Thursday, 13 December 2012

Technology, Dubai and the Nokia Lumia 920

Español: Evolución de tamaño de los teléfonos ...
Nokia 638 (19,06cm de alto), Nokia 2160 EFR (16,42 cm), Nokia 5160 (14,84 cm), Nokia 6070 (10,5 cm) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It's been a funny week for technology in general. The Great Phone Meltdown led to Nokia Middle East lending me a Lumia 920 and The Great PC Meltdown resulted in me taking to my iPad while I tried to sort out my notebook. And even tried to sort out what I use a notebook for!

The result has been, for me at least, fascinating. I've moved a lot more of what I do to 'the cloud' but find the single tasking nature of the iPad precludes much of what I want to use a system for - sure, it's great for doing email and consuming content, but it's not great for producing content. And in my day job as well as my hobbies, I'm a relatively constant producer of content.

But the iPad is now my 'out and about' device of choice. The notebook, ironically, stays rooted to the desk. It's stopped tottering around before hurling itself at walls but after this week's performance, it's definitely EOL.

The great surprise for me out of all this technofailure has been the Remarkable Triumph Of Lumia. They say brands ascend when low expectation is met by high performance and that great truth means Nokia better slow things down before it gives itself the bends. The Lumia is a stunner.

Let's start with the basics. As I mentioned before, it's solid - some would say weighty. As time has gone on I have come to find that weight reassuring. Seriously. It's built out of polycarbonate, which means scratches don't show. There's no user access, no back cover to prise off to get at the battery and SIM, instead the SIM is inserted in a sprung carrier at the top of the handset (it's a MicroSIM holder, so I had to get my Vintge Mubashir chip SIMcumcised at local phone shop. A clip and a wince and dirty deed done.

The screen is raised out of the unit's body and seemed to be significantly more fingerprint resistant than the HTC and, it has to be said, the iPad. The display is clear, bright and the resolution is stunning - retina display eat yer heart out. The back of the handset has a Carl Zeiss lens (WooOOOoo), a flash unit and a black strip that looks decorative but is actually the location of the inductive charging coil. The base has two speakers and a conventional charging socket. That's it, minimalist and sleek.

But you'd expect Nokia to make a great handset, wouldn't you? Until I gave up on them (about 6 months after the Symbian Blog posted a last, despairing post saying 'We give up') and flung my N86 at the wall, I'd been a Nokia punter for nigh on two decades. My first Nokia was an Etisalat 'HudHud', a grey/green brick with a pingy antenna. My favourite Nokia ever was the 6800. Seriously. When they didn't upgrade that to colour and 3G, I fled to Sony Ericsson only to flee back to the N series a few frustrating months later. But then, post 2007, I started to hear about people doing things with their handsets I couldn't. By about 2009 it was starting to get embarrassing. Great build quality doesnt make a dumb smartphone any smarter.

But now there's something new behind the screen - Windows Phone 8. I can't begin to tell you how set up I was to loathe this. Microsoft has always sucked at mobile - from Windows CE right through to those awful handsets OEMmed from HTC by that Scottish bloke who went bust, Microsoft just hasn't managed to compete on mobile. Ballmer's laughter at the iPhone rings hollow down the years - he was laughing at the halo product in a segment where Microsoft had not only always sucked, but had ignored until dangerously late. Today MS and Nokia have much in common beyond their partnership. They're both comeback kids. And I have long stopped considerinng Windows a 'cool' product - Vista killed off the final vestiges of respect I had for the interface (and in case you're interested, I have used every iteration of Windows ever built. Windows 1.0 was pretty gnarly, I can tell you!). After the plane crash of Vista, Windows 7 was usable - that's all I cared about by then.

They shouldn't have called it Windows at all, IMHO. It has nothing in common with the WIMPs interface on your desktop. Those squares of colour quickly worm their way into your sensibility, the interface is highly intuitive, fast as hell and an absolute joy to use. You almost forget it's there, which is the highest praise I can think of for technology. The screen is very bright indeed, bright enough to withstand the UAE's sunlight - no more hunching over the screen to try and read it in your own shadow. Taps do what they're supposed to do, menus flip into place with a flash and everything's pretty much where you'd expect to find it. I was shocked at how quickly I found myself navigating around with ease and, yes, enjoyment.

Nokia's mapping software is cool and works, Nokia Drive in particular gives you  fully functional and capable GPS (I had occasion to use it yesterday and I can tell you it truly did save the day), including voice guidance. The augmented reality city app turns curious onlookers into gurgling idiots and the information layer works in Ajman. If you know what I mean. The camera is simply superb, particularly in low light conditions. There are loads of nice little touches going on - haptic feedback gives you a little 'bump' sensation when you use the three 'big' navigation controls ('back', 'home' and 'search'), you can save profiles to your Google contacts (not just Hotmail) and Gmail integration is a dream.

I tried a couple of games out, slick, fast and colourful. Pretty much what you'd expect. There's a lot more on the app store and I haven't really had time for a 'play' yet.

Rowi was the first Twitter client I tried out and I instantly loved it. There's no TweetDeck yet, the WP8 'ecosystem' is yet young - and no Instagram, although that has now become irrelevant to me as I typically load photos to Tweet rather than share on Instagram.

The million dollar question, then. Am I a 'win back'? One of those millions of customers Nokia is looking to woo away from the iPhone and, crucially, Android? I'm going to play with a Galaxy S3 at the weekend to make sure it's 'Apples to apples', but I'm broadly headed Lumiawards. It's a truly smashing mobile and no wonder it's selling, according to Jacky's COO Ashish Panjabi, like hot cakes.

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gerald.d said...

Told ya!

Amanius Caffeinatus Irritabilus said...

Welp!... I am falling out with my Nexus S, I bought it thought it was a great device to test all the upcoming OS on android (Also, I am a hipster- but you've probably never heard of that), however I forgot they take away the new features after the testing has been done. I can't live like this! I want a divorce! *weeps*
Anyway! ...I leaning towards's looking good and I miss the sturdiness, and if the battery life is good? then I'm sold!

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