Eight days with Windows Phone 8

After just over a week with Microsoft's new OS, I found several things to like about it

By , IDG News Service |  Consumerization of IT, Microsoft, windows phone 8

Something else I liked was the ability to change the entire feel of the phone by changing the theme color. A lot of the buttons on the home screen and highlighted text throughout the phone are tied to the same color, which can be changed by the user.

Apps

Compared to iOS and Android, the selection of apps is still a weak point of the operating system, but things aren't as bad as you might fear. A lot of the most popular apps are in the Windows Phone Store, including Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, eBay, Evernote and Foursquare. But some notable ones are missing, such as Instragram.

Microsoft promises more apps soon, including a version of Pandora with a year's worth of ad-free music. It says it will soon have 46 of the top 50 smartphone apps available for Windows Phone.

There's also a fairly broad selection of apps from smaller, independent developers, so while you can't find a news app from the BBC, you can download an independent app that pulls in BBC news and presents it in a similar way to an official app.

You can check out the selection in the Web version of the Windows Store.

Getting Around

My Android phone, fitted with Google Navigation, is an important tool in my car. I use it often and was a little disappointed at first that the Bing Maps app doesn't give updated turn-by-turn directions while I'm driving. It would plot a trip for me, but when I started driving it didn't automatically keep up with my journey.

AT&T offers an app for that, but it costs US$10 per month (what are they thinking?). I wasn't about to pay $10 for a service that was free on Android, and I thought I'd found a significant weakness in Windows Phone 8. But then I discovered the GPS Tuner navigation app. It costs $5 for the basic version, which offers voice-guided navigation and pulls in free maps from your cellular connection. For about $40 you can download offline maps -- a nice option if you want to avoid data costs.

Cloud Services

With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft is tying everything to its SkyDrive service. At first I tried to resist -- my data is spread across too many locations already -- but in the end I gave in because it was easier that way. It didn't turn out to be a big problem. SkyDrive backs up phone settings, which should make switching to a future handset easy, and also photos. When you tweet out a photo, it puts it in a public folder on SkyDrive and embeds a link to that in your tweet.

Playing Nice

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