Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lumia 640 Windows Phone Experience - The Good

I'm developing an Windows Phone app, so I've picked up a Lumia 640 to test with. For the heck of it, I dropped my SIM card into the phone and have been using it as my primary handset for about a week.

After a few disorienting days, I think I'm finally getting a sense of how this bad boy operates. Seriously, standing in CVS trying to figuring out how to place a call was a remarkably humbling experience. So here are a few aspects of the phone I'm really digging:

  • The camera has more manual settings than my Android phone. I don't know if I'll ever use those settings, but it made me smile to see them. In fact, it was the first feature on the phone that got me psyched to use it.
  • Bluetooth tethering with Windows was trivial to setup. So I'm playing with my new Lumia and manage to pair it with my Windows laptop over Bluetooth. No biggie there. But then, under Devices and Printers I see this drop down box labeled "Connect using":

    Out of curiosity, I select Access Point, and just like that my laptop is tethered to my phone. It's not that tethering is that big a deal (I use it on Android all the time), it's that pairing a Windows Phone with a Windows laptop was just so surprisingly effortless.
  • The back button is truly a back button. Try this on your Android device: hit the home key, open up the gallery app, hit the home key, open up the calculator. Now hit the back button. You go home, right? Now hit the back button again, you stay home. Hitting the home key clears the back button's stack. Not so on my Windows Phone. In the above scenario, hitting the back button one more time takes you to the Gallery app. Hitting it again, takes you home again. I'm really liking this clear back button semantics and I think it's a better implementation than on Android.
  • Applications are installed on the SD card by default. I found this one out the hard way: I installed some apps, then put my SD card back in my S5. The apps I had installed stopped working. I'm dangerously close to running out of phone storage on my S5, and always try to make use of my SD card. If WP OS makes better use of the SD card, that would be huge. Of course, nowadays, many top Android phones don't even come with an SD card. Don't get me started on how much I dislike that decision.
  • IE's address bar is at the bottom, not the top of the screen. I'm no fan of IE (more on that to come), but whoever figured out that the address bar belongs at the bottom of the screen, not the top, needs to win some sort of UX Design Award. Seriously, that's where you're fingers are, so it's far easier to interact with the bar down there.
  • My first impression of the Windows Phone UI was that it was actually pretty clunky. I felt like I had stepped back in time to the early days of smartphones, when the G1 and MyTouch ruled. But wait, another way to look at this same UI is that it's the minimalist choice. Whoa, call it minimalist, and now I like it. So with this mindset change (that's not primitive, that's miniamlist!) I've actually very much warmed to the Windows Phone user experience. For example, consider the uninspired simple, flat tiles that make up the home screen. Basic, but totally functional. In fact, I'm happy with how quickly I was able to construct an efficient start screen.

Bonus cool feature: the Project My Screen App is pretty darn slick. Using it, you can, well, project your phone's screen to your laptop. And it's bidirectional, so you can control your screen from your laptop. It's marked as a 'bonus feature' because while impressive, I'm not sure why I need this.

OK, so there you have it, a little Windows Phone love.

But of course, that's only part of the story. Up next: Lumia 640, The Bad.

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