After a two week stint with the BlackBerry Z10 last month, I happened upon another chance to go across the platform border, this time into the Windows world - with the Nokia Lumia 928.
Microsoft and mobile have had a tumultuous, off-again on-again relationship. However, there is little doubt that MS's smartphone success peaked with Windows Mobile 6, and then very, very rapidly fell off as iOS and Android rolled onto the scene. I remember the announcement of Windows Phone 7, in 2010: a bold step forward visually, though in the minds of many a WinMo diehard, a huge step back functionally.
The Windows smartphone platform went from a productivity-based, power-user-centric experience to... live tiles. I mean, that's simplifying it, but it's also basically what happened, painting in broad strokes. Whereas BlackBerry struggled for years to change the direction of the sinking ship that was pre-QNX BB OS before finally letting go, Microsoft scuttled Windows Mobile after version 6.5 dropped with all the heartfelt sentiment of taking out the trash.
For me personally, that's always made Windows Phone a very interesting platform - Microsoft clearly took no issue with going for broke once it realized it was on the fast track to irrelevance. Basically no backward compatibility, and absolutely no deference to the previous OS's design or workflows came with Windows Phone 7. This has no doubt been a major reason behind the company's rapid loss of market share in the smartphone space, but as someone once told me: "Microsoft doesn't think about products in terms of 2 years or 3 years. They think about 5 years, 10 years - or more." That's part of the reason I think Windows Phone is bound to eventually achieve some level of success: Microsoft has no intention of letting it die quietly, and has the means and motivation to ensure it doesn't.
Anyway, that's getting off track. Here and now, we have Windows Phone 8, which as far as technological underpinnings are concerned, was actually a major advancement over the CE-based WP7. WP8 is based on the NT kernel, and shares many components with the Windows 8 desktop OS. Microsoft's goal is in some sense eventual platform unity, with apps and services moving seamlessly between Windows Phone and good ol' desktop Windows. Right now, though, that obviously isn't the case.
Enter the Lumia 928. This is one of the most recently released Windows Phones on the market, and it's something of an oddity. As a Verizon exclusive, the 928 stands alone in Nokia's lineup, though it is closely related related to the Lumia 920 and 925.
I've spent three weeks with the 928, and I've come away impressed with the Windows Phone platform in some respects. While it is obviously still teething (a lot, in some areas), as long as Microsoft can keep pushing Nokia and HTC to build handsets, I think it's going to be a legitimately competitive platform within the next year or two. The 928? Well, it wouldn't be my Windows Phone of choice. I'm just not a big fan of it. I hear the 925 is really nice, though.
Hardware: The Lumia 928
Nokia's smartphone designs have long been praised as very clean - very Scandinavian. This is no different on the 928. While I have heard from other reviewers that the 928 definitely feels a bit more "phoned in" (pun absolutely intended) than some of Nokia's more refined handsets, it's still a million times prettier than the Galaxy S4. The buttons are extremely flush with the bodywork, and the piano color scheme is eye-catching without being as silly as some of the more neon-themed WP8 handsets out there.
Nokia's devices also blend the highly geometric look of Windows Phone 8 effortlessly into the design of the handset itself. Even looked at side by side next to HTC's aluminum beauty, the One, it is difficult not to admire the aesthetic unity of the 928, particularly when the OS is displayed.
The 928's downfall is that it does not quite seem to live up to that beauty in quite the same way as its sibling, the 925, does. The odd chromed metal stripe along the camera feels like a very forced design decision, and is constantly covered in fingerprints. The speaker grille on the back also exhibits some flexing and "popping" noises when pressed, which I have heard is very un-Nokia. (Though the rest of the phone does feel super solid.)
It's also incredibly thick. Like, I feel like I've gone back to 2010 and bought an EVO 4G thick. The listed thickness for the 928 is 10.1mm, but it seems much more like 11 or 12mm, and it weighs 162g with a 4.5" display. That's within 10g of the 5.5" Optimus G Pro. This phone is very heavy for its size. Some people say this is characteristic of Nokia handsets - even that the heft is preferred - but I can't agree at all. A heavier phone is harder to hold at awkward angles, easier to drop, and will drop with more force, making a display fracture more likely. The compromises are not worth any sort of emotional placebo (which is exactly what it is) the dense feeling provides.
Basically, I think the 928 occupies the opposite extreme as the Galaxy S4 in terms of construction. If they met in the middle, you might get the perfect polycarbonate device. I wish Samsung would learn that.
Moving on, battery life with the 928 has been very good - certainly better than what I've come to expect of flagship Android devices. I easily made it through a whole day of email, Twitter, and a healthy amount of Reddit browsing on a regular basis. I've heard a lot of mixed reports on Windows Phone battery life, and much of it seems to stem from apps and live tiles. Much like Android used to, I think WP8 is suffering from poorly optimized 3rd party software still being fairly common in the ecosystem, and it only takes one hungry app to ruin your battery life. My experience, though, has been quite good in this regard, and that's probably because the older dual-core MSM8960 Snapdragon processor has always been something of a power-sipper.
The display is an AMOLED panel (1280x768), though unfortunately it is a PenTile subpixel arrangement, meaning it's not a true "retina" experience. Text aliasing is readily visible upon close inspection, though WP8 as a platform doesn't exactly encourage you to look closely at the OS - fonts are large, and live tiles promote "at a glance" scanning behavior. I think the primary reason Nokia used AMOLED is for the very low black levels. I imagine WP8 looks substantially uglier through an LCD's not-so-black blacks. It's an acceptable display, but paired up against the Galaxy S4 or One for more nuanced tasks like photo viewing, it does fall flat. And, as AMOLED displays are wont to do, it provides disappointing sunlight performance.
The external speaker is crazy loud, though it doesn't exactly sound good. Wireless performance has definitely been up to snuff, and Verizon's LTE network provides an excellent mobile data experience in my area.
Now, let's move on to the part that actually matters.
I'm going to do this a bit different than I did the BlackBerry piece, and make it a little more directly comparative to Android - so bear with me on the format.
Email / Calendar / Contacts
Let's get to meat of it: if you're an Android user, Google is probably your standby for email, contact management, and calendars. On Windows Phone 8, this is problematic. If you have Google Calendars shared to your account, those don't work (your personal calendar will). And Gmail-specific contacts are only half-functional, in that you have to search a particular email account's "directory" (as opposed to the People app) if you want to query your full Google / Gapps contact list. It's easy enough, but it is a couple extra taps. Custom Gmail folders are supported, but Microsoft makes you dig to find them (3-dot menu, folders, then "show all folders"). Labels are not supported, and like most 3rd party email clients, there is no "archive" command.
The email app itself is pretty nice, though. It's very fast, I love the way it organizes threads and displays information, and it syncs Gmail both push and pull through IMAP flawlessly. Good work, Microsoft. Not so good work? You can't attach full-sized images to emails. The app automatically compresses them. You can't adjust this setting. This is infuriating at times (full-sized images can be uploaded to SkyDrive or via other sharing services).
Pictured: typical Outlook.com inbox contents.
The calendar situation is mildly better than on desktop Windows 8 (where Gmail calendars no longer sync at all), but is still basically frustrating with no shared calendars available. The only other viable solutions are to use the mobile site (ugh), or to export your calendars into your Outlook account.
The latter is what Microsoft really wants you to do, and they want you to do the same with your contacts, and forward your email there, too. Sorry, I am just not on board with the notion of making Outlook And Friends my second "home" on the internet. There's a reason iOS has standalone Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Now apps: people like Google services for the features and integration they provide. For an OS that gets significantly less hate from your average Android fanboy than iOS, Windows Phone 8 is much less friendly to Google products than our favorite iPunching-bag. Part of this, of course, is on Google (for not making apps), but Microsoft has made it abundantly clear of late that it's not friends with Google anymore and is taking its ball and going home to make its own ecosystem.
For this reason alone, I cannot see myself ever - personally speaking - switching to the Windows Phone platform. As long as Microsoft and Google are so stand-offish with one another, the sacrifices will never be worth it for me. Heck, WP8 can't even use the new Google Mobile homepage. The cold war of Scroogled ads and ActiveSync nukes needs to end. It's bad for everyone, and it ignores a huge market segment for Microsoft.
Microsoft has not opted for a universal search system, which is probably a good thing. I didn't really enjoy it on BlackBerry OS 10, and I'm not totally convinced of the usefulness of such a feature in general. Your Windows Phone has a dedicated capacitive key for search, and the way it's currently implemented sucks. I'm not sure what kind of kool-aid the Bing UX team is drinking, but I don't want any.
The search key has multiple personality disorder, and makes actually searching the internet way more difficult and busy than it needs to be. So, tap the search key, and what comes up? You get a Bing page with a search box (with microphone), and a big picture splash. The picture splash has clever little caption squares, because Microsoft can be fun, too, or something. At the bottom of the screen, you have three icons: one of some buildings, the other a little eighth note, and the third an eye. Those give you "local" (nearby places, organized in tabs by category), song search, and image search (limited to barcodes and books / CDs /DVDs). To the left and right, you have tabs: local deals, top headlines, top videos, movies in theaters, and local events. Yay clutter.
Well, let's say I actually want to do a old-fashioned web search. Tap the search box, and enter your query. Let's say I type "Starbucks." Your Google-fu should tell you that such a search should probably yield some local results, but also a list of relevant web pages. Right? Well, no. Microsoft arbitrarily decides that whenever you type the name of a place it thinks is nearby, it's going to send you directly to the "Local" tab with a set of location listings, and only location listings. 75% of the time, this is probably what I want. But the other 25% is why Google doesn't force-feed you a specific type of result by guessing what you wanted. Those location listings don't even have quick shortcuts to call or get directions - you have to go a tap deeper, into the individual place's listing page, to get that stuff.
The tab for actual web results is one right-swipe away, but it's hidden, and so most people will end up doing three left-swipes to get to it. This is horrible, horrible search UX. Anything, and I mean anything, that gets in the way of me getting to my desired result as quickly as possible is bad.
On Android, if I tap the search widget, I see a drop down of my recent searches, a weather card, and the keyboard pops up. Can we all agree that sometimes, maybe, when someone initiates a search command that they actually want to search for something right now? Searching for "Starbucks" gives me Starbucks.com as result #1 with various quick shortcuts to other sections of their site, and a map of nearby locations underneath, with three of the nearest locations listed below that, with shortcuts to call them, get directions, or go to their webpage. Microsoft, this is why people don't like Bing. Re-label that capacitive button as the "random Bing shit" button, or immediately pop up the keyboard and let me type a query and give me a set of unified search results.
This is probably the, shall we say, darkest part of the software review. Most things in WP8 are much less offensive coming from an Android perspective, but I felt this needed special, up front attention, as I can only assume most Android users will be greatly aggravated by these issues.
Maps / Navigation
Nokia's HERE Maps come as standard on Nokia Windows Phones, because Bing Maps apparently aren't up to Nokia's rigorous standards. They're OK. The performance of the app itself feels decidedly laggy when compared to Google Maps (the maps are actually locally stored, too. Like, the whole of the USA), and searching for addresses takes oddly long. The directions interface is exceptionally clunky and feels unfinished. Nokia's Drive+ Navigation app is also packed in here, and it's.. a navigation app. I'm not a cartographer, and I don't drive 150 miles on backroads or through complicated urban avenues every day. I can't tell you how good the navigation or directions are in a meaningful way. If you want to know, I'd suggest Googling it.
HERE Maps does not use a layer-based interface, something I think we've all come to take for granted on Google Maps, and it makes multitasking within the maps app basically impossible. You cannot have satellite and road traffic views simultaneously, for example, or simply browse points of interest around your end destination while directions are up.
The other downfall is in points of interest. There aren't nearly as many, and I think that's almost expected, in a way. Google has amassed so much location data for businesses and landmarks that Microsoft, BlackBerry, and Apple just can't hope to compete at this point. Searching for "Joe's Pizza" - a locally famous pizzeria in downtown Santa Monica, CA - Nokia's maps yielded a result in Hollywood for their second store, but could not find their Santa Monica location. Google, of course, nailed it immediately. This is the kind of thing we take as a given with Google Maps, and I think any alternative will disappoint in this regard.
A note on comparing services
Here are a few grains of salt to take all this with stuff about maps and calendars and email. One: my world did not collapse and I did not miss important meetings with the President because I didn't have shared calendars or an email archive button. I really like the WP8 email app itself, and not having labels wasn't the worst thing in the world. I adapted, and pretty quickly. As for the calendar, if you're desperate, the mobile site works. Two: there is an official Google Search app, but it's not very good or up to date in terms of layout or the general experience. It's serviceable, I guess, because I really don't like the Bing experience. Three: if you're willing to fully jump ship to the Windows World or aren't really a Google diehard, most of these points are moot. You can live with Windows Phone 8 as a Google user, I just don't think it's as good a world. Moving on.
Apps, app design, and the Windows Phone Store
Supposedly it's growing, and I can believe that. It's much harder to find big name apps missing from the WP8 store than it is on, say, BB OS 10. But it's not complete, either. Here is a list of a few major apps not published by their respective owners on the Windows Phone Store.
- Google: Everything except Search - and it's an old version - including YouTube (there are plenty of awful, terrible 3rd party YouTube apps)
- Facebook (the official WP8 app is published by Microsoft), Facebook Messenger
- Amazon MP3
Here are a few that are on the Windows Phone Store.
- Slacker Radio
- Amazon Mobile
- Adobe Reader
- The Weather Channel
Far from a complete list (and not meant to be), but if I were to estimate, I'd say way fewer than half the above apps are on BB OS 10. So, while the Windows Phone ecosystem does have some notable holes (*cough* Google *cough*), it's clear that most major companies are taking the platform seriously and putting time into applications. So, are those apps actually any good? It greatly depends.
Some of the apps are actually a lot better, if you can believe it. From what I understand, Microsoft heavily pushes its basic app UI framework (swipeable tabs with giant header font and zero chrome), and the result is that most apps actually look and function a lot alike. It's kind of what I think Google wants to achieve with its own design guidelines, but Microsoft actually seems to be much more intent on pushing it. I just don't know if it always works out.
For example, the Netflix app for WP8 looks gorgeous and runs way more smoothly than the Android app, though I'm not sure the tabbed scrolling lists Microsoft so loves are the most efficient way to navigate it. Having a dedicated search button is nice on most Android apps, and that is simply not a feature of WP8 (the hardware search button has no context sensitivity). Same goes for the PayPal app - much prettier and faster, to my eyes (sorry, you'll have to dig up your own screenshots!). But the PayPal app on WP8 seems even buggier than the Android version. I had even worse issues with Speedtest.net, which simply won't open anymore even after uninstalling and reinstalling the app. In fact, every app I seem to use can be described this way: prettier, faster, but buggier and sometimes lacking equivalent functionality.
Microsoft's heavy use of swipeable tabs also isn't gracefully implemented by some developers. Amazon Mobile, for example, appears to be slapped together with all the grace of a Chipotle burrito. It screams "we did this because we had to, not because it made for a better experience." Navigating the app is painfully inefficient, and Amazon has plastered a universal search bar above some tabs some of the time - seemingly in defiance - as a makeshift solution.
Microsoft also seems to encourage a bottom "action bar" area that houses various context-sensitive actions, and a 3-dot menu button. In PayPal, some screens have + and - action buttons, for adding and withdrawing funds. Amazon has home, search, and shopping buttons. These icons apparently must be displayed by default only as visual representations of the action. Hitting the 3-dot menu button exposes text below them explaining what each does, and any overflow options available. This has caused me significant frustration, because oftentimes the pictures make little immediate sense in terms of function, so I have to hit the 3-dot to look at what each one is. For apps you use one or twice a month, you may never remember exactly what each button does. I think for things like email, Twitter, or very commonly used apps, a few such buttons can be good. But in many, they just cause confusion and "hide the ball."
All of these growing pains are to be expected of a platform that is still nascent in its popular adoption by developers. Whatever Microsoft is doing to encourage UI consistency is working, though, and app performance seems pretty good as well. That said, the amount of interesting, novel apps on Windows Phone 8 will definitely take time to catch up with Android and iOS. There is little incentive to code a beautiful, functional, unique app for a platform that makes up a sub-5% share in basically every major market.
Oh, there's an Office app. It opens Office-format documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. It works with SharePoint and Office 365 / Office Online (via SkyDrive). It's a very pretty app,
though it obviously does not allow you to create any of said documents, just open and edit them. (Edit: You can create documents. For whatever reason, the "New" button on my phone kept giving me a SharePoint URL dialog, but now it seems to be functioning just fine.) It seems to work pretty well, but I am far from an Office guru.
Anyways, that's apps. How about the OS?
The operating system, generally: Windows Phone 8
Windows Phone is an extremely simple operating system from a user-facing perspective. You have two main splashes: your live tiles, and the list of apps on your device. Those are your homescreens, and your only ones. There is no slide-up/down notification area (there is no notification area period), and you won't be finding much in the way of customizing your experience outside of the options Microsoft gives you.
Let's talk about live tiles. The idea behind live tiles is, essentially, widgets. They're a bit like Android widgets, but also significantly less powerful, so it's really better to think of them as icons on steroids that can also be resized, if that makes sense. Live tiles are meant to house the apps and services which are important to you. They can serve simply as app shortcuts in their smallest size (though notifications will still show sometimes), or at their largest, can be stretched to display content previews or other pertinent information.
Any app can have a live tile. It's up to developers to code that live tile in a way that is useful. Live tiles come in three sizes (not all tiles support all three sizes) and can be arranged on the homescreen basically any way you like. The pictures app does a slideshow of pictures on the live tile. Email accounts and social networks display unread notifications. Email can even show a preview of the newest message in your inbox. CNN shows the current top headline and a pretty photo.
Some apps, though, don't really make much use of the larger tile sizes. Twitter, for example, is just a giant blue rectangle at maximum size unless there's a notification, which I believe it will then display. The even greater oddity is that many of Microsoft's own apps do absolutely nothing as live tiles. Local Scout (think of it like Google Maps Places), Office, Internet Explorer, Windows Phone Store, and a handful of others have no live tile functionality whatsoever. This is why I really am not on board with live tiles: even Microsoft can't figure out ways to use them effectively in many situations. It seems silly to orient all phone interaction around the live tile experience when that experience doesn't really do anything great.
My phone's homescreen being a giant scrolling vertical list also does nothing for me at all. It's a novelty. It's not horrible, but nor is it very good at providing structural organization to the whole live tile experience. At the bottom of this list is a right arrow which will move you to the next homescreen. I guess that's useful for people who don't realize swiping on your touchscreen smartphone is a thing. You know, on that OS that is absolutely obsessed with swipeable tabs in every single app. Yeah.
Your other homescreen is a vertical list of all your apps. You can tap and hold to bring up various actions (pin to Start [live tile homescreen], rate and review, share, and uninstall. You can search your apps or tap one of the alphabet headers to instantly go to a particular letter, which you may do because A.) the scrolling is locked in at a stupidly low max speed and B.) it's a god damn vertical list of like 80 things. I'd say you have a quasi-homescreen in the Bing search splash, but I already talked about how annoying that is.
There's also your lockscreen, which sometimes shows notifications for apps. I have no idea how it works out which to show or when, but sometimes it does. They're usually just email unread count numbers. Up top, you have things like network connectivity, battery remaining, and the time. By default, only the battery and clock are shown, but tap at the top edge of the screen and the little network icons will drop down with a cheerful bounce. Pull on it like you're grabbing a notification bar, and not only will the icons tumble down, they'll fill your soul with a deep sense of functional inadequacy.
Supposedly the next major WP update is getting a notification center. You do that, Microsoft.
There are some notifications in WP8. They're little toast notifications that appear at the top of the display (you know, where that notification bar would be) and disappear after sitting there a few seconds. They don't collect while the display is off, and there is no way to keep them around longer. Tapping once while it is up, should you be so lucky, will take you to the respective app that spawned this proto-notification.
The keyboard in WP8 is awesome. I love it. It's extremely fast, smooth, and accurate. Suggestions are pretty average, but the typing experience itself is brilliant. I like keyboards that get out of my way and let me type out my words, and do so accurately. Microsoft seems to have done a bang up job here.
The main settings menu has most of what you'd expect in a modern smartphone, though for whatever reason Microsoft has decided you, you easily-confused simpleton, do not need an actual slider or any kind of fine-grain control over your display brightness. Low, medium, and high are your options. Or automatic (which is always too dim). Gee, thanks. There are also two areas to check your storage: phone storage and storage check. One lets you see exactly what is using your data along with a storage overview, and one just gives you a storage overview. And this makes sense because...?
Multitasking. Let's talk multitasking. Windows Phone 8 multitasks kind of like BB OS 10 does - applications that are not in the foreground are "dormant," and unless they have explicit permission to run in the background (MS has rules about this), they're frozen in a sort of "app stasis." This does mean that app recall is usually very, very good. I almost always go back to exactly where I was in an app even hours after last opening it.
A set of horizontally scrolling app cards appears when you hold down the back button, and that whole system works quite intuitively. The way the back button works in general, though, is really, really weird. So, the back button is designed to be extremely rigid in its interpretation of going "back." Hit the home button while in an app, end up at the home screen, and then tap the back button - what do you think will happen? Most people would expect it to do nothing, but not so fast: you'll go back into the app you just closed, exactly where you were. I want this to be useful, but it just feels so... weird. Microsoft's developer guidelines enforce very strict rules about back button behavior (it does seem to work very reliably), in that it must always take you to the last displayed "page" in the app. At least they're better than Google about it.
With that, I think I've covered most of the OS. WP8 is very weird in some ways, and strangely inefficient to navigate, I find. It's also very smooth (even with annoying capped scrolling speeds), fluid, and pretty. It just feels so... empty, though. There are very few customization options, and very few features to really dig into. It doesn't quite come off first-gen, but it definitely doesn't seem finished, either. If I were to describe Windows Phone 8 in a word, it would be "soulless." There is nothing here that makes me feel techno-lust for the platform. No killer features. Part of this is the app selection. While there are many big-name apps, some are less than totally functional, and smaller developers are still staying away for the most part. Because of that, it's hard to get a good feel for what makes WP8 special other than what Microsoft has stuffed in there, and it's kind of bare bones on that front. The makings of a great smartphone platform are here, but the content and innovative features are not.
I'm going to close out this little review and talk about the camera and camera app here for primarily because I forgot about it initially. Spoiler alert: the camera app is AWFUL. I mean really, really bad. It is painfully apparent Microsoft has never developed a camera UI.
Capture is done via tapping the screen on your focal point or by hitting the hardware shutter button. There are quick controls for flash, front / rear camera switching, a "random function button" (as I call it - Microsoft calls it "Lenses"), and a video capture mode button. Alright, so where are all the other settings? Hit the 3-dot overflow button and you get a 2-item menu: photo settings and camera settings. I can already tell this is going to be fun. Photo settings houses all the tweaks and tuning options you'd expect of a camera app. Some of those items, like ISO, pop up a little drop-down list of selectable settings. Pretty standard. Some, like exposure, bring up a full-screen UI of options to choose from, for no apparent reason other than "because Microsoft did it that way." Lack of consistency aside, the fact that I have to open three distinct menus to change the scene mode is absolutely absurd. Just... no, Microsoft.
Night mode (which works very, very well, by the way) is also housed in this menu as a scene setting, which is all the more frustrating because as far as I could tell in my time using the Lumia 928, the phone either does not automatically turn on night mode, or is very picky about situations in which it will use it.
Oh, and literally as I am writing this, the camera app has broken because I let the display time out with the app active. It's just sitting here giving me a green screen and no output. There is no way to force kill apps in Windows Phone 8 (yep, really), so just opening and closing it over should fix the problem, right? Nope. Still green. Hey, there's a "Reset camera" button in the camera section of the application settings menu, this is surely the conundrum which it is devoted to solving. Tap. Annnnnd still green. Guess I'll have to reboot the phone. (It worked.)
The 928's camera itself is quite good. I don't have a bunch of sample shots to provide (this isn't a review, after all), but take a look at the difference between these two photos. On the left, you have a photo shot without Night Mode turned on, and on the right, it is on (as well as the bottom).
Now, as soon as you zoom in on the night mode photos, you can see a lot of this is Disney Magic post-processing. The foliage at the bottom of the lower-right image is so softened as to be unrecognizable, and the sky is significantly brighter than it was when I actually took the picture. In fact, the photo on the left in both instances represents the sky significantly more accurately. But the amount of extra detail and objects drawn out in night mode make it a no contest win for the photos on the right. Night mode shots are difficult to take, though, because they turn the shutter time way up, and many of the ones I snapped were unusable. They also take a long time to process.
Still, you can't argue with the results - that's a damn amazing picture taken with a smartphone at 9:00PM - well after sunset. I can't wait to see what the beastly EOS phone is going to be capable of in similar circumstances.
There's a Xenon flash on the 928, too. It works pretty well. The resulting pictures look substantially more natural than those taken with a traditional LED flash, but you can still very obviously tell that a flash was used. It'll be interesting to see if Apple's rumored dual-color LED setup or this Xenon configuration become the standard in next-gen smartphone cameras.
I didn't come away nearly as disappointed with Lumia 928 as I thought I would. That's probably pretty high praise for someone who has no desire whatsoever to switch from Android as a phone operating system. Windows Phone 8 has received plenty of "meh" since it was released, though, and it's easy to see why. The platform as a whole has one thing really going for it right now: Nokia (and Nokia fans). The 928 is Nokia on an off day, and even then, this phone could be used to physically beat a Galaxy S4 into smithereens. It is too bulky and heavy, though. And that bezel. No - bad Nokia. I am far more intrigued by the 925, which is much thinner, lighter, and just generally better-looking in my eyes. It's still hard to deny that the 928's biggest downfall isn't the phone, though, it's the OS.
I was talking to someone earlier today about Windows Phone, and I came up with a pretty succinct way to describe it: it's "the dad phone." Microsoft will have the most success with WP among the 40+ crowd, I think, because the OS is relatively easy to understand, and does most of what your average person wants a smartphone to do. I also think Microsoft is going to have a resurgence in the enterprise and business space with Windows Phone, just because other Microsoft products will work with these devices better than they will on competing OSs.
WP8 really doesn't strike me as an enthusiast-friendly platform, though, and I'm not sure it ever will be. It's certainly not a Google-friendly platform, and that's my biggest dealbreaker with it at the moment. I'm not going to give up the handful of very powerful services Google offers (or in Gmail's case, gimp them) to live in Microsoft's world. I don't want to Bing things. I don't want to HERE Maps stuff. I think, eventually, this cold war will end and Google will warm up to Windows Phone as it gains market share, which I'm pretty confident it will do so consistently over the next few years. Microsoft certainly isn't going to let it die.
But at the end of the day, as an Android user, there's little about WP8 that really excites me or makes me envious at this point, other than the fact that because of a special licensing deal with Microsoft, Nokia only makes Windows Phone devices. I'm not sure how Nokia would do at Android, but it would certainly be interesting to see them try.