Tag Archives: WP7

Box Brings Windows Phone App to Marketplace

If for some reason you’re not a fan of DropBox or SkyDrive on Windows Phone, then the fine folks at Box.net are here to save your day.

Box has announced and published their Windows Phone app – which allows you access to your cloud storage while mobile. If you can afford free, that is. In addition to their monthly plans for personal or business use, if your Fortune 500 company jumped on the “cloud” bandwagon and is riding it into the sky, you’ll get access to your company files while on the fly, with the Enterprise plan.

Following along with the Metro UI guidelines for Windows Phone apps, Box allows you to upload, download, and move files around in the cloud. As you can see from their banner (above) and some screenshots (below), they like to tout Word, Excel, and PDF document storage. Quite clear they are still aiming for the enterprise crowd.

In order to keep up with their tradition of free storage (Box gave 50GB to Android users, as well as 50GB to new iOS users) Box has partnered with Qualcomm to give out the staple 50GB again, except now it’s platform independent. Regardless if your new phone is running iOS, Android, or Windows Phone you’re covered with storage AND will get 50GB with their promotion. When you purchase a Windows 8 device in the future, if it’s powered by a Snapdragon SoC, you’ll also get 50GB of free cloud storage for life. Of course this is for new accounts only. Your own personal 50GB cloud, always above your head and right in your pocket.

The app is completely free, the storage is completely free, and it’s very cross-platform. Heck, you can even mount it right in Windows via WebDAV and get a seamless experience. So if you’re sick of gaming or needing referrals for getting more free DropBox space or if you think DropBox a is security risk due to their breach, Box gives you 50GB right off the bat, and is used and trusted by over 100,000 large corporations. Of course with any cloud service, you’re giving your data away and should understand the risks of doing so.

Official London 2012 Olympics Apps

London 2012 Olympics Clock
London 2012 Olympics Clock (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The Countdown has begun and the Olympics are right around the corner. Here is a list of Olympics apps for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone.

Apps for Watching the Olympics

BBC Olympics App – The BBC app is a FREE comprehensive app with everything you could ever want to know about the London 2012 Olympics. It is available in iOS and Android flavors however, it appears for now only the iOS app is the only one that will let you watch streaming video. A screenshot can be seen below.

BBC Olympics App
BBC Olympics App

NBC “Live Extra” App – This app will give you live access to the Olympics however, there are some stipulations. To quote their website, “Access is free for subscribers to a cable, satellite or telco TV service package that includes CNBC and MSNBC.”

NBC Live Extra
NBC Live Extra

 Official London 2012 Olympic Mobile Apps

The London 2012 Olympics have come out with a few mobile apps of their own. See below for screenshots, descriptions and download links.

Official London 2012 Join In App – If you plan on being in London to watch the games, then this is the app for you. In their own words this app is a “mobile guide to help you plan, enjoy and share your Games experience”. This is a FREE app.

 London 2012 Join In app
London 2012 Join In app

The London 2012 Results App – This app is probably the one you’ll find most useful if you’re watching the games from the comfort of your own home. They describe the app by saying,”The Official London 2012 Results app provides all the latest news, schedules and results, allowing users to keep up-to-date with the latest action live across all Olympic sports and Paralympic sports.” It is a free app and so far the only one to include the Windows Phone family.

 London 2012 Results app
London 2012 Results app

Official London 2012 mobile game – Just for fun, London 2012 has launched an official mobile game that features 9 Olympic events. It comes in iOS and Android flavors and has a free and premium version. Visit their Facebook page to  learn more about it.

Official Mobile Game
Official Mobile Game

Keep checking back with Techie Buzz as we continue to update you on the latest mobile apps surrounding the Olympics!

Twitter for Windows Phone Gets Updated: Notifications, Finally!

Twitter for Windows Phone is one of those apps  that was available at launch, but it has seen very few updates over the past 2 years. The most important feature that was missing was notifications. In the latest update, the app finally received the ability to receive notifications.

Not only are notifications well implemented (they use a push notifications server vs. generic background agents), they are fast. Very fast. I see toasts almost instantaneously. The “other fixes” in this update seem to have made the app generally faster to refresh tweets, a common problem with all twitter clients on Windows Phone. If the app receives the ability to reply all on tweets, this may become my go-to twitter client on Windows Phone. That is huge, considering I had actually uninstalled the app from my phone because I had zero hope of it getting any meaningful updates!

Here are some screenshots of the settings added in this update, related to notifications. I also noticed they have added the ability to pin lists to the Start Screen and manage list membership, which I am not sure was possible before this update.

 

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings Screen

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings Screen

 

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings For Mentions

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings For Mentions

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings For Favorites

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings For Favorites

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings For Retweets

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings For Retweets

 

Twitter for Windows Phone Toast Notification

Twitter for Windows Phone Toast Notification

Twitter for Windows Phone - Pinning Lists to Start Screen

Twitter for Windows Phone – Pinning Lists to Start Screen

Twitter for Windows Phone - Manage List Membership

Twitter for Windows Phone – Manage List Membership

Don’t get me wrong. The app is not complete. Besides the reply-all feature that I mentioned above, there are some other features in apps like Rowi, Carbon and Mehdoh that I like to see in a twitter client, least of which is Tweet Marker support so read status of tweets is sync-ed across multiple apps and platforms. Regardless, I am now not ashamed to recommend Twitter for Windows Phone as a twitter client for the platform.

What I Wish Today’s Microsoft Announcement Will Be

Windows Logo

On Thursday June 14, late in the afternoon, Microsoft sent out invites to media for a special event in Los Angeles, CA which promised to be a major announcement not to be missed. Since it was so cryptic, it created a flurry of rumors, leaks and conjecture. Several pundits have written about what it could be, connected the dots and come to a conclusion and in fact this morning, one of those guesses was even shot down.

Instead of trying to think of what it could be, I am going to write about what I hope it will be. Based on the fact that this event is in Los Angeles, I am hoping it has everything to do with entertainment tie-ups. At E3 earlier this month, Microsoft took the wraps off their new entertainment brand (Xbox-everything) and showed some bits of their new (improved?) Xbox Companion app, Smart Glass. Also, Microsoft gave a glimpse of Xbox Music, their successor to the Zune Music service. However, neither Smart Glass nor Xbox Music were looked at in detail. What we do know is they said that the Xbox Music service will have a catalog of 30 million tracks (compared to Zune Music today, which is around 20 million).

So, here’s my list of what I hope may come today:

  • Details of Xbox Music service: Additional deals to get the catalog from today’s 20 million tracks to the promised 30 million. Also, most importantly, access for the service from other platforms besides Windows (8, RT and Phone) – so, iOS apps and Android apps.
  • Unveiling of Xbox Video service: While it was made clear that Xbox is the center of Microsoft’s entertainment strategy, not much was discussed about Xbox Video. I hope that Microsoft is able to cut some deals with Hollywood to get exclusive content built into Xbox Video. Hollywood has got to be scared of Apple (and Netflix), so a good tie up with Microsoft would of course make sense for them.
  • Merge Zune Music Pass and Xbox LIVE Gold: The most ridiculous thing about Xbox as an entertainment device is that to access almost any entertainment service on the Xbox, you need an Xbox LIVE Gold account, listed at $60/year. Although there are a lot of promotions for the Gold account (Amazon routinely sells these for $45 or so), it is still an unnecessary cost for normal (read: non-gaming) customers to access services they already pay for. On the other hand, Zune Music Pass is an awesome subscription service which can be accessed over the Xbox in addition to the PC and Windows Phone. It is time for Microsoft to merge the two and call it the Xbox Pass which enables access to the video services on the Xbox platform, as well as unlimited music.
  • Xbox Lite: The Xbox today is still seen as a gaming device which can also do entertainment, never mind the stats which show that Xbox users now consume more content on the device than play games. Also, a lot of households have multiple TV sets and getting a $200 Xbox for each TV may not be worth it just for say, Netflix and Hulu. What if Microsoft made a Xbox Lite which like Apple TV would have close to no storage and would not be used for gaming. This would work great for the non-gaming customers who want to consume the unlimited music catalog and also get access to the tons of video services now available on the Xbox. If it is priced at $79, it would be a super hit, I’d imagine.
  • Announce global availability of all of the above: Most of the Zune/Xbox LIVE services are poorly represented around the world. It would be fantastic if Microsoft is able to get availability parity across the globe.

Note, I am staying away from tablets, phones and cellular stuff. I do hope that it is not about a Microsoft tablet or a Nokia phone. On the cellular front though, some random rumor about a Verizon event have some tie in to this Microsoft announcement intrigues me – Verizon is a huge hold out when it comes to Windows Phones and any partnership they have with Microsoft, I see it as a positive step.

What do you think? Too much to hope for?

Has AT&T Enabled Visual Voicemail for non-LTE Windows Phones?

nokia-lumia-900-cyan-front-and-back

This afternoon, I noticed that my Nokia Lumia 800 prompted me for a voicemail password out of nowhere. Thinking that there was some connectivity glitch, I entered the password and guess what, it took me to a visual voicemail screen! I have not seen that screen on my Lumia before, and as I was made to understand, Visual Voicemail for Windows Phone was only available if you added a 4G LTE plan with AT&T.

AT&T Lumia 800 Visual Voice Mail Checking

Before everyone gets excited, I should provide a few disclaimers: I am on my company’s corporate plan, so I don’t know what plan I am on. However, knowing that my plan is actually an “iPhone data” plan, I know it could not be a 4G LTE plan, since there is no such plan. The other thing is that the screen stays at “syncing voicemail” and does not actually show me my voicemails. At some point this afternoon, I did get a message that it was not able to connect and that I could call the traditional voicemail. I restarted the phone to see if this disappeared, and it has not, so I suppose this functionality may actually be rolling out slowly. I sure hope so.

AT&T Lumia 800 Visual Voicemail Settings

Could this be another move by Nokia (and AT&T) to further the Windows Phone cause? We have seen that Nokia has been able to get a few exclusives and are making quite a splash in bringing the Windows Phone platform on par with iOS and Android. Could this be another move in that plan?

Lumia 800 About Screen

I am unable to confirm if this is true with other non-Lumia or non-LTE devices. If anyone has a Windows Phone (Lumia or otherwise) and is with AT&T but *not* on a 4G LTE plan, let me know. Let’s hope things are changing at AT&T with regard to their love of Windows Phone.

Update: I never saw it on my AT&T Samsung Focus, but here’s a response I saw on twitter:

 

 

More, from twitter:

Nokia Provides More Evidence of Being the “real” Windows Phone Maker

Nokia Lumia 900

On May 8, at the CTIA Wireless 2012 show in New Orleans, Nokia announced that they are partnering with a bunch of top-tier brands to bring their various apps and games to Windows Phone, with a lot of those apps and games being exclusive to Nokia’s Lumia line of Windows Phones.

Some of the highlights from their press release:

PGA Tour (exclusive to Lumia for 12 months)

In addition to live tournament scoring, highlights and player information, the app provides interactive, augmented coverage of select events and holes, showing each player’s exact position and scoring information. This allows fans to “get inside the ropes” and follow all players competing on the PGA TOUR.

ESPN (exclusive to Lumia until May 2013)

This app already exists on the Lumia devices, and is in addition to the ESPN ScoreCenter app that is available to all Windows Phones. The Lumia app will see some functionality updates and in addition, the ESPN Fantasy Football app (another Lumia exclusive) will be made available later in the Fall to align with the NFL season.

Rovio

After a back-and-forth on whether they are going to build Angry Birds Space for Windows Phone or not, Rovio is now building a dedicated design and development team to create games for Lumia and other Windows Phone devices. That’s quite a scoop for Nokia from the rather negative start that the game maker had with Microsoft and Windows Phone.

Nokia and Rovio will partner to develop innovative new consumer products and content exclusively for Nokia Lumia smartphones, alongside cross platform multi-channel integrated marketing initiatives.

EA

EA will be bringing some of their most popular titles to Lumia and other Windows Phones, including FIFA, Madden NFL, NBA Jam, Tiger Woods PGA TOUR®, Mirror’s Edge and Yahtzee to add to the several titles they already have in the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Groupon (exclusive to Lumia for 6 months)

There is already an official Groupon app which is going to get some major updates, including a cool and innovative augmented reality feature to find deals near you.

Tripdots (exclusive to Lumia for 3 months)

Tripdots helps vehicle owners optimize their driving behaviors while connecting with other vehicle owners and sharing driving efficiency achievements via social networks. The app lets users monitor the operation of their vehicles to enable cost savings through better understanding fuel economy.

PayPal

Yet another “key” app missing in the Windows Phone ecosystem is for the popular PayPal service. PayPal is going to work with Nokia to not only bring their app to Windows Phone, but also use functionality like Live Tiles to enhance the user experience.

AOL Entertainment Hub (exclusive to Lumia for 3 months)

Whether you want to listen to one of 55,000 radio stations via SHOUTcast, stream free music albums with AOL’s Listening Party or view Trailers and Movie listings, the AOL Entertainment Hub delivers everything you need.

Yet another app where Live Tiles are going to be used to enhance the user experience:

“The live tiles on Nokia Lumia helped us create an awesome app that makes it easy to stay in the know on what’s happening in Film, TV, Radio, Concerts and Music right from your home screen,” said Sol Lipman, Director of Mobile First products at AOL.

TIME magazine

Utilizing the stunning Windows Phone UI, the app will enable users to view TIME.com content, receive breaking news alerts, watch rich media content including video and share stories via the Windows Phone People Hub, while delivering the latest news and stories to users first via Live Tiles.

Newsweek – The Daily Beast

The Daily Beast app delivers the latest content through Live Tiles and combines the unique style of The Daily Beast with the Windows Phone UI to deliver a stunning experience. For users who only have minutes to digest the latest news, the app also delivers The Cheat Sheet – your one stop must have reads from across the world – uniquely designed for Windows Phone.

Box app for Windows Phone

Box, another oft-requested app, will finally come to Windows Phone with support for nine languages.

 

iPhone 4S Used by a Windows Phone User: Screen

iPhone 4S

For an introduction and background to this series, please refer to my first post on the topic: New Series: iPhone 4S Used by a Windows Phone User.

After looking at the setup experience, the first thing I wanted to look at is the much talked about Retina display of the iPhone 4S. I had heard a lot about how fantastic it is, and read a lot about the technical stuff like pixel density on that screen, but hadn’t experienced it outside of using my friends’ phones for a few minutes. The few minutes I spent with my friends’ phones did not impress me much but I attributed it to the fact that I had spent so little time with the display.

So, having used it constantly for a few days, what was the verdict? Frankly, I don’t see what the big deal is. Yes, it is clear and crisp. It is very, very clear and crisp. However, the Super AMOLED screen of my Focus and the ClearBlack AMOLED on my Lumia are both equally clear and crisp. In fact, I love the deeper colors on the base Lumia screen much more than what the iPhone 4S produces. It could be a result of bigger tiles on my Lumia compared to the many folders (with tinier icons) on my iPhone, but in “real world” use, the Lumia comes off as being as clear and crisp as the iPhone and the colors richer/deeper than the iPhone.

 

IMG_0048Screen Capture (11)

 

Yes, I could zoom into a specific icon and see how there is virtually no pixelation, but I never zoom to that level with my normal eyesight. Under normal circumstances, I look at the Lumia screen (with the dark theme enabled), and I look at the iPhone 4S with the normal brightness, and I must say, the Lumia screen comes out looking better.

(Please excuse my screenshots – I tried to make sure the brightness levels on both the phones were similar, and also, it looks like screenshot tools on *both* the phones seem to be just average?)

The other area where the Retina display is supposed to do better is reading. The claim — web pages, books, etc. are much better to read on that display compared to the Lumia? Here too, I did not see a tremendous difference.

IMG_0049Screen Capture (12)

 

IMG_0053Screen Capture (15)

IMG_0051Screen Capture (14)

IMG_0050Screen Capture (13)

Perhaps my expectations were raised really high? Maybe. Perhaps I should have tested it with long periods of reading? Maybe, but I don’t read pages and pages of books on the phone. The most I read is a multi-page web article, some part of books/magazines, and of course emails. I have provided some samples of the same above, and the Retina does not come off as being vastly different from the Lumia.

I would like to state emphatically, the iPhone screen is fantastic. However, in comparison to the Lumia, it does not seem to be dramatically superior. The Lumia holds its own despite “lower specs” across the board. The ClearBlack AMOLED on the Lumia “pops” the colors very well and the text renders quite well too. Oh, and a completely personal takeaway: when I turn on the Lumia, there is an immediate “wow” factor; maybe because of the colors, the brightness, the curved glass screen, or a combination of these and other factors that I can’t really pinpoint. Whatever it is, it makes the Lumia screen feel better than the iPhone screen, to me. Some friends on Twitter said that I need to give the Retina display some time and I will realize the beauty of it. I have seen it is a good screen, but after 4-5 days of extensive use, I really don’t see a huge upside in that screen.

Also, since I promised to talk about size as well, let me say that strictly speaking, the Lumia 800 that I am using now and the iPhone are not too different in size. However, my previous phone, the Samsung Focus, was 4″ diagonally and I really, really like that size. When I started using the Lumia after the Focus, I felt that the Lumia itself was a bit small (it is 3.7″ diagonally) and the iPhone is even smaller. So, compared to my ideal screen size of 4″, the iPhone seems smaller. However, for this experiment, I will not bring it up since the Lumia 800 and the iPhone are comparable in size.

Do you have any feedback on this comparison? Have you seen something I did not? I would love to hear from you!

iPhone 4S Used by a Windows Phone User: Out Of the Box Experience, Setup

iPhone

For an introduction and background to this series, please refer to my first post on the topic: New Series: iPhone 4S Used by a Windows Phone User.

As someone who has switched (and reset) Windows Phones quite a bit, for one reason or the other, I know how painful it is to get the phone to “my state”. Yes, entering my Windows Live ID and setting up Facebook account sets up a ton of stuff automatically (Contacts, Calendars, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pictures) but there are still a lot of personalization items which I have to repeat every single time. Here is what I have to do every time I set up a new Windows Phone, after setting up my “accounts”:

  • Reinstall all my apps. It is a bit easier now with web marketplace and apps like Reinstaller, but I still have to manually reinstall each app.
  • Customize each app with login information, settings for the app, etc.
  • Set up my live tiles for various apps. Some apps offer secondary tiles (like “Sports News” in a newspaper app, for example), so these have to be manually set up.
  • De-dupe contacts across Windows Live, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. This seems like a bit of functionality which was left off for lack of time. On Windows Live website, these contacts are in fact de-duped, but on the phone, they are not. So I have to go in and clean up manually.
  • Create my People Groups and pin them to Start Screen. I like this feature a lot, so I do like to create three groups: immediate family, cousins, and close friends. That way, I see the updates from these groups bubble up over all the other noise. There’s no way to save these Groups in the cloud so they automatically come when I sign in.
  • Adjust system settings like letting Bing use location services, my Office username, etc.
  • I don’t play many games, but if I did, almost none of the games save their states in the cloud, so all game progress gets lost when moving phones.
  • Connect to PC to set up wireless sync (and check if there are any updates available for the phone).

As you can see, there is a lot of work to be done after signing into various accounts to set up a new phone. How does it go with iPhone? Read on!

New Series: iPhone 4S Used by a Windows Phone User

iPhone

Those who read my posts know that I have been a Windows Phone user since it launched in late-2010. I like the platform a lot, and do believe it is more efficient for the way I use a smartphone. Before I switched to Windows Phone, I used an iPhone 3GS. Since then, my exposure to iOS has been through my iPad (1 and 2) and my iPod Touch. However, those iOS devices are at most used for an hour a day, so it is not fair to use that to compare against the Windows Phone platform.

So, when I recently got an opportunity to get an AT&T iPhone 4S, I jumped on it. I decided to give it my full attention, use it as my primary(-ish) phone for some time, and compare and contrast iOS with Windows Phone after actually using it. I figured, rather than compare specs on paper, which anybody can, it would be better to compare usage. With that in mind, I present this new series, where I will talk about various aspects of using Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phone vs. using an iPhone 4S. My intention is to look at the common tasks one performs with a smartphone and how they differ across these two platforms. This is not so much of a “competition” to determine who “wins”, it is more of a comparison to identify the tasks where one platform may excel and the other may not.

I plan to break the series into the following:

What I do not want to do is:

  • Look at hard specs like cores, PPI, version of bluetooth supported, etc. If any of these happen to make it more difficult for me to do normal things, I will point them out.
  • I am going in with the assumption that we are going to live in a heterogeneous world where I may have a Windows PC and related apps along with my iPhone or iPad. As a result, I will try to stay away from stuff that is clearly going to remain “Apple-only”. For example, iMessage or certain aspects of iCloud which do not carry over to say, a Windows Phone, like contacts and calendar sync. There are other platform-specific tie-ins with Windows Phone like Xbox LIVE Achievements, which again, I won’t go into.

I am genuinely excited, both, to try the iPhone 4S (it’s been about 2 years since I used an iPhone), as well as to compare that experience to how I do things on my Lumia. Is there anything specific you would like me to look at in this experiment? Let me know!

Nokia’s Roller Coaster Fortnight

Nokia Lumia 900

Oh wow, what a couple of weeks Nokia has had. A company trying to reinvent itself and staying relevant in an increasingly iOS/Android-dominated smartphone world caught the headlines mostly for all the wrong reasons. Here’s a rundown of the news and my take on the same.

Lumia 900 Announced

First, after showing the Lumia 900 at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, they finally announced the availability of Nokia Lumia 900, their flagship device for the North American markets. Pre-orders would start on March 30, at AT&T’s website, and the device would be available in stores on April 8. As a surprise they also announced a glossy white version, to be available only in stores (no pre-order) on April 22. All good news, albeit some would argue that according to leaks earlier, it was supposed to happen on March 18, so this date could be considered a “delay”. Oh well.

Mixed Reviews?

Then, the review embargo is lifted. Suffice to say that while generally extremely positive, there was a feeling that some of the reviewers (especially one at a very high profile site) were very critical of certain aspects of the phone and the OS. I wrote about how the Lumia 900 may have created a very high set of expectations and meeting or beating those expectations would be almost impossible. Also, the device, unlike typical iPhone releases, was not accompanied by a major software update of the Windows Phone OS. So a lot of reviewers started poking around what’s missing in the OS rather than reviewing the device itself. Bottom line, there was a lot of coverage on the stuff that was missing, instead of highlighting how, at $99 with contract, this was an excellent deal for a very well-made phone.

Nokia Lumia 900 vs iPhone 4S vs Galaxy Nexus vs Galaxy S2 – How Does The Best Windows Phone Stack Up Against Its Competition?

The Lumia 900 is finally up for sale in the United States, and it has already sold out in quite a few online stores. The Lumia 900 is the biggest handset launch from Nokia in the recent years in the United States, and the handset will have a key role in determining the future on WP7 and the Nokia-MS partnership.

However, how does the Lumia 900 stack up against some of the best phones up for sale today including the iPhone 4S, Galaxy Nexus and the Galaxy S2? Read our comparison post below to find out!

Display

The Galaxy Nexus has the biggest display among all these 4 handsets and comes with a 4.65-inch Super AMOLED HD screen with a whopping 720p screen, but has a PenTile display. The Galaxy S2 and Lumia 900 come with a 4.3-inch display with WVGA (480*800) resolution. While the Galaxy S2 uses a Super-AMOLED Plus display, the Lumia 900 has a (AMOLED) ClearBlack Display. The iPhone 4S has the smallest display among its competitors with a relatively small 3.5-inch IPS LCD display with 640*960 resolution. The iPhone 4S has the highest pixel density here with a Retina busting 326ppi, while the Galaxy Nexus comes in a second close with a ppi of 316. The Galaxy S2 and the Lumia 900 both have a disappointingly low ppi of 218.

The iPhone 4S and the Galaxy Nexus both trump the Lumia 900 in terms of display quality as well as resolution, while the Lumia 900 manages to tie it with the Galaxy S2 display. However, considering the Lumia 900 is being released in 2012, and all of its competitors were launched in 2011, the former should have had packed in a higher resolution screen. Sadly, since Windows Phone does not support resolutions higher than WVGA, there is nothing much the OEMs can do about it, except for wait for Windows Phone 8.

Read: Galaxy S2 vs. Galaxy Nexus vs. iPhone 4S – Which is the best smartphone of 2011?

Processing Power

Except for the Lumia 900, the Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S2 and the iPhone 4S, all have a dual-core processor. The A5 SoC used inside the iPhone 4S is an absolute beast and manages to trump every other mobile CPU + GPU combination easily. The Exynos SoC found inside the Galaxy S2 comes in second with two powerful Cortex-A9 cores running at 1.2GHz, along with an ARM Mali-400MP GPU. The Galaxy Nexus also packs in two 1.2GHz Cortex-A9 processor, and a PowerVR SGX 540 GPU, which struggles to keep up with the HD resolution on the handset.

A Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 processor clocked at 1.4GHz along with an Adreno 205 GPU powers the Lumia 900. While the OS on the handset itself runs very smooth, third party apps and browsing on the handset take a toll due to the limited CPU power.

Camera 

The iPhone 4S, Galaxy S2 and the Lumia 900 pack in an 8MP camera with an LED flash, while the Galaxy Nexus houses a 5MP camera aided by an LED flash. The 8MP snapper on the iPhone 4S can take some absolutely stunning pictures, and is a clear winner here. The Galaxy S2 and the Lumia 900 come in a close second, with the former struggling in low-light conditions quite heavily. The Galaxy Nexus with its poor, but with Instant capture feature, 5MP cam does not even stand a chance.

While the Lumia 900 may have come second in the camera shoot-out, we should not forget that the Galaxy S2 was released nearly a year ago. The Galaxy S3 is just around the corner, and chances are it will trump the Lumia 900 in camera performance easily.

Apps

While the iPhone App Store has more than 450,000+ apps, there are roughly around 300,000 apps in the Google Play Store. In comparison to this, the Windows Phone Marketplace has around 70,000+ apps. Sadly, there is a very serious lack of quality applications in the WP Marketplace. There is still no official Dropbox client available for the OS, which might be a bummer for quite a few people out there. There are still no graphically intensive games available for the OS. Most developers still prefer to launch an iOS version of their app first, followed by an Android version.

However, most developers who have released a WP7 version of their app have been seriously impressed with the SDK tools available for the platform, and actually prefer coding apps for WP rather than Android. So hopefully it is just a matter of time, and possibly few more APIs from Microsoft, before we see some quality apps hit the Windows Phone marketplace.

P.S. – I can’t comment on the battery life of the handsets since I have not used them long enough. However, I am sure the iPhone 4S will be a clear winner here just because it has a smaller screen, and lacks support for LTE networks. Lumia 900 should provide users with the same battery life as the Galaxy S2 and the Galaxy Nexus, if not worse.

Also Read: Some must have apps for the Nokia Lumia 900 and 800

The Problem with Reviewing the Nokia Lumia 900

Nokia Lumia 900

Nokia Lumia 900 Reviews

Last night (April 3, 2012) the embargo was lifted, and Nokia Lumia 900 reviews started flowing in. At first glance, one would think the reviews were mixed, or even that the device was being slammed. Lots of good words, but bottom line being negative. I went through most of the top reviews, and as you unpeel the onion you see that generally, everyone agrees that this phone definitely has the chops to compete with the top smartphones on other platforms. The issues that have been brought up are actually a problem Nokia and Microsoft will have to tackle somehow. These are, generally speaking, issues faced by techies, but since techies control the message nowadays, it is a situation that needs to be addressed.

First though, the key selling points for the device: fantastic design, great screen (ClearBlack AMOLED), LTE, low price, good camera and a fresh (compared to iOS and its poor clone, Android) operating system. Some reviewers contradicted each other on some of the features (like The Verge’s Josh Topolsky and PC Mag’s Sascha Segan criticizing the camera but Engadget’s Joseph Volpe and PC World’s Ginny Mies claiming it was great and versatile), and of course different reviewers rated the “good” on different levels of the spectrum based on their preferences and experience.

The Problem(s)

However, I saw some of the issues that the reviewers brought up in their reviews, and Nokia and Microsoft both have to be concerned. First is that expectations are sky-high for Nokia. They are known to make excellent devices and after putting all their eggs in the Windows Phone basket, a lot is expected of them. Also, with RIM imploding, there is nobody else to take the 3rd spot behind iOS and Android, so the anticipation is heightened. As a result, even a minor issue will get amplified.

Calm Down, Windows Phone Developers. Tango is Good for You!

Nokia Lumia 610

Recently, after a blog post on the Windows Phone Developer Blog, there was concern among the Windows Phone developer community about the impact of 256MB phones on the general app quality. The basic assumption made was that apps will now have to be catered for the lowest common denominator. Per these concerns, today’s phones with 512MB memory, and tomorrow’s super phones with possibly more, will be under-utilized, and app developers may not be able to push the limits on the resource usage within their apps.

Justin Angel, the newly hired Principal Engineer at Nokia, has been doing the rounds of popular Windows Phone podcasts to clear the air on this topic. I listened to WPCentral and WPDevPodcast episodes recently, and wanted to highlight the main points Angel made. So, here you go:

  • As mentioned in the original blog post, there are less than 5% of the total apps which are affected by the restrictions imposed on the maximum memory an app can use.
  • These affected apps, which use more than 90MB of memory, should have actually been declined certification in the first place.
  • Microsoft had two choices on handling these apps – pull them off the Marketplace, or what they did, which is mark them as incompatible with the low-end devices, and notify each developer with an email. This email explains what the developer can do to update the app so it passes certification the next time they submit it.
  • The updated developer tools ship with a second emulator to help understand how an app would perform under both 256MB and 512MB devices. The best practice suggested is to always test the app in the 256MB emulator. Angel also suggested that developers should use the memory profiler that comes with the tools, which will help them in understanding where their app ends up using more memory.
  • Microsoft has made some clever technological updates in the “Windows Phone 7.5 Refresh”, aka Tango, which enable even the 256MB devices to support up to 90MB of memory per app. This trickery is completely transparent to the developer (and naturally, to the customer).
  • Since the trickery only applies to the 256MB devices, current Windows Phone customers need not worry about it at all. Developers also need not worry about how their apps will perform before and after Tango on the first-generation devices, since on those devices there is going to be no impact at all.
  • As for loss of functionality or APIs, the generic background agents will not work in the 256MB devices. These are two new types of agents introduced in Windows Phone Mango, which allow arbitrary code to run in the background based on app developer’s discretion. The apps which use such agents are listed under the new settings section so the customer can go and de-select to turn them off. Angel mentioned that because of this ability provided to the phone owner, these generic background agents should not have been made a core part of any app anyway. Remember, push notification services are still available, so toast notifications, live tile updates, alerts, etc. should still work if you use the Push Notification Service (and related APIs).

So there you go, developers. There is virtually nothing to worry about with Tango. In fact, there is a LOT to be excited about. With the addition of 23 new markets including China, and the push by Nokia and others into these markets with low-cost devices, there is a very good chance that the lower end devices will actually outsell the top end devices. If your app works on these low-end devices, you will now have access to about 60% more customers!

If you are one of the 5% affected developers, please let me know if you have a reason to exceed the 90MB memory limit. I’d like to know why it is so.

One Year On: Nokia Has Come a Long Way, Still Has a Very Long Way to Go

Nokia

Nokia kicked off the Mobile World Congress (MWC) with its press conference on February 27, in Barcelona. Stephen Elop, President and CEO of Nokia took stage and described the progress they have made since the last year’s event. If you recall, it was last year’s MWC when Nokia had officially announced that they were going all in on Windows Phone.

After the initial update on Nokia’s latest endeavors both on the low-end Asha phones, and also on the higher-end Windows Phones, the talk shifted to the new stuff. First up was the Asha line of phones, and 3 new devices were announced, along with Nokia Life services which bring life skills, parenting, education, agriculture and entertainment services to Series 30 and 50 phones in India, China, Indonesia and Nigeria.

However, I want to focus on Nokia’s progress with Windows Phone. Late last year, Nokia announced and launched two brand new devices, the Nokia Lumia 800 and Nokia Lumia 710. These devices were released ahead of schedule, and were available in parts of Europe first, and then slowly to other geographies over the next months. The launches everywhere were accompanied with a lot of marketing muscle – from concerts and light shows to flash mobs and video shows. Some examples:

Yet, I was surprised that based on a recent report by Strategy Analytics, Nokia was able to go from no market share to the highest share among all Windows Phone device makers. It is even more remarkable when you consider that the phones were not even available for the entire quarter, and not across most geographies where other device makers were already selling Windows Phones.