4 Years of Smartphone use

It was a little over 4 years ago that I got my first smartphone, and a little over a month ago since I got my 7th one (I do have 2 connections so it’s not that bad). These 2 phones cost me almost the same, but in terms of specs, they couldn’t be any less similar. Here’s looking back at my many smart life companions:

Samsung Galaxy S LCD (2011)

This was my first smartphone bought in Mar 2011, well after the smartphone revolution had started. It cost me around Rs 19,000 at that time and came with a then decent 8 GB storage and the Samsung staple microSD slot. In terms of overall specs, it was just below the Galaxy S flagship of its time but the performance was pretty reasonable to start with. I loved the fact that I finally had Google Maps in my pocket. My primary usage of the phone was also for internet access as my main voice connection was CDMA based and it was on a dumb phone. The phone began to show signs of trouble around a year later when it used to require a soft reset every other morning to wake up. Plus the OS was also stuck on Android 2.2 FroYo with no immediate update in sight.

HTC One V (2012)

I finally grew frustrated with the recurring freezes and lack of OS update in my Galaxy S and decided to scout around for a replacement. Found the just launched HTC One V whose looks I liked quite a bit, plus it had the then shiny Android 4.0. I bought it without too many second thoughts at Rs 17,000 though the phone was in many ways a downgrade from the Galaxy S with its lack of a front facing camera and no magnetometer meaning trouble navigating maps. Still, I was quite happy with the phone and a few of my friends and family members even bought this model based on my recommendation. Then less than 2 months later, during an office offsite meet, it decided to die on me. It turned out that a lot of people had been facing similar issues with this model. Haven’t considered or recommended a HTC phone since.

Samsung Galaxy S3 (2012)

I bought this phone more out of frustration with my last purchase and decided to buy a phone with no compromises that’ll last me a few years. It had just been launched and so I ended up paying a hefty premium at Rs 39,000. However, the phone was a huge jump in both usage experience and quality over the last ones and I ended up using it for nearly 3 years before it finally bit the dust. It started off on Android 4.0 and went all the way up to 4.3 officially. KitKat was not released officially for it due to its 1 GB RAM, but I flashed it with Cyanogenmod last year for its unofficial KitKat upgrade. It had also begun signs of slow down around the 2 year mark, but the flash gave it some breathing room. It also became my Android gaming platform for my Humble Bundle games, and a mobile mini tablet of sorts.

Samsung Galaxy Pop CDMA (2012)

I finally upgraded my CDMA connection with this device out of barely a dozen choices as I had grown tired of having to maintain a disconnected phonebook on a dumb phone. It cost me around Rs 8,000 which was a significant premium over the equivalent GSM model, and that too for just 256 MB of on board storage. Moreover, my CDMA SIM did not support data and I actually ended up using it as a wifi only smartphone. Though it was stuck on Android 2.2, it wasn’t a bad experience overall considering the fact that I used it almost exclusively for voice calls. Overall, not the best deal but given the limited options in the CDMA space it served its purpose. This was also my first online phone purchase.

Nokia Lumia 720 (2013)

I began having network reception issues with my CDMA connection, and after a few months of bearing it, decided to move over to a GSM connection which obviously meant a new phone. Windows Phone was looking quite promising at that time with 8.0 having been launched a few months back with pretty positive reviews. I was sure that I didn’t want another flagship and so narrowed down to the Lumia 720. It cost me around Rs 17,000 and was one of the best value models of its time. The camera was the best in class and the battery lasted 2 days comfortably. It wasn’t a fast phone, but it had a smoothness that Android lacked. The OS update situation was also quite rosy with the Windows Phone preview updates trickling in without any troubles. I was very happy with the phone until I dropped it at home and shattered the screen. That of course meant a replacement of the phone and not the screen.

Apple iPhone 5s (2014)

I made some nice phone comparison spreadsheets to rationalize the different model features, and the iPhone 5s was definitely not the best value even though it had a price cut due to the imminent iPhone 6 launch. I was looking for an upgrade in the photography department as well. The Lumia 925 and not yet launch 930 were top contenders as the 720 replacement, but the app situation finally won over as I had built up a good collection of iOS apps thanks to my iPod touch and iPads. I ended up getting the 16 GB gold model for around Rs 46,000. Almost a year later, the only gripe I have with it is the limited storage, but the iCloud photo library optimization has managed to keep things going. The photography has definitely been a revelation, and I don’t see the performance of the phone becoming a limiting factor anytime soon.

Xiaomi Mi 4 (2015)

This completes the Android circle for the time being, with the 64 GB model coming in at Rs 22,000 – just a little over 10% more than my first smartphone. It has pretty much all the bells and whistles one can hope from a flagship including an IR blaster and the specs are top of the line as well. It was a long deliberation between this and the OnePlus One, but the size and IR blaster finally won out. So far, I haven’t had any reason to complain, but given that it’s an Android phone I’ll reserve the final verdict for a year down the line as that’s when the slowdown begins. For now, it is definitely an excellent phone and a big upgrade over the Galaxy S3 it replaces. Let’s see whether it matches the 3 years of service as well.

A Tale of 3 App Stores

I setup my company’s app store accounts for iOS, Android and Windows last year and have been managing them for over a year now. The journey has been quite interesting, starting from signing up for the accounts to switching to a MacBook Air last April for iOS development. Here are a few observations on the journey so far:

  • The signup process is pretty simple for Android and Windows and the cost is also minimal. Apple on the other hand has a comprehensive process if you opt to setup a company account that allows you to have development team members. Plus they are the costliest of the lot at $99 per year.
  • For all the flak that Android draws for its developmental difficulties, its app store management tools are the best. you can easily setup a decentralized account granting access on a per app basis to different team members. This makes it very convenient and easy to work with multiple development partners in case of an enterprise.
  • Windows Store unfortunately is on the other end of the spectrum with no support for any kind of team members. So, the account manager is left to do all the app listings and package uploads.
  • Apple is somewhere in between, allowing team members, but not providing app level access controls. So, one development partner could potentially look at the others’ work. Plus, the main account P12 certificate needs to be shared if you want to allow anyone other than the account owner to upload apps.
  • Alpha and beta testing is also very simple on Android where you can just upload the package, setup a Google Group to manage the testers and setup the process.
  • Testing for iOS is also fairly easy now that TestFlight is integrated into iTunes Connect. However, if you want to allow external testers then your app needs to go through a review process.
  • Windows Store does not seem to offer any testing support at the moment.
  • On the store management app front, Apple seems to be the only one offering an iTunes Connect app that lets you monitor your account. Nothing equivalent for Android or Windows so far.

Overall, Android or more specifically the Google Play Store seems to be the easiest to manage with a decentralized enterprise account while Windows Store involves a lot of administrative overhead, with iOS closer to the Play Store. Let’s see if the situation improves with Windows 10 over the next one year.

First impressions: Windows Phone 8.1 Preview on the Lumia 720

I installed the Windows Phone 8.1 update on my Nokia Lumia 720 last night (instructions here, including how to get Cortana in non US locations). The whole process took around 2 hours including the download. I like the new features quite a bit, especially the action centre (the notification panel) & the swipe keyboard that I’m using to compose this post.

The animations also seem to have been speeded up a la iOS 7.1, and this makes the phone feel snappier than before. The Windows Store seems to be acting up at times though. Hopefully it’s just a temporary glitch given the extensive overhaul of the store.

The online reviews seem to be positively glowing this time around and there are no real gaps in the core OS functionality compared to Android or iOS. Windows Phone now offers the smooth and polished experience of iOS with many of the useful features of Android in an affordable package. Here’s hoping to a strong year for Windows Phone. Hope to post a more detailed look at the changes after some extended use.

Relook at Windows Phone 8 quirks after Amber

The good news is that the Bluetooth freezing issue seems to have been ironed out after the Amber update on my Lumia 720. Originally, the phone used to freeze upon disconnecting my Bluetooth headset, but after the Amber update the phone seems to behave normally (almost). The main quirk that I noticed is the screen responding erratically at times (culprit seems to be the Facebook app).

I had initially thought that the Bluetooth freeze had been replaced with this touch issue, but some troubleshooting last night seems to suggest otherwise. The touch issue that I have been facing is that the phone does not respond to screen taps. Turning the display off and then on seems to fix the issue, but it can occur again at random. It can be especially annoying when you try to receive calls and the phone ignores your tap on the answer button. This issue does not seem to be restricted to the Lumia 720, as my mother who has a Lumia 520 also faces a similar issue.

Also at times, the phone seems to go on a tapping spree of its own resulting in false taps akin to having a keyboard key stuck. I have faced this issue when entering the lock screen pin resulting in invalid entries, and also having emails deleted due to the phone deciding to tap on the delete button on its own. It seems that the region just above the home\Windows button has this issue. Again, a turning the screen off and then on seemed to fix the issue.

I had initially suspected the extra sensitive touch capability of the Lumia 720 causing the problem (the Lumia 520 has this feature as well), but since I’ve never enabled this feature I ruled it out as a cause. The main culprit seems to be the Facebook app, as I had it controlling my lock screen backgrounds (same as my mother’s Lumia 520). I uninstalled the Facebook app yesterday, and gave the phone some time to behave itself. Things seemed to be ok, and I went ahead and installed the app once more. Things seem to be ok so far.

A couple of other quirks that I noticed with the Facebook app is that the built in Windows Phone chat for Facebook messages seems to have connectivity issues with the app installed. It happily showed me as online after I uninstalled the Facebook app. Things were back to the “Can’t connect” state soon after I reinstalled the Facebook app. The other quirk was concerning the album list in the Facebook app lock screen setting. I had set the custom album option and selected a few albums from my album list. However, the album list was missing the newer albums and this got updated after the app reinstall.

Bottom-line seems to be that the Facebook app has some issues that seem to get sorted out on an app reinstall (different issues on different platforms going by my Android experience). So, if you have the Facebook app controlling your lock screen backgrounds and are facing issues like me, try a reinstall.

Amber (GDR2) update on the Nokia Lumia 720: First impressions

Image

I finally got the Amber update for my Lumia 720 yesterday (check availability here), and it brings a few visible features like Data Sense (data usage monitor) and Glance (show clock when the phone is locked) along with some under the hood tweaks like Bluetooth LE support. On the whole, the experience doesn’t seem to have changed much, but the phone seems to respond to touches a bit oddly after performing certain operations like switching off Bluetooth and taking a screenshot.

The update process took about 45 minutes including the download, and in true Windows fashion, the phone restarted then did some data migration and prompted for another restart. iOS updates do take a similar amount of time, but there at least no restart prompts. One of the first things I did was use a workaround to install the Nokia Pro Cam and the Nokia Smart Camera on my phone. Instructions in brief:

1. Change your phone region to United States (Setting->Language+Region)

2. Connect to a WiFi network

3. Under Settings – WiFi, click on the WiFi network you are connected to

4. Switch ‘Proxy’ to on. Now type “117.135.139.179” into “Server/URL”. In “Port”, type in “8888”, then click on the tick at the bottom of the screen

7. Go to the Store and click on ‘Nokia Collection’

8. Download Nokia Pro Cam (after disabling the proxy)

9. Turn Proxy off, set your phone region back to normal, and Restart.

They seem to work without much of an issue and can even be set as the default camera app (they require you to enter the PIN though if you have one set, unlike the default camera app). The on screen controls do seem a tad small on the 4.3″ screen of the Lumia 720, but this should be tweaked once we have the official launch on the lower end devices (non PureView branded ones). There doesn’t seem to be any technical barriers for this.

Nokia Pro Cam
Nokia Pro Cam on the Lumia 720

As for Data Sense, it works as promised and the usage meter filled was up to date right from the initial configuration indicating that the underlying hooks were already in place before the update.

Data Sense
Data Sense

My display on the first use also seemed to be a touch more saturated than before, and I tweaked it in the new Lumia Colour Profile option under the Display setting. A touch of warmth with neutral saturation seems to be my preference (having the crimson theme on a red Lumia 720 is probably the reason for the low saturation preference).

Lumia Colour Profile
Lumia Colour Profile

Let’s see if this solves the Bluetooth freeze issue I have been facing, or leads to any new ones.

Thinking about the most forward thinking smartphone in the world

As with the “S” iPhone releases so far, the iPhone 5s continues the trend of looking practically the same as the previous version while making radical improvements under the hood. I have never had and iPhone of my own so far, but that should not stop me from sharing some thoughts on the new release:

  • The A7 processor with its 64 bit architecture is undoubtedly the most forward thinking part of the launch. In 2 years, Apple’s entire mobile portfolio should be 64 bit, and 3-4 years from now, most iDevices will be 64 bit as well given the typical upgrade cycles.
  • The A7 also probably sets the foundation stone for a possible move to Apple’s own SoC on their larger devices like the MacBook and iMac. The A7 is in touching distance of Intel’s new architecture for Atom, and 4-5 years of incremental updates should bring it up to the good enough mark. Of course, Intel would have pushed the performance envelope even further by then, but how much of that will be meaningful remains to be seen.
  • It should be interesting to see what happens to the Apple TV going forward. It has the most modest of specs at present, and without an app platform there is no need for much improvements in performance. This is likely to change by the end of the year, or at most within the next year.
  • The GPU is also interesting as it supports pretty high resolutions (well above 4K). Another point to think about for the Apple TV.
  • Then, there is the M7 motion processor that is decoupled from the main SoC. This serves as a perfect test bed for whatever wearable device that Apple may be designing, but also indicates that there are likely to be A7 based devices without the M7 – iPads maybe or even a future Apple TV.
  • Motion processors seem to be getting popular, and Google-Motorola arguably beat Apple to market in this regard with the Moto X. On the Android front, this is bound to bring in some efficiencies resulting in better battery life. And there is of course Google Now which is bound to start making greater use of such processors sooner rather than later (Kit Kat & Nexus 5?).
  • The TouchID fingerprint sensor is likely to be just as radical, and I’d say a bigger feature than Siri. Initial usage feedback is pretty positive. Let’s see how it holds up in the longer term given that the 5s is supposed to be a future thinking device.
  • The lower “s” of the 5s is also pretty forward thinking given that we’ll have a Galaxy S5 in 5-6 months.
  • As for the Android copycats, we can be sure that the flagships of next year will feature 64 bit processors, motion processors, fingerprint sensors (S Finger a la S Voice?) and dual tone flashes. Hopefully they also get out of the megapixels race on the camera front and go for larger pixels (Windows Phone seems to have avoided it so far).
  • iOS 7 also possibly indicates what a notification centre on Windows Phone would look like given the similar design language in many areas.

Update: Some very interesting thoughts by Cringely as well about Apple outmaneuvering Microsoft on the no compromises PC model:

Jump forward in time to a year from today. Here’s what I expect we’ll see. Go to your desk at work and, using Bluetooth and AirPlay, the iPhone 5S or 6 in your pocket will automatically link to your keyboard, mouse, and display. Processing and storage will be in your pocket and, to some extent, in the cloud. Your desktop will require only a generic display, keyboard, mouse, and some sort of AirPlay device, possibly an Apple TV that looks a lot like a Google ChromeCast.

Bluetooth and Lumia 720 crashes

I have been quite happy with my Lumia 720 other than the Google contacts problem that I managed to solve recently. However, there is another issue that’s been bothering me – the phone freezes after I have used my Bluetooth headset with it. The sequence of events goes something like this:

  1. I turn on Bluetooth on the phone.
  2. I turn on my Bluetooth headset (Plantronics Voyager HD) and it connects to the phone.
  3. I have some voice calls on the phone through the headset.
  4. I turn off the headset effectively disconnecting it from the phone.
  5. I turn off Bluetooth on the phone and pocket it.
  6. Sometime later (a couple of hours or so) I take out my phone and find that either the screen does not turn on, or the screen turns on, but the lock screen is frozen with none of the usual information like calendar, battery status, signal strength etc. displayed.

The only way to make the phone useable is to reset it by pressing the volume down + power keys for 10-15 seconds. I am not sure whether this issue is specific to my handset or the Lumia 720 or Windows Phone, but have faced this problem quite a few times. My research on the web indicates that Windows Phone can have some issues with Bluetooth, Wifi and Airplane mode. In fact, one of my recent resets after a freeze had the phone stuck in Airplane mode that just wouldn’t turn off. Another reset thankfully set that problem right.

So far the only workaround I have found to this problem (not tested extensively) is to disconnect the headset from the phone through the settings before turning it off. This seems to keep the phone happy. Hope that the problem is fixed in a future OS update (Amber update for the Lumia 720 should be out soon), but till then got to keep in mind that Windows Phone does not like abrupt Bluetooth disconnects.

Have you been facing similar issues? Let me know in the comments section.

Windows Phone and the Google Contacts problem

Ever since I got my Lumia 720, I have had issues with missing phone numbers for some of my Google contacts. The same contacts showed up with all their details on my Galaxy S3. Since practically all my contact data are stored on Google this was a real downer in an otherwise excellent experience with the phone.

Thankfully, a bit of research on the web along with some experimentation led me to the problem and the eventual solution. The problem seems to be phone numbers that have been categorized as Main in particular on Google contacts. These are not recognized by Windows Phone and don’t show up in the contact details. The only solution to this is to categorize the number as ones recognized by Windows Phone like Home, Work or Mobile.

You can also see from the screenshots that while some categories are common to Google contacts and Windows Phone, quite a few are not. In such cases, you should opt for the Windows Phone option as Google contacts is quite flexible since it allows user defined categories (Android phones also seem to be flexible in this regard) while Windows Phone does not recognize ones outside its list.

A couple of other things to keep in mind:

  1. Windows Phone does not provide you a send SMS option from the profile view unless the number is categorized as Mobile or Mobile 2.
  2. If you create a number with a Windows Phone category not available on Google contacts, it will show up on Google contacts, but may have a different label. For example, Mobile 2 ends up as Car. So, don’t be surprised.

 

Nokia Lumia 720 – One Month Usage Review

I recently ported my Reliance CDMA connection to Airtel GSM, and this called for a change of handsets. I was using a Samsung Galaxy Pop CDMA with Reliance, along with a Galaxy S III as my primary internet device. My requirements for the new phone were quite simple:

  1. Good battery life since this was to be my primary phone for voice – the Galaxy Pop used to serve me for 2-3 days (without a mobile data connection though)
  2. Price around Rs 15,000
  3. Smooth and reliable performance

Given the above constraints, Windows Phones seemed to be the way to go, and also give me some platform diversity. There were 3 options – the Lumia 520 (Rs 9500), 620 (Rs 13,000) and 720 (Rs 17,000) which have the same internals (CPU+GPU) thus having similar user experiences. I was pretty tempted by the 520’s price, but the lower quality screen, lack of compass (really important for navigation) and smaller battery was a downer. The 620 was pretty compact with a good screen and within budget, but the small battery was again a downer. The Lumia 720 was above budget, but its huge 2000 mAh battery with a well received camera, display and compact design clinched the deal in the end.

That’s enough of background, so let’s jump to the main review.

Specs, Design and Build

Yes, I got the red version (there’s also the cyan, yellow, white and black) which has a matte finish. It’s a unibody polycarbonate construction, so no removable battery but the thickness is pretty low. Wireless charging is also supported through special cases (not yet available in India at the time of writing).

The build seems to be quite robust as I had an inadvertent drop test from my pocket on a wet footpath in Mumbai within a week of purchase. It landed on the bottom right corner and ended up screen down – definitely not the kind of experience you’d want with a brand new phone. Thankfully, I got away with just a chipped corner as visible in the picture below. Looks like the Gorilla Glass 2 works.

The display is 4.3″ with 800 x 480 pixels in line with Android flagships from 2010-11. The black levels are quite good (not AMOLED levels of course), and outdoor visibility has also been pretty good thanks to Nokia’s coatings and polarizing filters. The ~220 ppi resolution is middling, but text is quite legible without much of aliasing. The display is also supposed to support super sensitive touch allowing it to be used with fingernails and through gloves. I have personally turned it off.

The LCD display’s RGB layout under a macro lens (in absence of the Anandtech review with the pic)

The buttons (volume, power & camera) are all placed on the right side of the phone, and I had to get used to the power button placed in the middle. The shutter button protrudes a little more than the other two, possibly due to it being a two-stage button. The micro-SIM tray is on top while the micro-SD card slot is on the left side. Both need to be ejected using a pin (supplied in the box). The micro USB charging slot rounds off the bottom edge.

Camera

My personal experience with the camera has been very good so far, in line with other reviewers. It is a 6.7 MP shooter with an f/1.9 Carl Zeiss lens and LED flash. The dedicated shutter button which doubles as a camera quick launch shortcut is really handy. The colours come out quite saturated, and I seem to prefer the resulting shots from the Lumia 720 to my Galaxy S III, particularly indoors. It also helps that the camera launches quicker on the Lumia 720 than on my year old Galaxy S III. The GSIII does hold a large advantage in the shutter lag and continuous shooting speeds. The Lumia 720 takes a couple of seconds to lock focus and capture the frame which can result in a somewhat different composition.

Shots taken indoors without flash under reasonable lighting conditions turn out really good on the Lumia 720, even better than the GSIII thanks to the large aperture (almost a stop faster). However, under dim light where you require the flash, the GSIII comes out ahead.

The default camera app on Windows Phone is pretty basic, especially when compared to the Android OEM camera apps, but gets the job done. You can always get hold of other apps (lenses as per WP terminology) to expand on the functionality. There’s a nice ProShot app (paid – just Rs 110 though) that gives you full manual control over the camera settings. Higher end Lumias (PureView branded 920 & above) of course get Nokia Pro camera app with the latest update, so this is the app to get for the lower models.

Video output is also pretty decent though it supports only up to 720p video. Then again, I don’t really shoot much video and have a good old DSLR if I want to do serious shooting.

User Experience

It has been almost a month since I got the Lumia 720, and so far the experience has been really good barring a few quirks that I’ll cover in the next section. A little bit of context in terms of my usage of the Lumia 720 – my primary internet device remains the Galaxy S III with its significantly larger screen. Plus, I’m pretty much locked into the Google ecosystem (Gmail, Maps, Keep, Contacts etc) and any platform that is not Android will be unable to give you the best experience (iOS included, though Google is trying its best for that platform while actively ignoring Windows Phone). Microsoft Exchange support is also not the best on Android with experience varying with the OEM in question (I found the HTC interface quite different from Samsung’s).

However, the Lumia is my primary phone for voice calls and SMS, and in this regard, the experience has been very good aided in no small way by the humongous 2000 mAh battery that gives me 2-3 days of service without a hitch (and that is with data services and email sync enabled). I have also configured my office Microsoft Exchange account (mail, calendar, tasks & contacts) on the Lumia and find the experience to be a lot more consistent than when I had it configured on my GSIII.

The interface is really smooth without any stutters that you find in Android handsets in this price range. The 512 MB RAM does make its size felt when you see the “Resuming” screen when launching apps, but once launched most apps have a very uniform experience. The Live Tiles Metro interface is quite handy with the People hub being one of the strong points in organizing and staying in touch with contacts.

The ability of apps to control the lock screen background out of the box is also a nice touch. For example, you can allow the facebook to cycle through your photo albums (you can choose the albums) for the lock screen. Notifications are however almost useless on the Windows Phone platform. The closest it has to a notification centre is the lock screen where you can see unread\new counts for up to 5 apps of your choice along with details for 1 app. Live tile counters also try to solve this issue, but still can’t match up to a dedicated notification centre. This is especially a big downer coming from the rich notification centre experience in Android.

On a positive note, the Lumia 720 came with a 6 month Nokia music subscription and the collection is quite good. The songs are downloaded in the form of 32 kbps MP3 files that can be transferred to a PC. So, if you have an iTunes Match subscription and re-encode the tracks to 80 kbps (minimum for iTunes Match to consider them) or higher, you can get hold of high quality 256 kbps versions for free.

The 8 GB phone storage can run out pretty quickly if you start clicking a lot of photos, videos & downloading music. Good thing that the phone supports up to 64 GB of SD storage (apps can’t be transferred to SD though), though I haven’t popped in one yet.

In terms of apps, some of my most used ones like Whatsapp, Kindle, Foursquare Facebook etc are present. But, the lack of the usual cloud backup apps like Dropbox and Google+ is also a downer, though you can backup photos and videos to SkyDrive.

The browsing experience is also ok, though the absence of alternatives like on Android can get in the way given that many sites don’t play well with Internet Explorer. E.g. Meru cabs presents their desktop site in mobile IE on the Lumia.

Sharing across apps also works quite well (better than iOS) with the ability to easily share photos and videos through apps like Whatsapp, facebook and email.

Maps and navigation is also pretty decent with the ability to download offline map packs for specific states in India. I am a Google Maps user on my GSIII and haven’t spent too much time with HERE maps and drive combo. The Lumia 720 has a built in compass (unlike the 520), and navigation shouldn’t be problem. Traffic information is also available on HERE maps.

I really miss the blocking mode that silences the phone at specified times of the day (typically for the night), and the absence of apps like Llama and Tasker available on Android, possibly due to OS limitations make it impossible to get third party solutions for automating tasks. I use Llama quite extensively on my GSIII to automatically silence my phone in office, during meetings, in movie theatres, switch on wifi at home etc. NFC, though available and supported, is not an option either due to the limited scope of actions. NFC can only be used to launch apps\settings and not automatically toggle them.

Quirks

Pretty all the issues I have had with the phone are due to the OS, i.e. Microsoft, and here they are briefly:

  • Poor Google contacts integration – I have found many phone numbers missing from my contact list that show up nicely on my GSIII.
  • No notification centre – it can get really tough to figure what your phone was buzzing you for.
  • You can’t edit phone number in the dialler – can be a bit of a problem when you are roaming and need to prefix digits before dialling.
  • NFC support is really limited – you can just launch apps\settings but not trigger any actions automatically.
  • Quite a lot of apps are available, but many are not updated regularly.
  • Google actively ignoring the Windows Phone platform – they dropped active sync support, haven’t introduced any official apps (barring search) and are trying their best to prevent Microsoft from creating any substitutes.
  • The dedicated hardware search button is practically useless – I don’t use Bing (the lens is useful though, a la Google Goggles). In fact, even Google dumped the hardware search button in Android long ago.

Conclusion

I am quite happy with the Lumia 720, but that is largely due to the fact that my usage is split between the Galaxy S III and this phone. It would definitely be difficult to get by with the Lumia 720 as my primary phone, but it complements the Android phone perfectly. Why not just stick to the Galaxy S III you say? Battery life for one, and the general degradation in responsiveness of the GSIII over the last one year for another.

Nokia has lost out big in the smartphone race, but it has really introduced compelling choices in the Windows Phone 8 camp. If you are a first time smartphone buyer (no Google contacts baggage, app dependency), the Lumia 720 is a very good choice. In fact, for a new smartphone user with a budget below Rs 20,000, it would be very difficult to beat the Windows Phone triumvirate of the Lumia 520, 620 and 720 (especially the 520 below Rs 10,000) in terms of user experience (smoothness particularly). Then again, I have seen many of my friends and colleagues shy away from Windows Phone to the Android camp due to its radically different user interface. On the high end, Nokia PureView branded Lumia phones (920, 925, 928 and 1020) have the best cameras and the Lumia 1020 is practically a Point & Shoot replacement. So, if you are planning to replace your camera and have an old smartphone (or none at all), the Lumia 1020 is a really compelling choice.

As for Windows Phone, Microsoft really needs to up its game like it has with Windows Blue\8.1, and bring the platform up to speed in terms of must have features (notification centre, browser). Nokia is doing its best to stay in the game and introduce cutting edge features where possible (Lumia 1020), but is slowed down by Microsoft’s slow rate of platform updates.

Now that I’m a Windows Phone user, I can appreciate its merits vis-à-vis Android and iOS, and hope that Microsoft can up the game the way Mozilla did for Firefox in the last couple of years in face of Chrome’s rapid ascent. Microsoft’s iOS 7 moment can’t come too soon.