Category Archives: Windows Phone

Why I switched from Windows Phone to IOS

So sadly I finally switched from Windows Phone to IOS. I was a long time Windows Phone user too…had WP7 HTC Mozart, Lumia 800, HTC 8x, Lumia 925, not to mention countless Windows Mobile devices. I love Windows Phone, but at the end of the day I wanted 2 things:

  1. A phone that just works
  2. Apps that I need

Windows Phone passed the first requirement fine, unlike Android, but not the second. At first I didn’t mind this as I wanted to be along for the ride, see how the platform developed, get excited when new updates arrived etc, but unfortunately development of the platform has been so slow, most resources seeming to go into redoing the platform from the ground up every couple of years, sometimes loosing features in the process. Feature updates were far an few between, and app adoption has been far too slow. There is still no Sonos app (Phonos is not bad, but not as good). I also have no signal at home, with IOS or Android I can use WiFi calling and SMS over WiFi on my network, but no guess what no app on WP. I can also use iMessage on WiFi. Sure these are just my personal requirements, but everyone will have issues with apps that are on IOS or Android but not WP.

The phone backup solution still sucks as well, since many apps and games do not support backup. I have a huge world in Terraria that will be forever stuck on the phone since there is no way to backup it up to another device. I even got an ipad mini for the train I am embarrassed to say, and guess what my game saves work across devices.

Just to add, I have also tried several Android devices (HTC One, nvidia tablet), and had the dubious pleasure of dealing with a BYOD implementation at work. Having seen users with all manner of devices, the conclusion from that rollout was clear: IOS just works, Android is a total rats nest – users saying ‘I just need to format my device as it is running slow’, Android reporting that it was out of space even though it was not (being used by cache), very old Android versions, crappy builtin browsers that all work differently – just horrible, horrible experiences for users. Windows Phone also was fine, for the one user out of 3500 that had one. If Windows Phone had the apps that IOS has, it would be in the running for the best OS. Unfortunately as it stands, I just can’t recommend it to anyone.

I will of course be hanging on to my Lumia 925 to test out Windows Mobile 10. If Windows bridge for IOS comes off, that is the best bet that we might close the app gap, but I am not holding my breath.

Clean install Windows 8.1 or 8 using the included OEM license in the BIOS

I am having to set up quite a few Windows 8 machines for friends and family, which come preinstalled with Windows 8 and no COA product key on the machine, just a small Windows 8 sticker. These machines have the Windows 8 key embedded into the BIOS. So, what do you do if you want to format the machine?

Many of the machines I have seen, especially Acer, come with horrible crapware including McAfee Internet Security, which can be a pain to get rid of. What I do now, is just format the machine immediately because it is quicker than removing all the crap loaded by the OEM. The good news is that there is no COA sticker to fade or come off, and all you need to do is find some Windows 8 media and reinstall the Operating System. Setup detects the key in the BIOS and you do not get asked for a key during setup, and it also detects the correct Windows version. When you logon, you find that Windows is already activated, so it couldn’t be easier.

The main issue with this, is that no OEMs I know ship the actual media with a Windows laptop. But, you can use TechNet (R.I.P.) or MSDN bootable media with no problems. I use a bootable USB key with TechNet media.

Update: Windows 8.1 unfortunately does not accept Windows 8 product keys. So if you try this on a machine which shipped with Windows 8, it does not work and you have to enter a key. This is odd seeing as 8.1 is a free upgrade. I assume that this will not be an issue for machines which shipped with Windows 8.1.

How to force the Windows Phone 7.8 update

The 7.8 update is upon us, but it is a phased rollout so you might not get it straight away. Luckily there is a trick to get it immediately, assuming it is actually available on your phone. All the Nokia Lumias are getting it. Some folks are having a little trouble with this trick, so this is how I did it.

1) Turn off data on your phone ( 3G and WIFI) – this is important otherwise it checks via the phone.
2) Connect the Phone to the PC via USB cable (it doesn’t matter if the phone is with or without SIM Card)
3) Zune loads up automaticaly or if not just open it
4) Open also the Network Connections  icon and look for your active internet connection on the PC – LAN connection or WIFI connection.
5) In Zune, select Update. It will begin searching the server for an update
6) Count 3 or 4 seconds, hit “Disable” for the LAN or WIFI connection of your PC (or use e.g. the wifi switch on a laptop).
7) You will see the message “An update is available” on both the Zune and phone.
If you get the message “Your phone is up to date”  you weren’t quick enough. If you get an error message with a code that “Zune can’t connect right now try later” it’s because you were to quick. I usually got the desired update message on the 2nd-3rd try
8) Enable your network and Click Ok to update the phone.

Note that there are 3 updates, the final one is 7.8 (why I do not know as they are supposed to be cumulative). So you may have to do this 3 times in a row, but you will get them and also won’t have to wipe the phone – this just upgrades it and keeps all your stuff.

And here she is on my Lumia 800:

7.8

Update: After doing this, 2 weeks later I received a further update notification for my Lumia 800. This updated only the firmware, so I can only assume that if you force the update, you may not get included firmware udpates until if and when the OEM releases the udpate officially for your device.

Windows Phone 8 and 7.x podcast support outside of the US

One of the primary functions of my Windows Phone device is (or was) listening to podcasts. Whilst people in the US have the best functionality for podcasts on both Windows Phone 7.5 and later and 8, those of us not in the US have not been so lucky.

I recently purchased an HTC 8x, which was a lovely device, but for some purposes was a step backwards from Windows Phone 7.5. Application support was reduced – so although there was new functionality and will be a new wave of apps, some apps that were previously on Windows Phone 7 were now not available. A key one for me was Spotify, which was not available. Yes Xbox music is pretty good and in some cases better, but I also happen to have a Sonos system (and incidentally Sonos have never bothered to support any Windows Phone version), so I need a Spotify subscription, but couldn’t use that on the 8x.

I then found out that something I had been taking for granted on my old HTC Mozart – subscribing to podcasts so that they download over the air was no longer available on Windows Phone 8. In the US podcasts are available in the Windows Phone store, so can just be added directly on the device. Outside of the US (and that is the Rest of the World, Microsoft) there is no podcast support in the store, but it was possible to subscribe to a podcast on WP7 by using Zune to sync a podcast to the device, and once setup you could then subscribe on the device itself and new episodes would be downloaded. That was a pretty good solution for us second class rest of worlders.

I got fed up with the 8x and returned it for a few reasons – missing apps, too big, no podcasts, and random reboots being some of them. Having seen details of Windows Phone 7.8 leak out, I decided to go for the old Lumia 800. This is a nice phone, 7.8 has some nice features, I’ll still be able to use my apps and podcasts, and save some money into the process. I had assumed that the reason we couldn’t sync over the air on WP8 was because WP8 doesn’t use the Zune client any more, so you cannot sync podcasts over to the device using that and then setup on the device. I was wrong.

It turns out that the ability to download podcasts over the air has actually been missing/broken since the Tango update. If you had podcasts setup to download prior to upgrading to Tango, those will still work. But on any Tango device you cannot subscribe to new podcasts. So it seems Microsoft simply carried over that (lack of) functionality to Windows Phone 8. Why they would remove a feature permanently from thousands of devices is a complete mystery to me.

EDIT – I since read that this was in fact a bug fix. You weren’t supposed to be able to subscribe to podcasts outside of the US in Mango, that was a bug. So luckily Microsoft fixed it, so we couldn’t do that any more, which was nice of them.

For now, we can only hope that this is fixed in both 7.8 and 8.x with future updates, but I am not holding my breath.

Please add your vote here: http://windowsphone.uservoice.com/forums/101801-feature-suggestions/suggestions/2158481-better-podcast-support?utm_campaign=shorturls&utm_source=windowsphone.uservoice.com

Fix this completely broken podcast for support for Windows 7 and 8 please Microsoft.

Supported video formats and converting files to play on Windows Phone 8

There is a simple way to get a video to play on your Windows Phone 8 device, using nothing more than Windows explorer.

Windows Phone 8 supports similar file formats to Windows Phone 7, these are listed here:

http://www.windowsphone.com/en-GB/How-to/wp7/music/music-and-video-faq

It doesn’t mention which kinds of Codecs are supported. With Windows Phone 7 there was a rule of thumb that if the Zune client could play it, then Windows Phone 7 would be able to play it to. You would only see the Videos that could be played in Zune, so if you could see it there, sync it over and it should be fine.

Windows Phone 8 doesn’t use the Zune client, you need to use the desktop app or the Windows 8 Metro app. I found the Metro app doesn’t see any of my files, but that doesn’t mean they won’t play on your device – see if they play in Zune, if so they should play on your phone.

There is a very simple way of checking if a file will play and converting the files at the same time. This makes use of the new support for Media Transfer Protocol (MTP), which is how you can transfer files via USB now. You basically just copy and paste the file.

The solution is as follows:

  1. Connect the phone via USB
  2. Using Explorer, copy your video to the device into the Video folder. One of 2 things wil happen:
    1. It will copy over immediately, in which case it will play.
    2. It will ask you to convert it, in which case say yes. It will convert it to .wmv, and then it will play. Yes this will take a while.

So, if you see this, say yes.

image

How to get the Tango Internet Sharing update on the HTC Mozart, and prepare for 7.8

I have had an HTC Mozart locked on Orange UK for a couple of years now. I also have a spare lying around that I tested this on. Neither have had a an update since Mango (7.10.7740). This is because Orange never approved any updates after Mango, which was so nice of them. Checking for updates via Zune irritatingly says that your phone is up to date, when it is far from up it, there are at least 2 updates since this:

HTCMozartUptodate

However, it is possible to debrand the device, which removes the Orange customisations and branding from the phone, and although it will still be SIM locked to Orange, other than it turns it into a generic HTC Mozart, and will get any update from Microsoft/HTC immediately. So doing this should also mean that you will get Windows Phone 7.8 as soon as it is released, not if and when Orange decide to release it.

The downside is that you will have to reset the device, so you will loose any customisations, game saves etc. To upgrade, go to http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1002391 and follow the instructions. Make sure you carefully follow the part where you extra the .exe using 7zip. You need to have a working branded ROM on the phone before you do that, don’t skip any steps.

Use the ROM versions exactly as mentioned in the post (assumes you are on Orange UK). Once you install the second ROM, plug into Zune and let it update. This will take several hours, whilst it installs many updates (I am not joking!).

Finally it culminates in this as you get the Tango update, and internet sharing!

This should work with other Mozart branded devices, but your mileage may vary.

HTCMozartTangoUpdate2

Nokia Drive on other Windows Phone 8 devices

There was some confusion around whether or not Nokia Drive would be included or available on all Windows Phone 8 devices, after a post at http://conversations.nokia.com/2012/06/20/nokia-drive-for-all-windows-phone-8-smartphones/

What this said was:

Today, we are making Nokia Drive available to other Windows Phone 8 partners to offer a turn-by-turn navigation experience for people in over 110 countries.

I came across this at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2411484,00.asp#disqus_thread. Assuming this really is a Nokia employee, this seems to clarify the situation nicely:

Hi everyone, this is Pino from Nokia. I would like to clarify a bit what Nokia is exactly providing for the Windows Phone 8 location-based experiences:

1. Nokia is delivering the backbone for all location experiences on all Windows Phone 8 devices. What does it mean? Apps by Nokia (e.g. Nokia Drive), by Microsoft (e.g. Bing Maps) or any 3rd party developer run with API created by Nokia and working on the Nokia Location Platform.
2. Offline maps is one of the features delivered by the Nokia Location Platform. This is why you find this option in the Settings of all Windows Phone 8 devices. Again, all location-based apps for Windows Phone 8 can make use of this feature.
3. Nokia is offering Nokia Drive, hence voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation, to all Windows Phone 8 partners. Each manufacturer will decide whether and where it will be included. The app will be published anytime soon.

So, Windows Phone 8 uses Nokia Location Services, and any apps can use this feature. And they will also offer Nokia Drive to other OEMs, but they may or may not include this.

I might just wait to see if this shows up on any HTC devices…

Windows Phone 8 HD resolution screens & useable space

Update: I have owned (and returned) an HTC 8x. This has a wider 720p resolution, so you do at least get more tiles on the screen. However, because it is not the same ratio as the old 800 x 480, with games and some apps you get a black border at each side. These will remain until if and when the app gets an update. Here is an example from one of my favorite games on Windows Phone, SurvivalCraft:

With the new wave of Windows 8 phone devices just about to be launched, I was curious about the benefits of using an HD screen. In particular I wanted to be able to get more on the screen – not just to look better/sharper with more pixels, but to be able to see more lines in an email for instance.

However, it seems like my wish won’t come to fruition – as you can see in the below screenshots of a Nokia Lumia 920 running Windows Phone 8 compared with my old HTC Mozart on Windows Phone 7.5.

Lumia920NewMail

 

As you can see, there is more space available – the interface has been scaled, but really looks just the same in terms of screen real estate.

I still expect videos, photos and text to look better, but personally I find the interface a bit cramped in some situations and would have welcomed some more space.

Source video, see 4:15.

 

Windows Phone 8 model comparison table & gallery

 

Use the following table to compare specifications of the Windows Phone 8 models which have been announced so far from Nokia, Samsung, and HTC, as well as the iphone 5 for comparison. Click the button in the bottom right to make it full size.

I have now added another tab so you can filter to see which phone meets your requirements – click on the button to open in the Web App, then click on the Filtered tab at the bottom. Click on the filter arrows, then filter. You can always download a copy to play with as well.

Check out the galleries below.

Lumia820

Lumia 820

Lumia920

Lumia 920

AtivS

Samsung ATIV S

8x

HTC Windows Phone 8X

8s

HTC Windows Phone 8S

Check out these links for more information:

http://www.samsung.com/global/ativ/ativ_s.html

http://www.nokia.com/gb-en/products/phone/lumia820/specifications/

http://www.nokia.com/gb-en/products/phone/lumia920/specifications/

http://www.htc.com/uk/smartphones/htc-wp-8x/

http://www.apple.com/iphone/specs.html