What’s the real story with Windows Phone?

In December Paul Thurrott’s Supersite for Windows published Windows Phone Turned the Corner in 2013.  Thurrott is an influential US blogger and his story was picked up by other media.

Thurrott’s story looks at what went to make 2013 a turnaround year for Microsoft’s  smartphone operating system.

However 2013 wasn’t all good news for Windows Phone. In January GigaOm’s Kevin C. Tofel reported a murkier picture in Nokia finishes 2013 with 30M Lumias sold, ending on a falling note. That’s significant as it was the last quarter before Microsoft is expected to take control of the business. Continue reading

Life on the move with the Nokia Lumia 625


Nokia Lumia 625

Nokia Lumia 625

You get a lot of smartphone for $500 with the Lumia 625. It includes most of the features you’ll find in Androids and other smartphones costing twice as much. There’s a decent back camera for photos and one on the front for video chatting. There’s Bluetooth, GPS and the phone will work on today’s 3G networks as well as the fast 4G services that are being rolled out around the country.

Continue reading

Nokia Lumia 625, big orange phone at a good price

A review by Bill Bennett for Scoop Techlab


Nokia Lumia 625A Nokia Lumia 625 is sitting on my desk. You can’t miss it. It’s bright orange. The kind of orange that would match a high visibility safety vest. It makes the phone hard to lose.

Once your eyes adjust, you realise the day-glo case isn’t the only thing that makes the Lumia 625 stand out: It has a big screen. The display is larger than any I’ve seen on a Windows Phone 8 device. It’s particularly large screen given the smartphone’s $500 price.

The display measures 4.7 inches diagonally. That’s a little bigger than Nokia’s other smartphones. It compares with 4.5 inches on the $1150 Lumia 1020 and the $1000 Lumia 925.

It’s also much bigger than the 4 inch screen sported by Apple’s $1050 iPhone 5S, although at 5 inches across the diagonal the $1000 Samsung S4 is larger.

Big screen, fewer pixels

The catch is the Lumia doesn’t have anything like as many pixels as those other phones: just 800 by 480. That’s roughly 200 pixels per inch which is a lower pixel density than you’ll find on more expensive smartphones. You can buy Android phones at roughly the same price as the Lumia 625 with a higher pixel density.

Giving the phone fewer pixels is not the only display compromise Nokia made to get the price of its phone below $500. Unlike Nokia’s more expensive Lumias, the 625 doesn’t have the ClearBlack technology that makes the screen easier to read in sunlight. And the colours are less saturated. They look relatively washed out compared with the Lumia 920 or 1020 displays.

Which in turn means photos don’t display as sharp, movies look a little blurry and text is not so beautifully presented.

Away from sunlight this is less of a problem than you might imagine. That’s because although there are fewer pixels to form characters on-screen, the slightly bigger size means text is still easy to read. It helps that Microsoft uses special fonts for Windows Phone 8 that are easy to read in all circumstances. You’ll find email and text-based apps are easy enough to read, poorly designed web pages can pose a problem.

An OK camera

It would be silly to put a high resolution camera on a smartphone with a relatively low resolution screen. While Nokia didn’t drive all the way to the bargain basement for the 5 megapixel camera in the Lumia 625, there are no fancy optics like the more expensive Nokias.

So let’s spell this out before we go any further. If taking and viewing high quality still pictures and video are your thing, the Lumia 625 is not for you. Likewise if you expect to read a lot of text on screen or work outside in bright sunlight, it would be worth investing in a more expensive phone.

On the other hand, if you want an affordable modern smartphone that does all the important things to an acceptable standard, the Lumia 625 is a good choice. It does have two things going for it that sets it apart from the competition: decent software and 4G compatibility.

Nokia Lumia 625, a 4G handset for $500

Only a limited number of handsets work on the Vodafone and Telecom NZ 4G networks. If Nokia’s Lumia 625 isn’t the least expensive 4G handset in New Zealand, it is certainly a contender. That’s increasingly important now that Vodafone’s 4G network is reaching across the country and with Telecom NZ’s 4G network about to go live. I didn’t get to test the phone on 4G – although I will as soon as my 4G Sim arrives.

Whether you like the Windows Phone 8 software or not is partly a matter of taste and partly to do with how you plan to use a smartphone. I don’t aim to revisit the debates on these matters, but I want to make three points:

• First, Windows Phone 8 is a reliable and stable smartphone operating system. After an adjustment from whatever you used before, you’ll find things always work in a predictable and consistent way. In my book it is a better choice than Android for everyone except people who like to tinker with their software and settings.

• Second, If you use Windows computers or work for company that has a lot of Microsoft software, life will be relatively easy. The phone comes with a version of Office and connects to Skydrive where you can quickly get at files.

• Third, it’s true there are fewer third-party apps in the Windows Phone store than in Apple’s iTunes or the Google Play store. On the other hand, there are surprisingly few essential apps that are either missing or don’t have a reasonable alternative.

What else?

Inside the case you get 1.2 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Krait CPU and the Adreno 305 GPU. Unless you’re something of a smartphone geek, these are unlikely to mean much. What they tell me is there’s more than enough power to do most things you buy a smartphone for. It certainly doesn’t feel underpowered or slow – but that’s after only a few hours. I’ll revisit the Lumia 625 after spending more time with the device to talk about some of the practicalities of everyday use.

I like that the Nokia Lumia 625 has a slot for MicroSD memory – that’s a nice bonus. On the other hand, the Ram is a measly 512 MB, so I guess I won’t be doing much multitasking.

Finally, the case is, well, plastic with curves. It feels nice in the hand and while it is noticeably lighter than the Lumia 920, at 160g it is still fairly hefty for a modern smartphone.

Content Note: This post has been enabled by Telecom NZ , but the thoughts are my own. Find out more about the Nokia Lumia 625 here. Scoop TechLab is a project of Scoop Independent Media www.scoop.co.nz. It is edited by Scoop Editor Alastair Thompson.

How does the Nokia Lumia 1020 rate as a business phone?


Telecom NZ sells the yellow Lumia 1020 as a business phone.

Telecom NZ’s website sells the Nokia Lumia 1020 as a business phone on its website. You’ll even find the bright yellow model listed under business.

As I’ve already written, the Lumia 1020 is more a camera that makes calls than a phone that takes pictures. It has a 41 megapixel optical sensor, a Carl Zeiss lens and image stabilisation.

Does that kind of device qualify as a business tool, or more to the point, can you legitimately get away with a business tax deduction if you buy one?

The simple answer is ‘yes’ if your work involves taking photographs.

Maybe not if you’re a professional photographer. But for anyone else who regularly uses photography in their work, the phone is an ideal business tool.

Not for professional photographers

Let’s deal with professional photographers first. A bright yellow phone probably isn’t going to impress paying customers no matter what the quality of its output. It doesn’t look professional. Sadly that matters.

And anyway the Lumia 1020 doesn’t offer enough controls or functions to meet most professional photography needs. Nor is its lens good enough for most serious jobs. It is distinctly point and click.

But for the rest of us, it’s ideal. As a working journalist I can quickly shoot off a series of shots, select the best one, then crop out the uninteresting stuff to get a picture that’s more than adequate to show across 535 pixels on this website.

Actually there’s a function that automatically shoots off a series of shots and asks you to choose the best one. The Lumia 1020 comes with plenty of other basic photography functions and apps to make life easier for occasional photographers. If I’m on a reporting job and need to get photos quickly to an editor, I can do all the preparation directly from the camera.

Lumia 1020 business beyond photography

Away from the camera, the Lumia 1020 is essentially the same at the Nokia Lumia 920, which is an excellent business phone. Much of what I’ve previously written about the Lumia 920 applies, it’s a solidly built device and it runs Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 operating system.

Nokia’s Lumia range might not be as popular as the iPhone. Windows Phone 8 doesn’t have the broad appeal that Android has. And there are not as many mainstream apps to choose from. But in a business context much of this doesn’t matter, the phone and its operating system both have a strong business pedigree and are unlikely to disappoint when it comes to productivity.

The phone is relatively secure and comes with apps closely tied to Microsoft Office, Outlook and Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud service. If you work for an organisation that uses Microsoft products, Windows Phone 8 will slot right in to everything with a minimum of fuss.

Other business advantages

Another advantage of the Lumia phones and Windows Phone 8 is they are much better at displaying text than most other smartphones. This makes everything easier to read in almost every circumstance. That’s an instant productivity gain. Many, not all, apps look better on Windows Phone and are easier to read and navigate.

For many people in business, the applications are going to make a decision for you. If there’s an app you need to work and it is only available on one smartphone OS, that’s where you need to be. Otherwise, Nokia’s Lumia range of Windows Phone devices and their direct connection to Microsoft’s world of business applications, server software, cloud and back-end systems is hard to ignore.