As I mentioned in my previous article, I have switched from an Android 2.3.4 based smartphone, to a very affordable, but also very modern, Windows Phone 8 based phone: The Nokia Lumia 520.
Just how good could a $99 phone be? Just how usable is the Windows Phone operating system? I decided to dive straight in, and what you are about to read are my honest thoughts after just over three weeks of solid use of the device.
Let’s break this down into the factors that matter most to me in my mobile devices.
The Nokia Lumia 520 is designed to fit in the low-cost device market. This market is normally filled with cheap, plastic devices that feel more like children’s toys than mobile computing platforms. Some devices in this range, however, have a little more quality than others
The back of the phone body is made of a rubberized plastic that feels good in the hands. The front is a solid scratch resistant piece of glass with the standard back, search, and windows capacitive buttons in the bottom of the face.
The phone feels somewhat light, compared to my old android, but the overall build does not feel cheap. It is quire comfortable to hold without feeling like you are going to drop it, or get tired of holding it during an extended phone call.
While the phone feels like it could survive a drop without any major damage, I of course, am taking no chances, and keep my device inside of an Incipio NGP case to help prevent damage from any drop situations. I have actually dropped the phone once in the past month, and while the phone did separate from its backing, it was undamaged. I do not use a screen protector, as a scratch-resistant glass coating is protection enough for me. I have noticed that any phone with a glass face tends not to get scratched, only cracked from hard drops on corners. By contract, my old android device had a plastic capacitive screen, resulting in it becoming a horrific mess of scratches in the first few months of ownership.
The Nokia Lumia 520 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU running at 1ghtz, and 512MB of RAM. Onboard Storage is 8GB.
Without going too technical, all I can say is this combination is on the low end for available RAM for Windows Phone devices. The CPU, however, while not the fastest or most powerful available for a mobile device, seems to be very capable in running Windows Phone Apps and the OS itself.
The machine generally runs fine for me, experiencing very little slowdown or dropped frames during animations. A very pleasing experience when compared to my previous Android and it’s nonstop lost frames. In fact, excluding the few lost frames from time to time, the 520 would be as smooth as any iPhone I have seen out in the wild. Any slowdown that occurs is very minor and very short lived, to boot.
As for the phones 5 Megapixel camera, it’s alright. I wouldn’t say anything too special, but it is in no ways bad. Just, adequate. As readers may be aware, I am an amateur photographer, and while I use cell phone cameras often when out and about, I stick to dedicated cameras for all my main work, so, I generally do not view a cell phone in the same way as I would even a normal point-and-shoot or bridge camera. Cell phone cameras are just too limited in my opinion.
As for battery life, while the phone is an improvement to what I am used to, I don’t tend to leave for work without bringing the charger. You can get many hours of web browsing or gaming out of it before you would need to charge, and the phone does incredibly well on standby, but I tend to stay on the cautious side. Better to be in touch with everyone than not, right?
Windows Phone 8
Now we come to the core of the phone. The reason I even bought it to begin with,. The Windows Phone operating system.
I was not disappointed. It is hard to describe Windows Phone, or indeed, any operating system, without you being able to actually view it in operation. I can at least try to break down what I like most about it:
If you didn’t already know, I am a fan of Microsoft. I have supported their products for many years, and while I am active in the Linux community, and support it’s spread and adoption in the desktop computing world, I believe Microsoft, and Windows on a whole, do provide the most capable operating system solutions available in the computer universe.
That being said, I have always wanted to try out Windows Phone It is only in the past two years that I have been able to actually enter the smartphone market, first with cheaply available Android devices, and now, finally, affordable, non-contract windows phone solutions.
Live tiles – access to basic or detailed information without ever having to open an app is always nice. Want to check the weather? Just look at the app tile on the start sceen. Want to see what’s new in the news? Same thing, just check out the tile. It gets you that tiny bit of info you may want much quicker, and I like that.
Icon size and arrangement – Rather than having a basic tile setup like iOS and Android, Windows phone has, well, a more advanced tile setup. By that, I mean, you can change the size of any app tile from one small size I like to call a small square, to a 4 times as big larger square, or, if you desire and the app supports it, a double-wide rectangle that takes up a full 2 rows of icons. The sizes work well for grouping together similar apps, or alternately, taking often used or verbose live tile apps and making them larger, for quick access of both live information and actual app launching.
To be honest, I could go on and on into details of the Nokia Lumia 520, but I wanted to at least touch into how it felt for me. Very quick, very easy to use, and capable. It’s a shame then that there are so few apps written for Windows Phone instead of Android and iOS. My experience with Windows Phone tells me it can provide an incredible experience for any piece of software, if a developer would just take the time to actually write it! Here’s hoping that soon Instagram will be ported to Windows Phone, as it is about the only app I used that I miss from my Android days.
Overall, I do not regret ditching my old Android phone, nor do I feel I could have made a “better choice” with an iPhone. I live in Microsoft’s ecosystem, for the most part, and Windows Phone felt like a natural choice for me. I am happy to finally have one that is in my price range. Beats spending twice as much for a phone that barely works, right?