Last month I wrote a story on what it's like for a longtime iPhone user who was unfamiliar with Android to try a Nexus 5. After I wrote it, a reader suggested on Twitter I do the same thing with a Nokia Lumia. Nokia marketing was paying attention and arranged to send me a Lumia 1020 phone.
I would like to say I had a positive experience using the Lumia phone, but I can't. It's not that it's an inadequate piece of hardware as phones go. It is, but my overall experience was so negative that I was happy to be done with it at the end of the week. I will say upfront that many of the issues I've had with this phone are with the Windows Phone operating system, but it's not just that. There were other things too, which I will cover in detail later on.
As with the Nexus 5, it's worth pointing out that until Sunday when I purchased a 5S, I had been using an iPhone 4. I'm writing this based on my experience using an iPhone 4 running iOS 6 -- just so you understand my means of comparison here.
As with my Nexus 5 overview, this is not a review so much as a subjective experience from someone used to using an iOS device and what it was like when I switched phones for a week. I realize that this was a personal experience, and you might very well love your Nokia Lumia 1020 phone. That was just not the case for me. I didn't love it -- not even a little bit.
The camera didn't wow me
Let's start with the phone itself. One of the strengths of the Lumia 1020 is the 41 megapixel camera, which according to the commercials is supposed to outshine every other phone.
First of all, it's not very attractive from a design standpoint -- because it's so big, it bumps out of the back. More importantly, I didn't think it took any more exceptional pictures than my iPhone 4 with 8 megapixels. In fact, I found the flash created a washed-out yellow color to the photos I took. I don't buy a phone because of the camera. It's just a feature, but I expected much more than this camera gave me in my experiments. I'm a point-and-shoot kind of guy and I wasn't wowed by the results I got.
Battery life is amazing
One thing that was a joy for me was the battery life. I plugged it in on Sunday to recharge the battery, and I didn't have to plug it in again until Thursday. I can't go more than a couple of days with my iPhone without plugging it in, but of course it's also three years old and battery life deteriorates over time. Still, this was some of the best battery life I've seen on a smartphone.
But what about that "get in, get out, get on with your life..."?
You may recall the Windows Phone commercial that Microsoft did with the theme, "Get in, get out, get on with your life." The idea was that you don't want to spend your life with your phone. But the reality of using a Windows Phone is a little different than the commercial suggests.
For instance, just getting in takes several steps -- and that's without a passcode (which I couldn't figure out how to implement). You have to click the middle button on the side of the phone to turn it on. Then you have to slide up to access the tiles, and once you access the tiles you have to find your app. That's where the fun starts.
If you're not familiar with the Windows phone interface, it consists of a series of tiles. I've always felt the tile metaphor was best suited to a phone, but after using it for a week, I've had second thoughts. The problem with the approach is that instead of pages and folders, you have to scroll down to see everything -- and keep scrolling. The more apps you layer on, the more you have to scroll. There is a screen with an alphabetical listing, but that's not ideal either.
The fact is you end up spending a lot of time looking for the app you want with no real clear rhyme or reason as to the tile organization. You can reorganize them in a way that makes more sense to you, but as an out-of-the-box experience, it wasn't exactly conducive to the promised experience of getting tasks done quickly.
The other issue I have with the tiles is the animation. They are constantly in motion, blinking and flipping and moving. Just sit still!
What's with the location obsession?
Every time I tried to download an app, I got a message insisting I share my location data -- and not just with the app, but with Microsoft too. If I didn't want to do it, I couldn't use the app. iOS apps often ask for permission to use my location when I'm downloading an app, but at least I can still download it if I don't want it use my location.
I don't have a problem sharing my location with certain apps that require it, but the first app I tried to download was Facebook. I've never wanted to share my location information with Facebook and I took exception that I had to do it now. It didn't matter if the app was location-centric or not -- I got the same message with Evernote and ESPN ScoreCenter, and even when I tried to open Internet Explorer. I found it annoying and I refused to do it, especially since it wasn't just the app collecting the data, it was Microsoft too.
Issues with the installed apps
As with iOS and Android, Windows comes with a number of apps pre-installed. I had mixed results with these.
The Mail app was fine. I entered my Gmail address and password and it found the mail for me. Of course every time I got mail, the tile started flipping and displaying a number representing the number of unopened mails. I wonder how many Windows phone users have anxiety disorder because their amount of unopened mail keeps going up.
One app I did agree to share my location with was Local Scout, which purports to help you find local businesses. The results were just bizarre. Some were current businesses, but several had been closed for years and others, judging by their location on residential streets with no businesses, appeared to be home businesses you wouldn't frequent.
The other app I checked out was People, and I'm not sure where Windows pulled this information from, but the flipping pictures were of people I haven't been in contact with on a regular basis for at least four years. Again, bizarre. When I opened the People tile, it included a bunch of listings from AT&T, which I'm guessing were provided by the carrier itself, but which had no place in what is essentially my address book.
There was nothing wrong with this phone. I'm sure it would be perfectly suitable for many people, especially folks who use a lot of Microsoft products, but it wasn't the phone for me and I was happy to be done with it when the week was over.
It's worth noting that after testing out an Android phone and a Windows phone, I stuck with iPhone and bought a 5S last weekend. So far I'm very pleased. Phone choices are personal and your choices will differ for different reasons, but for me nothing I've seen in testing these alternative models makes me want to change right now.