As regulars will know, I'm a fan of Nokia's hardware design, and I've liked Microsoft's mobile OS ever since it hit 7.5 (Mango). So I decided to spend a week using the Lumia 920, Nokia's flagship Windows Phone 8 handset, as my main phone to see what the two of them could come up with.
READ PART 1: Seven days with the Nokia Lumia 920: The good
I've already taken a look at what I like about the smartphone. Now it's time for the bad.
Topping the list of complaints I've seen from others is the weight. At 186g (0.41lbs), the Lumia 920 is heavier than its rivals, as well as being fatter. For me, this isn't a big deal, whether it's in my pocket or in my hand — it's only about as hefty as a 200-page paperback book. I'm including this here, though, as some people simply won't tolerate that weight in a phone.
While the phone's call quality is good, other essential communication features such as email and SMS are hampered by a keyboard I just can't abide. There's no haptic feedback, for example, and the predictive text often seems to miss the mark.
What's particularly frustrating is that it is nigh on impossible — I suspect it is actually impossible (NOTE: see update below) — to select a letter in the middle of a word you've already typed. Plus, it's annoying that you have to go to a separate screen of letters if you want to use an apostrophe — something I need frequently — but I could just about live with that.
Overall, the input has progressed little from Windows Phone 7, where the same things annoyed me there too.
It's a shame the keyboard is frustrating, as the messaging applications themselves are perfectly good. Setting up a Gmail, Nokia or a Microsoft-based account is easy enough. While corporate Google Apps accounts are a little trickier, once you know which options you are supposed to choose, it can be done. (Hint: Don't select 'other account', select 'Google' instead. Then get a one-time password from your organisation's intranet, most likely at 'gpw.yourcompanydomain.com', and use that to set up sync for the first time.)
I'm also disappointed by the browser in Windows Phone 8; it lacks maturity, especially some of the advanced features taken for granted in Firefox Mobile or Chrome on Android.
On top of this, the browser deals with some redirects strangely. For instance, when you try to join a public or open Wi-Fi network that requires a splash-screen login, it sometimes leaves you unable to connect. On Virgin Media's London Underground Wi-Fi service, I've found that the phone just will not connect.
The other elephant in the room is the app store. There aren't many Windows Phone 8 apps knocking around right now, and whatever we heard on launch day about the likes of Skype, Pandora or features like Data Sense being available, they just aren't present on the platform or phone today; most are scheduled for release in early 2013.
Availability of apps really is one of the weakest points of Windows Phone 8, and everyone knows it. It's not about sheer volume of apps — the problem is there are so few of the ones that I use the most: Hailo or a decent dictaphone app, for example. The most frustrating thing is the knowledge that if you are looking for a specific app, chances are it won't be available yet.
There are other, more minor, disappointments. While the Lumia 920 has near-field communications (NFC) built in, you won't be able to use it for mobile payments unless your bank has made an app for Microsoft's OS.
That's the bad, and I've previously covered the good: but there are a number of other features in the handset I'm still undecided on.
Nokia Maps, for example, is a mostly easy to use and feature-rich free mapping solution on the smartphone. However, whenever I needed to use it for public transport directions, I found myself wishing for Google's software. The Lumia 920 does in fact come with a separate app, Nokia Transit/Transport, for this — but why is that functionality not just built into Nokia Maps? On the other hand, Nokia Drive, particularly for its offline navigation, is a boon.
Availability of apps really is one of the weakest points of Windows Phone 8, and everyone knows it
The jury's also out on the City Lens augmented reality (AR) location tool and the phone's voice-recognition features. Both work well enough, but I'm not sure they have much application in the real world; in the last seven days, I've only used them for their novelty value.
Despite these complaints, I do like the Lumia 920 overall. I like the design of the handset itself, and the resizable, regularly refreshed live tiles on the home screen put Windows Phone 8 ahead in visual appeal. What's frustrating, though, is the things that I find annoying on the Lumia 920 were also irritations on the Lumia 900 — and there really isn't much of an excuse for that.
This has turned out to be like two separate reviews: one for the handset and one for Windows Phone 8. While I'm happy with Nokia's hardware and services, Microsoft's mobile OS has flaws that need rectifying before the handsets running it will truly be up to speed.
UPDATE: As several readers have pointed out in the comments below, you can in fact select a letter in the middle of the word by pushing down for about two seconds until a cursor appears, which you can then place in the desired position.