Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 2 of 2 Weeks With WP8: The Plot Thickens

Today was gonna be two major tests for the Nokia 920: sync, hell or high water, and a real world test: driving.

First, time to figure out the sync issue. Still stumped, I tried another sync, and experienced the same freeze/crash as before. But, a new wrinkle: the phone itself did not seem to be recognized by the computer. Like the iPhone, it mounts the Nokia as a "drive," which means you can somewhat poke around in it's innards. However, attempts to do so here were failures: it either disappeared from Explorer, or was so sluggish it could not be used.

No time to puzzle that out; it's time for the field test. Using the built in Podcast part of Music & Video, I loaded up a few podcasts. Again, frustrated that I can't find how to do playlists for podcasts, but at least I have them. Time to hit the road.

Volume is excellent, and the dedicated volume rocker helps, as does the helpful on screen controls for pause, fast forward and rewind. Much more spaced out than iOS' in the same, and the larger screen ensures I won't accidentally skip the podcast I'm listening, as I do often with iOS' lockscreen controls. Unfortunately, the lack of a playlist caused silence until I got to a spot I could pull over and start the next podcast. I tried to see if there was a voice command, but it only triggered a web search. Got to look into that..

Having the audible notification for new tests worked well while driving. It made me want the same for e-mail. I wonder? After about a two hour excursion, the battery was down only by about 10%. Compared to my iPhone, that's brilliant, and that's using 4G. Nice.

While stopping, I checked my e-mail, and I noticed a real flaw in the e-mail app. When you delete or move a message in your inbox, it does not go to the next message. Instead, it brings you back to the inbox. This is great...for three years ago. Better handling of threaded messages in some ways, but that inbox thing has got to go. I'll have to see about that.

On the subject of messages, I find it really odd that MSFT made the "send" icon the leftmost button at the base of the message. Since most people are right handed, and we read and write left to write, what's with the required thumb stretch across the screen to click that send button? I know, lefties get discriminated against in mos things, but how about allowing me to decide if I prefer a left or right orientation? I do like the Word Flow keyboard, however: it does learn, and it does make for less overall typing, as does the speech to text that comes in handy while driving.

Ok, back in the office. Plugged it in, same sync problem. This time, however, I noticed the phone was also kid of stuck, showing the wrong time. Aha...time for a soft reboot (had to look up how to). Voila, we're back in business. The sync app roars to life, allowing me to undo all my previous half-sync. Now, carefully, just adding in pictures. All goes well for about 25 minutes, then, with only a few left...crash. Repeat; same result at the same place.

Next, I decided to go without the sync app: using Windows Explorer. All went swimmingly, except the speed leaves something to be desired. 1.7GB of photos took about an hour to copy. Ugh. Videos, oddly enough, flew, as did MP3's. Windows offered to helpfully convert the files that would not play on WP8 into versions that would play; nice touch.

Some other random observations:

- The Dolby enhancement for music and podcasts is amazing. It truly adds a new dimension to the sound, one that I was shocked about. I expected not to care at all about that, but wow.

- Still no playlists for podcasts! I cannot figure this one out.

- Made the shopping list app sync with it's iOS cousin. Required setting up the account on the web instead of the iOS app, but it worked! Ok, but not as elegant as Grocery IQ.

- WTF? Playlists only through Xbox Music? I'm missing something here...

- On the video front, I was able to load some video files: a movie an four episodes of a TV show. Couldn't get the TV shows to play, but movies played; both are MP4 files, so not sure what the deal is. This has to be worked out, as I am not converting all of my video library to a new format.

- After doing the manual media load, got triplicated. Argh. Have to figure out how to delete the extras.

- Keyboard complaint: backspace and return are too close together. It means you often insert a carriage return, when you meant to delete a character. Annoying.

- The "@" is not on the main keyboard? Um, isn't this a web connected device?

- The IE web browser does not always resize the page for the screen. Some pages, such as this one about the stranger than fiction case of John McAfee, simply don't resize, requiring horizontal scrolling in landscape or portrait.

-Word Flow is cool, but the iOS trick of hitting the space bar twice to do a period after doesn't always work.

- Custom ringtones for specific contacts don't play through Bluetooth. I did, however, find the way to get it to play the caller name and ID through Bluetooth and headset.

- Voice commands look promising, but can't figure out how to make it play podcasts by voice yet.

- No Blogger client yet, but, while iOS has an app, it's pretty bare bones. There are similar bare bones versions in the Windows Phone Store.

- Alarms look good, but you can only use ringtones for sounds to wake to, not all music. Odd.

- Can't dim the capacitive buttons? Not good for a night stand clock. They shine like little flashlights all night.

- Figured out I can customize the action button in Internet Explorer to show tabs. Nice! A taste of modern browsing.

- Finally, an end to the "slash" vs. "backslash" debate: the built in voice reads "http://" as "aich tee tee pee slash slash". Slashes as slashes, not back slashes; those are "\". So there: MSFT says so, and I agree.

- Found the Internet Sharing option, allowing me to use the phone as a hotspot for free. I know, Android folks, you've had this a while, but coming from iOS where this was a paywall option, it's kinda nice!

- Ok, the ESPN live tile updating is pretty sad. It keeps showing me the 1st quarter score of a basketball game that's been over for hours. Might be the sign of a phone reboot needed.

On to Day 3...

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