Tag Archives: wp7

#flashfiction on a Lumia 800 (WP7)

One of the recent things I’ve started doing of late is flash fiction. That is writing short stories with strict theme, word or time limits; sometimes all three together. One of the problems I had last time I switched to the Nokia was logging into http://sixminutestory.com/ because Twitter authorisation (that site’s standard IDing process) failed (and still does) for the WP7 implementation of Internet Explorer. However, this time I managed to get the browser to use a simple login instead, so I can now do #6minutestory flash fiction directly in the browser.

Other forms of flash fiction, such as #flashfridayfic, etc, can be written offline, but while it is tricky getting iPhones to show Word Count – there are Apps, including Pages, if you turn on that feature – it is stupidly hard on WP7; there are two options (both free but ad supported):
Word Count – allows you to cut and paste text in go get a word count. Very clunky!
Word Counter – allows you to type into the App itself, giving a running tally of words (much more useful), but the lack of decent multitasking means you have go save your writing somewhere ‘safe’ if you want to stop and come back to it, which is just silly.

So, there aren’t any good flash fiction Apps for the Nokia. A compromise I should be used to by now.

The Word Press App I am typing this post into is also flawed compared to the iPhone version, which is much slicker I think. For example, typing in this much text has me frequently having to jump out then into edit mode to be able to see what I’m typing because the text window doesn’t scroll go keep up.

The official Twitter App is rather poor, and Carbon, the 3rd party client I used to use is now broken and no longer on the Windows Marketplace. In fact, quite a few WP7 Apps have just disappeared now WP8 is all the rage. None of the extended tail of support that Apple’s iTunes AppStore exhibits.

Audio oo is another Social Media stalwart of mine, but the WP7 Audio oo client has disappeared from the Marketplace, replaced by a “Get a better phone” message. Fortunately, I still have Voice Memo Lite, which on a good day with a favourable tail wind can export to AudioBoo’s web site. However, users.ust ensure they don’t exceed the 5 minute limit, as the App doesn’t impose this restriction itself.

On the whole, the Nokia experience is sub par cor what I’ve grown used yo doing easily on my Apple phone. A current example is the new Ticckle video service, which doesn’t have a WP7 version. So, I will have to use the broken iPhone for some of my Social Media duties, damning me to carrying multiple devices and tethering the two together.

Oh and did I mention the awful battery life?

OMG! Back here again

Well, it’s back to the trusty Nokia Lumia 800 again. This time not as an idle experiment, but because my iPhone4 has lost the power of speech; that is, the mic (internal and wired remote) do not function, which is an expensive motherboard fix on what is now a very old and “well used” (!) mobile.

The long and the short of it is I have to use my ‘backup’ smart phone until I work out what new one to buy, if any. In the meantime, I’m having to discover alternative ways of doing things I’ve gotten used to doing.. More details next post

Something missing

It’s been a while since I last wrote about moving from iPhone to WP7. I have been saving up a list of things that are right and wrong about the current OS and Apps, etc, such as the lack of support for podcasts with a store, such as iTunes, on the device itself. However, these are merely the eco-system that surrounds both devices; one is much newer, the other has had significant investment. This is, though, the last post (for now at least) on my experiment. Why? Simply, because the Nokia crashes.

Not to say that the iPhone doesn’t occasionally need a force reset, but 6-7 times in a fortnight is not an acceptable level of performance. That is how often the Nokia has just up and frozen in the last few weeks. In a way, it is like the Mac v PC debate of old: one is more reliable than the other. So, I am moving back to Apple as my main phone provider. I had planned to finish off my experiment with developing a simple application, to complete the experience. However, this will wait now. I will complete this element one day, but, for now, having a reliable phone is more important.

Good Things (come to those who wait)

It is important to realise that the iPhone (king of the smartphone kingdom) has had a number of generations, and the opportunity for Apple to learn from the innovations and mistakes of others, as well as making their own. However, what is often overlooked is how much the foot has been shaped by the shoe, so to speak. Since the original iPod, and possibly the Mac itself, we have been slowly and subtly trained in how to use Apple products. This cannot be overlooked in attributing the relative success of different smart phone platforms. So, moving to a different metaphor (namely Metro) is pushing comfort zones we didn’t know we had.

Nokia Drive
This is a really positive experience. Although this GPS navigation app isn’t on every WP7 device, it is downloadable and wonderful. Drive gives everything a GPS app should: clear 2 or 3D display, turn by turn navigation, free pre-downloadable maps and configurable voices. It totally blows away the paltry iPhone app in so many ways; too many to mention in fact. And it’s free.

Text to speech to text
After I ditched the iPhone compatible headphones, because the mic wasn’t working with the Nokia, I discovered how convenient the speech recognition is. Ok, it’s no Siri – but I’m not falling for the hype – but it works well. For example, I was stuck in an Olympic Torch traffic jam in Newport on Friday. The Nokia tells me (through headphones) I have a text from Victoria Jones. I say “read it” then “reply” and speak “stuck behind torch, will arrive half past five” with the blowers on full, windows down and cheering crowds outside, but the Nokia gets it first time. Even if it hadn’t, it’s easy to try again. And all this without me faking the hand from the wheel or eye off the road.


Free GPS software 9/10 – its chosen route isn’t always the best.

Hands free SMS Handling – 10/10 – simple, sleek, efficient

Well that didn’t go so well

It’s the end of the first day, and I’ve downloaded FaceBook, Twitter and WordPress and played with IE9 and Bing.
Social Apps
Both FaceBook and Twitter are pretty much what you’d expect. However, neither is really as smooth as their more polished Apple equivalents, with performance issues (stuttering scrolls) and annoying refresh problems making it hard to keep track; these were problems on the iPhone too one or two versions ago.
Well, actually this is more about the keyboard. It’s early days but generally I like the portrait keys better than the iPhone. However, the location of the Delete key seems to be annoyingly close to the CR key. After some practice I’ll probably not notice.
Bloody BING!
Which brings me to BING. I’m sorry, but it’s just a pile of crap. What makes it worse is that it has a dedicated button right there, which you cannot yet reallocate and gets hit accidentally ALL the time! The main reason I don’t like BING, apart from the fact its search is poor, is all the sponsored ads that jump all over the place. If I could remove it entirely I would. Google Search is now installed 🙂
Headphone Woes
Finally, my Sony in ear headphones are incompatible with WP7 because the mic doesn’t work 🙁
So, it looks like I’ll have to buy some new ones.
FaceBook and Twitter 6/10
Keyboard 7/10
Headphones 1/10
Camera and other stuff

OK… here we go!

Well, after receiving a nice WP7 phone to do some XNA development on, and my iPhone 4 nearing the end of its contract, and looking for a new mobile provider, and generally feeling uncomfortable with “how well” Apple devices have slotted into, and shaped my existence, I’ve decided to see if I *can* transfer all the services and conveniences that iTunes and three generations of iPhone have given me, to alternative platforms. First off, it is the Nokia Lumex 800, so the front facing camera I’m used to (occasionally) using has gone; if you had the new 900 this would be fixed, but this was a freebie, so I can’t complain.

The Nokia headphones provided are TERRIBLE, not fitting my ears at all (HTC ones are no better, sadly). Having said that, the Apple default ones are awful too and I generally buy Sony “in ear” headphones, as they help with my hearing impairment – too much head banging in my YOOFF – but the lack of on mic volume buttons means the Nokia ones HAVE TO GO! So, one change I won’t accept, but one I’d effectively already made anyway. In fact, I think over the years I have spent about a whole phone’s worth of money buying replacement headphones; this is not an exaggeration, as I’ve kept all of the various broken headphones for some art piece I may eventually get round to. So far, either an earpiece starts buzzing, or makes no sound, or is wrenched off, or the mic breaks or the plug cable wears out. I am a HEAVY podcast listener, clocking in at over 20 hours a week, so it is understandable that I will get through them at an alarming rate, but it is frustrating how expensive headphones are, when bought separately. So, the Sony MDR-EX38iP are recommended as they tend to last a few weeks longer than most, especially because the phone jack is a right angle type, rather than sticking annoyingly out to get caught and bent and broken in trouser pockets.

iTunes Withdrawal
Which leads me to the first and most major hurdle with letting go of my iPhone 4! As I said, I have a rather voracious podcast habit – mostly science, games, technology and occasional audio books – and while many slate iTunes, it is a damned convenient way to subscribe and manage podcasts, and is cross-platform; I have macs at home and a mix of windows and macs at work, but we have a few iPhones, as well as various iPods in use daily, so currently the home iMac is the default location of my audio. The first major stage then, apart from unlocking the iPhone 4 so it can go to my wife when (if?) I manage to wean myself off it, is getting my podcasts either from iTunes to the Nokia, or reproducing my subscriptions in Zune Marketplace, which many podcasts feed into. The latter is difficult as it involves me setting up a PC as my hub for the phone, but the former is a kludge, even with the new, greatly improved Mac Connector software:


So, let’s take the apparently easier path of using Mac Connector with my existing iTunes files. Mac Connector makes this relatively simple, but already I’ve got a problem. My iPhone 4 is 32GB, but the Nokia is 16GB… Time to selectively choose what podcasts I can have on the phone. Firstly, the interface for choosing what podcasts to sync to the phone is not that dissimilar to what you’d get in iTunes. However, a live feed of file size estimation is missing, until after the sync is complete. So, it’s trial and error as to whether you have picked too much content to fit onto the limited memory. Syncing also still seems MUCH slower, as the files used to be uploaded each time, rather than intelligently recognised as already being there. However, it appears that this has been fixed in the new version; doesn’t explain why it’s still slow though. And, unlike the iPhone 4, you cannot access audio while the phone is syncing, but have to unplug it from the computer. However, even quitting the Mac Connector software doesn’t release the phone functionality, which is problematic if you are trying to charge the phone at the same time! 🙁

I already have a problem, I suspect, because I’m not entirely sure if listening on the Nokia will flag to iTunes that the file has been “played”, but syncing is set to all unplayed files; I’ve already had to cut down by at least 50% what I am putting on the phone already. If Mac Connector doesn’t “set” played files for iTunes, then that is another manual task that may need completing… Let’s see, shall we…!

Talking of syncing, anyone who knows me has probably heard my rather distinctive ring tone, which I have carried since I first had a Sony Ericsson P900: It merely states in a female voice, ” is anybody there? “, which always raises a smile. However, Mac Connect has an odd idea of what is a compatible ring tone. So, I need to change hello.m4r to hello.m4a in Quicktime player, then reimport to iTunes and create an mp3 version. THEN get it onto the phone… we’ll have to wait until the podcast syncing has finished to try that.

While we’re waiting, I am looking forward to the MS Office app on the phone, as I get stupid amounts of word attachments on my work email, and being able to see stuff the way colleagues do will be an advantage. And the lack of games (sic) means it will be harder to distract me 🙂 Mind you, I HAVE to have Twitter, WordPress, and Facebook to be truly diverted. So, it’s a good thing that these are there, even if the first is rather different to what I am used to.

Right, it’s all synced and backed up now. So,let’s listen to a short podcast, in this case the BBC World Service “60 Second Idea to Change the World”, which is understandably a rather brief programme. The first thing to notice is a big “subscribe” button. Hey, maybe I can go iTunes FREE! We’ll have to see. However, the big problem I am immediately aware of is the lack of 2x play speed. Now, if you haven’t clicked yet, I listen to A LOT of podcasts, and one of the ways I do this is by using the double speed playback that iPhones allow. This does take some getting used to, but after your brain speeds up to the rapid flow of speech – rather like visiting Italy and learning Italian! – it is PAINFUL to listen at 1x playback speed as everyone seems to be speaking S O S L O W L Y! General impressions of the podcast playback, apart from the lack of double speed, is that fast forward doesn’t allow sped up audio, like the Apple playback, and on the Nokia at least, FF makes files fly past in a way that is much too quick to be really useful. Not a major thing, but this leads to my first KILLER APP idea for WP7: a decent player that can access the podcasts on the phone, but able to play at variable speeds, such as 1.5x or 2x as well as allowing FF and Rewind review of the audio. I am amazed that there is no decent podcast playback app in the marketplace.

OK, after listening, then syncing again, something sort of works in flagging files as played in iTunes, but the last played date/time is not set; not a major problem although it does make it slightly harder to see what files have been listened to, with the only indication being the far left blue ball icon. In that respect, this is also a great improvement on the first generation of Mac Connect.

Headphones functionality 6/10 (no on mic volume control; a clearly slower response to pressing the button; no option to shuffle based on double click.)

iTunes functionality 7/10 (this score based on Mac Connect, which has notably improved since I first checked it last year)

Podcast functionality 5/10 (mostly because of playback speed; no audio review option; inability to change order of podcasts in interface)

Next time
Getting my Social Apps ON!