What I think of Windows Phone 8.1 on my Lumia 920 so far

sashlon

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Apr 5, 2012
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Download & Update process
The process took a while, but it all worked smoothly enough. The install hung on 96% for around twenty minutes which was a little worrying, but it worked.

The new Start Screen
The Start Screen is one of the things that makes Windows Phone unique and special.

The Modern interface has never looked cooler IMO than on WP8.1.

Microsoft made a very wise choice to make the 3 tile row layout optional. I like it a lot on my 920, but my wife (who has a non-DP 920) probably won?t like it because it?ll make the tiles too small for her. I spent quite some time tweaking the layout in order to get the right look to fit my OCD. The new ?see-through parallax? tile option is also very cool. Once again though, Microsoft were very wise to make it totally optional, because I think quite a few users won?t like it as much as me.

The new layout and theming options combine to make Windows Phone look even more amazing, although you need to choose the image for the tiles very carefully. I found that actual photos don?t work very well, unless a blur effect is applied. However, more abstract wallpaper images can look fantastic. I will say that as much as it is possible to make your Start Screen an amazing piece of art, it can also be made to look pretty ugly.

Some people have complained about the fact that lots of tiles don?t have the transparency effect, but I think its fine. My only gripe is that the Xbox Music, Xbox Video and Games tiles don?t have it. I find that a little inconsistent given that pretty much all the other ?system? tiles have it. I guess Microsoft wants the keep the Xbox apps green for marketing reasons.

The App List
WHY THE HELL ARE THERE GAMES IN MY APP LIST!? FIX IT! BURN! BURN IT WITH FIRE!

Action Centre
I don?t care about this feature much to be honest. When I switched from Android to Windows Phone I never, ever, missed the Notification shade. That?s what Live Tiles are for, right?

However, apparently a lot of people needed it, so here it is: Action Centre. I have a pretty big gripe.

First, why is it at the top of the screen? I hate that.

Smart Phones are becoming bigger and bigger. I?m upgrading to a 1520 soon for example, and having to reach up to the top of even my 920 is awkward. Both Android and iOS use this implementation. It makes a degree of sense on the smaller iPhone, but it?s problematic on any larger devices.

Microsoft missed the chance to do something cool with Action Centre. IT SHOULD BE ON THE LEFT OF THE START SCREEN! It?s so obvious. A swipe from right to left brings me to the App List. A swipe from left to right should bring me Action Centre. It would be simple, elegant and original and it wouldn?t spoil the UI. Windows Phone is a ?swiping UI? after all.

As it is the Action Centre is ok. It fills a perceived need and in relatively inoffensive. But it could have been cool. The customisable control toggles at the top are very cool though.

Cortana
I live in Australia, so I had to ?cheat? to get Cortana.

I like her. Just this morning she was reading my messages to me as I walked to work. She is quite responsive and I can see a lot of potential there. I love how Cortana is smart enough to speak when spoken to, but reply with text to typed input. That?s really cool.

Cortana is of course Microsoft?s answer to Siri and Google Now. She?s kind of like a mash-up of the two while bringing some interesting new stuff to the table like third party app integration. Microsoft need to get her up and running globally ASAP.

I do wish she could be triggered through a voice command. I have an Xbox One. The ?Always Listening? aspect of the Kinect is very cool (unless you?re a tin-foil hat type). I wish Cortana worked like that. Google Now can be triggered by voice command on the Moto X. I want that. Cortana is pretty good for a beta.

New Apps
There are new apps in WP8.1. Battery Saver and Storage Sense are straight up utilities, and welcome additions. Battery Saver has a good Live Tile with a battery level indicator (But no percentage. GRRR).

Podcasts is a very welcome and long overdue app. I?m a big podcast listener. For people outside the US, there was no native Podcast access in WP8. How on earth Microsoft could have allowed that I do not understand. The app seems to work ok, it?s a little buggy, but it?s ok. I?m very happy to have it.

FM Radio now has its own app which is good, it helps with discoverability.

Xbox Music and Xbox Video
Speaking of new apps. What the hell? OK, I understand why Microsoft ditched the Music & Video hub. It help to make app maintenance and updates much easier. That said, I LOVED the hub and I?m sad its gone. Xbox Video seems ok. Xbox Music is buggy and laggy. It needs an update yesterday. I will say that I?m happy that I can now create and edit playlists on my phone now. I think that?s a big win.

People Hub, Me Tile and Messaging
Facebook integration is dead. I already miss it. It had to die though. The Facebook and Twitter integration was a great idea, but it never really panned out because Microsoft were unable to keep up with the rapid way that those two social networks change. But I hate it anyway. I loved the Messenger integration. In order for Windows Phone to grow, it needs to change and evolve. Even when it feels like we?re losing something. The Me Tile is kind of useless now though sadly. I don?t even pin it anymore. Progress is a b**** sometimes.

Other Stuff
The OS is just as fluid and responsive as ever. Although I do think the 920 is beginning to show its age a little. I have experienced a bit of a hit to battery life. Not major, but noticeable. I still got home from work over 50%, so no big deal. The separate volume controls are long overdue and very useful. The new layout on the lockscreen is ok.

Overall, I?m pretty happy with Windows Phone 8.1 so far.
 

ktl88

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Mar 21, 2013
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Nice one.
I agree with most of what you said, except for the Action Center. I quite like this feature.
My battery's got a big big blow. I could easily pull a day with my phone, and now I'm barely being able to use it for half a day, without using Cortana that is.
Amazingly, the battery drains when i'm connected to the internet.
Lots of apps seem to run in the background that I don't use and even those that I've blocked. Apps that I use such as Whatsapp are amazingly not in the top of the list. Apps such as Email, Internet Explorer, Phone, Viber, Skype (never used it) are hogging battery. That's what Battery Saver is showing me.
So looks like something is fishy.

Other than this battery hog, i'm liking the update, except for a few changes (like games appearing in the apps list, no background settings in settings etc.)
 

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