Windows Phone 8 might surprise you

Windows Phone 8 might surprise you

If I was in the market for a new phone right now, I’d be leaning strongly toward one that has the Windows Phone 8 operating system.

I just spent a few days trying out a Nokia Lumia 822 from Verizon. While it takes some real adjustment from using an Android phone, the thing is just fast. Every app I tried ran faster than any comparable Android app.

Blog PhotoHaving recently loaded Windows 8 on a computer at home, I had been curious to try a mobile version of the operating system.

Months ago, a friend posted a link to Microsoft’s “smoked by Windows Phone” campaign and, while it was compelling video, I had my doubts. At that time, I’d just started using my first 4G phone, an HTC Thunderbolt.

I really like the Thunderbolt, so much so that when I dropped mine and cracked its screen, I bought another one, even though I have a box full one or two old phones around the house.

But with a couple of exceptions, the Lumia performed as well as or better than my Thunderbolt.

The Lumia has a 4.3-inch screen. It takes up to a 64-gig microSD card. My test model was white, the ugliest color available; the casing is plastic and doesn’t feel very sturdy. I’d want a protective case right away. (A case is a good idea with any phone.)

Web pages load fast and the browser responds well to pinch/zoom gestures. It’s not that I have huge fingers, but I was able to tap links more precisely in the browser on the Lumia than other phones I’ve tried.

Video looks great, although you’ll probably want to adjust the default screen brightness setting (and that may use the battery a bit faster).  The audio from a movie, even through inexpensive headphones, was particularly good.

Nokia’s maps application found my location faster and much more accurately than Google Maps ever has. However, the satellite view thinks I live in a parking lot, so that view is four or five years old.Blog Photo

I used the 8.0 megapixel camera last weekend when my brother played in a relatively new band, Cody and the Gateway Drugs, at Cream and Flutter in downtown Champaign. It was a fun evening, but the lighting, for photo purposes, was not ideal – the musicians were backlit and the store’s lights were fairly dim. Fine for atmosphere, not so much for cell phone pictures. But the Lumia took a couple that surprised me, and shot video that was very good.

There aren’t nearly as many apps for Windows Phone as there are for Android or the iPhone. There’s nothing to be done about that except wait.

Battery life was very good. After three days of being unplugged, watching most of a movie and using the web and social media apps frequently, the phone still had 57 percent of its battery left. (Your results may differ; I wasn’t putting the device to the most strenuous of tests.)

Staying connected is easy, but that’s true of any smartphone. You can combine all your email accounts in one app.  All your social media apps are in one place, though I had trouble switching between work and personal Twitter accounts. Facebook looked entirely different on the Windows Phone than on Android – much less like the web version – but that appearance takes some getting used to. (If you’ve hidden anyone on Facebook, they’re apparently not hidden on the Windows Phone version.) Waking the phone and launching any of these apps gave me a lightning-quick refresh.

I was not impressed with call quality, but I didn’t test that thoroughly – I rarely use my phone as a phone. Calls connected just fine but the audio was not great.

You’d do well (and this is true of any new phone) checking default settings. Wifi is turned on by default, for instance. The screen’s brightness is not at full. There are audio settings you can adjust.

If you’re thinking about a new phone, and you haven’t already made up your mind, I’d recommend finding someone who has a Windows Phone and asking for a quick tour. It’ll give you an idea of how different it is from Android and iPhone models. Here's an online intro to the operating system, from Microsoft.

For that matter, if you can get friends to show you their phones, you’ll get a much better real-world idea of capabilities than you’ll ever get in any phone company’s store. And it always pays to ask your friends for recommendations.

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