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.

Interface
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

Messaging
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 talk.to 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.

Navigation
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.

Music
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...)

Camera

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.









Apps
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.

Others
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.

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