Reviews, Solutions

Best Replacement for Weave News Reader

Update: 16/3/2015 – Corrections & additions to WP8 Nextgen Reader & Magnify, Weave Server deactivated
Update: 15/3/2015 – More in-depth review of NextGen Reader for Windows 8 & WP8
Update: 12/3/2015 – additional info for NextGen Reader for WP8

Weave is no more!

Weave News Reader was one of the first and one of the best news reader for the Windows Phone platform. I started using it when it was Windows Phone News. It is a Windows Phone exclusive app from Windows Phone 7 till now but like we Chinese say, “There’s no celebration/banquet that lasts forever.” Weave stopped working on 16 March 2015, with @Selesgames pulling the plug on the Weave server. This also means that Weave for Windows 8.x has stopped working as well.

@Selesgames has posted on Windows Central regarding the abrupt decision and while I’m sad that Arash Emami, the sole proprietor of @Selegames, is discontinuing Weave, I’m happy that he’s joining LinkedIn. Hopefully he can do something about the LinkedIn app in Windows 8 / WP8 & Windows 10.

I exclusively use Weave (Windows 8/WP8) for news on Windows, Windows Phone, Technology in general, Science & Astronomy, World News and Self-help. In fact, based on Battery sense, Weave is usually the single biggest usage of Battery!

Above half shows Weave for Windows 8.x, below is Weave for WP8.
Above half shows Weave for Windows 8.x, below is Weave for WP8.

So what’s next for users like me? Well I think it’s time to do a comparative review of some of the best news reader for the Windows/Windows Phone platform.

The contenders

There are many great news aggregator in the Windows Store but I have chosen these few to compare against Weave. The areas that I’ll compare include ease of initial & subsequent setup of accounts & feeds, ease of synchronization between devices including Windows & Phones, speed of app in pulling feeds online & offline, speed in displaying news aggregate and individual articles, UX and customisations.

Converge 4.3.1 – Converge is a popular app with a 4.5 star rating. It focuses on Tech news only which makes it less useful for me but it has a very nice UI & includes a Video Hub that display all videos embedded in all the downloaded articles.

The Popular page is the Home page and you can switch between Tile mode shown below as the 2nd screen or Slideshow mode (find this in Settings) which changes to a magazine mode shown below as the 3rd screen.

It doesn’t sync to other devices and also doesn’t have a Windows 8 app, which is a waste, as the potential for this app to be popular as a Universal app on Windows 8 & 10 is definitely great.

The UI & UX of Converge is very attractive & smooth. It's also distinctively Modern.
The UI & UX of Converge is very attractive & smooth. It’s also distinctively Modern.

Flipboard 2.6 – Flipboard is a social-media driven news aggregator app that’s ported from IOS. The main draw of Flipboard for IOS users was it simulates the page curling and flipping when you switch between articles, akin to flipping the page of a magazine. Alas, this flipping transition was not ported in WP8 thus reducing the “magic.”

The lineage of the app is very Apple-esque. The Windows version is very versatile but UI takes some getting used to. Things like Following which Feed or which Category was scattered all over the Modern app. I have not tried Flipboard on my iPad so I can’t tell if it works the same way there but I felt it could have been better organized. Flipping the page and other navigation is through keyboard left and right cursor keys or the Scroll on your mouse. BUT, there was NO indication on the screen on how that’ll work if you’re not using a touchscreen! Unlike other Modern apps like Microsoft News which has pop-up left/right edge cues, Flipboard for Windows doesn’t have those!

After you spend a few hours sieving through all the hundreds of feeds/website/categories/whatever and Follow the correct Feeds, you’d be very happy as it syncs back to your Flipboard account and that will propagate to all your devices. Unfortunately, there seems to be some issues with my Flipboard for Windows. After I’ve followed some feeds, it doesn’t sync back to my Flipboard account. It will always revert to the default Flipboard feeds & categories.

FlipBoard for WP8 works much better as it syncs perfectly with my Flipboard account and with other devices. However, it overwrites all the categories I’ve selected in FlipBoard for Windows. Now sieving through so many feeds isn’t productive on a small screen so it’s a real bummer that FlipBoard for Windows wasn’t synching properly.

A lot of potential here but it takes too much time to get to the news I want.

FlipBoard for Windows is fully functional, powerful & a bit messy. FlipBoard for WP8 is Beautiful, easy to navigate but lacks the ability to easily customize feeds.
FlipBoard for Windows (Above) is fully functional, powerful & a bit messy. FlipBoard for WP8 (Below) is Beautiful, easy to navigate but lacks the ability to easily customize feeds.

Fuse 2.4.0.2 – Fuse is created by legendary Windows Phone developer Rudy Huyn. It is a very functional software with an interesting Film reel layout. Setting up is quite easy but still requires you to sieve through a huge list categories of RSS feeds. After which you can categories it according to your preference.

It is the least polished of the apps in this round-up and lacks important features like sync to cloud and a Universal app for Windows 8/10. The film reel news feed, while functional, is very distracting with huge website name and the perforated separator for time making this part of the UI rather clunky and un-modern.

There’re some nice touches and animations here and there like all of Rudy’s other apps but this app definitely could use more development.

Fuse from Rudy Huyn is great for getting to the news and categorizing them according to your preference.
Fuse from Rudy Huyn is great for getting to the news and categorizing them according to your preference.

Microsoft News 3.1.4.381 – Microsoft 1st party News app is a showcase of how a Modern app should be like and they have more or less succeeded in that mission. BUT, it’s also the least customizable of all the apps in this comparison. There’re also some nagging bugs like the Featured News showing SUPER OLD NEWS. See the picture below!

The pre-installed list of news sites are very few and doesn’t cover the full spectrum of interests and categories. You could make it show news from all your favourite websites but you’d have to manually key in the address and configure the RSS, which is why I only use MS News to follow Singapore & World news.

For some reasons, MS removed a great feature which allows you to add your own “Topic of interest.” This is moved to Cortana so I suppose MS means for us to use Cortana as our News source?

MS News app is fully modern and a joy to use. Navigation on all devices is fantastic and intuitive.
MS News app is fully modern and a joy to use. Navigation on all devices is fantastic and intuitive. News for Windows (Above) has a tendency to show old news. News app for WP8 (Below) is great though with Auto-sync.

Nextgen Reader 6.3.0.5 – Nextgen Reader is another 4+ star app that has won the praise of many user and reviewers. It is highly functional and the Windows UI is modeled after Outlook Express. It’s also a Universal app which automatically syncs your account between devices.

However, its Achilles’ Heels is the configuration has to happen at the Feedly website. As a client only, it is not possible to configure from the Windows app. Fortunately, the Feedly website is easy to navigate with interest & categories clearly sorted and searchable. Even though the list isn’t pre-selected or curated, it was very easy for me to add the individual websites into the category as major topics of interest are #hashtagged in search. Unlike Flipboard or Fuse, getting organized was super easy & quick, and I don’t feel overwhelmed with the sheer number of websites.

After I’ve added some of the websites that was curated from Weave, I selected a few more which were not in Weave’s list. After that, clicking Sync in the Windows 8 Nextgen Reader immediately displays all my selection from the website. It was super easy!

Opening the app in WP8 was the same, the list and news feeds were all sync and ready to read. I just have to change the view to “Headline with Large Image” and it works almost the same as Weave!

You can add & delete Feeds from within the WP8 app which makes it a bit weird that the Windows app can’t. Did I miss something? WP8 Nextgen Reader has an awesome built-in Twitter sharing engine but if you prefer another app, you can always disable to share via WP8 Shares, or you could have BOTH! This multiplicity of functions is what I’ve come to expect from Desktop software. To see it in mobile apps without clunking up the whole UI is why I love WP8 platform and why I’m growing to like Nextgen Reader more everyday.

I subscribe to a large number of Feeds from multiple sources and it can go into the hundreds within a few hours. I don’t read every article, so I scroll through the list and tap only those I’m interested in. A very useful feature for both Windows & WP8 is the ability to, “Mark above as Read.” This allows me to go through a huge list of articles and simply mark ‘read’ the posts that I’ve scrolled past so I don’t have to go through them again later.

Nextgen Reader is not the prettiest of the bunch but so far, it’s the closest competitor to Weave. After using it for a couple of days I find that there were some areas that can be improved. In the WP8 app, currently in List view, ‘Read’ articles are denoted by a greyed Headline, it would be much clearer if the preview image was greyed as well. And when I go into an article, I have to tap “get full article”, why not set this as the default behavior? This is true for both Windows & WP8.

NextGen Reader for Windows (Above) was shockingly empty when I just opened it! After following the instructions to add feeds from the website, both Windows 8 & WP8 app (Below) filled up with glorious news!
NextGen Reader for Windows (Above) was shockingly empty when I just opened it! After following the instructions to add feeds from the website, both Windows 8 & WP8 app (Below) filled up with glorious news!

Magnify News Reader 3.1.7 – Magnify (Beta) is a beautiful app with so much bells and whistles, they had to create a video tutorial that runs the first time you open the app. It is also a Feedly client like NextGen Reader and thus, all my feeds are downloaded and sync to the app immediately after I sign in. If you haven’t create feeds in Feedly website, the app will appear empty and that’s why I scratched my head the first time I installed it months ago. The UI & UX is vastly different from NextGen Reader and users who like 3D animations are in for a treat.

All the transitions have 3D animations, from Home Page to individual section, there’s that flying pages animation. In the Preview page, scrolling up & down also scrolls up and down the Preview images. Once inside the article, a 3D cube effect changes the page instead of a standard scroll.

The app is also packed with tons of features that I use regularly in Weave so this is definitely a strong contender, although I must say that after reading a few articles, I got a headache from all the animations. Fortunately, there’s an ‘Article view’ which switches off the 3D cube effect and just scroll as per normal.

A very important feature that sets it apart from Nextgen Reader is the included Curated lists when you tap the “+” hub. It is a full featured Feed management system which gives users the ability to manage their Feeds completely within the app or use the pre-selected ones in each category or interest. It’s also more powerful than Weave and almost as easy to use as the Feedly website, which is an impressive feat given the limited screen size. Also, when I tap to view an article, Magnify shows the preview while downloading the full (mobilised) article automatically in the background. Kudos to the developers!

Its biggest annoyance is perhaps the lack of the “Mark above as Read” which is so useful in Nextgen Reader. Since the Feeds are not paginated, I have to tap on individual Feeds group if I think I cannot finish all the posts at one go. Within the Article list, you can only Mark all ‘Read’ or ‘Unread’. This can definitely be improved. Personally, the app is a bit too colourful for my liking but if you like your Groups to be colour-coded and fully customizable, you’d love Magnify!

Magnify is another Feedly client, like NextGen Reader so whatever I added in Feedly was automatically added to Magnify after I installed the app and sign in.
Magnify is another Feedly client, like NextGen Reader so whatever I added in Feedly was automatically added to Magnify after I installed the app and sign in.

Weave News Reader 8.7.0.2 – Weave News Reader. Much has been written about it. It’s a fantastic news reader for the busy person. It looks fantastic when it first came out. While the look is a bit dated now with Flipboard & Magnify looking awesome, Weave still gets the job done pretty well.

One of its best feature, the Weave (mobiliser) server that Weave News Reader sync to is no longer unique and in fact, can be unstable at times. Certain website also doesn’t get mobilised, including some of my favourite websites, causing Weave to switch to the much slower Web View. Beside mobilising the webpage, the Weave Server also prepares the page for Text-to-Speech, which is a great feature not available in most other apps.

Unfortunately, Weave News Reader has its fair share of bugs like the synchronization of Read/Unread posts can become out-of-sync between devices. When the Weave server was unstable, Weave News Reader would crash or its Live Tile can go haywire. Another very common complain was a stuck Live Tile but that’s less common after WP8.1.

Having said that, Weave still has the best curated list of websites sorted into interest & categories to get newbies up and running quickly. After that, you can opt to sync to your Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter or Google Account. This allows your selected feeds to sync between devices, including read/unread posts so you can continue reading on the go or at home/office.

You can easily customize your preferred website or add more if you so desire although IIRC Feedly isn’t supported. Articles can be easily shared to multiple destinations without any fuss and you can favourite any posts so it stays in your synchronized feed forever, or until Weave server goes dark on 14th March.

Weave has tons and tons of features but somehow doesn’t feel cluttered and is one of the best example of a modern app there is!

Which app is the winner?

Well, after this review, I still prefer Weave but since I have to choose an alternative, my recommendation goes to NextGen Reader. It has the best balance between UX, UI, features & customisations. I’d continue to play with the other apps and update this article with my thoughts as I go along.

To help readers make up their own mind, here’s a table.

Winner in Red.
Winner in Red.

Comments are welcome and if you want me to review another app on either Windows or WP8, I’d be happy to do so when I have the time. Remember to like my post & subscribe!

Photography, Solutions

How to take great photos on the Lumia 1020

WP_20131009_18_46_31_Pro

So you have just purchased the best camera phone of 2013 & you’re excited to get started taking incredible photos like those seen in reviews.

In bright daylight, all the photos turn out great but when the lights dim, your photos aren’t turning out so great. What’s up? Lumia 1020 is supposed to be the champion in low-light photography. Is your Lumia 1020 faulty?

Likelihood it’s performing fine. It’s just not what you’re expecting in the picture.

This article aims to help you overcome inherent problems in digital photography. It’s broken down into sub-sections, each corresponding to an individual manual setting in the Nokia Camera app, the default camera app on all Lumia 1020. This article also applies if you’ve install Nokia Camera on other Lumia WP8 models although instead of the Xenon Flash, you’d only have the LED light.

Click here to start the tutorial!

Solutions

Still getting poor battery life from your Windows Phone 8.0?

Update 10 Sep 2014: This article is only applicable for WP8.0. WP8.1 removed this setting!

While reading an IOS7 review, I come across a power-saving tip, which I didn’t thought of as a power-saving tip at first.

We have the same setting in Windows Phone. If you go to WiFi settings -> Advanced, you have “Notify me when new networks are found.” By default, it’s ON.

WP8 WiFi Advanced Setting
WP8 WiFi Advanced Setting

This feature was available since WP7 but it never crossed my mind that it actually controls the WiFi Roaming Aggressiveness of WP OS. I just found it annoying so I have switched it OFF immediately after getting a new WP phone. So I never had a chance to see the effects when it was on.

According to the IOS7 review, switching this off saves power!

For me, my WiFi is always ON, “Keep WiFi on when screen times out” is ON & “Notify me when new networks are found” is always OFF. And because of this, my Windows Phones’ battery life have always been good! I couldn’t understand why there’re still reports of poor battery life even after switching to 3G on their 4G phones + switching off all Background Agents.

Then I remembered last year I posted a comment on whether switching ON the WiFi ALL the time is a good idea or not & I concluded that as long as the WiFi radio is not roaming & it can enter low-power state when associated with a wireless access point, it CAN save power. However, unlike in Windows where you can select WiFi Roaming Aggressiveness, you can’t do so in WP7/8. Or so I thought until the IOS7 article.

I connected the dots & BAM! This Notify setting is the Roaming aggressiveness setting!

Switch it OFF guys & gals!

Sound off in the comments below on how your battery life is affected.

Opinions

Microsoft buys Nokia! …

WOW! But not all that surprising…

OK, Microsoft buys Nokia’s devices division & licensed their IP non-exclusively for 10-years for USD$7B. Nokia will keep their Nokia Networks & Here Mapping, not sure about their Advanced Imaging group (Scalado) though.

More information here. Microsoft acquires Nokia’s Devices division.

Some history

Nokia has been hemorrhaging market share for a long time. Symbian was fine as an advanced feature-phone but based on today’s metric of counting apps & multi-touch, it’s not really considered a modern smartphone. Sony Ericsson withdrawal from Symbian in 2010 hit the final nail in Symbian’s coffin as a mobile OS. Nokia just prolonged the inevitable and by the time the board realize it, it was almost too late. Which is why they brought in an ex-Microsoftie, Stephan Elop.

Nokia Symbian steadily losing market share.

There are some undercurrent of mistrust generally coming from an ex-Nokia executive Tomi Ahonen but that’s to be expected because after all, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile was an competitor’s platform for the longest time, even though Stephan Elop was in charge of Microsoft Office 2010 & Microsoft Dynamics for 2 years only. The truth is probably somewhere in between but that point is moot since the Symbian-based Nokia Asha product line didn’t do as well as expected in China & India.

Nokia has underestimated the demand for high-quality smartphone at an affordable price. Which is why the Nokia Lumia 520 sold extremely well while the Asha line didn’t. Everyone seems to want to launch expensive flagship phones but market share is built from bulk purchase of entry-level & mid-tier phones. In fact, most of Android’s market share come from cheap phones & even “smart” feature-phones using Android.

Despite the fact that investors are increasingly questioning Elop’s “Burning Platform” approach, it stands to reason that the world don’t need another Android maker. HTC is tepidly recovering with their HTC One, Sony & LG are posting some profits for their Android handset business after years of loss & Moto still seems to be flat on their face. Only Samsung is making real money so Nokia isn’t so bad IF you consider their record USD$3B lose in 2012. However, turning businesses around is always painful and Elop has handled it pretty well.

If Nokia had gone with Android in 2011, they may not have been desperate enough to bring OIS to phone cameras (Apple & Samsung are not expected to bring OIS in 2013), or improve Navteq (now called Here) to be a true Google Maps competitor in 2013, or Wireless charging across most of their product range starting in 2012. All this happened within 2 years of Elop coming on board.

The Nokia Lumia 800 was my first Nokia phone ever, while the Lumia 920 was my second. I’ve always used Windows Mobile because it’s a true smartphone compared to Symbian but seeing how Nokia was committed to Windows Phones & bringing so much to the eco-system, I remain convinced that going with Nokia phones was the right move because other partners like HTC & Samsung eventually gave more resources to their Android phones & I can’t blame them since it made more business sense. And I was right. My third Windows Phone will be the upcoming Nokia Lumia 1020, the 41 megapixel monster which looks just like my Lumia 920. 🙂

The present

3 months ago, it was reported that Microsoft and Nokia talks about Nokia’s hardware division sales to Microsoft had collapsed. On retrospect, this was a red herring created to throw everyone off-balance. Good business move. I always wondered why that news pop out of nowhere.

With HTC going down (executives leaving and/or defrauding the company, Q3 2013 expected loss) & Samsung disinterested in WP and plans for Tizen (based on Intel Atom SoC rather than ARM), now is the right time for Microsoft to buy Nokia. No one will likely challenge this move and it’ll help Windows Phone immensely.

With the combined strength of Bing Maps + Here Maps, Microsoft now have 2/3 of what’s needed to take on Google Maps. The last one 1/3 is Foursquare, which Microsoft is actively courting.

MS has also licensed a huge treasure trove of Nokia IP, which has proven to be lucrative & effective in fighting off patent trolls unlike Moto’s IP. They have also acquired Nokia’s up & coming Lumia brand which is synonymous with innovation & clever advertising.

Clever guerilla ad campaign by Nokia Lumia 1020 against the Samsung S4 Zoom.

Nokia Asha & other feature-phones will most likely be wiped off the roadmap by 2014. I could be wrong but I don’t see Microsoft is interested in fighting with China & India low-end phone makers.

Nokia will have access to Microsoft (Pegatron) factories in China, Microsoft will also acquire Nokia supply-chain management & manufacturing capabilities so there’ll be no more USD$900m write-down.

Elop has proven to be a great person in reversing Nokia’s diminishing fortunes but at the same time, conspiracy theorists will continue to accuse Ballmer of sending Elop to Nokia as an acquisition target some time in the future. The truth is probably in between, since Microsoft has ALWAYS sent seed money & people to friends & frenemies alike.

This is part of Bill Gate’s legacy. To have Microsoft software everywhere whether they be thay friend or thay enemy because in business, everyone is a bit of both.

 

Stephan Elop as a leading contender of Steve Ballmer’s successor.

The Future

We already know that Bill Gates, Microsoft board & ValueAct all had a role in Steve Ballmer’s surprise retirement announcement a few days ago. His leadership was controversial from the beginning but he has fans and critics alike.

Now is also a good time for him to step down because although he had keep Microsoft growing strongly all these years, he obviously missed the mobile boat. It can be argued that Microsoft needs a CEO that doesn’t exist, someone who’s a strong Microsoft team-player & supporter, someone who has strong leadership & management skills and someone who has a good track record.

Stephan Elop seems to fit the bill very well & many pundits are already predicting this deal confirms Stephan as the best candidate since he’s a solid Microsoft supporter, so he wouldn’t rock the boat too much like selling off Bing; he’ll bring an outside perspective to Microsoft but is not marginalized like Steven Sinofsky; he’s shown his brilliance in making people like the Office 2010 ribbon & saving Windows Phone and finally, his PR-friendly face & press-friendly nature means there may be less bad press and more love for Microsoft moving forward. Perception is a very important factor in the success in any product or services.

Finally, as I’ve mentioned in a post from last year where I predicted Windows 8 & WP8 will share code in a common IDE, we may actually see WP9 be based on Windows RT, thus coming full circle where Windows is finally Mobile.

Oh, did I mention Xbox One will also run Windows 8? 😉

Reviews

Review: Nokia Lumia 920

Overview

This is a detailed review of the Nokia flagship Lumia 920 after using it for half a year. I’d cover as much as I can without too much commentary.

Summary: (still in progress)

Pros:

  • Fast
  • Good battery life
  • Easy to use
  • Great screen
  • Great camera
  • Nokia exclusive apps
  • 29GB available for user
  • Solid build quality
  • Qi Wireless charging

Cons:

  • Heavy & large for some
  • No MicroSD
  • Audio output below par

Issues:

  • Top apps like Instagram not available, Skype not integrated yet
  • NFC for payment only available in very limited markets (Singapore – coming soon)
  • No way to move Apps settings & data from between phones
  • Not all WP7 apps are compatible with WP8 despite MS claims
  • Accidental touching of 3 buttons still bring you out of app

Nitpicks:

  • 3 buttons glows brightly at night, distracting

The 2012 flagship

2013 saw the launch of more than 5 Lumias from Nokia & that is a good thing to target low & high-end markets. Mid-end still belongs to Android. Still, the Lumia 920 holds it own against recent flagships like Lumia 925 & 928. Then there’s the HTC One & Samsung Galaxy S4.

I’m in the group of users who prefer a more handy phone in the 3.5-4″ screen size. However, all these new phones are above 4″ in screen size so I chose the 4.5″ Lumia 920.

Having a bigger screen means you can put a bigger battery behind as shown by the fantastic battery life of 7″ & 10″ tablets. Anything below 4″ wouldn’t allow anything more than a 1500mah battery without undue thickness.

The Lumia 920 is the FIRST mobile phone to have an Optical Image Stabilization system or “floating lens” as Nokia calls it. This technology allows the sensor to continue to capture light even though your hand & body is not steady. The main benefactor is night time. The system is superior to digitally stabilized images as those tend to be soft with a corresponding loss of detail. Unfortunately, OIS doesn’t seem to kick in during subject in shade or under overcast sky. Those image still experience camera shake. This is something Nokia should fix by improving the sensor driver to take faster shutter speed like 1/1000 or faster.

After using the Lumia 920 for 6 months, I found it to be really big but not heavy. It’s thinner than the L800 with case & it doesn’t weigh down my pants. So I’m comfortable with the weight but I can’t reach the very top parts of the screen without shifting it in my hand. This is a bit precarious as the white glossy one that I bought can be very slippery, especially after it’s cleaned.

The battery is a monster! This thing can easily last me a whole day. It lasted me 6+ hours of continuous usage on WiFi on my first charge! 2nd day, with normal usage, it lasted 13 hours on my second charge. Since Lithium batteries have controllers that control the charging/discharging, the cells need to be calibrated. The best way to do this is to use the phone until the critical battery warning comes up, then charge continually till 100%. You only need about 2 cycles to be good to go.

The Lumia 920 has a Peta-band 4G radio so it should work in all markets with LTE. M1 4G is super fast currently & my entire contact list (1000+) & calendar was synced completely soon after I step out of M1 Tampines Mall!

Windows Phone 8 is based on the mature NT microkernel that has proven itself in Windows 7 & 8. As such, preemptive multithreading on multi-core CPU is no stranger to WP8. Any app that fires Async threads works super fast, like the Supertube youtube downloader function. It was very slow on my L800 due probably to the single-core & Windows Phone 7 inadequacy. Even our local Xin Video app is also super fast thanks to WP8 & the dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4.

The IPS screen is fast but the colour is not as beautiful or black as the AMOLED on the L800. (However, after 1.5 years, the Lumia 800’s AMOLED is starting to yellow.) After Portico update, the screen refresh is noticeably faster than the Lumia 800’s. Viewing angle is also a lot poorer as per LCD screens. That said, the screen is definitely brighter on Hi-boosted (under direct sunlight) but optimum viewing angle is only 30degrees. Colour is more “natural” but I’m spoilt by the L800 & my Samsung LED TV colour gamut.

However, because the pixel density on the L920 is much higher than the L800, surfing web & reading is better especially for people who are annoyed by the L800’s Pentile pixel arrangement.

The Lumia 920 is also the first smartphone to use the new Super sensitive capacitive screen from Synaptic. It allows your finger to still control the screen when wearing thin gloves or using metal objects. Since I’m not using it with gloves, I switched display+touch to Normal. Unfortunately, it’s so sensitive, it can get activated in my pocket occasionally.

IE10 is super fast although it’s barebone. I switched the icon to Tabs so it’s a lot easier to switch tabs & close pages I don’t use. Note that some webpages can be active in the background & drain battery.

One of the best thing about WP8 is, OEM updates for Apps, Settings & Lens are delivered OTA through the Store! This means there is no more Telco interference, allowing a timely update of critical bugs affecting the smartphone. Sounds great in theory but realistically, important updates are still slow to reach users. More later…

The Lumia 920 finally comes with a 7-band Graphics Equalizer function, which is great! But this only works for the Line-out. Besides the EQ, it also comes with Dolby Mobile which should come in handy for watching movies. However, I’m not a fan of Dolby Mobile because it makes music sound compressed. I prefer SRS compared to Dolby Mobile or nothing at all when using good headphones. My favourite is still QSound because of its ability to create a 3D soundstage.

On the topic on sound, the Lumia 920 Line-out is definitely not Audiophile quality. I tested the Lumia 920 with my Monster Purity headphone. It’s quite obvious that the stereo separation is not there as mentioned in reviews due to Far-end Crosstalk. SNR is still ok. The instruments are still quite distinct (not distorted much) & not as bad as the review make it sound but some distortion can still be heard on louder music with many frequencies. Of course, hearing is subjective so you should bring your own headphones if you’re an audiophile.

WP8 is great but the FB integration can be enhanced further by allowing Delete & Edit for comments & Posts. Rooms only works with another WP8 unfortunately.

The Camera app can really use more control. It’s a step backwards from L800. That said the quality is very impressive. Most of the stuff that are “not on par” can be easily solved in Windows Photo Gallery (part of Windows Essential 2013), which I really recommend for anyone who’s using their WP for photography. It’s so powerful, yet easy to use! & no matter how good your camera, you will almost always need to edit a bit, be it Photoshop or Instagram.

If you integrate Live Photo Gallery with Photosynth & Image Composite Editor in Win7/8, it’s even more powerful. The Windows Movie Maker on Win8 can even do digital video stabilization if the L920 OIS is not enough.

The speakers are not loud enough for notification/speakerphone but too loud for music. MS still need to do some more work but at least the Volume doesn’t suddenly change when notification comes in.

GPS is fast to lock even under some shelter. (Nokia) Here Drive+ Beta is fantastic in Singapore. Malaysia still need a lot of work. LEGOLAND & Hello Kitty at Puteri Harbour is still not in the map. Here Map now features Indoor maps for many shopping malls + now includes LiveSight which improves your situation awareness when walking, especially in cities. Here City Lens is also becoming more useful & very soon may be integrated into Here Maps.

Live Tiles from WP7 apps like My Stocks are still using low res so it’s a bit blurred from scaling 200% but that should be solved with an upgrade.

Whatsapp 2.9.3 is largely stable with most features enabled but we’ll like to see the end of the Audio streaming being used for background transfers. That will save a lot of power. Viber is here but still buggy. Skype is stable & contacts are integrated into the People Hub but it still use its own dialer instead of the native one. Maybe that will come in WP8.1?

After 6 months, I’ve managed to scratch the Gorilla Glass, there’re micro-scratches on the white polycarbonate body & there’s a lot of dust in the Front-facing camera & proximity sensor. This caused the infamous “screen blacken when in a call” problem which prevented people from even hanging up a call!

Fortunately, firmware 1308 solved it but not before making a lot of users wait very long or had to take their phone in for a 2 day repair. These showstopper firmware updates should be pushed out IMMEDIATELY after Nokia QC has approved it, instead of waiting for Telco’s approval again.

Final thoughts

Even with the launch of so many new phones, I’m still going to keep the Lumia 920 as my main phone. Let’s see whether the rumoured 41megapixel Nokia EOS will sway me next month.

Opinions

No WP8 upgrade for current WP7 users. Are we being short-changed?

Intro

Microsoft has finally unveiled the Windows Phone 8 platform, codenamed “Apollo” on Wednesday 20th June 2012. WP8 is without question the right direction & Microsoft is also wise to withhold most information on user features in case Google copy from them next week.

Below is the Full summit if you’re interested. For most enthusiasts, the first 35 minutes are the most interesting, the rest are mostly for (ex)programmers like me.

In many forums around the world, users are up-in-arms about not being able to upgrade to WP8. These complainers are mainly recent buyers of the Nokia Lumia 900 & HTC Titan II. So are these complainers right to feel angry? Let’s look at the situation objectively.

Windows 8 Summit is meant for Developers, IT managers & CTO

What many of these people don’t realise is that, the WP8 Summit is meant for developers. It was never meant to announce any new consumer features. Joe clarified this when he started his presentation & many people who watched it didn’t seem to catch that.

Anyway, WP8 finally brings feature parity against iOS 6 & Android 4.0, while enhancing on the strength of the Metro design language. The fact that WP8 promises so much might be the reason recent buyers of WP7.5 phones were unhappy that they will not be able to upgrade to WP8 in roughly 6 months time, less than 1 year into their contract.

But is Microsoft really short-changing current supporters of WP7? Let’s find out.

Other platforms

For Android, it’s been frustrating for buyers of low to mid-end devices because more often that not, these devices are never prioritized for upgrades, if at all. Only Google Nexus-branded devices are consistently getting updates but these updates are almost always very late & buggy at first. (Reminds me of Windows Mobile 6)

For iOS, Apple makes it sound so fantastic that even iPhone 3GS can upgrade to iOS 6. What they fail to mention is, most of new features of iOS 6 are not available on the 3GS & the GUI (on iOS 5.1) is so laggy, only a grandma wouldn’t mind using it. Apple likes to emphasize their user experience, but if that’s the case, they should not allow iOS 5 on the iPhone 3GS!

Why is it like this? Long time PC users will know that as software get more capability, their CPU & memory usage increase. On the PC, you can always install more RAM and/or a faster HDD/SSD. On the phone, this isn’t possible, even if the phone supports microSD.

So with every new release of software, the hardware requirement goes up. Just look at Android & iOS devices. The only exception recently is Windows 8.

New platform features in WP8

Below is a list of new features in WP8 from a developer point-of-view. Note that Microsoft has NOT talk about new user features except for the new Start Screen & Skype Integration.

  1. Windows NT kernel + Full core support similar to Windows RT
  2. Multi-CPU (& likely multi-GPU) support (Both physical & logical cores ala Hyper-threading, CrossFire & SLI)
  3. Same development environment for WP7.5, WP8, Win RT & Win 8
  4. 2 new HD resolutions
  5. Removable microSD support
  6. IE 10
  7. C/C++ support + Middleware support
  8. DirectX 11
  9. NFC
  10. MS Wallet
  11. Navteq integration/replacement of Bing Maps (With offline maps)
  12. Nokia Navigation integration into Maps (Full SatNav replacement, bye bye Garmin)
  13. Full Enterprise security, management, in-house app deployment, & compliance
  14. Sizeable Tiles!!!

Now let’s match these new features & see which one requires hardware that current WP7 phones don’t have.

  1. Windows NT kernel + Core Stacks likely require 300-400MB of RAM to boot up. With current devices, maximum is 512MB of RAM, meaning after Win NT loads, you can’t run many other apps
  2. Multi-CPU – DirectX, IE 10, Enterprise security (encryption) all require Multi-CPU to run well
  3. New resolution of phone screen – Higher PPI on the phone allows more content to be displayed clearly especially for 4″ screens & above
  4. Removable microSD – Expandable storage allow users to upgrade their storage according to needs. Flash memory is not cheap.
  5. NFC – required for MS Wallet & Tap+Share

Without good DirectX support, gaming Middleware wouldn’t work very well. Without Multi-core, IE 10 will lose the browser war. WP7.5 is already very optimised & run faster than Android & iOS 5 on single-core devices. Going forward, Microsoft’s customers like me, are not going to be satisfied if WP8 devices are not faster than Android 4.0 & iOS5 devices!

So what are we left with?

  1. Same development environment
  2. C/C++ support
  3. Navteq powered maps + navigation
  4. Sizeable Tiles

Hey! Wait a minute, this sounds just like Windows Phone 7.8!

When we look at Microsoft’s position in the mobile arena, the length of time they spent doing WP8 (more than 1 year) & the innovations coming out of the new Microsoft, it’s almost inconceivable that they’d try to alienate existing customers, both end-users & OEMs by short-changing us. Losing end-users also gives OEMs less incentive to make smartphones running WP8. All bad bad situations for Microsoft’s already weak position.

Conclusion… Not short-changed!

In conclusion, with some concrete evidences & some extrapolations, I think we’re not short-changed at all & Microsoft hasn’t even announced their consumer features yet. (Although I will get upset if WP7.8 is just the Start Screen upgrade.)

It just doesn’t make sense to offer WP8 to existing users because our hardware simply cannot support the huge amount of stuff in WP8, & Microsoft is not going to sugarcoat it like Apple does. Unfortunately for Microsoft, users of Microsoft products typically identify the hardware more strongly than the software. This is a direct consequence of detaching the software from hardware in order to give consumer more choices.

Apple fans, when they find out Siri doesn’t work on iPhone 4, they go out & buy iPhone 4S almost immediately. Microsoft simply don’t have that kind of brand loyalty especially after their Anti-trust legal battles almost 10 years ago.

So if you own a Lumia 900 or Titan II, don’t sell yet! Wait a few weeks for Microsoft to announce what’s in WP7.8  & WP8 before making a decision whether Microsoft deserve your business!