• Microsoft’s Mail Service Rebranding – Goodbye Hotmail, Hello Outlook.com

    Keeping up with my tweet stream this evening, I noticed talk of Microsoft releasing a poor Android App for their Outlook.com service. Now frankly, I couldn’t give two figs about Android consumers moaning about Microsoft not releasing ‘the very best’ interface for a competing platform. For me, that’s just an unreasonable expectation. By example: how’s that Google produced Gmail app working out for Windows Phone 7 consumers? It’s absolutely amazeballs I’m sure. Oh no, wait, it’s redundant as Microsoft had the good sense to weld an excellent Gmail integration into their OS natively rather than allowing handset manufactures to trim it out…

    No, petulant consumer posts aside, I was more interested in the existence of Outlook.com, the replacement for Microsoft’s Hotmail service. As I am clearly late to the party on this one, data on this service is already out there, but here’s a short summary:

    Outlook.com Web Interface

    Outlook.com Web Interface with a Lime Green accent

    • The interface is of the Modern UI style, clean & minimalistic ala Windows Phone. You also get to choose your own colour emphasis , ala Windows Phone (mine’s Lime Green, since you asked)
    • It has less adverts
    • It has enhanced filing facilities allowing use of custom and stock mail categories
    • There’s a people hub for social media integration
    • You will be forced over to it at some undefined point in the future

    I transitioned over to it from Hotmail tonight and I love it, but then I’m probably an outlier. I was using Outlook 2013 during the Release Preview and cut over to RTM version Day One. My partner however hates it when Facebook adds a new bar, or Hotmail adds a button, so God knows what she will make of the complete UI overhaul. Well actually, I already know – she’s had a peek at my console and disdain was her first reaction.

    There’s no accounting for taste (she’s with me after all) but hopefully it will grow on her. Looking at them marketplace implications, I’m sure Microsoft won’t lose many customers over the redesign. People that change adverse aren’t likely to want to go through the disruption of migrating mail service over a mere UI shift. If you’re in that demographic then changing all your logons/accounts is going to be less appealing than learning a new interface.

    In summary, I think Outlook.com is a fantastic effort by Microsoft. The Hotmail interface was looking very staid and was noisy as Hell to boot, all but driving me into a Gmail account 2 years ago. This dramatic reboot can only generate fresh interest in the service, especially among younger folks who demand aesthetically pleasing web experiences. It’s not quite good enough to make me close down my Gmail account, as no professional aliases remained on Outlook.com for me to grab sadly (thanks the 25 million plus early adopters who beat me to it), but it’s good enough to make me switch my primary back to Microsoft.

  • My Life With a Nokia Lumia 920 – One Week In

    As I posted earlier this week, my transition into the Brave New World of Windows Phone 8 hasn’t exactly been smooth. Although my last two blog posts covered one of the most significant faults reported to date (random freezing, not just limited to Nokia), sadly there’s been others too. I’ll cover the high points and the low points below:

    The Lows…

    Rapid Battery Drain & Overheating

    I experienced this one whilst at a conference without my charger (inconveniently). My work ActiveSync account spontaneously lost all its mail. My phone then attempted to download every mail it was missing. Now, I have my phone set to download 30 days of mail history and I get a LOT of email. Three minutes later my handset was red hot (around the camera area) and I’d gone down from 66% battery (approx.) to 0%, (read: flat as a pancake). To be quite honest, I thought the battery may have shorted out!

    I’m hoping it was just a one off brain-fart from the mail app as I haven’t seen such drain again since Thursday and the device recharged fine. I wonder if anyone else has seen this in the wild?

    Two more freezes

    I’ve had the phone black screen freeze two more times since I reported it last Sunday. As I recently read that this is associated with ‘bad applications’, I started paying attention to what I was doing when the phone froze. The last freeze was induced by my pulling out of the headphones when using the Nokia Music application. A handset manufacturer’s software causing crashes? That would be a first šŸ˜‰

    I’d consider this fault innocuous, if it wasn’t for the fact that my date resets back to the date of handset manufacture (I assume) every time I perform the recovery action, a soft reset. If I don’t set the date quick enough, messages from my friends and family get injected into the past, Marty McFly style, adding to my frustration.

    …and The Highs

    Windows Phone 8 – Live Tiles v2

    By far and away the best feature on the new OS platform is resizable Live Tiles. When Microsoft were going berserk promoting the virtues of this enhancement I figured it was just vendor overexcitement. I was dead wrong! The amount of screen real-estate I’ve managed to reclaim by shrinking tiles that I don’t need live data from is significant, freeing up the screen for fun stuff, like those People Groups I never could find the space for. I’m not getting a lot out of wide tiles to be quite honest, but the small ones let me reduce the amount of times I have to navigate into the murky depths of the side rail. Speaking of side rails, losing the perpetual side rail shortcut was another inspired move. Please don’t misunderstand me – this iteration of Live Tiles is only an evolution (rather than revolution), but it’s a big step, like opposable thumbs.

    Nokia Lumia 920 – PureView Camera

    I’ve also had a small measure of time to play with the headline PureView camera, and it’s pretty swish. It’s capturing low light shots my iPhone 4S camera would never have achieved and it’s autofocus, colour balance and resolution are far, far better than it’s precursor in my portfolio, the Nokia Lumia 800. This is great kit, and I really look forward to getting to grips with the Smart Shoot and Lens features.

    Overall – Am I keeping it?

    Now please bear in the mind, I’ve had exposure to all of the mainline phone operating platforms over the past few years. I grey imported my iPhone 1 and have been frustrated/excited/made ambivalent by the various incremental versions of Android. I’ve been RIMed by Blackberry, sideswiped by Symbian & underwhelmed by WP7. It’s fair to say I’ve lived with more platforms than most! Until quite recently I was a dyed in the wool iPhone guy as I honestly felt that the platform was the most balanced, taking into account the SW and the HW.

    Note: I’m not espousing the ‘App ecosystem’ – I’m not into that these days, as I’m not twelve nor do I feel the need to burn every spare brain cycle on scrabble/name that tune derivatives. Most of my application needs are met by web applications or core platform functions (browser, maps, messaging & mail – everyone has these, it’s just a question of implementation)

    The WP7.5 Nokia Lumia 800 changed that for me. WP7.5 was a revelation of what ‘could be’. It performed the smart phone functions better than my old iPhone and put me in far better touch with my social media feeds, be it reading or posting. That said, I felt I was having to make a hardware compromise to have access to this great OS. The general build quality was great, the AMOLED screen vibrant, but the camera, oh Heavens above, was rotten.

    The Lumia 920 is the long-awaited Windows Phone platform promise that I’ve yearned for made real. The star of the show is the fantastic, fully rounded Nokia HW, allowing the WP8 OS to impress me with no distraction. The camera is top of class and the screen is sharp beyond belief, popping as much as any LCD I’ve ever used. The Nokia value add software feels so tightly integrated that you’d swear it was OEM and frankly makes up for any deficiencies in the ‘bog standard’ WP8 platform (i.e. decent turn-by-turn nav). Sure, the device is big but you get used to that and actually start to appreciate it when you’re watching media or trying to parse large documents.

    All WP customers will in some degree get to appreciate the steps forward made through core Windows Phone OS development (be it an OTA 7.8 update of an existing device, or through the purchase of a WP8 phone from an alternative vendor) and that’s a great thing. I do reckon that Nokia customers get the best deal though, quality oozing from their HW and value-add SW sweetening the pot, resulting in a great experience.


    Nokia/Microsoft just need to release stability patches quick, as in yesterday, before they get bad press. It would be a terrible shame if the best smartphone platform to date (in my humble opinion) didn’t get the adoption it deserves due to the schoolboy error of not releasing a fully finished/tested flagship product. Whether HTC & Samsung like it or not, people in Europe intrinsically associate Windows Phone 8 with Nokia.

    [This is only fair considering the Finnish companies massive commitment to Microsoft (in both approach and marketing) over the years. They truly have gone ‘all-in’.]

    Therefore, I would suggest that a bad Nokia launch bodes badly for every manufacturer hoping to sell devices using this platform. It’s in everyone’s best interest to get WP8 stable on all the handsets that are out on the market now, if phones launched later are going to stand any chance of selling. I’ll be giving Nokia & Microsoft a chance to get it right, but I’m not so sure the marketplace will be so forgiving to the underdog.

  • Unresponsive Nokia Lumia 920 fixed by Nokia Lumia 800 soft reset guidance

    As I posted a few minutes ago, my Nokia would not turn on this morning. I posted (here) expressing my knee jerk anger.

    Being an IT Pro by trade, and a Nokia shareholder (there, I said it), I felt I should at least make some effort to fix the device. If it was a software or firmware issue, rather than hardware, I figured I should stand a fighting chance. If I’d tried all I could, it should also equate to an easier refund experience at Phones4U tomorrow.

    Lo-and-behold, two Bing searches later I found some guidance on the two known methods of resetting the anatomically similar Nokia Lumia 800. How many ways could those crazy Finns allow you to control the phone hardware through an identical button layout?

    Not that many it turns out! The soft reset procedure outlined at ukmobilereview.com brought my Nokia Lumia 920 back to life. To give more detail, the phone appeared dead, inert, brick like. Pressing the power button on the side left the screen black & lifeless. Connecting the device to a charger or USB port did nothing. The soft reset process made the handset reboot and things have been OK so far.

    I hope this doesn’t happen to other less IT savvy consumers, who frankly may just return this flagship handset in frustration and purchase and iPhone 5 with their monies. I sense a firmware update in this device’s impending future…

  • Day 2 of the Nokia Lumia 920 experience (There is no day 2)

    After last weeks Windows Phone UK ‘launch’, I finally managed to find someone carrying stock in Reading yesterday. In my excitement, I purchased a matte black handset immediately, willing to forgive Nokia this minor transgression.

    Day one was fantastic – Windows Phone 8 was just like Windows Phone 7.5, only Windows-ier… no seriously it was fantastic. Resizing tiles made the home screen way more useful, the SkyDrive integration was way stronger, including a means of backing up text messages for yo text kiddies out there.

    I didn’t get much further than that on the OS though. The HW from the promised land of Finland may have many things – a cracking PureView camera, 4G antenna, NFC, Qi wireless charging, a PureMotion HD+ screen. However, it didn’t have the ability to take a charge. Day one was the only day I actually got to use the handset, as it’s battery wouldn’t take a charge last night and wont take one now!

    I’m positively fuming! This is the ONLY time in my life I had this experience with a premium phone handset. I’ll be down Phones4U in the morning to return this glorious handset. Whether I give one another chance will entirely depend on my ire in the morn.

  • Updates available for Nokia applications for Windows Phone 8

    My marketplace tile just notified me of updates available for several of the Nokia apps bundled with my Lumia 920, specifically…

    • Nokia Maps
    • Nokia City Lens
    • Smart Shoot (Lumia 920 exclusive)
    • Nokia Music (I think)

    Nothing too exciting – just stability/performance enhancements for the most part.

    Apologies about the sketchy final bullet point. Sadly, I’m doing this from memory. I recallĀ four apps in the list and it wasn’tĀ Nokia DriveĀ or Nokia Care. It still strikes me as odd though, asĀ the latest version of Music has been available since the 28th

    Perhaps it took Nokia a little bit longer to get it ready for the Windows Phone 8 platform?