Sunday, August 5, 2012

My Experience Using a Microsoft Windows Phone

SNAGHTMLcbe7c3I just picked up a Windows Phone. I am now the proud owner of a Nokia Lumia 900. I have great expectations and hopes that this device will be a significant improvement over the Blackberry device I have been using for the past few years.

However, there are a few serious shortcomings in the Windows Phone that I have found in my first few weeks of playing with it. The biggest failure I have found have been State Management which I describe below. The other big failure is that the phone becomes not much more than a pretty paperweight if 4G service is not available. This second point is what got me started on writing this post. See my offer below to test and correct these “features.”

This is likely to be the first of several posts about the Windows Phone. Overall I am a fan of the device. I have found a few goofy and odd things about the phone that make it harder to use than I would like. I have provided these as Tips & Tricks below. I also would like to make an offer to Microsoft and any partners that are interested to offer my time as a tester. I have a good idea of what I want and need to be productive. I’m happy to provide direct feedback and to keep confidences.

imageFirst off … this may come across as cynical and negative. That’s not my intention. So, please Don’t Get Me Wrong:


My Vacation Dreams

SNAGHTMLb10235I had high hopes of playing with my new Nokia Lumia 900 phone on my recent vacation to the hinterlands of Lake Roosevelt. One of the challenges of this location is that mobile connectivity is always weak and intermittent (as it should be at all vacation spots), but there is usually just enough to get a few things done and stay connected to the world ... At least just a little.

Was this 100% the fault of the phone? No. However, the others that were with me had iPhones on the same AT&T network and they had service – phone, text and semi-decent data transfer. Another person had an Android device on Verizon. They had everything --- phone, text and most important of all … data.

Not My Experience

imageWhat I found was that the Nokia Lumia 900 is not much more than a pretty paperweight. If the connection status is Edge or GPRS ... You are toast. Don't waste your time trying to receive data, cuz there isn't any coming your way until you get 4G or WiFi.

During the week I did get some time to play with the phone and I compiled a list of tips & tricks and also a list of things I'd like to see or otherwise figure out how to do. Take a look below and let me know what your experience was and if you know a way to do a few of the things I mentioned / requested. I would appreciate anyone’s feedback either in the comments below or via my other contact points. I do want to be a fan. I want to believe. Help!

Tips and Tricks –

With the Lumia 900 - If you don’t have a 4G connection
Just Say No and get on with your vacation and life.

Tip 1 – Don't bother trying to do much unless you have a very good cellular service connection.

  • You can't get to the help files
  • You can't get OneNote working (even to take a simple note like this). Note: After playing around with this I did get it to work, but it was not intuitive.
  • And, of course, you can get mail

To the Windows Phone and AT&T’s CREDIT .... Texting still worked as did phone calls. So, a lot of these points are tied to the cellular service, but the other people with me were on the same provider with different phones and they were able to stay connected.

Tip 2 - if your tiles don't update, don't bother clicking on them

  • While my family was happily clicking away on their iPhones I was unable to get anything but texts. (note: we are all on the same carrier AT&T)
  • My excitement to use the new Nokia waned every day

Tip 3 - To Nokia, Microsoft and AT&T's credit: The Lumia 900 is a great device for vacations.

  • Why? Because once you realize the phone is not going to do much for you (besides being a pretty paperweight) you can put it down and get busy with you vacation

Tip 4 – Just Say No

  • When you realize it's game over ... Just give in and give up.
    • Just turn off cellular and WiFi service and get on with life
    • Once it becomes obvious you will not be getting any notifications ... Just turn off WiFi and cellular (in the Settings tile - which I would have provided screen shots ... If there was an OOTB way to do screenshots)
  • Bottom Line: Thank You for Enabling My Vacation … by not allowing me to keep in touch with the world.

What Do I like?

  • Typing on the eKeyboard
    • Typing is fun (albeit not fast. At least not yet. I still need to get used to the e-keyboard) with my fat fingers TK pic of fat fingers
    • Full Disclosure - I wrote the majority of this post on the Windows Phone. It was a lot slower than my old LackBerry, but I assume speed with come with time.
    • Especially with the auto-suggest options

  • Pictures and Auto-Fix
      • Suggestion to Microsoft and Nokia … Just leave Auto-Fix for pictures on all the time. The default settings rarely (read this as NEVER) are correct for the pictures I have taken. I have tried the camera indoors, outdoors, with and without flash and lots of other combinations. With almost no exceptions the pictures are not great, but when I take the extra time to run the Auto Fix option they are magically fixed.

What I would still like to learn or see on the Windows Phone?

  • State Management / Single Threaded Processes
    • The Windows Phone seems to only be able to handle one process at a time.
    • This is a BIG FAILURE point for me.
    • What do I mean? When typing a text message it is not possible to click to another screen to grab additional information (phone number, address, text from another app, etc.)
      • Try it! Start a text message and click over to another app. When you click back to the Messaging (Text) screen your original message is gone. Every other device I have ever used does not have this limitation. This is a BIG FAIL.
    • More than likely this is probably a Windows Phone software issue. Which is a good thing because it can likely be fixed as a software patch.

  • Keyboard vs. Screen Real Estate
    • How to make the keyboard go away. Sometimes I want to see what I wrote with as much screen space as possible ... Without the seemingly ever present keyboard taking up more than half of the screen real estate. (After dinking around I figured this one out … just click the I found that the keyboard goes away when the back arrow key is pressed.)

  • Screen Shots
    • Yes, I know there's an app for that, but seriously ...
    • I would have likely included a few screen shots here, but there is no Out of the Box (OOTB) ability to do this.

  • UNDO / REDO Typing
    • Give me my Control-Z function from my PC. On the iPhone and iPad you can shake the device to undo / redo the last action. Give me at least something to Undo/Redo Typing.

  • Memo Pad
    • Is there one? Ideally with no need for connectivity. Sure, I want it to sync (like OneNote and Evernote), but if connectivity is weak or non-existent just start the app. (note: I tried to search for a memo pad app while on vacation, but since I has no connectivity the help file is useless.)
    • I just want a quick notepad / memo app. One that starts quickly and works quickly. I have OneNote and Evernote. I can use these for this purpose, but it seems like overkill.

  • Smart WiFi / Cellular Connection
    • To Nokia and Microsoft’s credit - when I turned off WiFi and Cellular data service the device did not waste time "waiting to sync" it merely stated the obvious (quickly) that it "Can't sync. Check status"

Did I expect more?

In a word ... YES

Will I keep trying?


Was I impressed?

No. On the grand scheme the phone is impressive. However, I expected more. I expected connectivity (at least on par with my family's older iPhones). I expected to be wowed by Microsoft and Nokia's hardware and software and by AT&T's (cellular) service capabilities.

Am I nit-picking?

imageSure, but I (like everyone else) pay a lot for our phones and service. I (like everyone else) have high expectations for a great user experience, for a predictable and repeatable way to use the device, and for a way to be productive while on the go.

My Open Offer

As mentioned above. My open offer to Microsoft, Nokia, AT&T and any other vendors / partners that would like real-world feedback on their products and services still stands. imageI am willing to test and evaluate your offerings and I will provide candid and timely reports on my experiences and expectations. I'm happy to do this directly and behind the scenes or more publicly with blog posts and other public facing venues. Call me ... Maybe.

My Score for the Lumia 900 (and for Microsoft and AT&T):
C+ for getting things done (GTD) and A+ for vacations

What do you think?

  • Am I just not getting it?
  • Are these features and functions NOT the things people want in mobile devices?
  • What are your experiences with Windows Phones?


Jeff Shuey is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet, K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.

Follow me on Twitter, check my blog, send email or find me on Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+

My apologies to Carly Rae Jepson, but I thought the meme was apropos here.

All contents Creative Commons licensed.


Jean-Marc Krikorian said...

Enjoyed the post, Jeff. I've been on the iPhone for three years now and I love the device but can't stand AT&T. I just bid for and won a Windows 7 from Samsung. The state management issue concerns me as I use that a lot on the iPhone. I also use screen captures often especially when beta testing applications. As soon as my phone arrives I'll get back with my own experience.

Arnie Mondloch said...

Hi Jeff - Not sure what to say about your connectivity issues. I have my WP7 device on Verizon and I've actually found the exact opposite problem - when my iPhone carrying friends have trouble getting a signal, I can get everything. Can't really help there...

On the multi-tasking, we added multi-tasking in the Mango update. To use it, press and hold the "back" arrow on the front of the device. That calls up small screens of all your open apps. I tested your scenario and it worked great. Check it out.

On the memo issue, I usually just open Word or Excel, but I also searched for an app and "+Note" looks exactly what you are looking for - and it's free for a limited time. I can't endorse it since I haven't used it, but it has great ratings from over 500 users...

Hope that helps!


Jeff Shuey said...

Thank YOU Arnie. You are THE BEST. I hope Microsoft realizes the incredible asset they have in you. You are a Zealot among Zealot's and I mean that in a VERY GOOD way.

Thank for the heads up on the way to do multi-tasking. I would have never guessed that's how to do it. I had seen the small window tabs when the arrow key was pressed and held. I had scrolled thru them, but I would not have guessed this was the suggested way to multi-task.

Regarding connectivity. It is what it is. There is no best carrier.

Finally, I played with the Office Tile today and even smiled when I saw how cool and easy it is to add a new document ... just by pressing the "+" key at the bottom of the screen. So, YES ... I can smile at my Windows Phone and I am starting to become a believer.