Nokia Lumia 925 Review: The best Windows Phone to date

Since the launch of the Nokia Lumia 920 in November 2012 the Finnish manufacturer has released no less than 4 other Windows Phone 8 devices encompassing the whole price range from the low end to the high end. The Nokia Lumia 620 and 520 have been best sellers thanks to great feature sets and most importantly low prices without a contract. Unfortunately people lusting for a high-end Windows Phone 8 device only had one choice; the Lumia 920.

Nokia’s first handset featuring Optical Image Stabilization is a great phone but its sheer size and weight can be and has been a turn off for many potential adopters. I’m the first to admit that this phone isn’t for everyone. Sure, it’s top notch but the Lumia 920 is heavier than a more powerful, feature rich and bigger Samsung Galaxy Note II. Want a handset with OIS? Well your only Windows Phone choice would be the Lumia 920 (or 928 on Verizon) or the HTC One on Android (with a frankly subpar implementation of it).

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Living with Windows Phone 8 and the Nokia Lumia 920: the good and the ugly

It has been nearly two months since I’ve been using Windows Phone 8 with a Nokia Lumia 920 phone as my daily driver so I thought that now should be a good time to share my thoughts and experience about the platform and the hardware powering it. Is it good, is it bad, how does it compare to the competition? I’ll try to answer all of these questions and hopefully give you a good idea of Microsoft’s (and Nokia) uphill battle to get a nice share of the mobile industry. Follow me after the break.

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I don’t care about what’s inside your phone as long as the user experience is great

I just came across a post on Neowin today which must have been inspired by what I have been saying all along and especially this editorial I wrote back in February after I came back from Mobile World Congress. To put it simply: things haven’t changed since I originally posted what I did and people are now finding out that what I have been preaching all along may be somewhat true. Throwing endless numbers of processor into a device isn’t going to make the user experience any better especially the OS (hello Android) or app is bloated / badly coded or simply doesn’t take advantage of the hardware horsepower under the hood. Yes I everybody wants 1080P video encoding/recoding but nobody’s going to do this 90% of the time with his phone and that’s the point: if what I’m principally using isn’t perfectly smooth (OS, browser, apps) why should I care about one single great feature?

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Windows Phone 7 Mango roll out to start this fall

This is what I have been told by HTC and Microsoft reps during tonight’s event. HTC kept on boasting that they would be the first OEM on the market with Mango devices here in Europe (and France to be more specific) and the HTC Titan and HTC Radar launch date, October 6, is not surprisingly at the beginning of Fall 2011 (Start on September 23 this year). It should also be noted that none of the devices shown toy had final software (OS code was RTM but the firmware’s weren’t finalized yet). This tends to make be believe that OEMs and carriers aren’t ready yet (also not that no carrier announcements where made today in relation to the aforementioned devices besides the Radar sighting on T-Mobile germany’s booth this morning). Logically it would also be normal to have the ne Mango devices on the market before starting to roll out the update for the older phones.

As of right now KDDI’s Fujitsu IS12T is the only Windows Phone 7.5 Mango handset available to the public and the only device with final software on board (OS and firmware). This is mainly the result of 2 things:

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Tentacles for Windows Phone 7 Interview: in-depth look at how the game was created

A little bit less than a month ago one of the best overall mobile game hit the Windows Phone 7 platform and when such a thing happens it’s always inserting to get some insight on how the whole project came to fruition. I fired off several question to Press Play studios, developers of Tentacles and previously Max & the Magic Marker to learn a bit more about their development process and pipeline which consists of creating the game in the Unity 3D engine then converting/porting it to XNA. Check out the whole interview after the break:

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Qualcomm Adreno 205 vs Adreno 220 / HTC Sensation vs HTC Flyer, HTC Desire HD and Samsung Galaxy S

Here’s s quick compilation of benchmark results comparing the Qualcomm Adreno 205 GPU vs Adreno 220 GPU found in the HTC Sensation (as part of the MSM8260 SoC). The are several things to note here: First, the Adreno 205 found in the HTC Flyer and HTC Desire HD are most probably not clocked at the same speed (The MSM8255 is clocked at 1Ghz in the Desire HD compared to1.5Ghz in the HTC Flyer). Secondly, THe screen resolution are different on each handsets:

- HTC Desire HD: 800X480
- Samsung Galaxy S: 800×480
- HTC Sensation: 960×540
- HTC Flyer: 1024×600

Thirdly, the driver versions are obviously not the same on all devices so you shouldn’t take those results as granted, they are just an indication of how these GPUs stack up against each other in synthetic benchmarks. The now famous and awesome PowerVR SGX540 is also included in the mix. Check the results after the break:

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What’s missing or should be fixed in Windows Phone Mango

As you all know Mango is packed full of new features and improvements that will surely make many people happy but after more that two weeks with the Beta 2 there are still a few things that I think are missing from what has become a really great mobile OS. Most of what everybody’s been complaining about has now been changed, added or fixed so what I’m going to list below will probably go unnoticed by the average Joe but I do hope that Microsoft adds or fix some of them later (I’m not expecting much changes between the Beta and RTM version). Hit the break to see the list:

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List of all of the new Windows Phone 7 Mango features

I’ve just compiled a relatively long list of all the most important new features that are going to be introduced with Windows Phone 7 Mango later this fall. Some features are still probably missing either because they haven’t been announced yet or because I forgot about them so feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll update this list. You will notice that there’s obviously less that 500 features which is the official PR claim. Unfortunately Microsoft isn’t saying what is exactly counted as new feature so I’m going to guess that it’s mix between some of the new APIs and end-user functionalities. Hit the break to check the most important features:

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Windows Phone 7 Mango media and speed improvements overview: 32bit color support, better controls

Now that MIX11 is finished I took the time to watch most of the Windows Phone 7 related sessions looking for some interesting info that may have been missed earlier. The first thing to note is that Mango will be a big step forward in terms of developer tools and APIs (thanks to Silverlight 4) and third party applications performance thanks to the new and improved controls. Microsoft has apparently listened to the users and developer complaints and tried its best to fix all the major issue found in the OS’s current release (most of them listed in my Windows Phone 7 review here).

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All about the new Windows Phone 7 Mango features

Most of the new features which are going to be introduced in the upcoming Windows Phone 7 Mango update have just been demonstrated on stage during the MIX11 keynote. So in case you didn’t check it out here’s a compilation of the most important features that you can expect to see on your Windows Phone 7 device later this year.

First lest start with something that wasn’t talked about during the Keynote: SIMD / ARM NEON support in Mango. As you probably know all Windows Phone 7 devices are powered by an AMRv7 Qualcomm QSD8250 SoC which also features support for NEON instructions. Unfortunately the current version of WP7 doesn’t have support for these SIMD functions but this is going to change in the coming months (only for XNA apps):

ARM processors support SIMD (Single Instructions Multiple Data) instructions through the ARM® NEON™technology that is available on ARMV7 ISA. SIMD allows parallelization/HW-acceleration of some operations and hence performance gains. Since the Windows Phone 7 chassis specification requires ARMV7-A; NEON is available by default on all WP7 devices. However, the CLR on Windows Phone 7 (NETCF) did not utilize this hardware functionality and hence it was not available to the managed application developers. We just announced in MIX11 that in the next version of Windows Phone release the NETCF runtime JIT will utilize SIMD capabilities on the phones.

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Why Windows Phone 7 doesn’t desperately need more powerful devices this year

As you have probably already noticed I was at Mobile World Congress this week so I had the opportunity to play around with some of the latest and most powerful handsets ever created. This year was obviously dominated by Google’s Android platform which took center stage at the convention with essentially every OEMs demonstrating or unveiling products running the immensely successful OS. What does it have to do with Windows Phone 7 hardware ? Well if there’s one thing that really garbed my attention it is the fact that not a single Android device I played with was as snappy and smooth as the Samsung Omnia 7 device I had in my pocket (or any iPhone model). Yes some of the devices on display were running non finalized software and probably hardware too but this has already been the case with retail devices like the Galaxy S and Desire HD which feature more powerful hardware than all the currently released WP7 devices (you can watch my 7 minutes long Galaxy S II video here).

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Why did Google cripple the Google Nexus S ?

Sometimes I just can’t figure out why big companies (well mainly Microsoft lately) do stupid things. This week, it’s Google’s turn to take the cake with the Google Nexus S. As you probably already know, the Nexus S is nothing more than a Google branded Samsung Galaxy S with an added NFC chip and 16GB of on-board NAND flash memory. So what’s the big deal? Well the geniuses in Mountain View decided to strip the device from one of the Galaxy S’s best feature: 720P video capture (you can check out several Galaxy S HD samples and comparisons videos I shot in my YouTube Channel here). When the device’s specifications were first announced a few days ago I thought that maybe there was a typo and things were going to be corrected but unfortunately it turned out to be true and the Nexus S can only shoot videos at a max resolution of 720×480. Can anybody tell me why Google would do this? Seriously? The hardware can shoot 720P video with a 12Mbps bit-rate without breaking a sweat so what’s up with that? There’s nothing logical behind this decision. Everybody’s making a big fuss about the lack of micro-sd slot (so Google is now ”copying” Microsoft and Apple, right? ;) ) but strangely I’m not seeing  lot of drama about the crippling of the camera. All in all I don’t see why anybody should get a Nexus S instead of one of the Galaxy S variant currently on the market (besides the need for the currently useless NFC chip). I’m sure that Samsung will release an Android 2.3 rom later next year anyway (or you can count on xda-devs for that…).

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Use your Windows Phone 7 device as a portable USB drive

Who needs a removable micro-sd card when you can just use your Windows Phone 7 device as a portable USB drive ? Here’s a little trick to enable USB drive mode on your Windows Phone 7 phone. I did some digging into the Windows registry looking for all the references to the Zune software and the devices USB stack  and finally found that the devices actually support this mode but that it is simply disabled by default. So here’s how to do it:

- Open Windows Registry Editor by typing regedit in your start menu
- Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\
- Then go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Enum\USB  (and not the other ControlSet01 or 02 if you have them) and then search for ZuneDriver

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Carriers will not block Windows Phone 7 updates

 

There has been a lot of confusion about the Windows Phone 7 update process after Paul Thurrott posted several quotes attributed to Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore who claimed last month during the NYC launch event that carriers will be able to block updates if the wanted to do so. First off I would like to say that I have no inside info or anything and this is just based on the info currently available and some logical thinking.

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Is Windows Phone 7 really launching today ?

I don’t think that I’ve ever posted a “rant” here before but I think that today’s a good day to do so. As you have probably heard, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 retail launch is supposedly taking place today in Europe and Asia. Things aren’t looking good thought and I’m going to try to give you the low-down on what is going on.

First let’s talk about the so called “reviews” posted late last night. A number of websites, blogs ,journalists were handed out Windows Phone 7 loaners after the Oct 11 launch event to write up their Windows Phone 7 reviews for today’s launch. Frankly I’m still scratching my head here and wondering what that thing was all about. Only one single review was really worth reading IMO and ironically it was done by a non-gadget/mobile website but by the highly respectable AnandTech. But the vast majority were just rehashs of what we already knew about the OS without much thought put behind them (tho… love it or hate it Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky had some really good points in his write up…) BTW, where are the non UK/US reviews? Isn’t the product launching all over Europe and Asia TODAY (and only in 2 weeks in the US)? Why didn’t non-English speaking websites get loaner devices too? My case is a bit different thought, the site is in English with 90% of my readers coming from the US but I’m located in France so I was bound to be screwed anyway lol. But still, I don’t understand why no marketing or PR effort was done outside of the US/UK ….I’ve also noticed websites posting what I would call “fake reviews” based on hands-on impressions. If you see a review that doesn’t contain any camera sample (photos/videos) and only videos/photos shot during past events (like the launch event on Oct 11) then you know that something isn’t right. 

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Windows Phone 7 Gaming Hands-on video: Twin Blades

Fresh from the ReMIX event comes this new video that I shot a couple of hours ago. It’s on the same Windows Phone 7 Samsung prototype handset that you saw in the previous video but this time you get to see one of the first game developed for the platform: Twin Blades developed by Press Start Studio. Some of you might have already heard about it because it’s already available on the iPhone and XBOX Live Arcade. The port to Windows Phone 7 was done in Two weeks by only one programmer (90% of the code is identical to the XBOX version thanks to XNA). The game will also include XBOX Live integration with achievements and will be available this fall when WP7 launches. Check out the full video after the break:

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Windows Phone 7 Hands-On Video with the Samsung Prototype

I just came back from Microsoft’s ReMIX event where I had the chance to get some hands-on time with the latest Windows Phone 7 build running on the infamous modified Samsung Omnia HD (Samsung Taylor). Just to be clear, this is a prototype device (that will probably never be sold) and from what I have gathered it does have a Qualcomm SnapDragon chipset instead of the TI OMAP 3430 in the original Omnia HD) edit: the screen has also been changed to a WVGA AMOLED panel (the original Omnia HD has a 360×640). As you can see in the video below everything is running smoothly with no sign of lag or stuttering and everything was functional on the handset (GPS, data, and even camera). It’s the smoothest mobile experience I have ever witness (on par with the iPhone) and it definitely feels a lot better when used on a real handset compared to the desktop emulator. (sorry for the soundtrack, we were talking in French and it wasn’t a formal interview, just a short chat). Watch the HD video (still processing) after the break.

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The HTC Desire has arrived


Another review is coming up folks. I just received an HTC Desire from the good folks at HTC and will start playing with it for a week. Anything you want to know or see? If you have any questions about the handset just leave a comment here or on Twitter or email me directly.

Windows Phone 7 has everything to succeed

Last week’s been really busy with MWC and the Windows Phone 7 Series announcement on Monday 15th in Barcelona. A lot has been said about it since then and the general consensus is that Microsoft is doing the right thing by restarting from scratch but some people are still worried or disappointed because of what seems like an “iPhonesque” shift in strategy. I’ll try to share my thoughts with you and hopefully give you a little insight on what can be Microsoft’s next Billion dollar business.
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