Windows Mobile and Beyond

NB – the following is a re-post of an article which originally appeared on in 2015:

O2 XDA IIi – February 2005

In February 2005 I bought my first smartphone – an O2 XDA IIi running Windows Mobile 2003 SE.  It was a thing of wonder – with one device I could listen to MP3s, take photo’s, get my email, send and receive text messages, keep my contacts up-to-date, it had a stylus so I could take handwritten notes, I could download and install apps and, with the help of a Bluetooth connected dongle, I had full off-line satnav for the whole of the UK and Ireland (courtesy of TomTom).  At the time these devices were considered to be for business use and I got a fair bit of ‘shtick’ from friends who couldn’t see past their featurephones and ‘dumbphones’.

HTC Touch – October 2007

Eventually I learnt that this wonder-device was actually made by a company called HTC and they were going to be pursuing their own brand, rather than rebadging for 3rd parties – the HTC Touch came out and it was gorgeous – small, thin, light, with all the capabilities of the larger XDA IIi, running Windows Mobile 6 with HTC’s own custom skin over the top making it that bit easier to use.  I eventually gave in and got one in October 2007.

HTC Touch Diamond 2 – October 2009

Technology moved on and so did HTC, eventually in October 2009 I moved with them, to the Touch Diamond 2 (the original Touch Diamond just didn’t inspire me – it had a weird contoured back that didn’t seem to lie flat on a table).  The Touch Diamond 2 ran Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional and the HTC overlay was doing wonders to hide the ageing Windows Mobile interface, making the resistive screen easier to use with a fingertip and less reliant on the stylus which was very pleasing.  Not least because, by this time, the iPhone had got up to the 3GS version and the rest of the world seemed to be waking up to the benefits of smartphone use that I’d been enjoying for the last 4 years.

HTC HD7 – November 2010

When Microsoft released Windows Phone 7 I was sure I wouldn’t upgrade, simply because my beloved TomTom Navigator (still running off an SD card, but now with integrated GPS!) was not going to work under the new OS.  However the inevitable upgrade occurred in November 2010 to the HTA HD7 when my Touch Diamond 2 made an unfortunate entrance into a bowl of dirty washing-up water (the moral of this story being never text single handed with wet hands!).  Having found a SatNav app that worked offline on Window Phone 7 I was happy and free to enjoy this new capacitive-screen marvel…with integrated stand for watching films!  It was the first time I’d bought a phone locked to a network on a contract and so I finally entered the upgrade cycle that occurs with such a purchase.  However during the two years between upgrades something unthinkable happened – HTC distanced themselves from Microsoft and Windows Phone, and Nokia took over the reigns as best Windows Phone manufacturer.

Nokia Lumia 920 – December 2012

In November 2012 I entered a Facebook competition to tell Nokia why you wanted the latest Lumia 920 handset.  As luck would have it I’d literally just read the spec and rundown of the device on another website so quickly opened it up again and crafted my entry around some of the major selling points – the camera (good for low-light photography with mates down the pub), the HD screen (good for bragging rights against the increasing number of iPhones at said pub), capacitive touch which worked through gloves (good for keeping hands warm in the winter) and, my pièce de résistance – the use of the People hub – an amazing way to keep Facebook, Twitter and my Outlook contacts all in sync, and view the streams from the social networks in perfect chronological order (something increasingly difficult as Facebook ‘tweaked’ their algorithms more and more).  My words must have worked because I won a free Lumia 920 (yes, it was the bright yellow one, but you can’t have everything in life) and part of my text was used, almost word for word, in some of the TV adverts.  It arrived in December running Windows Phone 8 and was a great, if rather bright, phone.  The new OS was reasonably impressive and the manual upgrade to 8.1 worked a treat through the Developer Preview program.  Eventually though, the weight and sheer bulkiness began to get to me…so I traded it in and upgraded.

Nokia Lumia 930 – August 2014

In August 2014 I fell for the advertising and splashed out on arguably the last ‘Windows Phone’ flagship – the Nokia Lumia 930. It ran Windows Phone 8.1, was thinner and weighed less than the 920, and not only that it had a better camera and improved audio recording too, plus the full HD screen.  However there was one area that was becoming more and more obvious with Windows Phone – the apps just weren’t there.  Yes in a lot of instances there was something (either an official app or good quality 3rd party one), but that just doesn’t help in the times when there’s nothing available.

I’d upgraded my DSLR to one with Wi-Fi control and Live Preview…but Canon don’t support Windows Phone.

I was moving my photographs into Adobe Lightroom with a CC Photography subscription…but Adobe Lightroom doesn’t exist on Windows Phone.

My breakdown cover comes from The AA…who don’t support Windows Phone.

I pay my TV Licensing Fee…but the BBC only provide a web-wrapper for iPlayer and nothing else on Windows Phone.

My mortgage was moving to Nationwide…who don’t support Windows Phone.

My home and car insurance was with DirectLine…who don’t support Windows Phone.

My credit card was with Barclaycard…who don’t support Windows Phone.

My energy came from British Gas…who don’t support Windows Phone.

I regularly drink at Costa and Starbucks…neither of whom support Windows Phone.

You get the idea.

Even the services that did support Windows Phone weren’t as good – my company issued iPhone regularly received my personal ( email before my Windows Phone, eBay notifications always arrived quicker on the iPhone (I could receive a notification on the iPhone, answer the question and receive a reply all before my personal Windows Phone had even received the first message).

And to top it off, Microsoft’s “Mobile first, Cloud first” policy meant they were now supporting iOS better than Windows Phone 8.1.

I felt sure there was something better coming – I’d been using various Insider builds of Windows 10 at work since February 2015, and upgraded my desktop and Surface Pro 3 as soon as the July release allowed.  “This must be the answer” I thought – the Universal Windows Platform, Project Islandwood and Project Astoria to allow developers to port iOS and Android apps to fill the app gap – Windows 10 Mobile was going to be it!

I installed Windows Insider on my trusty Lumia 930 (I waited until the 10586 build was ready – supposedly the same one as was shipping on the Lumia 950) – it downloaded the build, upgraded my phone and all went smoothly.

The ‘Me’ tile was missing. The combined streams from Facebook and Twitter wouldn’t load in the People hub no matter what I did to the phone. Even Word and Excel weren’t as good on the 930 as on my company issued iPhone 5S.

Oh. Pants.

Apple iPhone 6 – November 2015

On Friday 20th November 2015 I did something I never thought I would do.

I bought an iPhone 6.

I made a couple of lists just for my own record if nothing else:

Things I Miss On Windows Phone

  • The People hub
    • Facebook & Twitter integration that actually keeps my contacts up-to-date
    • Consolidated view of social networks
  • Pinning OneNote notes to the Start Screen, instead of opening the app and rummaging around
  • The Dark theme for Mail and Messaging (and pretty much everywhere else) – it’s so much easier on the eyes
  • The ability to set your own highlight colour (e.g. for speech bubble backgrounds in messaging)
  • Being able to dictate text messages in the car via Ford Sync 2 and Cortana.
  • Having the settings for each app in the app itself.
  • Wi-Fi sync so all devices know all Hotspot connections
  • Browser tab sync so you can open on a tablet and finish reading on the phone (and vice versa)
  • Built-in visual search (e.g. For QR codes)
  • Visual language translation via Microsoft Translator (open the app, point it at foreign text and watch it appear in your native tongue onscreen in front of you!)
  • Back button – I don’t always want to return to the home screen, just go back to where I was before.

Things I Like About iPhone

  • Grouping the apps – reminds me of Win3.1 (c’mon, where’s the progman.ini file stored!?)
  • Signing in with a fingerprint
  • The thinness and weight of the device
  • Swimming in a beautiful sea of apps – everything that was on Windows Phone, plus all those extras a WinPho user never got to experience
  • The fact Microsoft completely support it so my Office and Groove accounts have come over with no loss of productivity (actually Office seems better!)

Overall I’m liking my iPhone 6 with iOS 9.1 – jokingly I’ve called it ‘WinPho11’ – it’s what I wish Windows Phone had become – an easy OS with an amazing app catalogue and fantastic support from Microsoft’s utilities.

I’ve long been a Windows phone guy as the bulk of this post shows, but after 10½ years I finally made the switch. Why? Because, ultimately, a phone is dumb and it’s the apps that make it smart.  If your OS of choice doesn’t have the apps you want to use…perhaps it’s time to choose again.

This is my post and I stand by it – sound off below.

As stated at the top – this post was written in 2015 and some items on my lists have changed – for example Microsoft Translator with offline translation capabilities is now freely available on iOS – and it’s come to my aid countless times during trips to Italy and Spain!

My next post will detail what else has changed since this one was first written, and how I’ve moved deeper into the Apple world with the purchase of an iPad – stay tuned!


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