Windows Phone 8 review
By Martyn Williams | Published: 12:37, 07 November 2012
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 $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.
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.
If there was one problem I was sure I would encounter, it was syncing the Windows Phone with my Mac computer. I downloaded Microsoft's Windows Phone software for Mac and sure enough, it didn't recognise the phone. I wasn't surprised, but Microsoft sent me to a newer version on Apple's App Store and it worked. The ease with which it worked was an even greater surprise, especially after my attempts to get Google's Music Manager to work with an Android phone.
The Microsoft software not only keeps the Windows Phone synced to iPhoto, it also presents my iTunes library and playlists and easily allows iTunes music to be transferred and synced to the phone. The only things that won't work, and this is an issue with all non-Apple products, are songs that use Apple's DRM (digital rights management) copy protection.
If you're switching from Google, you'll find all the basics, such as your Gmail, contacts and calendar, sync over just fine. There's OS-level support for those, but some of the other Google services don't have apps. There are some third-party apps that will help, but it's worth making sure all the Google services you use will continue to be available if you make the jump.
So far, I'm happy with the phone and the operating system. It's sure to get better over the next few months as Microsoft pours more money into development and promotion. Developers at the Microsoft Build conference in Redmond last week were given Nokia Lumia 920 handsets in the hope they will start building apps for them, so Microsoft's pushing development.
It's great to see some fresh ideas in the smartphone world and I recommend anyone buying a new phone to give Windows Phone 8 handsets a look, especially if you're also moving to Windows 8 on a PC.
With Windows Phone 8, it looks like there's a new contender in the smartphone race.