Why Windows Phone 8.1 became my daily driver again

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

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


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Excellent Choice.

    • The responsiveness of the O.S.

      is what's drawing this Android user to Windows Phone. I am totally angered at how my Android devices become slower with O.S. updates or get abandoned by the O.E.M. not pushing updates

      Instead, and to my total surprise, WP is quite fast. I am only annoyed by its stupid and mediocre browser. Too bad they don't want to improve it more
      • android is a more ambitious OS, the windows desktop of phone OSs.

        Windows phone is closer to iOS in their respective designs, can be a bit more resource optimized due to imposed constraints. Its simply windows phone has more CPU to be smooth because it has less to do.

        Android does/did require a bit more resources perhaps. But when more resources still results in a cheaper phone, with equivalent battery life, it doesn't really matter, does it.

        Also, the problem, as with "linux" is that people say "android phone". Android is not a phone. A galaxy S5 is a phone, for example, which runs an android based OS. If you use a nexus 5 which is as close to an "android phone" as anything, does not experience slowdowns, and also has no upgrade issues. You need to choose by phone, not lumping every phone as "android".
        • android vs phone

          which is exactly why im selling my galaxy s5 and going back to my moto x. i really didnt appreciate that phone until after i sent it back
    • Improved by way of copying Android

      Yes, way to go! It is now closer to being as good as an Android phone. Voice control and notifications, and well all sorts of goodies, of which have been on Android phones for years.

      Not saying that the WP is bad, or not a buy -- it is just improved by way of following. Lead, follow, or get out of the way, Lee Iaccoca would say! What next, a larger iPhone ? ;)
      • Voice control?

        Siri was Apple's - you know, after they bought it. Windows Phone, from its inception, had "voice control". Cortana is a personal assistant and a Siri competitor. Google joined the party after iOS did.

        How is this copying from Android? By far, the one thing "copied" from Android is the way Action Center is accessed, by pulling it down from the top. That's all.
        Ehsan Irani
        • natural

          Natural speaking, as in asking your software to work for you without having to say exact words for commands, is what I am speaking of. Google Now and Siri had this -- before Cortana Windows did not. Windows abilities were simply lacking.
  • Open Letter to Matthew Miller

    Sir, you are indeed a beacon of knowledge in a sea of mediocrity. Your embrace of Windows Phone has allowed me and my rep to toast you at our daily lunch. If you are even need of a mid-level support job fixing MSI packages please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly.
    Mike Cox
    • Welcome home

      Or I've been reading the wrong posts for the past few years.
    • Mike...

      You really need to be on here more often, perhaps cutting your lunches a bit short so you can post more here :-)
    • Nice to see that

      Mike Cox's one trick pony has returned. How many times can he come out with the same joke.
      Must be 1000+ by now. Yawn!!!
  • Browsers

    AFAIK, Windows Phone doesn't have cross-platform browsers like Firefox or Chrome, so I can't sync my browsing data with my Ubuntu desktop.
    • to bad.

      I use Windows on the desktop (90% market share give or take) and my browsing data gets synced to my phone without any problem.

      Of course I use a real browser, not a memory hog like Firefox, or a phone home browser like Chrome.
      • to bad you say?

        You have gone to bad indeed. Chrome or Firefox are far superior to IE. Too bad for you :(
        • IE on Metro and WP

          Is nothing like the mess that is IE on Windows desktop. I see no reason whatsoever in complaining about IE on my Surface RT.
          Ehsan Irani
    • Chrync

      Try Chrync to sync your Chrome bookmarks on WP8. Not sure about FireFox, have not used it in a while.
      Rann Xeroxx
      • Bookmarks

        Does this app work in "Phone->PC" scenario? Can it sync WPIE-data with Chrome? My last WP-phone was HTC Mozart, and I haven't experience with WP8-8.1.
    • Cross Platform

      Only works in mainstream (Fill In The Blank). You're out there in the fringe. I too, spent time out there in the fringe. Trouble became, for me to do much of anything using my home computer and mobile device, invariably, I had to revert to mainstream (FITB) ...
      Crashin Chris
    • Fix is easy

      Stop using crappy Linux and use a Windows desktop.
      How easy was that!!!
  • Use Cortana in active listening mode like my Moto X

    Even with hardware/software updates, you'd have to get past the patents, one of the reasons why Google bought Motorola. Even Apple with ios8 can only get always-listening when plugged in.