AFTER MUCH AGONISING INDECISION WE HAVE DECIDED TO MAKE THE NOKIA LUMIA 1020 the smartphone we will live with. At least for the foreseeable future.
We have used Android [two HTCs] and iPhone [a 5 and a long term review of the 5s]. We like them all, but there is something intriguing about the Windows option. Perhaps we just like giving the underdog a boost.
We were on the verge of choosing the iPhone 5s as our keeper, and then along came Windows Phone 8.1 operating system update and it fixed at least one of our major complaints about the Nokia — the ratty sound volume control. In version 8 the volume of the ringtone is coupled with the volume of the media player, which meant that if the music volume was turned down the ringtone followed. And that usually meant that if the phone was in a pocket you couldn’t hear it ring. One unhappy chap even threatened to sue Microsoft and Nokia for business lost due to missed calls. And at our place it almost came to divorce when spousal calls went unanswered.
Windows Phone 8.1 uncouples the volume controls and now the ringtone can be left set at maximum and when the phone is turned off and then on again the set volume persists — which it didn’t do before because it always reset to 13 on the 0 to 30 volume scale, and that wasn’t loud enough to hear in pocket or bag.
Anyway, that is fixed. Good.
There are a number of other changes that improve the user experience, such as the Action Centre. Drag down from the top of the screen and the Action Centre shows queued messages, emails, Facebook notifications, Twitter, app updates, either made or pending, and so on.
Once the Microsoft account has been set up or activated the phone works seamlessly with the MS OneDrive cloud service, backing up data and OneNote [free app] content on the fly and in the background. Because it runs on the 3G/4G system data transfers are lightning fast.
The highly anticipated Cortana — Windows answer to Siri — won’t arrive on Australian phones until 2015, so we couldn’t test that feature. Even though we were pretending to be an app developer in order to download the update the Microsoft server obviously knew that we were not American. Still there is a decent level of speech input and output already in the system. Messages and emails can be written by dictation with an impressive degree of accuracy, which is about all we use Siri for anyway. We like the Win 8.1 start screen and the smooth responsiveness, together with the logical layout and operation, of the icon “tiles”.
Windows Phone 8.1 has more customisation options than its predecessors, including a new Start Screen custom option. Download the app Start Screen Customize [pardon American spelling] and any photo can be turned into a background, visible through the translucent tiles. Not all tiles are translucent so you might like to arrange the tiles for maximum or most tasteful effect.
Much is made of the app-gap between Windows and the Big 2 but in practice we only miss Dropbox [there are third party work-around apps] and remote camera control for our WiFi enabled cameras. Even there we have found a reasonable third party offering for Sony cameras, but nothing useful for Olympus gear.
The Nokia has very good call and receive audio quality and an excellent music player, although the supplied earphones are a bit cheap and nasty. The phone music player works well in the car via Bluetooth connection to the car’s media system.
The absolute killer feature of the Nokia Lumia 1020 is the 41 megapixel camera, able to save images in RAW format. No other phone comes close in image quality. And the camera has a full set of manual controls that match any serious dedicated camera. It is the camera that persuades us that the Nokia is the smartphone we want to have with us wherever we go.
If you have a Windows Phone 8 you can download the 8.1 update, but it involves registering as an “app developer” with Microsoft even if you don’t intend to be one. The download and installation took 30 minutes on the Nokia 1020 and has to be done in two stages. As it keeps reminding us on the screen: “It is worth the wait.”