tried there hardest to make it work on Windows Phone. The settings just seem quite jumbled. Fuse is a little fiddly but once set up it does exactly what I wanted, I went with the Ipsum mode.

A week with... Windows Phone A week with... Windows Phone

The other notable news app I came across was News Republic. It is on most platforms now and once installed it will let you search through various sources for news matching your keywords. So I set up a “Windows Phone” search and an “Android” search. Each time you load up the app it tells you how many unread articles you have. It allows me to find news on websites that I do not have in my Google Reader list. As regards news apps I have basically replicated my Android setup quite well.

A week with... Windows Phone A week with... Windows Phone

Day 5

Back to work today. Using the HTC Titan more and more now. I definitely prefer it to the Lumia 800. It is only slightly bigger but the screen real estate is drastically different. A lot of reviews for the Titan complain about the resolution being quite low for a large screen in the real world it is barely noticeable, having everything larger just makes everything a lot easier. When I am back from holiday I will be looking into replacing my Lumia as my main handset. As regards the second handset I am unsure.

Day 6

Today was holiday time. After much deliberation I decided that I would take the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Samsung Galaxy Note with me. Sorry guys I just couldn’t replicate all of my music, video, ebooks, offline maps, offline tourist information stuff on my HTC Titan or on my Lumia. It was  a disappointment not to be able to finish the week. But hey life goes on.

If you have a Android or iOS device I really suggest you check out the Triposo apps, they really have improved recently and they cover a lot of major cities worldwide.

I used a combination of pre-cached maps from Google Maps and the Triposo app to work out where to go and how to get there. I hope one day Triposo makes it to Windows Phone.

Conclusion

Day 7 was just more holiday stuff, so I won’t bore you with that.

So in conclusion to my “week with…” article I am happy with the overall experience. For my needs Windows Phone met nearly my requirements. Normally via a third party developer such as the Read it Later/Pocket app I wanted. Yes there are lots of big name developers missing from the platform, but I guess once again we will have to wait to see if things improve with the next version of Windows Phone. I really hope Microsoft have paid a load of the big names to get on board this time round.

The core functionality of Windows Phone is great. It is a joy to use, just compared to other platforms third party support leaves you wanting more.

Whilst I was away I missed the whole Windows Phone update debacle. I loaded up my Google Reader feed whilst I was waiting for my luggage to arrive and I saw quite a few articles about the Windows Phone 7.8 update and also devices not getting the Windows Phone 8 update.

At first I was outraged and wanted to be rid of these Windows Phone devices, then when I woke up the next morning I realised that Windows Phone 7.8 won’t be too bad. I will probably be able to sell my devices on and get a Windows Phone 8 device. The only thing I do worry about is how long new apps for Windows Phone will continue to work with older devices. If I can’t install newer apps in six months time I will be quite annoyed.

If you are interested I have gone back to the Windows Phone and Android combo on a daily basis. This time using the HTC Titan and the Samsung Galaxy S2. Also if you have any thoughts or apps that might have helped me in my week please let us know either in the comments below or in the forums.

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  • Hihi….sounds great– a week with Windows Phone

  • gary

    “The Skyrive app will only allow picture uploads.” That is just plain wrong. I upload and share Word documents all the time.

    • James Pearce

      Yes good point. The built in Office suit allows it. I’ll amend the article.

      I wanted to upload a pdf that had been emailed to me and host it online. I just couldn’t do it.

      • gary

        Oh, I guess I’ve never tried to upload a pdf Skydrive.

  • Anonymous

    The Zune Pass is the unsurpassed best value in music services.

  • Rich Reiter

    @JamesPearce – thanks for the nod to News Republic as a part of your week with a Windows Phone. We try to put a lot of sources into it, glad that you found it useful.

    -Rich Reiter
    Director of Marketing, NA
    Mobiles Repubic