After a recent blaze of discussion with ideological_cuddle about his predilection for the iPhone (brief synopsis: "Convince me I want this damn thing" - of course, he couldn't) he mentioned the beauty of Windows phones. Since I've been wanting to flee the Android ecosystem by hook or crook forever and since I used to use my ex's Windows phone to surf the Web almost every night, and because I've had a thing for Windows phones since they uh, came out, I decided right then and there that my next phone would have Windows. And it does! It's amazing how these things can work out.
Because I have budget limitations this is the one I got - it's nothing fancy but it works. For those not inclined to click through or who simply like words with their pictures, it's a Nokia 635 running Windows 8.1 with just half a gig of RAM and a quad core 1.2GHz processor. It's identical to the slightly older 630 with the sole addition of 4G LTE. While there are small quibbles about performance differences between the phones, with the 635 coming out better or worse depending on whom you believe, I won't be discussing that.
This phone is an upgrade (for me) from an LG Fuel running KitKat - a phone that still works perfectly, but the camera broke a few weeks ago so that when you open up the app now to take a picture (or a video) the screen is solid black. All the pictures (and videos) come out solid black, too (but the video portion still captures sound). I'm not sure what that could mean...has the lens shattered? Is the camera software seizing on me? I tried a phone reset but that did not fix the problem. But I'd bought the Nokia by then, so it doesn't matter.
When people talk about how blazingly fast Windows phones are, with any amount or next to no amount of RAM - and trust me, they do - it's true: you have to ignore the piddly amount of RAM because the devs seemed to have optimized the OS to run with as little as possible. The only thing that's not been so fast is the lock screen: sometimes I can't get it to work. It can take up to a half dozen tries, swiping my fingers in all possible directions before the unlock keypad finally scrolls into view.
Also, the battery is awful and I'm not sure if I should go for a replacement or if they'll all be like that. And does this phone get hot when used out in the sun? After 10 minutes, yes, you can fry an egg on it. And the screen does have some glare. This can be helped by reducing screen brightness, but as your hostess is ever so slowly and rather subtly going blind (and it does seem to be a light and angle-based blindness, denying me the dignity of just going all-out blind like any normal person would do) that's not a great option for me. So yes, an anti-glare screen protector is on the way.
But the phone is beautiful and swift and does things you only wish Android phones could do without needing an app for that, which makes up for most of what's mentioned above. AT&T, a network I've never used before except perhaps unknowingly as a fallback CDMA carrier (I was with Net10 before this phone, and with TracFone - Net10's owner - before that) seems pretty good so far and call quality seems kind of flat but perfectly loud and clear as needed. The speakerphone works great (I make most calls hands-free except for any requisite dialpad-pounding involved, and Android's speakerphones have historically been unpredictable and tinny-sounding, featuring harsh reverb and a terrible echo along with mysterious, eardrum-piercing noises).
When I say this phone is beautiful...I hate to drool on it like I have on just about every Windows phone ever, but the style of this one really is quite "wow". It's one long sheet of solid Gorilla glass (I think this is the first phone I've ever had without a screen made entirely of plastic) with no buttons. The screen wraps around to the back, which is all plastic. I went for all-black; while there are wild colors involved in this style a) I didn't have access to them at the store I bought this phone at and b) I wouldn't have chosen them, anyway. Black is better.
I miss the buttons along the bottom as most Androids can wake up from pressing one and I'm all about getting things done fast and effortlessly - even something as seemingly trivial as a screen wake-up. You wake this phone from the power button on the middle right side, but I'm used to that button being on the top right on the Fuel, so I haven't gotten the hang of moving my finger down where it belongs. The button above that is the one I keep hitting. It's the volume control, but I'm so used to pressing there that I just. Keep. On. Hitting. It. Until finally I realize it's the wrong one. And yes, I always look around afterward, waiting for someone to observe my dyslexia-by-proxy and shake their head and mutter, "You idiot. Wrong. Button.".
But outside of wrong-buttoning, a lock screen that's not wanting to give up its ghost and a battery that scares me, the phone is a pleasure to look at it and a pleasure to use. The strangest thing about it has been that I'm used to Android's dialpad button placement and a link for contacts being at the top of the phone app, not along the bottom as an icon-only thing like it is in Windows. But searching contacts is actually easier than it is on Android: just open the contacts list, hit the pound symbol along the top, start typing and what you're after pops into view. I really like that.
Other things I like: my main MS email account is finally linked to a phone. I've never been able to check non-Google email on any phone without actually logging into the site - which I refuse to do from any phone browser for security reasons - so I went years without being able to use that feature in a meaningful way, as I only get junk and a little personal mail on GMail, which is quite intentional, again for security reasons. As an added bonus, my Google account is linked to this phone as well, so my Google and Windows email accounts are running as native apps.
When I first set up the phone I did something I never do and actually read (some of) the instructions, which was truly fortunate, as the ones I read told me there was an app for importing contacts from my Android phone. The one thing I'd dreaded about switching from Android to Windows was having to laboriously hand-type in every contact from one phone to the other. But the instructions took me to a link that explained there's an app for that called Transfer My Data; the app pulls data from your Android account right into your Windows phone.
I didn't believe it, of course, but I downloaded and ran the app, anyhow. It failed on the first run, imported all of my contacts on the second run, and imported less than half my texts and maybe a third of my pictures in each run after that. Repeated runs did nothing to change my luck. I wound up deleting incomplete threads from my texting app as retries were giving me what I already had in duplicate, then triplicate, and I gave up getting the rest of my pictures off of my Fuel. I can always import them from another source later (they're on Google Drive - and everything I imported to my Win phone and all that's accumulated since then is stored on OneDrive, so that should work out).
There's nothing I miss about using an Android except for Android apps that aren't being published on Windows. I'm a hopeless ColorNote, GO! homescreen and GO! texting addict - I was also a 1Weather addict, but the MSN Live Weather Tile is so good I'm not missing 1Weather too much. (1Weather crashed a lot, anyway. On every Android I ever had. They really need to look into that.)
This phone seems more grown up than my Androids did: it looks more grown up, the styling, fonts and display feel more grown up, and it displays my email (very grown up) and got me using IE like that's a normal thing to do, when being a Firefox addict since 2006 I thought it would be a difficult transition to make just for the sake of using a browser on my phone. But I guess from using IE so much on my ex's phone it simply doesn't bother me (which, after years of rebelling against IE, feels just terribly grown up). While I'd love to see Mozilla publish a browser for the Win phone platform, they need to fix Firefox on Android first. That's another post but the synopsis of it is this: outside of webpage display, which overall is okay, the browser sucks.
IE on a Windows phone displays webpages rather well. I have it set to load mobile websites first - and for sites that don't have a mobile option, display will be as nice or as shitty as the website's devs and designers make it. That's why responsive design is kind of a thing these days, and why people should be doing it. My own blog has a responsive stylesheet and it looks quite good on this phone (again, the ex's phone figures into this because I finished the design a year or so ago by checking it on that).
Other things that make this phone feel grown up: I linked a payment option to it (something I never, ever did on any Android) to buy my first-ever paid-for app - a sort-of replacement for ColorNote that displays a sticky note as a tile on your home screen. It's available for free but I bought it for the color and font options because I have this Pretty In Pink (and magenta) thing going on here and I love using handwriting fonts (an option ColorNote actually does not have).
The best parts of using this phone are how the lock screen shows how many missed phone calls, unread emails and texts I have and how it feels to use the native texting app. On Android I could never use the stock keyboard (too tiny and hard to see, so I'd make too many mistakes and couldn't find the subset keys fast enough or at all, depending on which ones I was after) and the only replacement for it that I could live with - the Big Buttons keyboard - has the same bug as the stock keyboard, wherein hitting the top right of any key risks selecting the key above it. Which I did constantly, right up until the very end.
The Windows keyboard has no such problems, and has auto-correction built-in for when I'm not paying enough attention. Auto-correct is right maybe 90% of the time (Android's native auto-correct never comes close) and when all else fails, it has a built-in Swype-y type of thing (just drag your finger around; the software will figure out what you mean with surprising accuracy) that actually works. I sent entire chains of texts with it one night because my eyes were tired, and while it was a bit slower than straight-up typing for all the corrections I had to make, it works better than Swype with less jitteriness and smoother, more swoopy glide-y stuff built right in. I had to say "swoopy, glide-y" at least once, because I always do when I'm talking about Windows phones...sorry.
But they're so swoopy and glide-y! It's simply amazing. Overall I'm pretty impressed with this phone.
Oh, and yes, the camera (my entire reason for buying it) works quite well. I just wish it had flash and a front-facing camera, too.