Nokia 925: My first Windows phone

Nokia 925: My first Windows phone

Summary: What's it like for a lifetime Apple and Android user to begin using a Windows phone? Violet Blue found out.

Image: Violet Blue/ZDNet

The week after my article about our collective disappointments and trust issues regarding Google's products, a friend from Microsoft wrote me saying, "You should ditch your Nexus or whatever Android you are using and try a Windows Phone 8.1 device for a while."

I've owned more phones than I can count, or even remember.

Yet for the past ten years, I have used nearly every operating system except Windows.

At the same time, I've reported on way too many security issues surrounding the iPhone. Apple has great security — as long as you understand that its security is centered on itself, and not you.

Meanwhile, in my day to day I face two constant dilemmas.

First, there are so many Android security problems, holes and gaping mistakes that I don't even know where to start reporting on them.

Second, using Android phones, I'm Google's lab rat and fighting back a continual invasiveness from a company that's really starting to freak me out. I can't get Google out of my life. And neither can you — not really.

If there's anything I've learned from writing about crime for the past few years, it's this: everything is hackable. Everything. It's just a matter of how long it takes. The longer it takes, the more expensive it will be to hack, but that's really it.

All we can do is assess our own risk tolerance and operational security practices (and rules), get as much control as possible over critical decisions, and ... pick your poison.

So I said, okay.

Image: Violet Blue/ZDNet

Microsoft sent me a Nokia Lumia 925 running Windows 8.0. Before I even opened the package I was disappointed: what had really pushed my interest over the line was what I'd read in articles about Cortana, Microsoft's supposedly souped-up answer to Siri (Apple's virtual personal assistant).

Cortana isn't on 8.0, it's on 8.1, which is in late beta testing and is expected to roll out to carriers on various devices over the next few months.

See also:

I eventually got Cortana on my Nokia Lumia 925. But not before I spent a week with the phone, and the operating system, which was a breeze to learn and easy to use and configure.

Some of my friends will never stop teasing me for writing this, and others may not even speak to me: I love using that damn Windows phone. I love the camera, I've started using Vine, and I've discovered and fallen in love with OneNote.

Image: Violet Blue/ZDNet

The Microsoft products, they're so much better than Google's — they're not some beta junk that Google forgot about, and my productivity has practically doubled using OneNote.

I'm not kidding: I dumped Evernote and abandoned Gmail's crappy "tasks" for OneNote. As a journalist, note taking is everything and I need to be able to do it anywhere, everywhere, and easily. My go-to for nearly ten years has been the standard reporter's notebook, and with Swipe plus OneNote (and its audio notes function), I'm using both equally now. I haven't even begun to explore OneNote.

The phone is quite amazing. The battery life is excellent, the UI is super smooth, and there's so much more control in terms of security and privacy — though it's nearly equal to the unlocked Android I picked up in Malaysia last year during Hack In The Box (Samsung S5 Active, waterproof). It has fine-grained security features domestic versions don't.

But the Android is a security mess in terms of the OS and apps. Not so with the Windows phone.

The two things lacking, for me, are the app store and Cortana. The app store is as I expected, fewer choices, key apps I need aren't developed for Windows yet, and fun add-on apps are still only on iOS and Android.

For instance, I really wish Sony's PlayMemories Mobile had a Windows version; it's how I've been using my Sony camera to wifi upload good photos — live — when I'm reporting on-site at conferences and events. I switched back to my Android during SF Pride just to use that app, but went back to the Nokia as soon as I could because it's just better.

I almost decided I couldn't use the phone when I saw there was no Uber app — it's a safety issue, I rely on Uber when I'm in unsafe areas, etc. But I figured out how to make a tile based on Uber's mobile site, and voila! I have an Uber "app" on my home screen.

Then there's Cortana.

I registered as a developer and did all the beta updates to get an 8.1 dev preview. The updates were numerous — if you do this, keep making your phone check for updates until it cries for mommy, and then make it cry again.

After the beta updates, I was allowed access to apps I couldn't get before for some reason (like my banking app).

I've been both excited by Cortana, and disappointed by Cortana. Having her set location-based reminders is great, such as reminding me to get allergy medication next time I'm at Walgreens. However, I could do that on my Malaysian Android, just not by voice, or as easily.

The version of Cortana on the Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview I have is not released, so keep that in mind as you read my laundry list.

I want Cortana to be voice-activated, even when lock screen is on. I want her to remember things better, I want her to call me by name, I want her to integrate with all the apps and the app store.

Razz me all you want, but yes — I want her to be more of a companion. I want more AI; I want her to learn from me and chat like A.L.I.C.E..

Image: Violet Blue/ZDNet

I want her to be my morning alarm clock — one thing I miss about my Android is that I had programmed the morning alarm clock to speak to me as the alarm. Every morning I'd be woken up by a female British voice reminding me what I had on my schedule, and reading off news headlines from topics I selected, or even just saying things to put me in a good mood.

I really miss that. I also wish I could change Cortana's voice, I find the default voice extremely annoying.

I'll be doing detailed follow-up posts on specific topics (the 925's camera, app hacks I've learned), and especially when Cortana rolls out officially. If I'm let down, I'll definitely say so.

I'm genuinely surprised I love this phone.

You know what else I really love?

It's not Google.

The Google tendrils are being cut out of my life.

It's really, really strange how that alone has lifted my anxiety.

Topics: Windows Phone, Microsoft, Mobility, Nokia

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  • Hi violet ....

    I bought a Nokia 920 when they first came out. it still runs great !
    Had no problem with the OS updates , and i plan to buy another Windows phone when the contract on this on runs out ( AT&T ) keep up the good work! : )
    • Nokia 920 rocks

      and it literally is built like a rock. Its the only phone is my house that hasn't broken after hard use. Wireless charging is very robust too, compared with iPhone that always seems to break cable after a couple months. 920 will go down as one of the best Win Phones ever.
      Sean Foley
  • Windows Phone is a great phone.

    I loved my HTC 8x. Unfortunately some apps I want are unavailable so I ended up on Android.
  • OneNote is a fantastic platform

    though I don't use it on mobile, so I am interested to hear about how well it works here. Though if I am not mistaken, OneNote is available on iOS and Android as well? I know it is definitely on iOS.
    • Works great on mobile

      The mobile is really the only reason I started using OneNote. It's nice being able to do all the editing on the laptop and have it immediately available on the phone.
      Buster Friendly
    • Office Lens....

      .... is a great addition to OneNote. I use it all the time to capture paper documents that are given to me in meetings and it gets uploaded to my Surface Pro 3 right after that. I love me some OneNote!
  • Cutting Google out of your LIfe

    Why people think that moving from from the Borg that is Google services and software to the Borg that is Microsoft or Apple makes them more secure or that their personal data is safer is beyond me.

    Moving away from Google services may make you FEEL better, but in reality you haven't improved your privacy situation ANY.
    • It's because

      It's because Google's business model is selling your personal information. On the other hand Apple wants to sell you hardware and Microsoft wants to sell you software.
      Buster Friendly
      • Don't Kid Yourself...

        Microsoft does Google-like stuff too. What's the difference between Bing and Google's search in terms of profiling and selling that info to advertisers? Both have the same revenue model.

        More and more, Microsoft doesn't want to sell you software. It wants to sell you a subscription to a service. OSS is all but completely eliminating huge margins for selling perpetual software licenses. Commercial software is moving to a SaaS model and that is what MS is pushing hard.

        But they are still trying to make money the Google way too.

        Regarding Apple, they are not in the cloud game as deep or wide as Google and MS so they probably ARE more interested in selling you hardware.
        • No need to guess

          There's no need to guess. They're public companies and we know their revenue breakdown. Microsoft makes almost everything from software, Apple from hardware (mostly iPhone), and Google from search engine advertising. The Bing revenue isn't enough to risk losing any software customers by playing fast and loose with privacy. The same with Apple's online services. Google on the other hand doesn't have anything to lose and everything to gain as that's the only value of a customer. In fact it's the advertisers that are really the customers and the users are their product.

          A subscription is basically the same as selling software as what you're really buying with software is a support cycle. The old box software model is a leftover from an age where distribution wasn't so easy. Their net profit margin is around 25-28%.
          Buster Friendly
        • The difference...

          The difference between Google and Microsoft is easy...

          Google says in the EULA you have to agree to that they own your info and WILL sell it!
          Microsoft says in the EULA tha you own your information and that they will NOT sell it!

          You see who of these you can sue for a cool million if your private photos ends upp on the billboards?
          • LOL. You need to cite the specific text that says 'sell'

        • Re: Don't Kid Yourself...

          It's true that Bing like Google profile you to give a better search and more personalize. But here is where Microsoft stops and Google keep going on. Google use their g-mail, Google+, Chrome, Android OS and apps, all Google service to track you, to get all the data about you to know you better and sell this to their advertisement clients. You are not the client, you are the product they sell. If you read the fine print if even say so. They can take your picture from your data and use it without your permission. With Google Map and street they know where you live, what kind of person you are, where you work, your health status, etc. They know more about your than yourself. This is because that is the way Google makes money. They don't sell you a product, they even give their software for free to get your data.

          Microsoft and Apple do not profile you as Google does. There is NO BACKDOOR in Microsoft software has many claim. It has never been proven. Just accusations. It's very difficult to take from peoples mind the accusations. But think for a minute and use your brain. If all the companies that uses Microsoft software believe that Microsoft had some backdoor to the software or were mining data from them, will they still be using their products? No, only bloggers that have nothing to do spread this rumor.
      • Inaccurate and false statements

        Google doe NOT sell your personal information.

        What they do is use the information you provide and based on your actives (searches, Key words in Gmail) to TARGET Ads that are more applicable to you. This way you don't get Ads' about depends diapers when your only 23 years of age.

        You pay nothing to use Google's services.

        Everyone has a choice to use Google's services or not. You have a choice, but don't try to mislead others based on false statements as to why you don't use them.

        If you have a FB account, then your statement is even worse, as FB makes revenue through Ads' also. The only difference is Google provides more services/options.

        If Violet Blue has a FB account, then she has a false sense of less 'Anxiety' by not using Google services.

        Again, its her choice, but it's a false sense of security IMO.

        Perhaps MS can give us all free phones, but then Violet didn't get the phone for free. She traded a positive review for it.

        I would have greater respect for Violet if she paid for the phone from her own pocket.

        ~Best wishes on your own choice, just make an honest/informed one.
        • Wait

          Are you suggesting that she lied in her review as a trade off for getting a free phone? Because that's what it sounds like you're saying.
    • Diffrent Model

      While I understand your point being they all collect data in one way or another. For me I think google has great services and products but I am never able to get past their data collection and the previous comment by their former CEO and current CEO; because of this I limited my use of their services when I can. I do believe that both Microsoft and Apple have been a little more transparent when it come to user privacy and data collection. Google to me is almost as bad as Facebook when it come to privacy.
    • Because Google is not mature.

      Google is going through their "we are Microsoft from the 1980's" phase...with monopolistic, predatory behavior and poor citizens of the tech community in general. Microsoft has matured past that phase, and Apple is maturing, Google is still a spoiled brat behaving recklessly with your data.
      • !!!!

        "Microsoft has matured past that phase, and Apple is maturing, Google is still a spoiled brat behaving recklessly with your data."

        Thanks for the laugh!!

        I dont see Google botching drivers into their OS (OpenGL) just to promote directx
        I dont see Google hampering competing web browsers on their OS so they dont show web pages correctly
        I dont see Google setting proprietary formats to force you onto their software

        You think they have changed? Lets talk about Android patents that should be publically viewable but Microsoft fight tooth and nail to hide, I wonder why? They have changed? Not one inch
        Lets talk about the constant FUD coming out of Redmond (Yes the company that thrives on viruses in their OS)

        The list is endless but yes they have matured LOL
        • We're talking reality

          We're talking reality and not conspiracy theories.
          Buster Friendly
        • Not true

          Please ignore this users comments are they simply aren't true.