Am I still using the Lumia?

I was asked this yesterday, and the answer: Yes I am, and I am satisfied with it, but it is not without issues.

2 weeks in and I can report many good things and some less than good.

* Hardware. The phone looks nice, feels solid, the AMOLED display is beautiful, the camera is fine, this is a quality piece of hardware. I certainly don’t feel bad in anyway about giving up my iPhone hardware. I’ll be in LA in a little while and have an LTE network to use it on, and at that point I may say that the Lumia hardware is definitely better.
* Hardware accessories. The lack of compatibility with existing iPhone earbud/mics, the paucity of other alternatives, this is a problem.
* The OS. Very solid, looks nice, has some real innovation. The ability to pin content to the homescreen and to see integrated photos/updates from my closest family members is nice. The core OS seems fine.
* Bundled apps — mail, calendar, maps, dialer, ie. Very much a mixed bag here. The apps feel like they need another iteration or two. My mail inboxes should be automatically combined. When I compose a new message, use my default mail system, don’t make me pick. IE has some repaint issues on drag/resize. Calendar lacks a week view. Contacts seems buggy/wonky at times — lost a picture for one contact, another contact is just impossible to find. The apps all look ok but they need another round of usability work.
* Marketplace. Too much real estate given to things that no one uses — podcasts, ATT, Nokia. No strong merchandising. MSFT really needs to ramp this up. Why doesn’t the first screen of the marketplace show me the most popular apps I don’t already have, and the best apps for me based on my existing apps? And podcasts? Seriously, am I missing something, is there a huge base of podcast users? Is WP trying to be #1 among the podcast crowd?
* 3rd party essentials — Evernote, Adobe Reader, WordPress, Facebook, Twitter clients, RSS, Amazon, etc. These are all there and they work fine, I can get my job done.
* 3rd party inessentials — games, photo apps, etc. A significant significant weakness area. No Instagram, but apps that are kind of like instagram. Very thin on the hottest games but clones that are like them. No Draw Something but a WP-only clone. Very very weak.
* Cloud. With no native Mac support, I can’t get too excited about Skydrive. No iTunes Match like syncing of music. I’m no big fan of iCloud either to be honest.
* Dev Tools. I’ve “written about this already”:http://theludwigs.com/2012/04/when-you-are-10x-behind-in-mobile-apps-your-tools-probably-ought-to-be-10x-better/, MSFT is not helping themselves at all — too hard to sign up for the program, too much VS crap to wade thru to just focus on phone development. I have created a few toy apps, the tools seem to work fine once you get there. Game development seems more complicated than it should since XBOX and WP development is commingled, this doesn’t feel like a wise commingling to me, but maybe some of the casual game writers love it.

OK so I net out with a decent phone and OS, but a lot of issues in all the surrounding pieces. I’m OK with the phone but it certainly seems like MSFT has to do much more to get to the strong #2 in the market, to be Pepsi to iPhone’s Coke. If you get one of these you won’t be unhappy, but there isn’t enough there to really compel anyone to switch from an iPhone or to get instead of an iPhone. And if the word on the street is true, that I won’t be able to update the Lumia to Windows 8, well, MSFT will kill any goodwill I have towards the phone.

My first 48 hours with the Nokia Lumia — mostly good

Ok so I am 48 hours into my Windows Phone trial with the Nokia Lumia 900 and so far the experience is pretty good. I think most people would be pretty happy with the phone and experience.

There are some things done very well:

* Placing snippets of content on the home screen, not just apps. A specific note out of evernote, a mail folder, a contact — this is so right. I can get my kids, my spouse right on my home screen and have quick access to calling them, texting them, seeing fb updates, etc. I can get the Evernote for a current project right on the one screen. The phone experience becomes much more personal, this is way better than an unending grid of app icons.
* Cyclic panes within an app. I can just keep swiping to the right or left and see all options, they are not lists with fixed beginnings and ends. This is highly useful.
* Most of the apps I need are there. Evernote, Spotify, WordPress, ESPN, I’m really not feeling bad about the depth of the app catalog. Plenty of nice games. I do need a Markdown/Dropbox editor.
* The AMOLED display is beautiful.

Some things I am undecided on:

* I am always fumbling around trying to figure out which end is up. No obvious physical guide like the iPhone home button. Maybe I will get used to using the camera lens as a guide.
* Tango video calling but no Skype? And you can’t even find Skype in the marketplace but have to know the URL? I don’t mind having Tango preinstalled but c’mon, I need reasonable access to Skype.
* The UI for apps has less decoration (icons, menus, bars, buttons) but way more whitespace and big fonts than iOS. Looks a little nicer than iOS but no denser, I’m not sure it is any more productive.

And some things are Wrong:

* I am one of the 7 people that have Zune subscriptions, no OTA sync of my music subscriptions, I have to plug into my PC? Lame. Of course no one else on the planet will see this because they will all be using Spotify which seems to work fine.
* Linking inboxes or contacts. I had to got thru and link my inboxes so that I could see all my mail in one place (thanks Henry) and I had to link my contacts with facebook contacts so that I could see facebook and contact details in one place. This was a PITA and should be automagic. (iOS links mail automagically but not contacts and doesn’t even have the Facebook integration)
* Browser. When resizing and dragging content, lots of repaint issues. Lots. There needs to be some substantial work done on this.
* Search buttons. Permanent button always goes to bing. App specific button with the same graphic goes to app search. Does anything search my whole phone — ie search across email and contacts and music and apps?
* The app marketplace needs some serious merchandising work. First I have an App Highlights app which seems to showcase good apps but has no search function. So not very helpful. Then I have the Marketplace which gives up premier placement to Nokia and AT&T which they both squander. And first page placement given to podcasts, seriously??? There is no clear editorial guidance on great apps. This thing is kind of a mess.
* And the biggest problem — my existing Shure mic/headset doesn’t work, apparently you have to buy headsets specific to this phone? Seriously Nokia? This is so f$&ked up. You are light years behind in the market and so you decide not to work with all the existing 3rd party headphones? Thanks guys. Really making switching from iOS easy.

Ok I don’t want to finish on a downer. Again most people will find this to be a pretty good experience — the hardware feels solid, the software is easy on the eye, there are plenty of apps covering most needs.

Linkfest

* My Favorite Things Mars. Amusing and entertaining
* Why Nokia and Sony are failing. Succinct. Complexity is a killer.
* Inflatable buttons. Cool, not sure practical.
* Computer Hardware Chart. Periodic table of connectors
* W* house. Your portal for great looking expensive sh$t.
* Ford developing laser ignition. Nice, car engines with laser beams!
* WarrantyElephant. Idea is promising but site useless. I need something that will automatically find the warranty policy for my products and summarize my rights for me — without me having to punch in the data myself. IE something akin to ManualsOnline but for warranty info