Lumia experience or illuminating Xperia ?

Let the trial begins. Can I jump back to the Android world again? #JumpShipTest #PlusOne #MinusOne #NotPlusOne #NotMinusOne

box

 

A couple of weeks ago, I was blessed to be given a week long opportunity to try out the new Sony Mobile flagship product, Xperia Z2. During the trial, I have been “tweeting” about my experience in Instagram (when I have something visual to talk about!), Tweeter (when my takeaway was just 120 characters long!) and Facebook (when I can’t tweet via Instagram nor Tweeter!). Here’s a consolidation of the experience tweets;

 

First Un-boxing Experience

Z2 retains the DNA of Xperia with the dial like power button, and a dedicated camera button which you can activate the camera function even if your phone is pin locked. Something that I had silently wished for in first Z generation. #PlusOne

powerdial

 

Setting up is a breeze. Android has come a long way, but Sony plays a part here #PlusOne

My first gripe of the phone: Z2 uses micro SIM instead of nano. Now I need to buy the adaptor! #MinusOne

I talked about how the dial like power button is Sony DNA, but I didn’t like the lack of tactile feel. #NotPlusOne #NotMinusOne

 

Sony Mobile has definitely come a long way to make Android phone an end user phone. No doubt Andorid itself, and the likes of Cyanogen, have progressed by leaps and bounds to make the experience less intimidating to technically less inclined end users. Sony Mobile just completes the last piece of the experience puzzle through its layman friendly setup process, simplified but very functional home application and polished applications in Gallery, Video, Mail, Calendar, etc.

 

Z1, Z2 … more than just different codes

Same but not same #NotMinusOne

Z1orZ2

 

On first look, it is not easy to idenitfy which is Z1 and which is Z2. My wife complained that I took her Z1 when I was holding a Z2. There are some subtle differences but generally, its slightly (very very marginal!) lighter, thinner and cleaner (in its design).

The Z2 is clear a winner over Z1, once you look beyond its cosmetic appearance. The screen is a good example. I always feel Xperia Z1 screen is washed out, especially when you place it beside a phone with great display (like the Lumias) and the following photo just proves my point. Good news is Sony had fixed it in Xperia Z2 but that means Xperia Z1 owners would feel shortchanged.

This is how the two screens compare up. No prize for guessing which is Z1 and which is Z2.#PlusOne

screenshootout

Bigger Lumia 1520 vs Better Xperia Z2?

The screen maybe smaller than my 6″ Lumia 1520, but the qwerty keyboard remains functional, even though the keys looks too tiny for my fat thumbs.#PlusOne

I was talking about how the smaller screen in Xperia Z2 remains functional, coming from big screen Lumia 1520. Turns out it’s because of the enhanced autocorrect capability implemented in Xperia Z2. I estimated I have at least 50% of typo mistakes, all thanks to a smaller screen (despite sporting a 5.2″ screen) and my big fat thumbs. Out of which, I estimated 90% of them are auto corrected correctly, even with local terms like kns, wahlao and Tampines! The autocorrect function in Xperia Z2 has this learning feature to learn my past spellings from various sources, including Facebook, Tweeter, Text message and Gmail. Which means you do not need to worry that your Xperia is a strict British English teacher since it can also understand your Singlish lingo. The only gripe I have now is the space bar is too close to the last row of qwerty keys, so I always end up with “v” instead of space. No way the autocorrect function can understand ehatvivwanrvtyped, can it? 

Lumia vs Xperia photo shootout  #NotPlusOne #NotMinusOne

photoshootout

Xperia Z2, with its exmor lens sensor continues to demonstrate its prowess when taking shot in low light condition. Lumia seems to be under exposed although I would say Xperia overcompensate the dim lighting condition. The former still captures all the details and with its ability to have full control over all the camera settings, from shutter speed to white balance, Lumia 1520 remains comparable if not better than Xperia Z2.

 

Is this the moment to join the dark side?

Even though speed could deteriorate over times with an overloaded phone, it’s nevertheless a refreshing to experience the fast navigation in Android over Windows Phone. I have to say the useless application animation has to be one of, if not main, culprit in the latter for giving that lag experience. You don’t really feel it’s slow until you get to see a fast one. Just as you think your Honda is fast until you sit in a Ferrari. #PlusOne

The moment one steps into Android world, it’s like as if a kid has walked into a toy megastore, surrounded by all the goodies. You never know how much you have missed out until you experience the richness of apps again, the likes of #smugmug #plex #blackvue #obd2  #PlusOne

So much has been said about the lack of apps in Windows Phone world. I used to think that app is a nice to have if the phone/phone OS maker takes care of the essential functions like PIM, social media  like Facebook and Twitter, and a good internet browser that can make up for the lack of internet-based apps. However, doing so implies one is essentially restricted to what the phone maker has to offer. Your phone is as smart as the phone maker is, duh! The lack of apps problem however is probably less a concern to business users, so one man’s meat is another man’s poison!

First test on work productivity passed with flying colours. Exchange email implementation is very seamless as I could access EAL (Enterprise Address List) instantaneously, presumably because of a local instance of the EAL. The experience in fact is much better than Windows Phone for various reasons. Sony must be credited for this as I believe this is not an Android experience. #PlusOne

Second test on work productivity passed! At least for now. PowerPoint can now be viewed without format loss, particular on those that uses complex slide objects or slide animation that are found in newer Office 2013. #PlusOne

officeuse

 

My biggest complaint about Android phones in the past has been its amateurish functionality in its office productivity tools such as powerpoint or excel. Even Exchange email and calendar clients were half baked; incomplete or missing Enterprise address lookup feature, calendar appointment sync issue, inability to initiate an invite, etc. Sony Mobile seems to have all these fixed. NB: I stand corrected if these are also fixed in pure Android phones.

No more issues sending an email to an US-based colleague without having to remember his or her name. In Windows Phone, you need to follow the last name first name format in order for the Windows Phone lookup to be able to find the matching contact, but not necessary in case of Xperia Z2. When there are multiple contacts having similar name in the Enterprise Directory, you can’t tell the difference in Windows Phone. In Xperia Z2, I was surprisingly impressed that it could. The other big, if not biggest deal breaker in the past has been Microsoft Office compatibility.  I have tried all the Office apps, from Google Office to QuickOffice, but none of them was able to display slides or spreadsheet without format and/or content loss. Miraculously, Microsoft decides to port the their jewel app to Android and iOS recently. This, I think, has to be the key to unlock the door to the dark side!

I had always thought Windows Phone is less efficient in its network data operation, but this video shows otherwise. Again, I think the cursor animation in Wp8 might have created that slow perception. On the otherhand, Microsoft has done a great job in creating that fast experience, probably through a lower resolution thumbnail and caching implementation. #MinusOne

Readability under direct sunlight is next to zero. Disappointing or does anybody knows it’s not turned on? #MinusOne

Z2 haptic feedback still has the same issue as its predecessors, i.e. Z and Z1. I observed that their haptic feedback mechanism is less superior than other makers. As you hit the screen, the vibration effect is not “firm” and “controlled”, as in you feel like the entire screen is vibrating (alittle exaggerating but I hope you get my drift). Its even more obvious if you hit a qwerty key repeatedly. In some instances, such as the lockscreen, it makes input appears to be less responsive. I have to turn off haptic feedback in the lockscreen setting to eliminate the lag. #MinusOne

Had a first significant concern after all the raves and positive experiences so far. The screen was not responsive yesterday, and it was displaying the animated wallpaper. Thinking that the unit must have hung, I instinctively reset the phone by pressing and holding on to the power button (a practice that I always do when Lumia hangs on me). Then the phone restarts, as expected but what follows surprised me. The phone was actually hard reset-ed. All the settings and configurations were lost, and photos and personal files were erased. Something must have happened to cause a system panic and result in a factory reset. Hopefully it’s an isolated case because I have been liking what I had experienced so far till this incident happened. #MinusOne

 

Xperia Z2 has its quirks, so don’t get away with the impression it is a perfect phone. I have yet to come across one, and this certainly is not. Save the last incident, which I hope its truly an isolated one, those imperfections may not be an issue for those who are not really affected by them, e.g. you don’t use your phone under the sun. In today’s market, this is probably one of the very rare few I would consider if I have to switch over to Android now. The fact that I am ready to jump after a week trial, sums up my favorable opinions about this gem.  The only reason why I am holding my move? No it’s not XiaoMi. It has got to be something that #PlusOne, anybody?

RunforFood: Highlights of my 24 months of exercise regiment

Yes, it has been 2 years since I decided that I need to get my act together to get myself back into shape, literally. Peeps who know me personally, know I was athletic when I was younger. Well, not the national level but surely good enough at district level. But I know I need to find the right motivation to get running a  sustainable regiment instead of a short moment of enthusiasm.  Food becomes my motivation factor, and therefore my mantra, “Run for Food”  #irun4food .

My first run was a disaster, but you got to forgive the performance considering that I had not been exercising for at least a decade.

First run in 2011

First run in 2011

Since then, it has been a regiment to run at least thrice a week. At one period, I just keep on running on alternate days, and when I got injured in 2012, I told myself I had to augment my routine with swimming and cycling, which I did subsequently. 24 months later, I can fairly say that there has been a tremendous progress made, whether it’s physically (8″ slimmer and 15kg lighter), pace and timing (4 min/km faster) or health wise (more focused with fewer MC taken). I did a similar run this morning, through the same route as I did on my first run 24 months ago, and the result was sobering.

2013 Run

Run in 2013 on 24th month Anniversary.

I did feel tired towards the end of the run, but hey, I WAS tired from the first second I ran 24 months ago!

Here’s a look back at some of the highlights of my exercise regiment in the last 24 months.

Less than 80

Less than 80

While the motivation of running is so that I can eat in peace, the “side effect” of physically more trimmed is also welcomed. I lost 8″ of waistline, and more than 15kg worth of calories.  It could be more, if not for my lack of diet control, but I am not complaining. That said, I am more selective with my diet choice though, the food has to be worth my hard earned calories for me to ask for extra serving.

Longest Run to-date

Longest Run to-date

One of my goals is to complete a 20km run before end of 2013. While there is still 15 days before the year end, it is highly unlikely I can last that kind of distance considering the state of my ankles at the moment. I probably could do a mix of run and walk to achieve that goal, but I want to challenge that goal with a consistent pace. In the end, the farthest I can achieve is a 16km run, 4km shy of my target, unless miracle happens in the next 2 weeks.

Best 5km Run (Oversea)

Best 5km Run (Oversea)

One of the things I try to do is keep my exercise regiment in all circumstances, such as travelling. So far I have managed to keep my running routine intact wherever I traveled, whether it’s Bangkok, Geneva or Cupertino. I actually like running oversea, particularly those in Europe and US because of the fantastic weather, cool temperature and low humidity. It is therefore no surprise that one of the best run is achieved when I was running in Geneva early this year during Spring time, clocking a 29.18 min timing for a 5km distance.

BestRunLocal5km

The best, however, is reserved for the run made just few days ago. My biggest peeve with running in Singapore is the heat and the humidity, and therefore I thought I would never outpace what I have achieved in Geneva (per above). It was therefore a pleasant surprise that I achieved my best 5km run, so far, at a sub 29 minute timing locally. The first km was done comfortably and when I saw that it was a under-5:50 min/km pace, I told myself there might be a chance for me to achieve a low 29 min run, so I pushed myself further. The last km was a challenge though, as I felt my leg muscles were too tired to even lift an inch.

Year to Date Exercise Report Card

Year to Date Exercise Report Card

All in all, it has been a great 24 months of exercise.  Over 2600km of distance covered, 336 hours of heart pumping moments and over 230,000 calories burnt. And that’ll a whopping over 800 of burgers worth that I could have afforded to eat! But obviously, it has to be a damn bloody good burger for me to waste all these hard earned calories.

Running Statistics

Running Statistics

 

RunforFood: “Life to date” Cardio Report card

Swimming-September

It has been a while since I last blogged! Month of September had mostly been a swim month, as I tried to give my feet rest as much as possible. However, I do not wish my exercise momentum to stop, and therefore I focus on swimming instead. It was a challenging because it is not easy to keep to a 3-5 times a week swimming routine, and consecutively for 4 weeks. The end result, at end of the month, is satisfying though, despite the boring routine (imagine having to complete between 40-120 laps per session). I even completed an 1km swim session under 24 min! With my feet having much needed rest, I am starting to ease into running, without any ankle or knee support!

Here’s my life-to-date Cardio report card. I was hoping that I can complete 400 hours of exercise by end of the year, but that looks like an impossible target unless I start exercising every day for an hour!

 

ExerciseReports

 

RunforFood: Report card after 18 months

Reportcard-June13

Back to mix of run, swim and cycle in June 2013.

 

It has been awhile since I blog about my #RunforFood regiment. The ritual to run for food is still going strong, and in fact, I do find myself improving in my fitness over the last few weeks. In May, I managed to catch a few runs while I was on business trip to Geneva, Switzerland. It was a fantastic weather (under 15 deg C!) to run! In June, I continue my running regiment, and augment with cycling and swimming to combat the hazy weather.

Runningreportcard-June13

4 mins more to achieve 200 hours of running time!

 

Running pace vs Distance

Running pace vs Distance – Increase speed trend is a good sign of progression

 

record-june13

A couple of under 30 min 5km run in June proves that the timings are not a fluke.

 

2 weeks of rendezvous with Sony Xperia Z

Having switched over to a Windows Phone for a month, the ownership experience is like a love-hate relationship. Beneath the grouses of the phone’s shortcomings (and there happens to be a lot of them), lies the beauty of simplification and strong fundamentals. Just as I thought I’d adapted to the life of imperfection, Sony Mobile decides to lure me back to the dark side with their new flagship product Sony Xperia Z. I was given a test drive opportunity, and at the end of the two weeks trial, it was a tough decision if I should ditch
my Lumia for the new found love in Xperia Z.

Sony Xperia Z

Sony Xperia Z

Having owned some of the top selling phones like the HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S3, and Sony’s previous Xperia models like the Xperia S, I thought Sony Mobile had the best form factor in Xperia Z. The 5″ phone does not look excessively huge unlike the Samsung Galaxy Note, thanks to its edge-to-edge display in a typical 4.3″ phone form factor. With just 7.9mm thickness, while not exactly the thinnest phone in the world, the phone feels elegantly light, and comfortable to hold with one hand. The back of the phone has a glass finishing, surrounded by a set of refined but sturdy buttons and ports fitted firmly with watertight port covers, collectively giving the phone a premium quality feel. Samsung’s plasticky SIII and HTC’s bricky One X (and Lumia 920 too!) all looked out of place in comparison.

The setup procedure was simple and straight forward, with some touch up from Sony Mobile to polish up the user experience. With Android Jellybean (4.1.2) pre-installed, Sony Mobile creates a layer of mobile entertainment experience over the default Google
user interface. The end product is a very sleek and nifty mobile digital photo album, music walkman and high definition video entertainment player. The speaker position is far from ideal though, as my hand would inadvertently cover it when holding to watch a
video playback. Paired with my Beats by Dr Dre headphone, the audio reproduction was impressive, although I admit I am not exactly the audiophile you would expect for audio system feedback. I love the “Throw” function, as I can stream any photo, music playback
to my UPnP-enabled Samsung TV wirelessly. I had problem streaming video (both Xperia recorded video and mp4 video) to my TV though, and hopefully it is an issue that can be easily fixed by Sony Mobile.

The 1080p razor sharp display, packed in the 5″ screen using its mobile Bravia engine, creates a vibrant screen with punchy colour and stellar contrast reproduction. The display passed the outdoor test with flying colours, as the content in the screen remained visibly clear under bright sun lighting with its glare and reflection reduction capability. The Lumia 920 had a slight edge over Xperia Z though with its deep colour and black depth, but Xperia Z is no slouch. That said, when I placed it side by side with my Lumia 920, the display did look slightly washed out, especially when viewing at an angle. It could be the choice of TFT display, but after seeing the contrast difference between the two screens, I think Sony can further improve on its display feature, given its rich visual entertainment heritage.

Sony Mobile has a great track record of producing excellent cameras in its Xperia series, at least with the Xperia Arc and Xperia S that I had owned previously. Xperia Z didn’t disappoint me with its 13MP exmor r sensor with f/2.4 aperture. Technical specification alone does not guarantee quality shots, as evident in the Galaxy SIII. Thanksfully, Xperia Z camera lives up to its specifications. It is capable of taking photos under dim lighting conditions, or video record fast moving subjects with high quality. I have not tried its HDR video recording capability but from some of the sample videos posted on youtube, the results are mixed. If there is any imperfection, it is the lack of a physical shutter button and shortcut to quickly get into camera mode from the lockscreen. The former might be a constraint due to the Xperia Z’s water resistant feature but the latter is a huge inconvenience for me, as it means I have to hit my 8 digits pin code before I can take a candid snapshot.

NB: The lack of camera shortcut issue is probably not applicable if you are not subjected to  Exchange Server policy which enforces pin lock security to the phone. Also, I  was advised by Sony Mobile that there’s  actually a workaround for this: you can select Screen Lock as Swipe and slide to the left to activate the camera. Please let me know if this workaround works especially if you are subjected to your office’s Exchange Server policy enforcement

I never had strong opinions about Office integration in Android until I experienced it in the Windows Phone and could see a contrasting experience between the two. In the Windows Phone, the office client is so complete that Powerpoint slides, Excel spreadsheets or Word documents can be reliably opened regardless of the sophistication in smart arts, formulas or text formatting. Outlook emails and appointments can be sent or edited as if I am doing it from a desktop. The same can’t be said for Xperia Z. But to be fair to Sony Mobile, this is a prevalent issue in Android, and I think it is something Google and Android phone makers need to seriously look into if the aim is to push Android phones into both the consumer and business market, and in the mobile world, there is really no clear distinction between the two. That said, there were some bugs or lacking PIM features in the Xperia Z which I think Sony Mobile can and should resolve. The calendar app stopped working when I tried to edit or cancel a meeting invitation while I could not look up email contacts in the Exchange address list when I tried to send an email to a colleague.

Xperia Z Glass finishing

Xperia Z Glass finishing

Not withstanding some of the issues highlighted, Xperia Z still ranks among the best, if not the best, in the list of smart phones that I have owned so far, which includes the likes of HTC One X, Galaxy S3 and Nexus. Not only is the phone highly spec-ed with top notch build quality, there are clear signs that Sony Mobile is listening to its customers’ feedback. I had previously provided feedback to the local team on Sony’s implementation of its exchange policy as well as the power off lock security feature, and they were all addressed satisfactorily. I was even asked to test my reported feedback after the product development team implemented the fixes. I could be naive, but at least Sony Mobile gave me the impression that they are acting on my feedback, and I think that’s what a consumer always likes to see or hear.

For all of the above, the Xperia Z had won over my heart. Unfortunately, it did not win over my head as work productivity remains a key selection criteria for me, especially after I’ve experienced what I can achieve work-wise while on the move. So while it has been a
fantastic 2 weeks of flirtatious rendezvous with the Xperia Z, I am reluctantly going back to my normal but boring relationship with the Nokia Lumia.

And my search for a fun and serious phone (no it’s not an oxymoron) continues …

1 Month Takeaway on Nokia Lumia 920

It has been more than a month since I bought my Lumia 920 Windows Phone. (I did had two weeks of break to have a hands on on the new Sony Xperia Z, more on that later).

Lumia 920 on charging pad

Lumia 920 on charging pad

Instead of the usual review, i tweet about my takeaway of the phone as I use it. Total of 12 key takeaways (see below of the details), 7 minuses, 4 pluses and 1 neutral view. While it might look like a very ‘negative phone’ to use, two of the pluses are big pluses for me. The office and outlook capabilities, and the camera photo quality. That’s good enough for me to keep my Lumia, even though Xperia Z flirted with me for 2 weeks. What’s your take?

 

WindowsPhoneTake #12: feeling bored with look and feel of the interface, change the theme color and “suddenly” I have a new interface. Duh! #minusone

WindowsPhoneTake #11: Windows Phone 8 soft reset is volume-down + power button. So much for being intuitive. And best of all, all SMS doesnt work after a soft reset, and suddenly I saw a steady stream of “new” messages just to realise they are actually old messages. Turned out the date/time setting was wrong, after a soft reset. #minusone

WindowsPhoneTake #10: What was Microsoft thinking when it designs the outlook mail functionalities? I can only attach photos and not documents? Please tell me my eyes is “stuck with stamps” #minusone

WindowsPhoneTake #9: Bing still can’t make it. Not only it does not do a good job searching with location context, it returns result with the news that are days olds, and in one instance 4 months old, as their top/first result. Its quite disappointing that other than a colorful search page, there isn’t much improvement since it first attempt to seriously challenge Google. #minusone

WindowsPhoneTake #8: (thisisprobablyanokiatake) Nokia Carl Zeiss lens does not just wow me with its big f2 aperture lens (which gives a very nice dof and bokeh) but also its flash capability. I always avoid flash photography especially with pns camera, but Lumia 920 seems to have good algorithm to avoid over exposure which created harsh lighting. With bulb mode in videography, you no longer take silhouettes when you are in an indoor party hall. Coupled with the impressive Windows photo sharing capability, Facebook and Instagram should invest their resources on this platform, if they are evaluation their next strategic step. You would wonder what had Microsoft been doing given the elementary abilities of these two social networking apps in Windows Phone. #plusone

WindowsPhoneTake #7: I lamented about the lack of apps, perhaps it is because the store has not completed its renovation so they are not ready to sell more apps? While I am just being sarcastic here, the fact is Microsoft seems to be doing little to make its store as friendly as its competitors. First off, there’s no way for me to tell if I have installed or purchased the app, until I click the app itself. I can’t contact the app developer, unless I install the app and hope that the app has some contact informatiln about the developer. As a matter of fact, I had some problem with an app, there was no way I could contact that developer because he used dummy email address! Windows phone support site was cumbersome process and it took me awhile before I can get the billing team to reverse the billing. In google, the moment I find the app is defective I can ask for refund immediately. Store in Microsoft is nothing just a place to download app and nothing more. #minusone

WindowsPhoneTake #6: Internet surfing on Windows Phone is so fast, that it is almost a saving grace for the lack of internet connected apps, like posb/dbs, Facebook (yes, the official one is useless), etc. I suspect Microsoft has put 90% of their r&d resources to engineer a near perfect data connectivity and page rendering capability. Of course I am just joking but kudos to the product team in this regards. But people should remember that app is still the king to make or break the experience. #plusone

WindowsPhoneTake #5: Live tiles concept is good, but at the moment it is nothing more than expandable square icons with notification counts, something you already see if Apple and Android (albeit not expandable). I would love to see tiles like scrolling marquees, that flips random or latest messages (or related notification message). #noplusorminus

WindowsPhoneTake #4: While I mentioned that Microsoft “cheats” in its claim of blazingly fast photo upload feature, it is still an amazing experience because most of the people probably care less about resolution when they upload to Facebook. I was impressed when the phone took less than a minute to upload a 1 min video to Facebook! #plusone

WindowsPhoneTake #3: (thiscouldbejustnokia) phone signal band switching (e.g 4g to 3g) seems to be lagging, and can take up as long as 5 minutes just to find the next available band. #minusone

WindowsPhoneTake #2: The geomapping feature is clearly at infancy stage otherwise we would have a Bing map app to compete with Google map app. It didn’t help that the market store has no established navigation app like Garmin, Tomtom or Sygic. Oh wait, it has Navigon (but not for this part of the world) and it costs an arm! Nokia drive+, is slick but very elementary in its features and map coverage. Its recommended route always attempt to bypass highway for some weird reason, and you have no choice between fastest or shortest route. The most ironical part is I had to use Google map to locate my destination, and enter the street address in Nokia drive+. #MinusOne

WindowsPhoneTake #1: the ability to manage your work documents and productivity (appointment scheduling, etc) is definitely the most robust and rounded feature I have come across so far. #plusone

 

 

Windows Reunion with Nokia Lumia 920

The last time I touched a Windows mobile phone was May 2010. Back then I love WM phones, because it opened up so many development opportunities, from application to rom. I developed a couple of apps, and if app store was the only way to install app, I probably earned a tidy sum for some of my work, specifically StayUnlock. I subsequently went on with ROM development for my TouchHD then, and Merlion Leon ROM was my first attempt at OS level development (My subsequent attempt was modifying Android kernel for my Galaxy S) . I probably explore everything a developer could do, and then Microsoft decided that they need to overhaul their mobile product, and I told myself I should explore elsewhere while Microsoft goes figure their next journey.

Nokia Lumia 920

Nokia Lumia 920

It was the start of my 3 years Android journey and I had the full dessert course. I saw how Android evolved from the likes of Cupcake and Eclair, trying to find its footing in Gingerbread and Icecream Sandwich, to finally maturing as a yummy and addictive Jellybean. I would be lying if I said the desserts were all sweet and nothing else. They were bitter or sour moments, but its a choice between growing to be smart, or pretending to be already one. I chose the former and I am glad I had seem Android growing by leaps and bounds.

In recent months, I had watched Microsoft development with keen interest. It was almost like being home sick and you want to find the right timing to head home. WP 7 development started with a refreshing concept and innovation in its metro UI and live tiles. I thought it needed a couple of hardening through Mango and Tango. When WP8 was first announced last year. It really caught my full attention. And when Nokia announced its flagship Lumia 920, superceding its 900, I thought the opportunity had come knocking my door.

But it was not without some hesitation. It is like when a salesman comes knocking your door with a great deal, you will skeptically wonder if it is a scam. It didn’t help that Nokia Lumia 920 was launched and introduced with some controversial marketing advertisement.

First, the look is not really inspiring, it looks just like its predecessor (or so I perceived). In fact, many would agree it might even be mistaken as its sibling, Lumia 820. The weight is also mind boggling. Perhaps Nokia is trying to enhance its paper weight value proposition like manu other smart phones. Having own a couple of  light and slim phones like Galaxy S3 and S2, I was worried that I would need to strengthen up my biceps just to handle the extra 50-60 grams of weight. The lack of apps in the appstore is the other concern. Having seen the pathetically half filled Windows 8 store, I was worried if I will have cold turkey the moment I step into the store.

Will Windows be a key player in mobile space?

Will Windows be a key player in mobile space?

The lure of slick metro UI interface AND superior Carl Zeiss lens eventually won me over, despite being adequately satisfied with my Jelly-beaned Galaxy S3. The weight problem did falter away after some getting use to, probably because my biceps were already tuned to such weight when I owned Xperia S previously (just compared the two bricks, and Nokia Lumia is still the winner).

Having used the Lumia for 3 days, I am pretty certain that whatever I experienced will be the same in the next few months.  And it will only get better, although I do not expect miracle change overnight. The beauty of Windows Phone lies on its simplicity. Metro UI  with simple (but slick) navigation are all that makes up the entire user experience of the phone. There are no cluttered menus, and every content chunks are layered nicely that the navigation is intuitive (but only if you realised that you can swipe left/right to “layer” through) In that regards, Windows Phone hit an almost perfect score.

Networking capability seems to be superior than its competitors too. Before we get too carried away, Microsoft’s “Smoked by Microsoft Challenge” is a combination of marketing gimmicks and its capable networking feature, at least from my personal experience. When I share a photo to Facebook, indeed it was almost instantaneous, blazingly faster than any phones I have used (except when I share via photoUp in Android phones). It turned out that the photos are not only compressed, they are resized into a lower resolution, by as much as a third. It is therefore not a rocket science to explain why the photo sharing can be lightening fast in Windows Phone. That does not mean that Windows Phone is just all show and nothing real. I do observed that it handles small data transfer far more efficient than its WM predecessor, and probably Android and Apple as well. With our phones so tightly intertwined with internet, such efficiency helps to ensure the navigation experience continues to be butter-ly smooth when the connectivity crawls. The camera is one of the best camera phone I had owned so far, when compare to the likes of HTC One X and Sony Xperia series. What I like of  Nokia’s implementation of camera functionalities  is I could activate the camera function even when my phone is pin-locked. Not all Android phones manufacturers implemented this feature consistently, and not surprisingly only Sony understands why this is seemingly trivial but important feature for photography enthusiasts like myself

My main gripe with Windows phone, as expected is the lack of apps. Perhaps the apps will come in times to come, but something must be done to entice the creative developers to develop in this platform. Some missing apps are as simple as 3G data usage tracker. Perhaps Microsoft has assumed that with their more efficient networking capability, such tracker is a redundant. But with the telcos clamping down on 3G/4G usage with removal of unlimited or reducing quota, this miss is a glaring one for me. But of course, I cannot be whining with just this trivial app miss. I can no longer do streaming of my favourite mp3 from my home media server over internet, use Runkeeper to track my running exercise (thankfully, I rely more on my Garmin watch now), or use my phone to remote control my TV (edit: it looks like there’s an app for it now, but I need to see its compatibility). More critically, as we see more gadget startups like Pebble sprouting with great ideas to transform mobile phones beyond just a personal communication device, most of them are still focusing on developing their ideas on Apple and Android platform. Microsoft needs to take a different approach in the mobile and consumer world. It needs to reach out to these start-ups more pro-actively. I think its attempt to entice developers through significant payout was a good start, but I have the inkling feeling that it just sit on incentive framework it had created for the developers which  I thought was just too passive. Microsoft should realise that their success is greatly dependent on the startup just as the latter depends on it.

It’s now or never.