Switching to Windows Phone, Part II

Monday, January 21, 2013 – 97 views

— by la

With the preliminaries out of the way, let's take a look at the stuff that's really impressed me on my 8X, and on Windows Phone in general.

First, as regards the 8X, I find the design very attractive, and I find that it strikes a good balance between being lightweight and having a comfortable amount of heft. The soft-touch surface provides good grip, and if you feel the need for a case, there's an OEM case that matches the "California Blue" color perfectly (unfortunately, it's only available in that one color at the moment). A few niggles: the power switch could use some more travel, and it's occasionally reluctant to depress. I have found that to be less of a problem as I get used to the device, however. There's also a dedicated camera switch on the side (hallelujah!), but you can still tap the screen to take a photo if you prefer that--it's a user setting. There have also been reports of the finish darkening at the corners, or the soft-touch material flaking off, but I haven't seen any evidence of that yet.

As regards Windows Phone 8, I find it refreshing. It's nice to see a company trying to do something beyond the "iPhone clone" school of design, and I believe that Apple's attorneys actually cited it in the Samsung case as an example of an OS that doesn't infringe Apple's design. Some have consequently argued that it represents a design intended to avoid legal action, rather than a best-practices design, but I disagree. I like it. It avoids skeumorphism, which I hate, and the tiled interface is often easier to manipulate. Live tiles provide the advantages of Android-style widgets while maintaining consistency of design. If this is the result of attorneys consulting on design, then three cheers for attorneys! Overall, WP8 feels very integrated (yes, in an iOS-like way), much more so than Android.

At least on my phone, battery life has been phenomenal. I ordered extra chargers with the phone, but it may have been money wasted. The Verizon version of the 8X offers inductive charging (Qi-compatible), and once you've gotten used to simply setting the phone down on the charging pad, you'll never want to go back to the old way. I take it off the pad when I leave for work, and don't usually need to charge it until I go to bed at night, except in the case of exceptionally heavy use. I've taken a few steps to optimize my battery life; there's a post at http://forums.wpcentral.com/htc-8x/203318-battery-tricks-tips-htc-8x.html which offers some astute suggestions, most of which are common sense. I leave location services on, but have turned off Bluetooth and NFC, neither of which I use.

As for photo quality, it's good enough for me. If you're exceptionally picky about your photos, you may want the Lumia 920, but for the kinds of shots I take the 8X does fine. I'll let the photography geeks argue about the finer points of white balance and low-light image quality, but if you're that particular, you should probably be using a DSLR anyway. I like very much that auto-upload to SkyDrive is in place. If you want the original quality to be preserved (and who wouldn't?) then you need to go into the settings and select that option, which restricts auto-upload to Wi-Fi connections. Otherwise it will upload a reduced-quality image over LTE.

Music? Like I said, I don't put a lot of music on my phone. Right now, in fact, I have no music on my phone, mostly because I haven't decided on what my approach will be. There's an app in the WP store, CloudMuzik, which accesses the Google Play music library, and I might do that. PC users, and those with current Macs, can simply drag-and-drop to the phone, but as I'm on Snow Leopard that's not an option for me. Also, I'd like to minimize the storage footprint on the phone, so a cloud solution is attractive. More on that when I choose something.

Next post: Apps (and the negatives)

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