Whisper this quietly, Nokia’s flagship Windows Phone 8 device is a serious business tool. That’s not immediately obvious. It’s especially not obvious if the first Lumia 920 you see is a glossy, bright red or yellow model. Mine has a smart black matt finish. It looks more at home in the board room than in a Lamborghini showroom.
It doesn’t help that the first thing I saw on the review model was a link to Angry Birds. There are also home screen links to those well-known business productivity applications: Xbox, Facebook and Nokia Music.
None of this is bad. Heaven knows I appreciate a little fun as much as the next person. But if I’m going to lay down the thick end of a grand on a smartphone, it had better earn its keep by doing some hard work. That is a manager’s first thought when an employee requests a Lumia 920.
There’s also the tax deduction to think of – it would be hard convincing the IRD I use Angry Birds to generate income.
You can’t blame Nokia pitching the fun side of its phone – the company has a lot riding on this model. Thankfully, its button-down collar personality isn’t relegated to second place. The first screen you see also has tiles for a cut-down version of Microsoft Office, along with email, calendars and an address book.
Whoa. Let’s just drop back a step. That last sentence says there are ‘tiles’. That needs explaining. Windows Phone 8, like Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8 uses what Microsoft calls ‘live tiles’ these are like the icons you’ll find on other phones and computers, but they can also display snippets of information.
In practice this means a quick glance at your phone’s home screen tells you how many emails are waiting to be read, whether there are incoming text messages, today’s calendar items, a potted weather forecast and so on. You can even set a tile to show share price movements.
It’s a powerful approach, information starts flowing from the phone to your eyes the moment you switch it on. I find it surprisingly productive although I’ve heard others criticise the user interface for delivering information overload.
Helping me work
So how does it rate as a business tool? Nokia’s Lumia 920 has three things going for it which elevates it above other smartphones.
First, it has a whopping great screen. The 4.5-inch display is big enough to show plenty of text in one sitting. Journalists read a lot more than most people so that’s important. The display is high-resolution, so text is easier to read than on other phone screens I’ve seen.
While a phone’s virtual keyboard is not the ideal tool for cranking out words, it’ll do for short snappy stories, simple editing and the like. It’s also great for viewing emails and web pages. It even manages a reasonable job with PDFs – although some are buggers to read on anything smaller than a desktop screen.
Office on Lumia 920
Second, the phone’s cut down version of Office means you can open, view and edit Office documents. It’s something of a challenge writing more than a few words using the onscreen keyboard, but making on the fly changes to Word document, crunching a few numbers in Excel or editing a PowerPoint in the minutes before speaking is a breeze. Microsoft has included all the necessary hooks for this to work with Windows servers on a business network.
Third coupling Office with Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud service is a masterstroke. It means I can get all my working documents from wherever I happen to be. I now store all my files in the SkyDrive folder on my desktop PC. SkyDrive can store 25GB, that’s not much room for video but I’ve tens of thousands of Word, text, Excel, PowerPoint and other files at my fingertips wherever I roam. Windows Phone 8 uses the same file technology as Windows which simplifies moving files to and fro between a smartphone and desktop.
Sure, you can do all this with other phones, other cloud services and other apps. But Microsoft’s integration between desktop and phone is a drawcard for those of us who are committed to Office or have to work with others who are.
This story also appears at Scoop Techlab.
Content Note: This post has been enabled by Telecom NZ, but the thoughts are the blogger’s own. Find out more about Windows 8 on the Telecom Network here. Scoop TechLab is a project of Scoop Independent Media www.scoop.co.nz. It is edited by Scoop Editor Alastair Thompson.