Why Windows Phone 8.1 became my daily driver again

Summary:Microsoft continues to improve Windows Phone and the latest update addressed nearly all my concerns and deserves consideration as your primary smartphone.

It has been four months since I wrote that I was done with Windows Phone and then in April Microsoft released the Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview .

I'm back: Windows Phone 8.1 becomes my daily driver again

After installing it on my unlocked Nokia Lumia 1020 and using a Nokia Lumia Icon with 8.1 for a couple months, I am back to carrying around a Windows Phone device.

Microsoft provided more than I expected in Windows Phone 8.1 and the more I use it, the more I find I am starting to prefer it over Android. I gave up on an iPhone several months ago, I use an iPad Mini for iOS familiarity, but just recently bought a Sony Xperia Z2 and am considering putting it up for sale already.

When I went back and read the list of things I like about the Z2 , I see that my Lumia 1020 has at least half of these things and the others are made up in different ways, music playback on Windows Phone through the headphone jack is amazing and the mono speaker on the Lumia 1020 is actually very good.

Let me first address the issues I mentioned in February:

  1. Live Tiles: Live Tiles were improved in WP 8.1 with better information update support and a very cool effect where you can put an image behind the Live Tiles to really customize the look of your phone. You can also put smaller tiles into folders and even extend to a third column on larger display devices. UPDATE: I received a great tip from reader toph36 who said you can go to the bottom of the start+theme settings page and turn on Show more Tiles. I now get three columns on my Lumia 1020!

  2. OS responsiveness: Windows Phone has always been zippy, but I was tired of seeing some lag in app responsiveness. I am seeing much less of that in WP 8.1, even though it is still in Developer Preview mode and I don't yet have the latest and greatest Nokia improvements.

  3. Notifications: Simply put, Action Center rocks . I never use the notifications area on iOS and the one on Android can often be so overwhelming that I end up just clearing all without even looking at the notifications. Microsoft struck a great balance with Action Center and I use it all the time.

  4. Google services: I understand this one is more of an issue with the way I use services and that much of this is out of Microsoft's control. However, the Google account setup does now give me multiple calendar support (the new calendar views are great) and contacts seem to be working well too.

  5. Voice control: Microsoft stepped up to the plate here too with Cortana and she gets better every day with regular interaction. I hope that the hardware in the future lets me access and use Cortana in active listening mode like my Moto X, but I am still very satisfied with the performance as it is now. To help improve Cortana I have also now switched my desktop search to Bing.

I also mentioned a couple of other things that bugged me about Windows Phone in that February article, including the lack of video rentals and a visible file system. It turns out I missed that Microsoft released Xbox Video as an app in late December and I can now rent movies to watch on my Lumia 1020. They also just recently released a file manager so you can access your phone's file system like you can on Android.

There looks to be little reason not to pick up and use Windows Phone as my daily driver now. I do wish there was support for mobile gear like my UP24, Fitbit, or Pebble and hope that Microsoft adds support for these accessories in the future. They are not essential though and I can still connect them to my iPad for syncing the data.

My Lumia 1020 is a great device, but I want a Nokia Lumia 930 and hope we soon see Microsoft launch high end Windows Phone 8.1 handsets in the US.

When I look at the apps I use daily on my Android smartphone compared to the Lumia 1020, I personally don't find any major gaps. Since my last Windows Phone article, Microsoft even added Alaska Airlines , which is an essential application for my travel needs. Apps still don't launch on Windows Phone as quickly as other platforms and I still find iOS and Android apps often have more functionality, but I don't feel I am compromising with Windows Phone like I have been in the past.

As a long time Pocket PC, Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone user it is nice to be able to carry around a Windows Phone 8.1 device as a daily driver once again.

Related Windows Phone coverage:

Topics: Mobility, Nokia, Smartphones, Windows Phone

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.