From August 2009 to April 2012 I was using an HTC Hero running Android. It was a wonderful little smartphone. I was very happy with it, I embraced the world of Google, I switched to Gmail and having all my contacts in the cloud was perfect. No longer did I need to think of backing up my phone or managing contacts in multiple places.
In 2012 I wanted to upgrade to a new smartphone. Being used to and happy with my HTC running Android, my search started with the then new HTC One X and S models with Android Ice Cream Sandwich. I very nearly got the HTC One S because it was a good size for me and it was an amazing design. But something made me stop. There was a lot of advertising for the then still new Nokia Lumia 800. I wondered if I should make a change, try something new? The first thing I liked about the Nokia Lumia 800 was the hardware design. It is sleek and doesn't have bits sticking out of it (the HTC One S camera lens sticks out a little from the body). Crucially for me the Lumia 800 was small enough to go in my pocket - remember that I was used to the ultra compact HTC Hero.
But I paused and thought again about getting a Lumia 800. The hardware and design being great but it wasn't running Android. Did I really want to jump to Windows Phone? What about my Google contacts and Gmail? Would it work as seamlessly with my Google cloud? Would the Microsoft Windows Phone operating system tie me to Hotmail and other Microsoft solutions? I wondered. Also the stories in the press about few apps for Windows Phone - would this be a limiting factor?
I'd seen Windows Phone before on a colleagues mobile, I knew it was interesting but I wasn't convinced it was for me. I used a Lumia in a shop, I did some more research, watched reviews on Youtube and read articles. I finally took the plunge and bought a Nokia Lumia 800 in April 2012.
The first thing I did was configure my Lumia for Gmail. It was very easy, Windows Phone has Gmail as a standard option. It was just as easy as it was on my Android phone. I could synchronise e-mails - easy. The Windows Phone built-in e-mail app is nice too. Then my contacts... yes, no problem, all my Gmail contacts synchronised. Just like on my Android I was also able to synchronise my Facebook contacts too and match them to my Gmail contacts. Excellent! In fact that part was easier and faster than I'd experienced on my old phone. The calendar also works. You add something in Gmail and it appears on your phone and the other way round too. It works.
What about IE (Internet Explorer)? On my desktop I use Google Chrome and so going back to IE felt strange at first but the thing is, it's just perception. In fact IE on Windows Phone is slick and works very well. The only odd thing is that it sometimes doesn't show the mobile version of a website when you'd expect it to. Apart from that, it does the job. Adobe Flash doesn't run though. At first I was upset with this but as there is an industry trend away from Flash this is less of an issue now. Apple was one of the first to drop it and even Adobe itself isn't producing new versions of the player for Android anymore. By the way, don't be worried about Youtube - it works fine on Windows Phone IE.
If you swipe to the right you see the full app list. You can pin any app tile to the start screen. On the start screen you can easily move tiles around by pressing and dragging. It is easy and slick. The speed and responsiveness is excellent. There's no lag or slowdown when using Windows Phone, at least not in my experience with the Lumia 800 (which surprisingly only has a single core CPU).
All Windows Phones have three physical buttons. The Back, the Windows (start) and Search. When you have apps open, press the back button to go leave them or cancel something you are doing. But if you want to leave the app open, press the Windows button, it takes you back to the start screen. The app is left running, this is multi-tasking. If you want to see what is running, press the Back button, hold it down and you'll see a list of open apps.
Back in 2009 my Android phone linked to my contacts to my Facebook account. Windows Phone does the same and more. The best part is that it does it in a seamless way and it is reliable. You have control, you choose if you link to Facebook or not. I like this a lot as I use Facebook and the integration is so good that I hardly ever open the Facebook app. Instead click a contact and you'll see their status update, photos, etc. Posting photos is very easy, there's a little button, click it and you can share to Facebook, Twitter, etc. The Facebook integration goes even further. The messaging app where you send SMS texts, press an on screen button and you can send Facebook instant messages from the same place. I've used it and I like it, unfortunately few people use the Facebook instant messanger. In addition to all of this integration, there is also a very good official Facebook app you can download and install.
Search and More
Windows Phones have a dedicated search button that brings up the Bing search. Not only does this allow you to search the web but also, with the press of a button, you can scan barcodes. If you are in a shop and want to get more details on a product you can point your phone at the barcode and it'll search and give you the details. It's practical and you don't need to install an app to get this functionality. You can translate text too. OK, it doesn't sound all that amazing but what's nice here is that if, for example, you have a letter written in another language, your Windows Phone can scan the text and translate it for you. It's automatic and there's no app to download. The iPhone 4 and above have a feature called "Siri" where you can speak to your phone. Windows Phone has a similar feature called Tell Me. You can create text messages by just speaking, it will read text messages too. I've tried it and it works well but for me I am not that keen on voice activation, I can type pretty fast ;-) Here's a video that shows this feature:
Windows Phone is reliable. I've not had to switch off/on my Lumia. I've never seen any kind of crash so far. It works as fast now as ever. It is impressive, at least in the six months I've been using it.
Nokia Lumia 800