I'm Nick Eubanks, and this is my Windows Phone.

I've been using Windows Phone 8 on my Nokia Lumia 928 for the past several months and have had such an amazing experience so far that I felt the need to share. First, a little background into my digital life, before I jumped on to a Windows Phone, I was an avid iPhone user having both the iPhone 4 and 5 over the two to three years and before that I had the Motorola Droid. As a Microsoft employee, I felt obligated to switch to a Windows device but was afraid that I would miss the apps and the thin and light form factor of the iPhone which kept me from switching for quite a while. I say that just to prove that I'm not just some 'fanboy' ranting on about how awesome this operating system is without the experience to prove it, it was actually a hard choice for me to make the switch but I'm very glad that I did and won't look back.

Throughout the past year I have started working more closely with the Windows Phone team and was able to see first hand how passionate and excited they are about their product which made me finally make the leap of faith and purchase a Nokia 928 back in June. The minute I took it out of the box I was little disappointed with the heft of the device and browsing through the store took me back to early days of Android 2.0 a bit when I didn't find all the hundreds of apps that I had installed on my iPhone (the vast majority of which I didn't use, I quickly learned). Those feelings were overcome once I connected my Microsoft Account and saw how alive my phone became and aside from the difficulty in reaching the back button when using the device with one hand, I do appreciate the greater screen real estate. I'm heavily invested in the Mircrosoft ecosystem so it was nice to see all my emails, pictures, skydrive documents, one note notebooks, music (through Xbox Music pass), Xbox achievements, and contacts show up and immediately starting to appear on my start screen. Interacting with the OS felt modern, a breath of fresh air. This may sound like a denouncement but I swear its a huge compliment - the first reaction I had once everything was set up was to call my parents and tell them that I had finally found the smart phone for them (they both ended up buying one and absolutely love their phones, probably more than I do).

The experience only got better over the next couple months as I got more familiar with the platform and how intuitive everything was. I could actually personalize my phone by choosing which tiles/apps I value and what sizes I want them on the start screen which is a lot nicer than just being able to move icons around and throwing them into folders. I realized how little I actually enjoyed using my phone when I used an iPhone as my daily driver, this one felt alive and personal. This OS is not just a bunch of jumping back and forth into and out of individual silos of apps, with Windows Phone everything is connected and seamlessly flows from one experience to the next and back. The introduction of the Bing News, Weather, Finance, and Sports apps made the experience all the better and with Nokia's additions like Glance and double tap to wake, I can honestly say that I love my phone.

 

My Start Screen, the essential apps

 

This is my start screen which I use to hold all the apps that I use pretty much every day. It's very nice to be able to see updates at a glance on the live tiles; I check the weather without ever opening an app, I can see how much money I've lost or gained throughout the day with a quick glance at the stock tile, I see photos and status updates from my family with the Family pin from the People Hub, I can book my connector ride to work at a moments notice, or check the traffic over Lake Washington to see how much longer I should stay at the office... or sleep in. I have all of my communication apps together near the top so that I can see the number of calls, emails, texts, or lync messages that I've missed. The music tile shows the artist that's playing if I'm listening to music, and my calendar actually tells me where I need to go next. These are really all the apps that I really need and rarely to I find myself going to the store to hunt down something that's missing.

 

The good, and bad.

Here is a quick list the things that I absolutely love about my Windows Phone, and the things that could use some improvement.

The Good:

  • The tiles are far more useful than I anticipated, sometimes I find myself turning on my screen just to stare at them jump around.
  • On Nokia devices, the glance and double tap to wake on GDR2/Amber is awesome!
  • Bing images as your lock screen background brings a fresh face to the phone every day.
  • While driving, texting via Bluetooth is extremely good, a voice will ask if you want it read aloud or ignore, and then you can respond or not.
  • Having Office is very handy, especially when it comes to SharePoint and right's protected documents.
  • Email is world class unlike every other platform out there.
  • Facebook messaging within the first party standard texting/messaging app is extremely nice.
  • Being able to link various sets of mailboxes is a nice feature rather than the all or nothing "universal mailbox" found on other platforms.
  • Earning achievements in games is nice.
  • The back button and backstack is awesome, it really connects the app to app experience. I especially like that many apps will rely on this for navigating to web content via IE rather than hosting their own webviews. 
  • Xbox Music is unmatched.

The Bad (for now):

  • I miss notification toasts a lot (especially on football days where ESPN alerts happen frequently).
  • I can't close an app without restarting the phone, I know that in most circumstances you don't have to but there is a need every once and a while. (Update: GDR3 fixes this! http://blogs.windows.com/windows_phone/b/windowsphone/archive/2013/10/14/announcing-our-third-windows-phone-8-update-plus-a-new-developer-preview-program.aspx)
  • No SnapChat, this is one of those apps that's preventing my younger brother from getting a Windows Phone. (This bullet can also be repurposed for any apps falling into the "App Gap" territory)
  • Podcasts from the Store/Music hub take way too long to become available, fortunately other apps like i Podcast, excel at this.
  • Quick access to airplane mode or wifi and Bluetooth toggles would be extremely helpful.
  • The call and SMS filter doesn't seem to work for me.
  • Internet Explorer drop downs could use some work, these worked a lot better on Safari.

I'm sure these lists will change over time as the platform matures and evolves. In general though, Windows Phone 8 is an amazing platform and I'm getting tired of tech bloggers and journalists not giving it the time of day or spreading mis-information about it for lack of actually ever trying it. It is the only platform that I would recommend to newcomers to the smart phone market for it's ease of use and "all-in-one" package of Microsoft services that get better all the time, and one that I strongly urge people who are diehard Android or iOS fans to try for an extended period of time, I think they'd be surprised how quickly they'll fall in love.

 

 

I've been meaning to get into blogging for a while now and thought a post on my experiences with Windows Phone would be a good place to start. I have another post in the works about some of the work I did in Windows 8.1 which I'll probably put up in a week or so covering the new Appointments APIs and how to actually write an Appointments Provider app. Apparently some one already beat me to it on how to use the APIs themselves, even though they completely stole my sample code... :) - http://www.codeguru.com/win_mobile/win_store_apps/programmatically-creating-and-updating-appointments-in-windows-8.1.htm. In the mean time I can be found on Twitter, @naeubanks.

 

-Nick