Why am I bothering with a Windows Phone?

Someone asked me this. A fair question.

At my core I am a learner. I read extensively. Try new technologies all the time. I am over-degreed and still aspire to a PhD someday (yes I know, tick tick tick…). I pretty much want to maximize the amount of learning in my day at all times.

Here is a nice quote from “The Atlantic”:http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/the-jig-is-up-time-to-get-past-facebook-and-invent-a-new-future/256046/:

On the mobile side, we’re working with almost the exact same toolset that we had on the 2007 iPhone, i.e. audio inputs, audio outputs, a camera, a GPS, an accelerometer, Bluetooth, and a touchscreen. That’s the palette that everyone has been working with — and I hate to say it, but we’re at the end of the line. The screen’s gotten better, but when’s the last time you saw an iPhone app do something that made you go, “Whoa! I didn’t know that was possible!?”

That is how I feel. I’ve had an iPhone for years and I am not learning much new with it. The hardware is static. iOS is static. The sea of icons is boring. And it makes my thinking boring, I fall into the trap like everyone else of believing that this is just the way mobile phones are, there is no different way for them to be.

Has my Windows Phone dramatically opened new vistas for me? Not yet but it does have new elements and forces me to think about new things. That is good.

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.

Dealing with business documents on my Windows Phone

I am starting to fill out my apps on my Nokia Lumia 900. The first class of apps I need are the apps to handle all the documents in my job/life — text documents, pdfs, office documents, etc.

* PDFs. Adobe Reader downloads by default the first time you need it, and it seems to be solid, renders well, no obvious problems. I haven’t tried it on huge docs yet but happy so far. Check this one off.
* PDF annotations. There are many apps to view and annotate PDFs on iOS. I am not seeing an obvious choice on WP. I do have the Kindle app and so I guess I could pop them into that as I believe it supports annotations, but that seems convoluted. Is there another choice?
* Signing docs. This is totally lacking as near as I can tell. I can use the web interface of Docusign or Echosign but that is clumsy for an inbound email. Is there a solution?
* Evernote — the evernote app is great, so I have all my text notes. Check this one off too.
* and Boxfiles for Dropbox seems to work well, can fully navigate all my Dropbox content, edit notes. And I can view PPTX, DOCX, etc files. Check.
* As I’ve previously mentioned, I lack a good Markdown editor targetting Dropbox, there are a dozen of these on iOS. Any choices? Does the built-in boxfiles editor support Markdown? I mean of course yes is supports editing Markdown content since that is just regular text with some conventions, but will it render the content into HTML?
* Office Mobile is also on the phone and I can do some things with it — I can create new word docs and edit them, create new xl docs and edit them. I seem to not be able to create new PPTs but can view and edit existing. I can save docs to Skydrive, to the phone. And also to Office365 tho I don’t have an active account for that.

So part way there, some holes to fill. Probably really important to fill these for tablets since I would expect people to do even more document work on tablets.