Windows Phone 8.1

4 Days With Windows Phone 8.1

April 20, 2014

This isn’t my first time with Windows Phone. I lasted less than 24 hours with the HTC HD2. Secretly, I’ve been waiting for Windows Phone because I feel (still feel) as though it’s the Mobile OS that is right for me. Hardware choice and zero OEM OS customization. I don’t like the direction that IOS 7 is going and Android is a hot mess. I messed up and bought a Note 3 (updated review coming later) and have put every ROM I could get my hands on to get that phone running fast. I should have bought a Nexus 5 instead but I really wanted the Galaxy Gear(which I still like but it only works on a handful of Samsung products). When Windows Phone 8.1 Preview launched I thought that now is the time to give Windows Phone another try.

Let me get the App Argument Out Of The Way

I’m not an app junkie. There’s only a handful of apps that I need. So the app situation was not an issue with me.

  1. Feedly RSS reader (Nextgen)
  2. Youtube (Metrotube)
  3. Facebook
  4. Email
  5. Amazon Kindle
  6. Podcast Player
  7. Twitter
  8. Weather
  9. Reddit (baconit)

The hardware

I got a Lumnia 925 because well, I’m on T-mobile and that’s the best that I could get. I liked the hardware but come on it’s slippery as hell. Maybe I’ll do a separate review on the phone but this post is aimed at Windows Phone 8.1. The one thing that I will say is there are serious battery issues, either with the Lumnia’s or Windows Phone in general. Anyway it’s all over the internet and you basically have to experiment with shutting off stuff in order to make the batter drain a non issue. I figured out my issues were linked to syncing the theme and passwords. Once I shut that off I was no longer loosing 30% of battery within 5 minutes of using the phone. Even with a small 2,000 milliamp battery the Lumnia 925 is currently on par with my Note 3.

Divorcing Google

I am a Google junkie. When gmail launched I got it. Every service they’ve come out with since 04 (give or take) I’ve signed up and used. Now this is purely a personal thing but Google’s dominance in search is turning out to be a really bad thing for small business’s and while I have a sweetspot in my heart for Google it’s time that I distance myself from their services. We need another strong player and I tend to put my money into companies that I believe in. I believe in Microsoft. Your mileage may vary but IMHO Microsoft’s problem was the old guard. Now that is gone I’m excited (and hopeful) for Microsoft’s future.

Windows Phone 8.1

I want to start off by saying that Windows Phone 8.1 is amazing. I love the way that it looks, the speed of OS and above all else the keyboard is top notch. With Windows Phone 8.1 the top 2 features are Cortana and the Action Center. There’s a crap load of regurgitated news on the Internet about 8.1 I want to mainly mention my experiences with the OS. So if you want to find out about Windows Phone 8.1 “Bing It” (yeah I went there).

Having the apps on the Windows Phone store is only half the battle. Updates are the other half. I used Windows Phone 8.1 straight for 4 days until I hit a major speed bump then all hell broke loose.

The Problems

The one glaring issue was that Facebook does not upload photos in the background. You must have the app open in order to upload pictures. Let me start off with that I hate Facebook. Facebook is the tool that I use to post kid photos to distant relatives. That’s all. If you move away from the app the photos don’t upload and there’s zero indication or warning of that major fact.

Earphone controls don’t work with Windows Phone. Every Sunday I spent 2-3 hours on my yard. I tend to either listen to podcasts, music or an audio book. I use my Apple earbuds. The sound great and are comfortable for me. When you have kids the pause button and skip track (by double tapping the play button) are a must have for any father with continuous kids distractions. This may be more of a hardware thing but that’s a huge minus in my book.

The Plus

No OEM bloat customized OS. It boggles my mind that with all the hardware that was packed into the Note 3 that Touchwiz has some serious lag. There isn’t a ROM AOSP or Touchwiz based that can get that phone to run smooth. Windows Phone is fast on older hardware. What truly amazed me is how easy it was to get a Preview build of Windows Phone 8.1 before it was released. That was amazing.

I can pick my hardware (while the selection is limited). If I was on Verizon I would pick the ION, but T-Mobile doesn’t have the ION they have the Lumnia 925. While the selection is very slim right now I still have a choice. You don’t get that with IOS. Android is still the king but I’m still not happy with the selection.

I had zero issues using alternative apps for my daily drivers. I actually enjoyed most of the apps more on Windows Phone than their Android counterparts. For example, Nextgen reader will download the full article for you, instead of having to click the headline link to open the browser then wait for the article to load. That one feature is amazing. Another amazing app was baconit which is a Reddit app. One feature that I loved was how they handled viewing posts where you can swipe right to see the next post. Last but not least is metrotube. The default Youtube app on Android launches slow and I have all types of playback issues when I pause a video then leave the app and try to go back 9 times out of 10 the video will start from the very beginning. Not to mention even with an amazing internet connection like mine I still have buffering issues with longer videos for some reason. Not with Metrotube. Metrotube is by far the best Youtube app that I’ve used on any platform. I have zero complaints.

My Verdict

I have to use my Android phone today. It’s Easter and I must have the ability to upload pictures to Facebook in the background. That one minor flaw is huge for me and why I cannot make Windows Phone my daily driver yet. While I’ll continue to use my Windows Phone I’m optimistic about it’s future. Faster updates were promised, there’s a new CEO at the helm that’s doing a good job so far, and above all else there’s clear communication coming from Microsoft about well, everything. Windows Phone 8.1 is very very close. I’ve already started migrating off Google services. Hopefully by the next update I won’t be so reliant on Google’s services anymore and a happy owner of an Icon/Lumnia 935 equivalent on T-Mobile.