My thoughts on the Lumia 900

For a few weeks, I gave up my iPhone 4S and used a Lumia 900.  Overall, the experience was pretty good, but not good enough to keep me away from the iPhone.

On the positive side, the big screen is a real beauty.  The email application worked pretty well, and the animations were well done.  The size and shape of the phone itself was pretty good.  I figured that over time, the outline of the Lumia would replace the outline of the iPhone that seems to have ingrained itself into all of my jeans.  Syncing to a Mac was shockingly easy.

However, after the first few days, the shortcomings of the device and the Microsoft Phone operating system started to become too glaring to ignore.  Here they are in no particular order:

  • When you have headphones plugged in, but no music playing (or no call going), the normal system sounds play through the phone itself, rather than through the headphones.  This means that if you are wearing headphones that insulate your ears pretty well, and the music stops or you just want some quiet time, the other system sounds (like email being received) will blast out through the phone speaker, and not through the headphones.
  • There are no different volume settings for speaker versus headset.  On the iPhone, when you are listening to music (or more likely in my case, a podcast) through the headphones, you can adjust the volume and it only affects the volume for when you are using the headphones.  Once you unplug them, the volume through the phone speaker is where it was at when you last set it.  Plug in the headphones, and the volume changes to the last setting for the headphones.  On the Lumia 900, you had one volume setting.  This means that if you turn up the volume on the phone, so you can hear the ringer, and then you plug in headphones, you might blow your eardrums out (not literally of course… the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert did that for me.  What? WHAT? I can’t hear you!).
  • Frequently, you cannot use the headphones to start the last thing you were listening to when you turn off the device.  On the iPhone, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been away from it, when you click the button on the headphones, the music (podcast!) resumes.  This is huge for me as I try to listen to podcasts while walking the dog, and those walks are somewhat far apart.  With the Lumia 900, I think it background kills the music app, so if its been more than five minutes since you last listened to it, you must get the phone out, find the app and relaunch it.  As I recall, this was also a problem for giving the system voice commands (you had to wake it up before it would “listen” to the headphone buttons), but I’m not 100% on that one.
  • The positioning of the phone is poor when you have to hold it to your ear.  In the unlikely event that you use the Lumia as a phone (seriously, who uses their smartphones for calls these days?), you have to move the unit very far down on your ear in order to line up the speaker hole with your ear hole.  On the iPhone it just seems much more natural.
  • BlueTooth streaming is inconsistent.  About half the time, I could get the Lumia to stream audio over Bluetooth.  The other half the time, it was a frustrating dance of trying to figure out what incantation I needed to mutter in order to make it work.  And very quickly it resulted in leaving the phone in the drink holder and just turning on satellite radio.  This is not okay as I like to listen to podcasts during my drives.  And given that most of my drives are short, spending 10 minutes dinking around with Bluetooth streaming is just too much.
  • My car doesn’t understand the Lumia 900 (related to the above). Okay, this isn’t the Lumia’s fault, but it does speak to the huge lead that Apple has.  My car understands iPhone just fine.  I plug it into the USB port in the center console and a second or two later, blammo, my podcast picks up where I last left it off, or I can easily change what I’m listening too with the car’s display.  With the Lumia, it didn’t recognize it at all.  Again, I know this isn’t the Lumia’s fault, but *everything* understands the iPhone.  This is huge in a world where sometimes just getting something to work can be a battle, and people are sick of having these technological fights.  I hate to say it, but mosttimes, Apple stuff does just work (the memory in my previous blog posting was not Apple supplied).
  • No mute switch – many phones are guilty of this, and I’m baffled by it.  Having a physical switch to toggle between muted or not is a huge feature.
  • The camera wasn’t nearly as good as the iPhone 4S’

There were a few more things I could write about, but to be honest, they don’t matter.  What brought me back to the arms of the iPhone was the fact that Apple got all of the little details right.  These are the things that eliminate friction in our lives and the way we use our gadgets.  I think this is why Apple has been so successful over the past 10 years.  Their products don’t do everything that their competitors products do, but they usually do it much more smoothly and more consistently.

So, I went back to the iPhone fold, and have been listening to my podcasts quite happily (as well as making the occasional phone call).  The bad news is that I ended up getting a 16 gig unit that we had lying around, since I didn’t want to redo a contract.  And I didn’t want to redo a contract, because the iPhone 5 is right around the corner.  It will be very interesting to see what they come up with this time around.

Thanks for reading!

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