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Windows 8 on a Lumia 625

After my epic time consumer of trying to get Windows 10 technical preview running on this device I went back to Windows 8 phone. Now it probably would have been a better experience if I had played with Windows 8 phone first so I knew what was new in Windows 10, but heh, I was anxious and went right to Windows 10 …

This phone is definitely in a different category from almost every other phone I’ve used of late. It is a low end, cheap, heavy, under powered device. It was originally released in Dec 2014 so it’s about 1.5 years old. The dual core 1.2G snapdragon while old is not ancient by any means. It’s got 8G (of which about 4G is available for apps, content etc) but also supports my 64G uSD card. Apps can be installed to the card instead of the phone in the storage settings. But be ware, this 8G will get eaten up in no time and apps running off the card will be noticeably slower. At 400×800 this is definitely a low res device and it really does show in a dull washed out display. Compare to a number of my recent devices this is definitely a step down.

Size wise its:
133.25 x 72.25 x 9.15 mm and weighs in at 159g
143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm and weighs 138 grams (Samsung S6 for comparison)
The extra thickness and weight are indeed noticeable but it is by no means a huge phone.

The back comes off to reveal a fixed 2000mAH battery, the microSD slot, and the microSIM slot. Both can be changed on the fly. The back of the phone is curved to feel nicer in the hand. But this also means it wobbles when on a flat surface.

Button wise there’s a volume rocker, a mid device power button and a camera button. Nice to have the camera button back but you have no idea how many times I have pushed every button but the power button trying to get it to wake up. And nothing wakes it up but the power button itself. On the front are capacitive buttons for Windows, search and back. They are not backlit making them hard to find in the dark. They do vibrate when pushed so at least there is that.

There are no LEDs on the phone anywhere. Not for charge status, not for message waiting, nada. So you’ll need to wake the phone to find out if you have anything awaiting your attention.

The unit does have an FM receiver which is a nice touch. The phone includes a GPS, light sensor and rotation sensor.

For this review I am at Windows 8.10.14234.375.

To start out with I had to upgrade the phone out of the box. 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. Windows separates a lot of the builtin apps from the OS so once the OS itself was upgraded then I had to get the apps themselves upgraded. And for a good portion of the OS upgrades my phone was unable so make sure you are on WIFI, connected to power and have a good deal of disconnected time available before you embark on this process. I have to say this really needs to be improved for mass market appeal. Joe Q public would never tolerate this for long.

Overall performance on this phone on this OS is surprisingly reasonable. It sure isn’t instantaneous but it isn’t sluggish either. Sometimes when you go to an app and it was previously running it takes a moment to resume the app. And it tells you that. These are the noticable pauses in the device. Maybe if the device had more memory this would happen less often. This device only has 512M.

To easily switch between running apps for multi tasking just push and hold the back button. Sweet.

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/desktop 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. There is a setting in themes that adds another row of tiles.

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. There is definitely something to be said for being able to find the exact same apps on your phone/tablet.

The built in mail and calendar apps support Google accounts, which is great because it there are no Google apps (not surprisingly) on this platform. So don’t go looking for Google maps/mail/calendar/chrome etc. There is no priority inbox so be prepared to be informed every time a mail comes in, whether it is important or not. This is a tough one to swallow. The mail app will not allow you to attach anything but a picture, odd. You can however from other apps use the share option to attach other file types.

There is no built in file manager. Fortunately there are apps for that, but they do see a limited part of the file system of the phone.

Internet explorer is the browser on this platform and can be tailored easily to change the search engine off Bing. I do miss Chrome and having my search history and password history follow me but that’s one of the things you just have to live with. Internet explorer is not a horrible browser.

The music app (xBox Music) took a VERY long time to scan through my music collection and gave no indication it was scanning until music started to pop onto the list. The experience reminded me of the early days on Android. Once scanned the app worked just fine.

Endomondo is surprisingly available for Windows phone, and it supported my Scosche bluetooth heart rate monitor. Yay! I did find that the sample rate when in the background is quite low so you will not get an accurate picture of your workout (heart rate, distance, speed and map will all have low sample rates).

There is even a Fitbit app but I couldn’t get it to connect to my Charge in spite of everything I did.

Tethering on Windows mobile is called Internet sharing and supports both bluetooth and WIFI. The WIFI tethering turns off aggressively (too much so for my liking).

The phone supports LTE and the speed is comparable to other devices.

Windows includes a setting for system wide font, and it was big enough for my tastes. It seems to get used across most apps. Yay.

This phone is the first one in a VERY long time that does not support USB OTG to allow you to plug in USB keyboard/mouse/flash drives etc. Odd.

There is a wallet but there is very little support for it, no AirMiles, no longos, no ticketmaster, no shoppers drug mart etc. There is no NFC on this phone so electronic payments aren’t happening anyway.

Sliding down from the top of the screen are what are called quick actions. These can even be accessed from the lock screen. You can customize the quick actions to be what you want (settings notifications and actions). Speaking of the lock screen you can control what is displayed on the screen. I found the lock screen to be quite information rich. One of the nicest ones around. Weather, calendar, time etc all can be put on the lock screen. Nice!

Windows includes a find my phone function. You logon to Microsoft and you can see a list of all devices that have logged on with your Microsoft account. And then can use the find/ring/erase your phone. As with all these apps be sure and test them before you need them to insure your settings are right.

I tried a number of Bluetooth keyboards and mice and in all cases they connected and then were ignored. A sad state when USB OTG keyboards also do not work. But likely something few will use anyway …

When plugged into a PC it took a while but eventually the phone showed up with access to both the phones storage and the microSD card storage.

With the cell on, data off and WIFI off the phone consumed a mere 2% in a little over 8 hours or .24% per hour which would project out to a stunning standby time of over 400 hours. I have never seen standby times as good as this. Impressive.
On WIFI the phone went down 11% in 8 hours or 1.375%/hr or a projected battery life of 73 hours.
On LTE the phone went down 13% in a little over 8 hours or 1.52%/hr or a projected battery life of 65 hours. This indicates a heavily optimized LTE, which given the age of this phone is impressive.
Charge wise the phone went from 99% to 67% in 40 minutes, so that would project a full charge in a little over 2 hours. So not too bad at all.

The built in keyboard in keyboard includes swipe support. Nice!

I was curious to see the functionality on OneNote, sadly like on Android a lot of the functionality like using templates when you create a new page, moving pages around, hand writing to text and image to text are all missing.

Windows automatically backs up content (pictures, movies) and phone settings to the cloud, one drive. This is a nice built in feature.

Microsofts answer to Siri is Cortana. And it does an adequate job of voice commands and can read back texts when your driving. Speaking of which there is even a drive mode that you can tailor to ignore texts/calls, or auto respond to texts while driving (based on a bluetooth connection). Cortana can also be used to remind you of things based on favorite locations. Cortana integrates with a number of the other apps like pulling your interests from your finance app, news from your news app, and weather from the weather app. They all work together to allow Cortana to show you stuff. Kind of like Google now and one might even say more useful. I always turn off Google now because it eventually irritates me.

Unlocking on Windows works as it does on Android. Stick in a foreign SIM, and enter your unlock code which you can buy from ebay for dirt cheap.

I was surprised to see how may of the apps I like are available on Windows phone including Swarm, Yelp, Open table, Facebook, Canada Post, Endomondo, Tripllix, Moovit, skype, CoPilot etc. Couple that with the desktop metro apps that I like that work on the phone like TheChive, MS Solitare, MS Wordamanet, Cribbage etc and the app list is actually much better than I had thought. Now that said, one of the benefits here is that I went in with a fairly low expectation :). I’m pretty sure you will find the Windows version down level compared to other platforms. Unfortunately my internet banking app was not there 😦

If there is one thing that for me is missing is any form of cross pollination between tablet, desktops and phone. Where is the compelling reason I would want a Windows phone? Cosmetically similar look and feel? How about given Internet explorer is on both for me to be able to easily move a web page between my phone/tablet and back. You can even do that with Chrome through history. Or maybe the ability to send/receive texts on your desktop (like you can on Macs). This would go a long way to convincing people to at least try Windows phone.

If your curious be sure and look around, between Kijiji, Amazon and ebay there are lots of Lumia’s out there for low prices. The numbering convention is confusing at best. Higher numbers don’t mean better. And watch the frequencies of the phone Vs what your carrier needs before you buy. And one last thing, remember to check it by putting your SIM in the device before you leave to insure that it is not a blacklisted (stolen) phone if you are buying from anything other than a store. If I was to go back and do it again I wouldn’t choose the 625, because for a little more money you would get a dramatically better phone in the 640 which is a quad core (Vs dual), and has 1G of ram (vs 512k).

But all in all the Windows platform is a competent offering with some gaps (internet banking, and poor exercise app tracking the background) at very low prices.

We will have to see what the final release of Windows 10 mobile brings us …


February 14, 2016 - Posted by | Other reviews, Uncategorized

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