Tag Archives: Windows Phone

Fotor Is A Must Have Photo Editor For Windows Phone

Nokia’s Creative Studio is an excellent photo editing app for its Lumia devices, but there are things that it isn’t that good at. Collages is one, adding borders another. Fortunately there is a excellent free app that can plug all these holes, and give the Creative Studio quite a run for its money. Fotor is free, and has been updated to take advantage of Windows Phone 8.  It performs fluidly even on slightly lower spec’d devices like the Lumia 620 and 720, and makes for a very pleasant editing experience.

Fotor Is A Must Have Photo Editor For Windows Phone Fotor Is A Must Have Photo Editor For Windows Phone

Inside settings you can choose to edit/save in the high resolution mode or go slightly lower res. for faster performance. The Collage option is fully featured, you can choose aspect ratios, designs, and even move the bars to increase or decrease space there is for each photo. Then, you can even add a pattern.

Fotor Is A Must Have Photo Editor For Windows Phone Fotor Is A Must Have Photo Editor For Windows Phone

The borders can be curved or straight and you can choose the width as well. The app also comes with a one tap enhance mode, which has three levels.

Fotor Is A Must Have Photo Editor For Windows Phone Fotor Is A Must Have Photo Editor For Windows Phone

You can use the Tilt Shift option to change focus, and also play with the contrast, saturation and blur/sharpen settings.

Fotor Is A Must Have Photo Editor For Windows Phone Fotor Is A Must Have Photo Editor For Windows Phone

And finally, there are filters.

All in all, installing Fotor is a no brainer. Its free and fun.

Does Windows Phone Really Have An App Problem Anymore?

Stephen Elop in his Mobile World Congress keynote recently announced that Windows Phone Store had crossed 130,000 apps, an impressive number on its own. But compared to both Android and iOS which are around the 700,000 mark, the number seems low. Does this mean you shouldn’t buy a Windows Phone because it doesn’t have ‘apps’? To see if this was the case, I did an unscientific test. I picked up my iPhone 5 which has tons and tons of apps installed, and started comparing its app selection to the Windows Phone Store . I paid special attention to the ones I have on the homescreen, or outside folders – basically ones which I use on a regular basis.

Below are about 40 apps that I use on a fairly regular basis on the iPhone. So when I switch to the Lumia 920, do I have to forgo anything major? Lets find out.

  • Notes – iCloud sync means that I have access to my notes across my iPad, Mac and iPhone. WP – The Windows Phone equivalent is One Note. The app is available across different platforms and promises a similar ‘everything in sync’ experience. Result – Draw.

Windows Phone 8 Apps

  • Google Maps – Turn by turn navigation, street view, great coverage. WP – Nokia Maps/Drive. Offline capabilities, great coverage, greater number of navigable countries. Result – Advantage Windows Phone.
  • Facebook – iOS integration and a great Facebook app, plus a Messenger app. WP – A Facebook app made by Microsoft, plus deep Facebook integration into the OS. However, the Facebook app has room for improvement. No Messenger app, equivalent but WP has Facebook chat built in. Result – Advantage iOS, but not by far.
  • Twitter – Great official app, plus numerous excellent third party clients. WP – A recently updated Twitter app means that the experience is a par with iOS. Also present are great third party choices like Rowi, Twabbit, Mehdoh. Result – Draw.
  • Foursquare – Represents the direction Foursquare wants to take the app into – beyond the check-in stage. WP – The focus of the official app is still check-ins rather than discovery. However Nokia and Foursquare are working on an all new app thats coming in March. Finally, 4th and Mayor is an excellent free alternative for WP. Result – Draw.
  • Whats App – The defacto messaging client, must have. WP – The app is improving with each release, but is currently a shadow of its iOS and Android versions. Its useable, but could do with a few more updates. Result – Till Whats App finally gets its act together, advantage iOS.
  • Flipboard – Presents Twitter/Facebook/Websites in a nice magazine like layout. WP – No direct equivalent. However, there are a few apps like Weave and Fuse that can make make boring feeds look much more fancy. Result – Advantage iOS.
  • Mail – The inbuilt email client. WP – The WP equivalent is at par, features the ability to link multiple inboxes into one. Result – Draw.
  • Camera – The plain jane camera app. Features an inbuilt panorama mode. WP – Comes with a feature called lenes that lets you do more from within the app itself. Includes Smart Shoot, Panorama, Cinemagram, Microsoft’s 360 Panorama app Photosynth. Result – Advantage WP.
  • Instagram – A lot of people have been wanting this app on Windows Phone and the wait is ongoing. WP has a bunch of apps that let you add filters and share the results to Facebook/Twitter, including Nokia’s own Creative Studio, but they lack Instagram’s community. Result – Advantage iOS.

Windows Phone  Apps -2

  • Mailbox – The hot new email app for iPhone. Lets you turn your inbox into a todo list. Only out for iOS, no Android version yet. WP – Don’t expect a WP version anytime soon. Result – Advantage iOS.
  • Remote – Lets you control iTunes on the Mac, or the Apple TV. WP – A 1.99$ equivalent called Remote. Result – Advantage iOS, although only useful if you’re firmly inside the Apple ecosystem.
  • Light – A Torch app. WP – Plenty to choose from. – Result – Draw.
  • ESPN Cricinfo – Live scores, fixtures, news etc. WP – Excellent official WP8 app. Result – Draw.
  • Times of India – Not optmised for Windows Phone 8, but does the job. Result – Draw.
  • NDTV – Not optmised for Windows Phone 8, but does the job. Result – Draw.
  • Merriam Webster Dictionary – iOS gets a free ad supported version. The WP version is priced at Rs. 210, no ads. Although, WP has other free dictionaries. Result – Draw.
  • Pocket – No official app for WP, but there are third party alternatives. Result – Advantage iOS.
  • HDFC – No official app for WP, but the m0bile website works well. Result – Advantage iOS.
  • Doc Scanner – Useful for archiving paper documents, converting them into a PDF. A paid app on iOS. WP – Handyscan, HD Scanner are a few options, but none of them as as good. Result – Advantage iOS.
  • YouTube – The official WP app is a joke, but thankfully MetroTube more than does the job. Lets you download videos as well. Result – Draw.
  • Book My Show – Excellent fully functional app. Infact, features voice commands as well. Something the iOS version doesn’t. Result – Advantage WP.
  • PVR Cinemas – Performs better than the iOS counterpart, which isn’t optimised for the iPhone 5 yet. Fully functional. Result – Advantage WP.
  • Shazam – WP gets an official client as well. Frequently updated, but doesn’t have offline tagging yet. Result – Draw.
  • Zomato – Recently updated for WP8. Takes great advantage of the Modern UI  and infact looks/feels better on Windows Phone. Result – Draw.
  • Dropbox – No official client for WP8. But there are third party equivalents. Box Files. Result – Draw.
  • File Manager – To copy files to the iPhone from the PC as well as download them from the web. WP – Supports Mass Storage mode on Windows, so copying isn’t a problem. To download files from the Internet, apps like GetThemAll exist. Result – Advantage WP, because of the mass storage mode.
  • Mobi Reader – RSS reader. WP – Number of alternatives like Weave, Fuse. Result – Draw.
  • Skype – Official apps for both platforms. Microsoft owned, so WP support will only become better going forward. Result – Draw.
  • Speed Test – Official apps for both clients. Result – Draw.

Windows Phone  Apps -1

  • WordPress – Official apps for both clients. Although the iOS version is more feature packed. Result – Advantage iOS. The Windows Phone version is frequently updated, so one can hope for feature parity.
  • Sports Tracker – Official apps for both clients. Result – Draw.
  • Paytm – For recharges, bill payment. No Windows Phone version. Users will have to do with a mobile site. Result – Advantage iOS.
  • Quickoffice – No need on Windows Phone, as it features MS’s own office suite. Result – Advantage WP.
  • iTunes Store – Tracks priced at Rs. 15 per track. Movies, TV Shows available to buy/rent. WP – Nokia Music – free unlimited downloads, much wider selection of regional music. Result – Advantage WP.
  • Kayak – Official apps for both clients. Result – Draw.
  • Trip Advisor – Official apps for both clients. Result – Draw.
  • Cleartrip – Official apps for both clients. Result – Draw.
  • Trip It – Official apps for both clients. Although the WP version isn’t optimised for WP 8 yet. Result – Draw.
  • IndRail – Useful if you use the Indian railways. WP – Plenty of alternatives, IndianRail stands out. Result – Draw.

RESULTS

  • Advantage iOS: 11
  • Advantage WP: 7
  • Draw: 22

CONCLUSION

Turns out, Windows Phone has done much better than expected. It has equivalents for all but Instagram, Paytm, Flipboard, Mailbox and HDFC Bank app. None of these apps is a deal breaker for me personally. HDFC Bank has a useable mobile website, Mailbox while being the hot app right now is not something that’s indispensable. I have Flipboard installed, but rarely do I end up using its wonderful interface, as on most days I have already gone through my Twitter and Facebook feeds in their respective apps. Moreover, there are some apps that are better on Windows Phone, surprise!

You will notice that games are missing from the list. Truth is that I am not too much of a gamer myself and therefore don’t feel that particular pinch on Windows Phone. But if you kill a lot of time playing games on your phone, this is one area that might be of concern. With Windows Phone 8’s all new kernel and developer tools, high quality games are coming to WP8, but they aren’t quite here yet. Gameloft had promised to bring 12 popular titles to WP8, and delivering on that promise Asphalt 7 Heat just became available this week. But there’s Temple Run. However Angry Birds Space, Seasons and Star Wars are all there.

Releasing an app on a platform is only part of the story, and supporting it with updates is what’s important. The apprehension I had was that Windows Phone might get version 1 because of development dollars from Microsoft and Nokia, but the updates won’t follow. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the case and more and more apps are being updated to take advantage of Windows Phone 8.

Does this mean that Windows Phone is on par with iOS and Android when it comes to apps? I won’t say that. But what I will say is that if the only reason you are staying away from Windows Phone is ‘apps’, it may be time to reconsider that decision.

Video: Lumia 900 v Lumia 800, Big Is Beautiful

Nokia really has something special with the Lumia 900, it is the perfect combination of size, weight and looks that just gives the device a really excellent feel. Although it does borrow from the same design language that the Lumia 800, and before it the N9 employed, Nokia’s made some improvements that are really welcome.

Gone is the curved 3.7″ display of the Lumia 800, and instead we now have a impressive 4.3″ AMOLED CBD display that’s flat. To power a larger display, also present is a bigger 1830 mAh battery, instead of the 1300 mAh version in the Lumia 800. A lot of people wanted a front facing camera in the Lumia 800, and the 900 fixes that as well. But that’s not all, Nokia’s also refined the top of the phone, which gets rid of the door/hinge that used to cover the micro USB port and instead the port is now directly accessible. The micro SIM port can be opened using a pin, much like the iPhone. All in all these few improvements have gone a long way in making the Lumia 900 a true master piece. The one niggle that I have is that the shiny plate on the back that proudly says Nokia and details the camera, is still prone to picking up a scratch or two if you are not careful. But that’s a small price to pay for owing such a beautiful device.

In the following video I’ve put the white Lumia 900 and the black Lumia 800 head to head
to help give a better idea of what to expect. Since the Lumia 800 packs the same processor and software capabilities as its younger sibling, it still remains a compelling buy if you are looking for a great Windows Phone device. Or if you want something smaller.

I personally think that the 4.3″ Lumia 900 is a great size, and not too big at all.

Unboxing The White Lumia 900

In many ways the Lumia 900 is Nokia’s first no-compromise Windows Phone flagship. The Lumia 800 had a lot going for too, but the smaller screen size, lack of the front facing camera, software issues with battery performance (which have now been completely fixed) meant that there were things that Nokia could have done better.

The Lumia 900 is the pinnacle of the Windows Phone ecosystem, and it looks spectacular. It comes with a 4.3″ AMOLED clear black display, a 1.4 Ghz processor, 512 MB of RAM, an 8 Megapixel Car Zeiss camera with a dual LED flash, an impressive 1830 mAh battery, all of which is packed into a sublime design. The Lumia 900 in white is easily the best looking smartphone on the planet.

White Lumia 900 Unboxing

If a pitch is to be made about great design selling phones, then all you need to do is to point towards a Lumia 900.

 

The device also ships in black and blue (cyan), but as you can probably tell, the white easily wins it for me. The Lumia 900 has started to go in sale in different parts of the world, and I expect to be stores in India by the beginning of June. I’ve played with the international non LTE version of the Lumia 900 before, but its finally here in retail packaging, and in the video below, I do the customary unboxing:

Hilarious ‘Blown Away By Lumia’ Video, No Wonder Samsung Was Hot Under The Collar

Both Microsoft’s ‘Smoked By Windows Phone’ and Nokia India’s ‘Blown Away By Lumia’ campaigns have not been without their share of controversies, but one thing which you cannot take away from them is that they are fun. Not only do they get the point about Windows Phone’s deep social integration and other functionality across to those taking part, but they make for great online viewing as well.

No one is happy to loose, so watching people react to being blown away is always entertaining. I came across one such absolutely hilarious video (courtesy @labnol) which I had to share.

Most guys take their phones seriously, and when your flagship device looses, its not a good feeling. But the real burn for the poor guy was when his girlfriend couldn’t help but quip, ‘your phone is the worst piece of shit!’ Ouch. I can’t image how that made Samsung feel.

That’s why Samsung doesn’t seem to happy about Nokia India’s ‘Blown Away By Lumia’ campaign. They could possibly have digested ‘My Samsung Galaxy got blown away’ but the ‘your phone is a piece of shit’ endorsement in a Nokia video probably did it for them. Infact  Samsung got so hot under the collar that they called the whole campaign ‘unethical‘. They seem to think that Nokia was targeting their devices, but a quick look at Nokia India’s YouTube channel shows that the campaign covered devices from across the spectrum. Infact, the only reason you see more Samsung devices is because in the changed world order Samsung is commanding a greater marketshare and thus by sheer logic more people on the street will be carrying a Samsung device than a BlackBerry, HTC or an iPhone.

For their part Nokia says Nielsen validated the campaign and that the Lumia 800 emerged as a clear winner by winning 94% of the total 104 challenges timed by Nielsen. Samsung been pretty aggressive in the past with its Omnia Taxis, and Nokia is only just starting to move away from its ‘we’ll let our products to the talking’ stance and get aggressive. I’d like to see them take it up a notch.

Fun times ahead.

7 Things Windows Phone Needs To Do Better In 2012

From a fairly modest start in 2010, Windows Phone came a long way in 2011. The NoDo update brought some essentials like copy/paste, while the big Mango update truly made Windows Phone useable as a daily driver. That being said, there are a number of things I’d like to see Windows Phone improve on in 2012 to truly become a force to reckon with.

The Tango update is expected in Q1 this year, and is primarily expected to bring support for LTE and at the same time help manufacturers push Windows Phone to lower price points. The Apollo update on the other hand is the big update everyone will be waiting for this year, it was originally expected in Q4 2012, but there are rumours to suggest we might see it earlier.

Here are a few things that Windows Phone needs to do better in 2012, I have classified them under seven broad heads:

1. BETTER HARDWARE: The basic Windows Phone specs have remained pretty constant from the day it shipped, and there is still no support for dual/multi core processors or hi-res 720p screens. Both of these things are rumoured to be coming with Apollo, so I will not dwell on them much.

2. BETTER MULTITASKING: As things stand now, Windows Phone uses quick save-resume to give users a feel of multitasking. While this might help save battery life and keep the phone snappy, it does leave much to be desired. For example, the Dictionary.com apps lets you download the database for offline use. But in order to download it, the app must be running, so even if the screen dims out or you lock the screen, the download gets interrupted. During navigation if you happen to lock the screen the app stops running.

Another problem I have is that third party apps cannot load data in the background. So despite having an active data/WIFI connection all through, my Twitter app will not be able to load tweets in the background, such that there are tweets waiting to be read whenever I open it. Instead, whenever I open the Twitter app, it will then start loading tweets and I’ll have to wait, depending on how fast my connection is. These things need to improve.

3. APP BEHAVIOR: Without getting into technicalities like native code access and so on, because of the way Windows Phone lets developers build apps for Windows Phone, the performance, specially the launch times leave much to be desired. Most third party apps (if not all) like the official apps for Twitter, Facebook etc all need a splash screen to bide time while they launch.

Same with games, developers have been craving for native code access to enable high quality games and I do hope Microsoft will do something about this. E.g. Launching Whats App on Symbian, Android or iOS is instant, but on Windows Phone you will see a splash screen everytime.

Next, apps are also sandboxed. So it is impossible to share data from one app to the other. For example on Nokia Maps, you cannot search for a place and then launch Nokia Drive from within Maps. You will have to search for that place in Nokia Drive again and then navigate. Same with location sharing in Whats App, clicking on a location will not open up Nokia Maps or Drive or even Bing Maps, but just a map within the app. So you cannot simply navigate to that location, unlike other platforms.

4. NOTIFICATIONS: I have talked about notifications in my Lumia 800 review as well, and this should be priority number one for Microsoft. There is no centralised place where you see the notifications. Toasts notifications come and go, and the only place where they stay are on the live tiles. This almost forces you to give the first 8 slots for tiles to apps that like Email, Messaging, Whats App, Facebook, Twitter etc so that you do not miss notifications. On the lockscreen, third party notifications cannot be shown as well.

While my favourite notification implementation is Android’s pull down notification bar that both Symbian and iOS have ‘borrowed’, I doubt Microsoft will go down the same route. Flicking to the left on Windows Phone currently does nothing and MS can perhaps use this gesture to build a notification hub that third party apps too can plug into with ease.

Next, there seems to be a bug with tile notifications with third party apps. For example with Microsoft’s own Facebook app, even after you have seen the notifications from inside the app, the icon depicting unread notifications on the live tile doesn’t disappear immediately.

Finally, push notifications also need to get better. WP checks for notifications periodically for the ‘Me’ tile and you have no control over how often does this happen. In general too, across third party apps the situation could be better.

5. OPENING UP WINDOWS PHONE: An open ecosystem is something which Nokia users have been accustomed to for ages. Be it side loading apps, sending files via Bluetooth or using the phone in the mass storage mode to drag and drop content. While Microsoft may not want to allow all these things, it should definitely look at allowing Bluetooth file transfers and ways to support the homebrew community. The Chevron unlock was a good initiative, and even if the Chevron developers don’t want to run it further, Microsoft should undertake the activity itself.

Next, it should allow a lot more customisation. From custom colour accents, to letting users pin multiple shortcuts within a single tile. There is no point in wasting a ton of screen estate for a simple shortcut, pinning four shortcuts into the space reserved for a single tile makes a lot more sense.

6. UPLOADS: Like I mentioned in my Lumia 800 review, Windows Phone resizes pictures before they are uploaded to make it easier on the network. But there are times you want access to the full resolution, yet there is no option to enable that.

7. APP LAYOUT: Windows Phone is all about lists and that’s how all the installed apps are displayed, alphabetically. You can jump between them by alphabet or use the search button to enter a name and filter through the list.

While you do get used to this method, it’d be great to have options. I’d like a grid-based layout as well, where you can flick between pages of apps. One problem that I have faced with the list method is that it is easy to forget apps, as newly installed apps also get buried in the list. I’d also like WP to highlight the newly installed apps for a little while at least.

Reading this post might give you an impression that Windows Phone is hard to use in its current state, but this sentiment would not be justified. While the points I have made above need redressal, none of them is really a deal breaker that should make you reconsider your Windows phone purchase. There are some excellent Windows Phone devices in the market, and I am sure future updates will make them better.

What would you like Windows Phone to do differently in 2012?