Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why I'm taking my SIM out of my Windows Mobile 8 Phone

I blog rarely, but have mentioned a small annoyance with Windows Phone 7 previously. It was a minor API annoyance. Since then I really enjoyed my HTC HD7. It was different, looked gorgeous, and was generally a joy to use. Zune for Windows is a great music player, it looks stunning and made synchronizing music a breeze. It made iTunes feel like a toy.

I, with a very small select group of friends, were excited for Windows 8 and obviously Windows Phone 8. We spoke at length on how we looked forward to the Surface and which WP8 phone we would pick.

Windows 8 dropped and I installed it on my PC that night thinking "hey if WP7 was so fun to use with the tiles, surely Windows 8 will be great". Sadly... it is not.
I was initially keen. I learnt all the new shortcuts and carefully crafted my Start screen (its not a menu anymore). But after about day 2 or 3... every time I press the Start button I cringe. Why do I have to get smacked in the face with a full screen bunch of non-sense.

The Metro style (I know we aren't supposed to call it that, but thats what it is) apps are frustrating at best and I find my self installing the desktop version of any app. As a multi-monitor user, I have daily frustrations with how Windows 8 deals with my screen. It just feels wrong. Windows 7 was nice, but with Metro glued on it feels oddly different.

There are problems in the small details too. I thought I'd be all cool and use the Metro Skype while I played Starcraft. I had the screen real-estate for it, yay. Would you believe that the biggest issue I had with the application is that Windows 8 Metro apps don't get their own Volume Mixer controls! WHO FORGOT TO PROGRAM THAT IN?? If I wanted to adjust the Skype volume, the system volume went with it. Not good enough Microsoft.

As a developer, I was getting pumped for Visual Studio 2012 and to learn how to make my own Metro apps. I'm not going to bother. In fact, uninstalling Windows 8 is on the cards. I hate to "go backwards", but the naysayers were all correct.

I looked the other way and went and got a Telsta 4G HTC 8X. One of the flagship Windows Phone 8 devices along with the Lumia 920. I picked it up and had smiles from ear to ear. It was light, felt great and was extremely fast compared to my HD7. I enjoyed arranging my home screen and although there wasn't a lot that was new that I needed out of Windows Phone 8 it was fast and fresh enough that I was happy.
Mind you, I was disappointed that Skype support is still mostly beta... Microsoft have had more than enough time to get this right and it should have been shipped with wonderful integration.

I get home and start to load up all my music and photos from my HD7 to the 8X. Zune wouldn't recognise the device for some reason. I Google (not Bing...) for the reason only to discover that it is no longer supported. Really? The best part about the Windows Desktop to Phone experience is crippled? grrrr
So I start the Windows Phone 8 Metro application ... there was almost a tear. It is boring, and not at all intuitive. Sure it was functional, so I pushed through it. I still use Zune to play music...

It wasn't until I started poking around the operating system that something occurred to me. Weren't we promised Nokia Drive? Oh well, Bing Maps wasn't too bad on the HD7 and I used it quite regularly to get directions via my Bluetooth headset. I jumped in my car and went to get navigation instructions and was told "Hey, you don't have an app for that. Want to go to the marketplace?"
Did I press the wrong button? No... no I did not. Directions were removed? You crippled a critical feature?
I thought maybe it doesn't matter, Telstra bundled Garmin Navigator... I start it up and am told about the $7 per month fee for Navigator. I almost threw the thing at a wall. With all the battle going on with Apple Maps, did Microsoft fail to see how critical maps applications are? Did they notice and still chose to remove direction capability? 
I know of the 3rd party crappy add-ons for $5-$50. They are all terrible. 
This was almost reason enough to take it back, but I kept up with it.

Over the next week there were frequent random reboots, for no apparent reason while it was sitting there by itself. There weren't updates, they were bugs. There was an OTA update that fixed them in November apparently, but my phone was getting them regularly.

I used my Bluetooth headset to command my phone a lot. Especially for receiving texts while I am on the road. The speech from the device was mostly garbled or speckled with random moments of silence. There are no excuses for this, I have a top end Jawbone that was flawless with my HTC HD7 and my BB Torch 9800.... 

It was about day 7 when I realised several dead pixels on the screen, and to top it off the the plastic on the case was peeling. After poking around the internet I realised I was not alone.
Telstra were nice enough to replace it in store one day. 
While in store we actually went through 3 more devices that obvious dead pixels straight out of the box. Not just 1, but sometimes 2 or 3. WTF is with the build quality.
We found one that seemed good and I took it home. 7 days later I have feeling on most of the edges of the freaking thing. 
I have yet another appointment with Telstra to get rid of this piece of junk.

The device hardware faults aren't Microsofts fault.. but as flagship devices and that fact that these things don't last a week without obvious physical wear is nothing short of disgraceful. 

However, there are absolutely no excuses for the crippling of Maps. I'm also going to be losing support for syncing with my Google contacts and calendar shortly.

The result... My SIM card is now in my old Google/Samsung Nexus S and I'll probably walk out of Telstra with an Android device when I get rid of this thing.

I walked tall and talked in great length with fellow gadget nerds with the hope that the Microsoft Windows 8 products were going to bring the company back from brink of boredom that people were experiencing. I talked up WP8 and assured friends Windows 8 was going to be a lot of fun.

I was wrong... 

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