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Windows 8.1 mobile, a brand new look

I cant really remember last time I was so utterly stoked by a piece of technology; Not even when I got my first iPhone did I experience true joy of owning something that actually was helpful, powerful and entertaining at the same time. The iPhone was more of a fashion statement; not that I care too much about that – but that’s what it felt like after a day or two. As a developer it didn’t take me long to figure out that what I could do with my mobile device was in fact nothing. In fact the only way to get my software on the phone was to throw even more cash into the Apple money machine, download XCode and force myself to learn objective C. No one should be forced to learn such a disgusting language. No one.

Well today I found a real bargain and did a great coop. Microsoft is selling their top-level phone, the Lumia 930, for a whopping 4199 NKR, which is roughly 410 € (or thereabouts) without a cell subscription. All the local stores where I live offer the same phone for around 1500 if you sign up for a 1 year mobile subscription, which would set me back roughly 550 NKR a month for a whole year. You get the phone cheap, but you end up paying an arm and a leg for it.

A display to make even the iPhone 6 seem slim

A display to make even the iPhone 6 seem slim

But as luck would have it one store chain had an easter sale, and among the items was the Lumia 930 — at a flabbergasted 2199 NKR. That’s half the price of what Microsoft Store is asking for it. Needless to say I went for it straight away. I don’t think I have ever paid so much for a phone to be honest, like most Norwegians I tend to only buy phones in combination with a subscription – so I get a cheap fancy new phone every year. Last time it was the iPhone 6, before that the Samsung Galaxy S4 (worst phone ever!) and before that iPhone 5S, 4S and 3GS -and way back before touch screens I owned a HTC Windows phone.

Is it any good?

You know, I recently bought a low-end Lumia 530 for my home office. As you know I spend my spare time working on Smart Mobile Studio, so obviously I need mobile devices to test our code. So getting a cheap 750NKR phone made sense. I never expected it to be THAT good. In fact I stopped using my iPhone almost completely in exchange for a phone costing 1/7th of the iPhone 6 (!)

It really is a fantastic piece of technology! Those that know me personally or who follow my blog know that I rarely get stoked over phones. My passion is in coding and creating software, not fiddle around with devices (well, give or take a Raspberry PI project). Hopefully you will take my word for it and try one of these phones, especially the 930 model, because it’s truly worth every penny.

Think about it this way: make a list of what you think should be different about the iPhone. Then create a list of what should be different for Android. Both these platforms have flaws and technical decisions which doesn’t work in real life. But I think when you compare those lists with the Microsoft based phone you will find, just like I did, that Microsoft has really managed to balance out the stuff you hate about iOS and Android.

Microsoft OS 8.1 really works well

Microsoft OS 8.1 really works well

On Android everything goes. There are no rules and no responsibilities. The google app store is evident of this because 50% of the entire app stock is of such low quality that it borders on junk. If you have owned an iPhone – switching to Android is not recommended because the flip in quality will shock you. The phone looks cool and the UI animations etc. plays a trick on you, but once you really get into the nitty-gritty it’s a bloody mess.

The iPhone on the other hand is a solid product, no doubt about that. It’s polished, streamlined and Apple have spent a lot of time and money making sure that its smooth sailing all the way. But while the consumer experience is of high quality and assurance, the system suffers a complete lack of personalization and ownership. I write “ownership” because you are really not expected to use an Apple product outside the guidelines defined by Apple. To me this is a retarded attitude because what I do with my own phone is ultimately my choice, it’s my bloody phone and no one can tell me what to do with my own things.

Well that’s not how Apple regards the situation. And as a result there are aspects of the iPhone which the consumer is completely locked out of. You can’t even mount the internal-drive, but you are limited to a mock USB connection where only selected parts of the filesystem is visible. So much for using disk recovery software to rescue images and files you have accidentally deleted.

The middle way

Where Android has a policy of anything goes and Apple is the diametrically opposite (nothing goes, our way or no way!) – Microsoft represents a golden mean of the two, a middle way if you like. You are allowed to copy your own software to your phone as much as you like. The only restriction is that when you want to sell and publish your software, you have to go through proper channels. That is sort of to be expected. They also do quality assurance just like Apple does, which I think is a very good thing to do, because it stops hobby programmers flooding app store with rip-offs and homebrewed scams. It’s not uncommon on google store to find some kid in india publishing 30-40 variations of the same app, filled to the hilt with commercials and banners — rendering whatever the function of the app(s) to useless. So filtering out stuff like this is important.

The filesystem is also open, just like Android, but Microsoft has hidden some critical OS files. Which is fine. You don’t want to accidentally delete a library file and kill your phone. But all in all, you are allowed to browse around your own phone, copy over music and video and (most importantly) your own software.

This thing of being able to write and use your own software on your own device, which is your property from A to Z once you have bought it, is very important to be. It’s important because a mobile device such as a modern phone is “not just a phone” anymore. It’s a mobile mini computer. And since we are software developers this means that our rights should carry more weight than whatever a produces feels about it. They sell a product, we paid for it — it’s ours. End of story.

In no other industry can people be told what to do with their own property. Think about that for a minute. Would Volvo, Volkswagen, Porsche or whatever brand of car you prefer be able to tell you how to drive? Or how to style your car? Or what to have in your glove compartment? Hell no you would tell them to stuff themselves and laugh at any car producer trying to tell you what to do with your own property.

Same with computers. Would you allow someone to dictate that you cannot install an operating system on your PC? Nope. If you want to install Linux, Windows, Amiga OS or OS X for that matter — you would laugh and shake your head if someone suddenly tried to force you to only use their software, their way and having to pay for doing so continuously.

Yet people are willing to accept almost anything regarding their phones, including being told how to NOT use them. It’s absurd and completely mind-boggling how stupid people are, allowing Apple to dictate what to do with their own property. Heck, I bootstrapped mine and hacked it hours after I purchased it. Then I downloaded 1 terrabyte of apps free from a torrent site. So bite me Apple, you’re not getting another penny out of me.

Music

Music has been Apple’s stronghold for a while now. Well, I am happy to inform you that the Lumia 930 model has a built-in music service. As does the low-end 530 model as well. In essence it works like this: you pick 3 artists you enjoy and store that as a “mix”. Microsoft will then use those 3 artists to calculate what type of music you like (remember: you can create as many mixes as you want) and build a continuous stream of music matching your mix style.

And it doesn’t cost you a single dime! It’s free, open, 100% — play as much as you want 24/7 !

I listened for 2 days straight when I got the Lumia 530 phone, and it doesn’t cost a penny. You can also download and make the mixes resident, which means you can play them in your car without internet access. And once again — it’s a free service for Microsoft phone users.

So what exactly do I need iTunes for? Considering that I can buy the music I like from Amazon or directly from the XBox music network. Not only do I get the music in formats I can re-use on all my devices (MP3 or MP4), but Microsoft doesn’t try to hide my files in obscure storage schemes like Apple does.

But best of all, you get to enjoy all the latest music for free through the mix station. For free. I cant underline that enough.

I guess there is a reason Apple try to undermine the Lumia every chance they get – because it is a superior phone, no doubt at all. And this comes from a person who own 6 mac’s and two Apple blade servers. Not to mention iPads, Apple TV products and phones. So I have no reason to lie about any of this.

Think twice

The next time you are on the prowl for a new phone, do yourself a favour and check out the high-end Microsoft phones. Some like Android and some like Apple — but don’t you find it limiting with just two types of phones? How can you say that you have chosen a phone when you havent really checked out all of them?

The Microsoft phones are exceptionally good to use, and I sincerely hope you try the Lumia series because they are worth every penny. You will never own a better phone I can promise you that. It’s the best of iPhone and Android all rolled up in one – but without the defects!

Oh and Cortana, the voice activated assistent on the Lumia makes Apple’s SIRI look like a brain-damaged monkey. I was able to dictate, correct and send an SMS from scratch using nothing but my voice! And remember that I am Norwegian so my “americaneese” is not exactly brooklyn kosher.

But lo and behold — cortana really works and it works so much better than Siri.

Sorry Apple, but Microsoft really kicked your ass and made a better phone – in all aspects.

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  1. April 28, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Jon,

    after about 5 years with different iPhones I got more and more annoyed with the latest bugs and increased instability in iOS and especially with the iPhone 6 hardware. I liked the larger display but the case is so slippery and thin that you have to be so careful that it doesn’t slip out of your hand. Also the camera protrudes out of the devices back so that the phone wiggles if it is laying on the desk while you type sth.
    I felt like trying sth. different but didn’t want an android device. I have a nexus7 for deploying and debugging apps. I can’t think of having sth. like that as a phone…
    So… reading your blog post I thought lumia 930 may be worth a try…
    I now have used my lumia 930 for 2 weeks and couldn’t be happier… sold my two month old iPhone 6. I got much more money for it than the lumia 930 has cost me. For the price difference I have purchased a couple of other things and a bluetooth heart rate monitoring belt which works like a charm with winphone8.1. So now I have really more for less 😉
    It took 10 minutes with the lumia to get frustrated and regretting the change initially. But getting used to it and figuring out a lot of interesting things the phone can do that completely changed after the next 20 minutes. Things are not obvious in the UI instantly but after a short time you get used to it and won’t miss the features. Good bye Apple!
    The only thing I am missing right now is the ability to use speech recognition in any input field. This is at the moment not possible with the windows phone 8.1 os keyboard (but it didn’t work in iOS 8.2 and 8.3 anyway… it always crashed after a few words… <= one of the bugs I talked about in the first place which apple reportedly knows but didn't fix since 8.2)

    Thanks for the blogpost

    Martin

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