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My time with the Nokia Lumia 930 is up. Microsoft called on Friday asking me to return the review smartphone. I’ll miss it.

Like all recent high-end Microsoft smartphones, the Lumia 930 is big, beautiful and powerful. I hesitate to describe a phone as intuitive. Still, anyone who has spent time with modern technology will have no trouble finding their way around Windows Phone 8.

Microsoft’s Lumia 930 straddles the gulf between personal needs and productive working. All the fun phone stuff is there. At the same time Windows Phone 8 integrates with Windows desktops and tablets.

And, as you’d expect, it works well with Microsoft Office and OneDrive.

If you can drive Windows, you’ll get a lot out of Windows Phone. If you spend most of your working life using Microsoft’s technology, the Lumia 930 is an obvious choice.

Windows Phone not on the radar

And yet, for most people, Windows Phone isn’t even on the radar. Windows Phone accounts for just 2.5 percent of the market.

Only one smartphone in 40 runs Windows Phone 8. Compare that with Android which accounts for around 34 phones out of 40 and Apple’s iOS which accounts for the other five out of 40.

Why have geeks and non-geeks alike turned their back on Microsoft’s phone technology?

At Geekzone Mauricio Freitas reconsiders why people say they aren’t buying Windows Phones. His post follows the why won’t you try Windows Phone? discussion in the Geekzone forum.

Unfounded Windows Phone app complaints

Freitas says people complain they don’t like the look of Windows Phone apps. He dismantles the myth that well-know apps look different on Windows Phone.

Likewise, Windows Phone’s most talked about shortcoming is not what it seems. Sure, there are fewer apps in the Windows Phone App Store than in iTunes or Google Play. But how many do you need?

Almost every significant app is there. In some cases there are functional replacements.

Missing deal breakers

There are iPhone or Android apps I miss on Windows Phone. Some look like deal breakers. Yet while I like having them on my phone, I don’t use them that often.

The lack of apps in the Windows store is more about perception than reality.

There’s a deeper problem. Microsoft isn’t on the phone buyer radar. Most don’t even consider Windows Phone.

There are two parts to this. First, Microsoft’s fall from grace. Microsoft’s brand is devalued.

Lingering monopoly hangover

In the 1990s Microsoft dominated all aspects of computing. You didn’t buy Microsoft because you wanted to, you bought Microsoft because there was no alternative.

That changed. Rivals like Google offered alternatives. Apple returned from a near death experience. Open Source emerged.

When this happened, there was pent-up resentment against Microsoft. It wasn’t just political or irrational resentment, although both exist. Instead there’s a grudging unwillingness to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt.

A meh feeling. A let’s not go there mood stands between some older consumers and Windows Phone.

Younger people grew up in a world when Microsoft was no longer a name to conjure with and wonder what all the fuss is about anyway.

Windows Phone too late to market

Microsoft’s other problem is that it was too late to market with a useful, modern smartphone operating system.

Apple introduced the iPhone and iOS in 2007. Android appeared around the same time. Windows Phone 7 didn’t show until 2010. Microsoft wasn’t competing on an equal footing until Windows Phone 8 arrived in late 2012.

By then Apple and Android had vast smartphone empires. They took the low-hanging fruit, built customer loyalty and market momentum.

PC market all over again

There’s a precedent for this. No-one came close to catching up with Microsoft in PC operating systems.

Now the boot is on the other foot. Those with long memories will recall attempts to challenge Windows that never got traction. More to the point almost no-one tried or even considered the alternatives.

Microsoft may never recover the money it sank when buying Nokia. Microsoft probably makes more from selling software licences allowing Samsung to use Android than in makes from its own phone.

Microsoft’s smartphone niche

There are options. Microsoft could head for a niche, aiming to sell phones to corporate customers already using the company’s other products. BlackBerry tried that without much success.

This strategy ignores Apple’s success in getting its hardware into the corporate market. iPhones and iPads dominate mobility at the big end of town.

Microsoft has lost the smartphone market. There’s no clear recovery from this point. It can’t even sell Windows Phones to the legions of customers already committed to Microsoft technology stack.

It’s hard to see what Microsoft can do. After all, if the people who read a site called Geekzone aren’t interested in trying Windows Phone, what chance is there others will take a look?

Google, Apple and Microsoft all have decent mobile operating systems.

Last year I spent a week working exclusively with each. You won’t go far wrong with any of them. All three cover the basics adequately. None of them is perfect and none has a fatal flaw. Each has pluses and minuses.

You may find yourself in one camp almost by accident, if, say, someone gives you an iPhone. It may be a deliberate choice: after researching the market you chose a Surface Pro 3. It could be that you work for an organisation that standardises on the Galaxy Tab S.

Once in a camp, your relationship with that world tends to deepen. As an iPhone user you may learn to make the most of iOS. You may spend money on apps, store everything in iCloud and commit to Apple’s way of doing things. This works the same with all three operating systems.

Market share

While the three operating systems are equal in many senses, there are ways in which they are anything but equal. Android has by far the largest market share, Windows Phone has a tiny market share. There are roughly 25 Android users for every Windows Phone user.

Market share is often overstated. Its implications are misunderstood. More customers do not always mean more profit. Android device makers struggle to break even while Apple, on a smaller market share, is highly profitable.

Many developers focus on iOS despite there being fewer users because that’s where there are app sales.

Which us brings to “Android is third among equals”.

While the three mobile operating systems are, to a point, largely functionally equal, Android doesn’t have things nailed down as neatly as Windows or Apple. This is a blessing for some, for many people, it’s a problem.

You always know where you are on any Windows or Apple device. That’s just not true on Android. Samsung’s Android user interface is different to LG’s and so on. Not all apps run on all variations.

Usability

From a usability point of view, Android isn’t one thing, it’s many. For Android owners getting all the productivity benefits might mean sticking with Samsung, LG or HTC. Working with one maker’s Android phone and another maker’s tablet can be almost as jarring as moving to another operating system.

Android users are lucky to see one OS upgrade on any single device. When iOS or Windows Phone moves from one version to another, everyone gets to move so long as their existing hardware can support the new software. This rarely happens with Android. It’s not uncommon to get left behind.

This is important for some people, it doesn’t worry everyone. For many Android as the least best choice of the three operating systems. It’s harder work for everyday users who want to get business or other tasks done efficiently.

Google’s phone operating system appeals to more technical types who like to go beneath the surface. It’s a great OS for those who want the freedom to tinker. If that’s you, then fine, you’ve not made a silly or dumb choice.

However, Android is often the lowest cost option and because of that, it is often the OS used by the least technical users. That’s as a problem. Some will struggle to do simple things because of this. Many will not enjoy the full functionality of their tools.

Nokia Lumia 930Although it says Nokia Lumia 930 on the box, the brand is under new ownership. The Lumia 930 is Microsoft’s first flagship phone.

It is a good start. The Lumia 930 — NZ$999 at Vodafone — is a solid contender. It needs to be. Microsoft faces an uphill struggle wooing phone users away from their emotional, learning and financial investments in iOS or Android.

After my first day with the Lumia 930 I’ve found something that could be enough to win hearts and minds.

When you need a great camera phone

Cameras are Nokia’s trump card. While the 20 megapixel main camera packed in the Lumia 930 seems modest compared to the 38 megapixels in last year’s outstanding Lumia 1020, it still beats anything rivals offer. If photography is important to you, this could be enough to tempt you from Samsung or Apple.

When you take a shot, the camera captures two images: a jpg and a Raw image. The jpg is compressed, but all the missing data is kept in the Raw image. What this means is when you crop a picture, the phone pulls all the missing information from the back-up image. In effect it is like having full optical zoom after the event.

This means the Lumia 930 camera does a great job of capturing fine detail. Nokia also uses image stabilisation which means its phones do a better job than other camera phones of getting decent shots in low-light conditions. That’s important for me because I often have to take photos indoors where the light isn’t great.

Killer video

Nokia has taken its camera technology further into video. I’ve not had time for full testing, but at first sight it looks like the Lumia 930 takes sharper movies than other phones and there’s less jerkiness when you move the camera.

The Lumia 930 has four microphones to capture sound. I’ve always found audio a let-down when taking smartphone video. You won’t get broadcast quality, but there’s a clear audible difference between movies shot on the Lumia 930 and anything else from a smartphone.

All-up this means you’ll get better video than with other phones.

Of course there’s a stunning display

All modern flagship phones have stunning displays. You need one just to get through the flagship phone door. That said, the Lumia 930’s Amoled screen is at least the equal of every other phone screen I’ve seen to date. Colours are bright and luminous, but for my money it’s the way the Lumia 930 does black that stands out.

The screen is large, but not ridiculously large at five inches. Squeezed into that space are 1920 x 1080 pixels. This makes for a pixel density of 440 per inch — that’s more than on the iPhone 5S and frankly the human eye probably can’t see a discernible  difference between the two.

In practice the Lumia 930 screen handles video beautifully, but best of all it makes text easy to read in all conditions. The Australian Microsoft executive who demonstrated the phone in Auckland suggested we test it in bright sunlight — that might be a challenge in August, but I’ll take his word for it.

Microsoft adds value

If your digital life revolves around Microsoft Windows or Office, you ought to consider switching to a Windows Phone.

Like most Nokia devices, the Lumia 930 comes with a phone version of Office complete with a great version of the wonderful OneNote app. There’s also Skype, Outlook and OneDrive. All these technologies work great on Windows Phone. Microsoft’s technology stack is extremely well-integrated across devices, so you can effectively carry your desktop in your pocket when you leave your workplace.

You’ll hear others warn that Windows Phone doesn’t enjoy the app support found with iOS or Android. That’s true, up to a point. Windows Phone is usually last cab off the rank when developers release new apps or upgrades. However, depending on your specific needs, there are few essentials missing. And there are some great Nokia-only apps. Here Drive, Here Maps and Here Transit are all first-rate tools to help you get about.

Verdict

If you don’t already own a smartphone, you should give the Lumia 930 as much consideration as the alternatives. Unless you need a niche app that’s not covered on Windows Phone, you won’t be disappointed.

If you own an iPhone or an Android it could be hard moving to a different phone OS. If you’re a keen photographer or you want to experiment with handheld video, this would be a good choice. You may be surprised at the camera quality, which, frankly is far better than any digital camera was just a few years ago.

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia made great phones.

Like everyone else, the Finnish company lost the plot when Apple’s iPhone arrived disrupting the mobile market.

Now Nokia is Microsoft-owned. It is back making excellent handsets.

The Nokia Lumia 930 is the company’s first big launch since Microsoft bought the company. It is an LTE version of the Lumia 929 — that phone is only sold in the US.

With a five-inch display and a battery that can give 15 hours of talk time, it looks like a worthy flagship.

So far I’ve not heard anything official on when or if the Lumia 930 is coming to New Zealand. However, a report on Geekzone says Vodafone will have an exclusive on the 930.

Nokia Lumia 930 coming soon

Vodafone has a teaser for the Lumia 930 on its coming soon page.

It goes on sale in Australia later this month and that means it is likely to turn up here too.

Some parallel importers are already bringing it into the country. It sells for a shade over $1000.

Windows Phone devices have been slow to take off, although they are more popular in New Zealand than in the US so the Lumia 930 could make a splash here.

Windows Phone is an excellent operating system. It integrates beautifully with the rest of Microsoft’s technology. If you work with Word or Excel, rely on OneNote or spend a lot of time with OneDrive this would be your best option.

Phone operating systemsSmartphone buyers can choose from four operating systems.

It’s a tough decision. After spending time with all four I can report they are all worthy of your attention. None performs badly or has fatal flaws.

While that doesn’t mean every one will be a perfect match for your needs, it does mean you won’t get left with something unusable.

Android 4, iOS 6, Windows Phone 8 and Blackberry 10 deliver basic smartphone services in style. Each comes with its own communications apps, address books, calendars and social media tools.

All handle photos and allow you to view web pages.None of them will let you down in these departments, although some handle certain task better than others – there’s no clear winner when it comes to basic OS functions.

OS follows smartphone hardware

For most people hardware determines their smartphone operating system. Apple’s iOS only runs on iPhones and Blackberry 10 only runs on Blackberry handsets.

A handful of brands make phones using Windows Phone 8, but Microsoft’s hardware specification is so tight the difference between models is relatively slight.

In contrast Google’s Android operating system runs on a wide choice of phones ranging from cheap and nasty throwaway devices all the way to swish flagships like Samsung’s Galaxy S4.

Just to confuse matters, there’s as much variation between different Android versions as there is between the four main operating systems.

App choices

Putting hardware aside, the other issue for most buyers is the choice of apps. It’s easy to get hung up on this, but you’ll find almost all the most important apps are either available in their own right on each phone OS or there’s a functional equivalent.

Beyond the most popular apps, it comes down to your specific needs. Apple and Android have the biggest choice of apps, but frankly the difference between the 800,000 or so apps they offer and the 120,000 or so Blackberry offers is meaningless. You’re not even going to explore one percent of any range.

Having said that, many important, useful or, to some people, essential apps, are only available in one operating system. If that’s the case, your choice is made. Buy a phone and an OS that will run your must-have apps. These people can stop reading this story now.

Cathedral or bazaar?

Most people don’t want to customize their phones. Those who do should choose Android. It’s relatively easy to get under Android’s skin and change all manner of things. Geeks love Android for this reason – it’s open. You can tinker a little with the look of Windows Phone 8 but getting inside the phone is harder – you can’t easily open folders and hack files.

Changing the iPhone is harder again. You can ‘jail-break’ the phone, but that’s beyond the scope of this comparison.

Again, it’s easy to get hung up on customisation. In practice, hardly anyone – maybe 10 percent of users – hacks their Android into shape. If that matters to you, buy an Android.

There’s also a pay-off, the more rigid operating systems are easier to use and less confusing. Or to put it another way, it’s harder to screw-up an iPhone than an Android.

In a nutshell

iOS: Simple and stylish mobile OS. Everything is beautifully designed, things always work as expected.

Apple’s operating system blends seamlessly with the hardware. You’ll get the best choice of apps and Apple-only built-in software like the excellent Facetime app for video conferencing along with baked-in cloud back-up.

On the downside, Apple’s phones are expensive and lack the latest must-haves such as large screens. Apple can be high-handed and annoying at times, remember when it dropped Google Maps and moved to its own alternative? Some users don’t like be corralled in what they see as Apple’s walled garden. Others think this is far better than the alternatives.

Android: Can be a mess at times but offers the greatest amount of freedom.

Android is most popular phone OS by far. Feature-wise Android matches iOS, although things don’t always hang together as elegantly. And because Android covers a range of hardware, you won’t necessarily get the same Android experience on two different phones.

Be careful which version of Android comes with the phone you pick, avoid anything less than version 4.0 if you want the full choice of applications.

Phone makers often layer their own software on top of Android which may or may not be a good thing depending on your taste.

Windows Phone 8: Elegant and smooth, integrates beautifully with desktop Windows and Microsoft Office. Good social media integration. A well-designed user interface. Less freedom to tinker than with Android, more than with iOS.

Windows Phone 8’s live tiles give the OS a distinctive look, these are programmable icons which you can rearrange on the phone’s home screen to pull certain information to the front.

On the downside, WP8 uses Microsoft’s Bing search engine which many believe is inferior to Google, And Mac owners report poor compatibility with the phone OS. You’ll see fewer and different apps when compared to iOS or Android.

BlackBerry 10: Puts communications front and centre. There’s a universal inbox giving instant access to all incoming messages and the operating system and hardware are optimised for communications functions. Nice keyboard, features to endear the phone to corporate IT departments and easy multitasking.

BlackBerry’s main weakness is the lack of apps – fewer than the other three phone operating systems – and less room for customisation. Some people find the user interface a shade too minimal.