Not Thinking of Buying a Windows Phone? You Should Be…

I’ve been using a Nokia Lumia 800 running Windows Phone 7 off and on for a couple weeks.

It’s a uniquely beautiful device. And Microsoft’s Windows Phone software is refreshingly different from competing products like Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.

I enjoyed using the Lumia 800 so much that sometimes I had guilt — like I was cheating on the one I love, my iPhone 4S.

It’s worth noting here that the Lumia 800 I tested is last-generation technology. It was first released almost a year ago.

It doesn’t feel a year old, though. Instead, mainly because of Microsoft’s unique take on how a mobile phone should work, the device feels fresh. New, even.

That bodes well for the new Nokia Lumias – the mid-range 820 and high-end 920 – that are scheduled for release in Canada next month.

Unfortunately for us northerners, Rogers will be the exclusive carrier in Canada for the awe-inspiring Lumia 920.

Bell may offer the 820, however, if rumours prove accurate. That’s the successor to the model I’ve been playing with lately. Certainly Telus will have it, which means that it will function in the North.

From a strictly technical standpoint, the upcoming Nokia Lumia 820 isn’t a match for the iPhone 5. But that’s not really the point.

What sets the Lumia devices apart is their unique industrial design.

We’re drowning in a world of iPhone look-alikes, which undeniably diminishes the purer beauty of the iPhone itself.

Nokia’s Lumias are a breath of fresh air. They have a distinct appearance and, even better, they come in colours.

Like most phones, Lumias are available in black or white. However, you can also buy them in purple, blue, slate, yellow or red.

The best sort of beauty goes deeper than the skin, of course, and the Windows Phone operating system is an exquisite match.

It’s unlike anything you’ve seen on other mobile platforms. A sparse environment of primitive shapes and bold primary colours. Some call it bland, boring even. But I think a better word is “elegant”.

The Windows Phone environment is populated with “live tiles” — colourful rectangles and squares filled with customizable dynamic information.

Some tiles are just representations of common application activity, like how many messages you have in your email inbox.

Other are broader in scope, and you can make your own.

You can build a tile, for example, that would collect and display all of the social media activity for a friend.

That’s probably the best aspect of Windows Phone, the way it can connect and cross-reference data and then collect it for you in a comprehensive and comprehensible way.

On my iPhone I tend to “app hop” in a vertical fashion. For tweets, I open one app, for email I open a different app. It’s a very narrow, constrained view of informaiton.

On Windows Phone it’s more like standing back and surveying a wide landscape. You can see tweets, Facebook posts, Flickr images and email all at once. The information experience is fuller and richer, more meaningful.

But, you know, it’s not all wine and roses with the Lumias and Windows Phone.

It could be said that Windows Phone is its own worst enemy. Nobody likes change. And Windows Phone is so different from anything else out there, or anything that came before, that it can be difficult to understand and use at first.

And that’s too bad, because with just a little bit of time spent playing with it, the Windows Phone is arguably easier to use than other platforms.

Then, as I’ve written before, the platform also has app problems. As in, there aren’t very many and 95% of what’s there is crap.

I simply couldn’t use the Nokia for any extended period of time because the apps I use most on my iPhone (stuff like Path, Line2, Day One, Freshbooks, and EyeFi) are not available for Windows Phone.

Worst of all, it’s tough to move over to Windows Phone if you’ve already established yourself on another platform.

And for most of us iPhone users, that other platform is Apple’s iCloud. That’s where our calendars, email, tasks, data, photos and notes are.

There’s no easy migratory route from iCloud to Windows Phone. Most of us would simply have to abandon our previous iPhone lives and start a new one on Windows Phone.

Being the underdogs in this game, it would behoof Microsoft and Nokia to make make it easier for people to pick up where they left off on their previous platform when they buy a Windows Phone.

But as it stands, that’s the single reason I could never consider actually buying a Windows Phone myself.

Together, Lumia and Windows Phone represent one of the most compelling mobile platforms available that deserves far more attention and appreciation than it gets.

So if you’re thinking of buying a new mobile phone in the next year, the Nokia Lumia should be on your list of devices to consider. They are beautiful and easy to use, but no less functional than competing iPhone and Android devices.

Just keep in mind the shortage of apps and the fact that migrating to this wonderful new environment may be a difficult – if not impossible – undertaking.

Originally published in the Yukon News on Friday, October 12, 2012.