The business phone is evolving from something that just handles phones calls, through the main place that people interact with emails, to the central business hub for web-based business apps. It has been, and will be, a long journey. Most businesses are really only just getting their mobile strategies in step with the world of smart phones. The rise of the phone is evident in all of the stats for the sites and applications that we look after here. Together with their tablet cousins, mobile phones are speeding their way towards being more widely used than desktop web browsers.
Two things that hit me straight away: The colour (yellow?!?) and the size (even in Stephen Fry’s hands, this phone would look big). I’ll come back to those two issues…
Within a few minutes I had the 920 on the network, my contacts, calendars and emails synced, and my social network accounts set up (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, FourSquare and Flickr all built in). It’s the fastest phone on-boarding experience that I can remember. No downtime, no disruption. New phone out of the box, and back to work, within the time it took me to drink my first cup of coffee for the day. That was partly enabled by the wonders of ‘the cloud’ of course, but that’s a topic for another post.
If you come from the iOS or Andriod worlds, then you are likely to find the Windows Phone interface startlingly different. Once I got over the initial shock of a new way of interacting with the phone, I was won over. A swipe of the finger and you can get to any of the installed apps. And, get this, they are listed in alphabetical order. Radical. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had to use the iPhone search facility to find an app, because I’d lost track of which page it was on. As you install more apps, there’s even an alphabetical index heading (‘a’, ‘b’, …). It sounds simple, but that one feature alone has saved a fair chunk of time.
On the main page, the Live Tiles are a game changer. They provide the ability to ‘grok‘ information with a quick glance at the phone. You can see at a glance not just that there is an update, but what it is, without even tapping/swiping/clicking. The ability to have large or small tiles gives much more flexibility over how you build the screen. It’s more like having an information dashboard, than the traditional ‘list of dead icons’ that populate the home page on other platforms. I think the app developers are only just starting to explore what can be done with live tiles, and I suspect there will be a range of apps that put them to very good use. Another neat little feature is the ability to ‘pin’ contacts to the home screen. Not only does that create a quick way to call or message them, but it also gives you quick access to all of the social feeds for that person. You can check where they are and what’s happening in their world before you make that call.
The biggest wow moment came when I was stuck in traffic, driving to a meeting. I’d paired the lumia with the rusty old bluetooth car kit in my car, and tucked the phone safely into one of the storage trays. Suddenly a voice told me I had a message from Twitter, and asked if I wanted it to read the message. I said read it. It did. No hands. It even asked if I wanted to delete it afterwards. When I got the next SMS message, from my other half, I had to chuckle when the Lumia correctly read out the ‘xx’ at the end of the message as ‘kisses.’ – this time I took it up on the offer of speaking a reply, which it captured and sent 100% accurately. Since then I’ve even dictated Tweets via the speech to text interface, as well as adding notes and diary entries. This was the sort of thing I’d hoped to do with Siri, but we fell apart after our first date. I’d even asked her to marry me. Siri was great for party tricks, but never seem to get to grips with business. My lasting memory is of her plaintif voice complaining about not being able to do various things in the UK. The Lumia seemed unfazed at being in a country where we spell colour as ‘colour’ and and pronounce metals in ways that have absolutely no bearing on their spelling. The Drive+ navigation application was great for getting around too. Maps that work when you don’t have a network connection? A massive productivity win when you are running late for a meeting.
Nokia have always lead the way with cameras. I early iPhone camera was a train wreck in low light, a key reason I ignored it. With the iPhone 4, it was meant to be better. I held out for the iPhone 4s, and gave in to the hype about it’s photographic capabilities. I was disappointed. To be fair, I am a demanding camera user. On one hand, I’m an (at least semi-) professional photographer. On the other hand, I like to take pictures of flip charts and meeting room board scriblings, receipts and all sorts of other artifacts that I come across in my day-to-day work. That means low light, and no flash. The Lumia 920 might not be an 808, but it’s a great camera, and excellent at video too. Two capabilities that are increasingly required, even in business use.
What don’t I like about the Lumia? Yes, I’d like a few more features in the email client (like being able to flag emails for action when I’m back at the laptop), but the email client feels faster and (actually) slicker than the iPhone’s. It has almost made email pleasurable again, and that’s quite an achievement. So, to the big question. Would I switch? Much as I enjoy the Nexus 7, I couldn’t go back to Android for a work phone. Picking the iPhone back up, it felt… Dated. I started by saying that the first two things about the Lumia 920 that hit me were the colour and the size. There’s something quite refreshing about having a phone that ISN’T black and white (although Nokia do those colours!). Somewhat ironically, the Windows Phone has become the ‘think different’, and more importantly, the ‘work different’ – and that size thing? The iPhone feels tiny to me now. Despite the wonders of the Retina display, it feels like I’m squinting at things. Nokia have done it. It’s time to switch.
Those of us who have been blogging long enough, or passed their 5th anniversary on Twitter, will remember the Nokia N95. It was the blogger’s device of choice – great for media capture, and pretty much an office in your hand. Then the world changed, and the crown changed hands. Well. It might just be time to hand that crown back to the old king. Does the Nokia Lumia 920 have a thousand and one different games? No. Does it have the latest greatest app that does weird things with your photos? Probably not. Does it have the ability to make calls even where reception is weak? Oh yes, big time. Does it have good maps? Oh yes. Does it have great battery life? Definitely. Is the camera great, even in low light? Incredibly great. Does it have all you need to keep up in today’s incredibly networked business world? Most definitely. Now, I better find out how I buy one of these things, or there is going to be a bit of a fight when the courrier gets here!