John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Windows Mobile 10 review (and a Lumia 625 review)

I’ve been making the rounds on mobile operating systems and this one was on the list to checkout. I last played with Mobile 7.5. I use to be a HUGE Windows mobile fan. Back in the days (I loath that phrase, what/when does it exactly mean? And why has it all of a sudden become ubiquitous in our culture?) before Android, Windows mobile rocked my digital world. At last a reason had come for carrying around a PDA. Integrating the PDA and a phone and the smart phone revolution was born. Fast forward to today and wow have the tables have turned. To say Microsoft has fallen behind is an understatement of epic proportions and would actually imply they were even trying. I have no idea given the lack of commitment to this space MS have shown why they even bother. One must only look to the current sales numbers to see the state of the current market place. At 2.6% of sales their numbers are low. Amusingly, somehow, selling more than Blackberry.

So on with the post. Windows 10 mobile’s idea is to create a common fabric across your digital devices. Why should you have to learn a different interface moving from your desktop, to your tablet to your phone. Microsoft even took the ludicrous step to continue this common interface into the server market with server 2012. That said, it is an interesting idea. As usual the devil will be in the details.

I snagged a Lumina 625 to write this post. This phone is a cheap, plastic, heavy, low end, old phone. I won’t waste a lot time in this post talking about this device. Suffice it to say, you get what you paid for which in my case was very little. If you are really interested here’s a complete list of specs. The diminutive processing power of this phone unfortunately is likely going to color my opinion of Windows phone 10.

Windows 10 phone technical preview is very much in beta mode. If you sign up for it you can enter two rings, a slow and a fast ring. The fast ring gives you access to the latest and greatest current versions of everything. The cost is frequent updates and less stable code. And to say this is unstable (on this phone anyway) is putting it mildly. I’ve had more lock ups in the last 24 hours with this device than in the 2 years. Battery life is equally bad. So be careful before you put this on your main phone. A point they warn you about repeatedly, and they really do mean it.

To upgrade this device (or any others) you strangely first need to upgrade the phone to the latest Windows 8 mobile operating system. This took forever on this device. Numerous upgrades, numerous reboots and a ton of time. It seems that the upgrades were not roll ups or comprehensive upgrades. It really took a HUGE amount of patience. Something I am not known for. Once the phone was finally current I could find Windows Insider in the Windows store. This app then easily and quickly allowed me to upgrade to Windows 10 mobile. Here’s an article on the upgrade/downgrade process.

With Windows 10 on the phone I can finally start playing. Windows 10 mobile definitely has a similar feel to Windows 10 on a laptop/tablet but the similarities come quickly to an end. Gestures like swiping to the side to see running apps, swiping down to close an app and the like all do not work on the phone. There is a look and feel, but it’s more like a skin than anything else.

Each of the builtin apps in Windows mobile are separate from the operating system and can be upgraded at any time. Microsoft have really taken this to a whole new level. What this means is once the operating system is updated then there are a ton of little app upgrades to further test your patience.

The phone only supports one userid at a time, even on Windows 10.

The built in apps for messaging, and calendar both work perfectly with google apps. A great thing given there are no google apps on the platform.

The music app (Groove Music) took a VERY long time to scan through my music collection. Reminded me of the early days on Android. Once scanned the app worked just fine.

I found most of the metro apps I like on my tablet installed and worked on the phone. A point that shocked me. Oddly Navmi (a GPS in car navigation app) would not. And some of the apps on the phone for some reason do not auto rotate even ones that do on my tablet.

Windows 10 phone brings in the new web browser Edge which means history and passwords saved on your desktop follow you onto your phone. But don’t look for too many more levels of cross device integration. Rumors are that Microsoft is working on the ability to send texts from your desktop, something Apple already does. No sign of that yet. Microsoft really need to come up with a sales proposition to tell someone why if they have Windows at home on there desktop/laptop why they want it on the phone. Being device agnostic is really becoming expected and it largely is not here (yet) on Windows 10 mobile.

There is a wallet app but there are so few plugins that support it as to be useless (well for now anyway).

Endomondo is surprisingly there, and it supported my Scosche bluetooth heart rate monitor. Yay! There is even a Fitbit app but I couldn’t get it to connect to my Charge in spite of everything I did. I was even was on a 1 hour tech support call with Fitbit to no avail.

Windows is all about live tiles. Live tiles put active data inside a square shape. There are three sizes of Live tiles. Wide which leave takes up a double width and on this phone leaves room for 3 tiles on the screen. So pretty uselessly large. Square which leaves room for 6 on the screen. And small which is so little room for anything active except maybe notification counts. As on the tablet Microsoft did not include a live tile for things like clock, current battery state etc. Fortunately there are apps for that, one of the few times you will here that on Windows mobile. Microsoft really need to add another in between tile size.

As instantaneous as everything is on iPhones, Windows is anything but, especially on Windows 10 mobile. Now there maybe a ton of debug code still around on Windows 10 mobile but for now I would not recommend Windows 10 mobile on the Lumina 625.

Microsoft maps app includes live turn by turn direction and worked fine as did it’s built in search.

In the end, too quickly really, I had to give up on Windows 10 on this phone. It constantly locked up, would have required me to carry around a lead acid battery to keep it charged and would have required more patience than I have to live on given the lags in the system.

So on with the downgrade process as documented above. All in all this process is pretty simple. Download the app, download the ROM for your phone (1.5G by the way) and away you go. The phone is wiped in the process. And for me, in the process the downgrade died. I was starting to worry I had bricked it. Smartly there is a built in emergency mode that resurrected the phone, and put Windows 8 back on the phone. And then, to my chagrin, I discovered the image from Microsoft was as old as the way the phone started with and I was back to doing the HUGELY burdensome, multi upgrade process. And for many hours of this process my phone was unusable. Being unplugged causes me twitches 🙂 I am a gadgeholic after all. Come on Microsoft, upgrade your base image … PLEASE. Many many hours later I finally had the phone back and could restart all my configs and install. To say this process is time consuming is like saying a Sumo wrestler is heavy … 🙂

So I had fun, burned a ton of time, consumed a bunch of patience … And onward we go in life.

February 8, 2016 - Posted by | Electronic gadget reviews

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