Monday, 18 February 2013

Nokia Lumia 820 - A Review

Baba Gyani Triviani heard:
"In a world without wallswho needs windows and gates?"

When I proclaimed that I wanted to buy a Windows phone, I could have sworn I heard some chuckling behind me. Typically, the response to Windows phone is not good - in fact, the common refrain with regard to Windows phone is the lack of apps.

I was bored of having an Android phone for quite some time. So I decided to go for a Windows one. This is not going to be a standard review that you can pick off any other site, because there are loads of them out there anyway. I will just post some things that I found worth mentioning.

The phone is a Nokia Lumia 820 running Windows Phone 8. In general, the phone has been very well received. I thought of throwing random sentences in an attempt to make it concise.

Definitely very fresh. It's a great feel compared to Android or even iPhone, which haven't changed for a long time now. The font size and typefaces are all very pleasing to the eye. Bing wallpaper setting gets you beautiful wallpapers everyday. Keyboard is pretty good with its autwn so-correct fumbling occasionally. Navigating through screens is excellent. No lag whatsoever. Switching between apps is very fast.

The live tiles are great to see notifications of social updates, messages, calls etc. in one go. And something about their 'live'ness makes it pleasant. Frankly, I enjoy looking at some faces of people whom I haven't met for a long time as their faces randomly appear on the homescreen. Posting social updates on FB and Twitter are equally fast.

On the downside, there are some little annoyances. I could not bring the cursor in the middle of a word. Tapping on a word selects the whole word. There is no 'select all' feature, you have to drag the two pointers to either end for that. There is no cut feature. So, you have to copy and delete. Not that they are major annoyances, but annoyances nonetheless.

Android users will probably miss the ability to drag the notifications panel to toggle WiFi. There's an app to add connectivity shortcuts to your Start page and it takes exactly same number of taps to toggle - So no issues there

My biggest grouse with Android was while placing a call. The contacts took forever to load, crashing time and again, especially when the urgency of calls was higher. That's one thing I love about this device is that, not once have I experienced any kind of lag. Anytime! One ought to remember, in the end, it's still a phone :P

This is one of my favourite apps. Facebook, MSN Messenger, and SMS are all integrated. Switching between them is seamless. On the downside, however, there is no integrated support for Gtalk which is a nuisance when many of your friends are on Gtalk. There are apps for Gtalk though, like IM+ and which are very nice. But I would have loved to have them all integrated.

Voice, Search and Browser
Search uses Bing for the search engine. Search results are pretty decent for regular search, I have no complaints.

Local Search, at least for India, isn't good at all, because Bing does not do a very good job for India. So if I ask for (using voice search, like Siri) nearest Pizza place, the voice recognition works really well, but it doesn't do the local search. Instead it runs a Bing search and that is not particularly useful.

However, Nokia provides the Nokia city lens which is an excellent tool for local search. When you search for something, it shows you things on the map (like Google Local) and also has the Augmented Reality if you lift it up and move it around, you can see things popping up.

The browser is Internet Explorer, the browser that we all love to hate :-) I have used it to browse a bunch of sites and have faced zero issues. You can change the default search engine from Bing to Google if you wish for the browser though.

There is an app called Assistant which is quite good and very similar to Siri. AND it runs Google searches behind the scenes. While not exactly integrated like Android (obviously), it is a very nice replacement for your voice assistant.

When it comes to navigation, I am the exact opposite of a homing pigeon. That's right, I am heavily reliant on Google maps and navigation when I have to do a little out of the ordinary. The Android phone with its lovely turn by turn navigation with Voice is unmatched - or so I thought.

But nothing to worry there. Nokia's maps and turn by turn navigation is excellent. I have used it on three different occasions and all times I reached the place that I had to reach without facing any issues. The voice and navigation was flawless.

I do have a problem with the Nokia maps (for India at least, I tried for Bangalore) and that is, that the landmarks are way fewer when compared to Google's which is more informative. On a positive note, there is an app called gMaps which gets Google maps for you, if you really need it. Frankly, I haven't yet found the need, but just saying that it's there in case you are worried.

The player is good and does all the things you expect it to do very nicely.

However, the awesomest app I felt was the Nokia music store, that allows you to download virtually any song. Which is just brilliant. I love this app.

Overall, I like the music player and, like I have already mentioned before, the overall interface and design. It's a whole lot better than the ones in Android and iPhone. (At least I feel so, because I have used both...)


Many reviews that I read online spoke about camera quality being average. However, I (a layman and no camera expert by any means) found the camera to be very nice. It's an 8MP camera btw.

Here's a shot I took in dim light. The quality didn't seem to be bad like they say.

I saved this for the last - Apps. The biggest "problem" hounding Windows Phones. I am going to say something and run as fast as I can... I didn't find the lack of apps - and no, I am not being biased. What are the kind of things that you ordinarily do? There are apps for everything - there are over a hundred and fifty thousand apps! Ok, I know Android is probably five times that or more, but whatever I wanted to do, read news, play games, camera filters, etc. I found really good apps for that.

In fact, the news apps seemed more pleasing because of the nice typefaces. Games - I play Wordament, Alphajax which are word games, and Burn the Rope - and not fancy enough? I purchased and finished Mirror's Edge 2, which has some awesome graphics (EA)

Zomato and Epicurious have some very good looking apps too.

But let me finish. The biggest grouse, however, is that there are very few free apps on Windows. In fact, this is probably the biggest complaint of most people. I believe that's because Microsoft charges developers quite a lot more money than Google does for Android. So, it's justifiable that developers try to recover that money. However, the consumers tend to feel the pinch.

It's however very interesting that after paying thousands and thousands of Rupees for the phone, a lot of people give poor ratings to certain very good apps only because the app is not free (and the cost of the app would be only Rs. 55) Apps like Facebook need to be more mature.

The built in Office suite is good, though I haven't done much with it. The One Note app though, is simply terrific. I did download Evernote, but have never opened it. One Note allows for easy creation of shopping lists (checked) along with regular notes, and a lot of cool things.

There are a lot of subtle things that make the overall experience nicer... It's more of a choice I guess. I would suggest using the device hands on and be the judge, rather than going by what others say. There are some features that I liked, including the ability to remotely lock the device and send a message, erase, in case your device gets stolen or lost. You can remotely install apps like the Google Play store too. It has everything, and is rapidly improving...

Overall, I would say that you should give a fair consideration while buying your phone because it can do pretty much all the things the things your Android or iPhone can, and has its own advantages too. Don't be biased on reviews, try it hands-on.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Love Story - Part 1

Baba Gyani Triviani said:
"And he wondered who in heaven's name makes mushy love stories and why they are popular... and he realised when he fell in love"

"So you are going to get married to that guy? What's there in him that's not there in me?" I asked indignantly. 

"It's not about qualities Amit, you know it. It's my parents' wish and I can't go against them" she replied

"Of course, I've heard that rot a million times. But I don't understand why him? I mean, he looks like a horse I tell you."

"He looks nothing of that sort" she replied shortly

"Oh defending him already, are we? Why, if your father was interested in horses, he should have been gambling and betting on horses in the race course. Not gambling your future on this horse" I said with great gusto. Future on this horse. I beamed at my own cleverness. That was capital. I then saw the smouldering look of hers and somehow got a feeling she didn't feel the same way about the my wit.

"What did you say about daddy?" she asked in that tone. That tone... Anything I say now is going to get me in trouble. In situations like this, flight is the best solution. Men will scale the tallest of peaks and swim entire across a crocodile infested lake, walk on hot coal, battle barbarian hordes and put heads between the jaws of alligators whom they had poked a couple of minutes before; but there is something about a woman's anger that makes even the mightiest of hounds tuck their tails and yelp. Politicians, however, have invented the best line for situations like this - The Misinterpretation card.

"Oh Priya Priya Priya" I ventured "You got me wrong. I didn't call your dad a gambler. I was merely focusing on horse-face. Oh check this out. I think that guy is very reliable, you know, because everything he utters comes right out of the horse's mouth" I grinned. My words had no effect on her.

"I've got to go now"  she snapped, adding "I wish we can remain friends. Goodbye, Amit" she said and turned around. I felt a jab. She was walking away. Should I let go of my ego and try to knock some sense into her? Or will it seem like I am grovelling? I don't want to thrust my society upon her. But should I let her go? I quietly pulled out my cigarette case and pulled out one. I was too agitated to think straight. I put it in my mouth and began groping in my pocket for my lighter. 

Suddenly someone held a lit match in front of my cigarette. I raised my eyebrows and looked at the owner of the hand that was so kind. "What ho what ho!" he said. It was the horse incarnate. I threw the cigarette on the ground and put my shoe on it. Then, I decided to show him who's the alpha dog around there and so I ground my foot over it, repeatedly drilling the unlit cigarette into the earth, as I looked at him with gritted teeth and I imagine, gleaming eyes. "Well well well, hallo there yourself my dear chum" I said, adding "I have quit smoking by the way". There! That should put him in his place

"Oh, I beg your pardon. It's good that you have quit the filthy habit" he said, "but I suggest you stop wearing your sole and look down for a moment" I look down as he had suggested and saw that the cigarette was a few inches to the left of where I had been rubbing my foot. I sheepishly looked at his grinning countenance. "It was merely symbolic" I tried to save face. "Quite. Say, Priya speaks highly of you, quite good friends you both must be. I'm sure you'll miss her when we move to the States" he said. At this juncture of my memoir, I would like to point out that which you might have already divined. The steed knew nought about our relationship, our past, our history or whatever rot you would like to term it as. I was explicitly forbidden from revealing the truth, and I was bound by oaths, curses, promises, threats and what not. "Indeed" I said.

"So, when are you going to get married friend?" he asked me. My mind quickly started generating a bunch of sarcastic retorts and witticisms, but none of them cleared the quality check. I personally believe in high degree retorts only. Poor ones, well, they dilute my image and what not. And I am very image conscious. 

I decided to answer it straight... for a change "Ah! What's the hurry. It'll happen when it has to happen. Besides, not everyone is as lucky as you are" I tried to smile a smile, it was not genuine of course, you have to understand. 

He didn't seem to notice - "Ah yes, I am lucky indeed. Say, you sound like a decent chap, how would you like to help me pick up an engagement ring for Priya? You know her likes and dislikes better than me". 

I am a decent chap alright, but asking me for a favour of this nature was like expecting me to tell a thief in which room I hide all my silver. There is a limit that even a well meaning cove like myself will not stretch beyond. "I don't know, I have a headache", I lied.

"Come on, I'll buy you an analgesic along the way. Say yay, don't be a naysayer" he cajoled. "I don't nay, YOU neigh you old horse" I wanted to say, but the old chap was being so nice, I decided to go with him.

"Alright, what the hell" I agreed. 

"Really? Are you serious?
"Well, I don't horse around... ordinarily" I grinned. As you might have noticed rightly, I added the ordinarily as an afterthought, just so that I had a legitimate reason to grin.

"So, my dear friend, what is it that you do?" he questioned as we settled comfortably in his car. "Oh, I am a programmer. So these babies do all the work" I said merrily wriggling my fingers at him. "I never understand why it is that software developers get paid a lot. I mean, all you do is sit in an air-conditioned room in a comfortable chair and type away to glory." I narrowed my eyes and could feel my ears getting hotter. "Could you please turn on the air-conditioner?" I asked, and continued "Oh yes sir, nobody really knows why. Considering the number of software engineers out there, I would expect the contrary too. So, what is it that you do?"

"I am a doctor." he replied. "Gosh darn it", I thought to myself, "A doctor? That's a more respectable profession that a software engineer. He's saving lives while I am... I am... oh who am I kidding, while I am checking notifications on Facebook. Alright, Horse-Face 1, Amit 0" He eased his expensive car in front a store. A man in what seemed to be a greatly decorated uniform like one of those dictators of one of those unheard of countries hurriedly approached his door and opened it for him, gave him a salute with a wide grin. After receiving the keys, I was expecting him to hobble around and open the door for me too and mete out a similar treatment. Instead the man simply peered in from the driver's door wondering why I hadn't alighted yet. I got the message. I opened my door and slammed it, adjusted my shirt, trying to look dignified. But for whom, I didn't know. The valet drove the car to some location that the customers needn't be bothered with.

I looked at the building we stood in front of. The edifice had a huge sign that read "Jewels De Paragon", and it immediately dawned upon me that the whole complex was a jewel store. That valet, for all that you know, could really have been a dictator of some country before. Stupid fancy French place. "Come on mate, we didn't drive all this way to admire the building." he said, beckoning me to enter the complex with the centralised air conditioning and that dim yellow lighting that makes those elegant places elegant.
I let out a little groan as I followed him in. "Good evening, Mr. Ashva"

--- to be continued...