Windows Phone 8.1 Review

Most people avoid Windows Phone due to its lack available apps on the Windows Phone Store. But the question is, how many of them have tried Windows Phone longer than the time they needed to write their review?

Let me tell you, Windows Phone 8.1 is perfect. And depending on the OEM or manufacturer your Windows Phone is from, your experience may slightly vary. But not much. I say slightly, if at all. I am writing my review using my experience with my Lumia 625 and Lumia 1020 running the cyan update.

 

Notification center & action center

In Android 4.1, quick toggles where introduced for the stock Android ROM or AOSP ROM. This was great news for all Nexus owners. Before Android 4.1, Android users relied on HTC Sense or Samsung’s Touchwiz to bring these features to the table. With Windows Phone 8.1, we finally have quick toggles, in which we call the action center.

Notifications appear below the action center as we have known it in Android. The notification center is easy to manage, and you are able to hide annoying apps if needed.

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My personal favorite quick toggles: WiFi, BlueTooth, GPS, rotation lock.
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In ‘Settings > notifications & actions’, you can choose your quick toggles and which applications appear in the notification center.

Performance

Well I cannot make a side by side comparison with Android or iOS. Browser benchmarks are also very shallow and vary depending on the browser you are using. But I can say that with Android, specially on the low end and mid end phones, I have experienced a lot of stuttering.

Specially as your hardware ages. And even over time Android slows down severely. Quite horrible experience you have to go through to reset your device every single time. With Windows Phone I did not really experiene any stuttering at all on my Lumia 625 which I bought in April 2014 and used until the end of August 2014. I can safely say it was still running butter smooth. My Lumia 625 was still very RAM limited with 512MB RAM, it always felt faster compared to my Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.3.

While Windows Phone allows for lower RAM smartphones, with Android we are already seeing a minimum of 1GB for the mainstream, while Windows Phone is still at 512MB. But as your RAM increases on Windows Phone, your performance greatly increases. My Lumia 1020 has 2GB of RAM and noticed significant less wait times compared to the 625 when resuming an app. Probably also due to the slightly faster processor in the Lumia 1020.

Can’t speak for iOS here. But I expect it to be in between Android and Windows Phone when I hear friends talking about their slow iPhones.

 

Live Tiles

What I love most about Windows Phone is the live tiles. I know Android has these so called widgets. But they are just not practical to use. You just end up scrolling your virtual desktops anyway just trying to find the shortcuts you created. With Windows Phone I can stay up-to-date about almost everything I want or need and plus I have enough space to add all my shortcuts. (Not to mention folders are coming with Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, things are about to get even more fun!)

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Syncing multiple (email) accounts

 

Settings

start+theme

  • Background: You can choose the background color to be either light or dark. I found that a light background seemed to perform really well in direct sunlight with my low-end Lumia 625. With my Lumia 1020, I can keep it on dark, because the Lumia 1020 has an AMOLED display, which is better outdoors.
  • Accent color: You can choose the color of theme of the phone. If you choose green for example all your tiles, text, and so on will appear in green. So set the color depending on your mood!
  • Start background: Set a background image for your start screen. Cool new feature introducted in Windows Phone 8.1
  • Show more tiles: If you think you don’t have enough space by default, you should turn this setting on.

 

Email+account

Windows Phone supports GMail, Outlook (Hotmail, Live, …), Exchange, Nokia Mail, Yahoo! Mail, IBM Notes Traveler, iCloud, Twitter, and so on out of the box. You can also alternatively configure other email accounts with the advanced setup.

When I think of Android, I remember how a pain in the ass that green robot has been just trying to sync my email account of college.

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Lock screen

  • Background: Choose what your lockscreen displays. Either a new image every day downloaded by Bing, or maybe the weather, Facebook, Twitter? You decide!
  • Show artist when playing music: Don’t have to explain what this setting does.
  • Notifications: You can choose up to 5 apps to show a quick status and 1 app to show a detailed status on your lockscreen. Very useful!

 

Internet sharing

You can choose to share your internet (mobile data) over Wi-Fi or BlueTooth. I prefer Wi-Fi here because it’s more reliable and faster. And a much higher bandwidth.

 

VPN

Windows PHone 8.1 has VPN support. You can choose whether to enable it or not on mobile data and even when roaming. It also allows you to add multiple features.

 

Airplane mode

If you turn this setting on it will make your Windows Phone fly.

 

Workplace account

Some companies offer policies, certificates and apps that help you connect to your business.

Once you add a workplace account, your company will be able to collect personal information, disable apps or features, prevent you from resetting your phone, removing your workplace account, and remotely modify or delete all your content and settings.

 

Applications

Health & Fitness

wp_ss_20140826_0001[1]Many people go running or watch their diet or maybe just the food they eat.

With iOS and Android, you would need to search very hard for an app that allows you to do everything. Or maybe you just wanted to have a quality app to watch the statistics of your running activities or maybe even plan them properly…

This app allows you to track your diet and workouts every day. And you can set a target in calories. While we were not able to add drinks here, it allowed you to set a variety of foods. And you could pin the remaining amount of calories you were allowed to eat to your start screen as a constant reminder of how much you eat every day.

You can also sync this data across multiple devices, for example your Windows Tablet or your Windows computer. Awesome, right?

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The map of a running activity. (Also available for cycling, and so on)
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Your workouts of the past 7 or 30 days. You can filter by km or calories.

Cardio tracker allows you to track your running activity with or without GPS. If you track your workout with a GPS you can see the duration, distance, pace and average page as well as the amount of calories burned. A map will show the roads you have taken and will be logged. You can also set split times for every mile you run. So you know where you were slower and how long it took you for each mile to complete.

Optionally you can download Bing maps offline and use them with Health & Fitness to save mobile data. Try this with Android, you even have trouble there to find a offline GPS navigator that works properly. Windows Phone has a awesome GPS navigator out of the box.

Then there is a section which allows you to browse multiple diets, if you are looking for a diet and you don’t know which one to pick, ‘Health & Fitness’ will make you a few suggestions. You can choose from:

Example: low-cholestrol diet
Example: low cholestrol diet
  • Weight loss diets
  • Special health needs
  • Quick weight loss
  • More nutrition plans
  • And other crazy diets, for example anti-aging diets, pregnancy diets, …

If you are ill, there is also a ‘Symptom checker’. But in my opinion, if you are ill, go see a doctor. But still this is a nifty tool to have.

There are also suggestions for healthy foods and drinks in the ‘nutrition’ section. Also worth checking out!

The ‘fitness’ section shows you different exercises you can do as well as yoga poses or pilates moves. Or maybe you just want to do some strength exercises?

 

HERE TransIt

A universal public transport app out of the box? Perfect to check schedules! And it’s even nicely designed too, not just boring tables.

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HERE Drive+

This is a GPS or navigation app. You can download a voice pack for nearly every language there is, as well as download maps offline. Pretty sweet considered you get all this for free. And you get amazing turn by turn navigation. You can also filter the routes it is allowed to suggest. Or set a speed limit in case you got a heavy foot. Also you wouldn’t be the first driver to be distracted and then suddenly find themselves driving too fast.

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Calendar

Who doesn’t use a calendar these days. Pin a tile to your start screen and get notified of the next upcoming appointment, birthday, or national holidays. You can optionally choose notifications so an alarm will go off when your appointment or meeting is about to begin. This app has saved me in multiple occasions. With Android I usually needed a widget, but those things take up so much space you end up scrolling your virtual desktops and easily overlook things. Your calendar is synced with your Windows 8 or 8.1 computer and you can easily manage your calendar from Outlook, Calendar (Windows Store app), … and so on.

 

Data Sense

Setting a data limit is crucial to your data plan with your provider. Unless you don’t mind having high bills. ‘Data Sense’ can restrict background data use or set a limit once or monthly, unlimited. You can also enable browser data savings when you are browsing with Internet Explorer.

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