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Windows Phone 8 Portico update: at last here in New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Feb-2013 17:13

After waiting for ages we finally get the Windows Phone 8 Portico update in New Zealand. It's said it fixes some freezes and restarts, plus it corrects the SMS date problem.

Surprisingly, once the update was available there was none of that "staggered release" rigmarole. Once Windows Phone 8 Portico is available we just have to check for updates on the phone and it downloads over the air (OTA), ready to install. Install times will depend on how full your phone is, but in mine it took just around 25 minutes.

So, here is my score card for Windows Phone 8 update:

  • Easy of install: 10/10
  • Download speed: 10/10
  • Availability: 3/10

All in all pretty good having it available now and easy to update too. But not good enough. Last week I was driving to town when the Bluetooth speakerphone in the car announced "Connection lost". I looked down and the phone was restarting itself. The Nokia logo showed up and it just stayed there. That logo stayed on the screen for five hours (hey, great battery!) until someone told me about the soft reset procedure. Until then I was thinking "great, just before the update that supposedly fixes these my phone crashes and needs to go away to be flashed".

Luckily the reset worked and the phone seemed ok after that. And today the phone got the update OTA so I feel a bit better about not losing the phone.

As usual manufacturers say Microsoft is the one to be blamed for timing, Microsoft says the mobile operators are the ones who decide if updates can be deployed, and so on. A loop of excuses, where consumers are the ones with no say on when or how.

Basically, as I said before,  Microsoft should separate app and UI fixes, new apps from network updates and delivery Windows Phone updates every month, instead of waiting for a twice a year release cycle. It's not like they have the leading mobile platform in the world and can do whatever they want. If they aren't good at this now, I'm sorry, they are toast.

Having said that, they do act like they have the #1 mobile platform in the world, and don't need users to download apps:

I know Apple and Android also do region locking. But they don't have to compete from the last position in the market.



Windows Phone updates, again

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-Feb-2013 20:26

The Windows Phone folks at Microsoft managed to raise my expectations and failed completely to deliver.

I tried for one last time updating two Windows Phone 7 devices I have here (mine and wife's) to the latest 7.8 release and again Zune says both are up to date and no updates are available. This is when Windows Phone 7.8 has been available for almost four weeks here in New Zealand.

Seeing that Microsoft persisted with the crappy experience in the Windows Phone ecosystem - taking this same "managed release" idea to Windows Phone 8, I just removed Zune from my laptop and won't bother updating the old handsets. And when they die we will just replace them with something that, you know. works.

If only they actually treated Windows Phone updates as serious business and delivered these instead of playing around.

As for my Nokia Lumia 920 (the one I use as my day phone), I will continue to use it. If anything happens then this too will be replaced with something else that just works. It might even have something happening by "accident" to this handset if I just get worked up enough.



More Windows Phone account troubles

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 22-Dec-2012 13:36

What's with Microsoft and badly designed/implemented account management systems?

First I couldn't add a credit card to pay for things (take my money already!), and now I can't remove an old Windows Phone device from my account.

Then as I try updating the phone number on my new device, I get another error:

They sure have some problems implementing basic stuff there.

UPDATE: And it seems if you go device.live.com and from there to the Windows Phone list the "Remove" link doesn't work. If you go through the windowsphone.com website through the device list and select "Account Settings" then you can remove the device and update the number. Why two different ways of getting to the same place, and only one works?

Also, having said that. Posted a comment to @WinPhoneSupport on Twitter and receive a reply in less than five minutes with a good suggestion (unrelated by good troubleshooting start). Plus karma points for them.



Wireless charging Windows Phone

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Dec-2012 17:07

And it is here:

Wireless charging. If you have a Nokia Lumia 920 then you just need to plug the charger to the wall and as soon as you drop the phone on the plate it will charge.

The Nokia Lumia 920 has everything needed for wireless charging out of the box. If you have a Nokia Lumia 820 then you need to replace the original cover with a special one that enables wireless charging.

Very cool, having the charging plate on your desk, just lie the phone on top of it and charge away. As you can see in the photo it even works with the Otterbox Commuter case.



Microsoft should update Windows Phone update

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Dec-2012 12:39

I previously commented on how I thought Microsoft should split Windows Phone 8 updates in different types and deliver those without interference from the operators and OEMs. It seems this is something is being done - if we actually have had updates yet.

We now see that some OEMs have been receiving Windows Phone 8 updates before others, and some countries come first. This means we will again get into that old game of waiting, waiting, waiting for updates.

Here is how I would like to see it working: use the Windows Update infrastructure for deployment. It's tested and supports heavy loads. Every second Tuesday of the month (Wednesday 7am New Zealand time) Windows Updates are available to everyone, around the world, at the same time. You can manually start an update at that time, or let your PC do the automatic update which will happen sometime during the next couple of days.

I would also like to see this certainty in Windows Phone. Something like "every last Friday of the month there's an update available". And that would be available to everyone, exactly like the Windows Update for desktop is available. This could be for example small fixes, like the SMS timezone bugs affecting New Zealanders who see SMS with +13 hours difference - almost like they're applying the timezone shift twice. This should be a simple fix, so why do we have to wait months to see it here?

Yes, I understand some updates require the mobile operator blessing, but those should not block updates that fix things in the OS and don't touch anything related to the mobile network. These should have a separate schedule.

This is another thing Microsoft could do to differentiate itself from competitors in the smartphone market.



Windows Phone 8 SMS wrong date/time

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-Dec-2012 13:53

It seems there's a problem with Windows Phone 8 and the way it processes date/time on SMS.

The ones received at "23:10" were actually received at 10:10. The one marked as 2/12 was actually receive 1st Dec @ 1:45pm.

It seems the messaging app is showing dates with a 13 hour shift. I am told both Telecom NZ and Microsoft NZ know about this problem but in our forums they are quiet about what's causing it and when it will be fixed.

By the way, this does not happen in Windows Phone 7.5.

UPDATE:



Windows Phone billing

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-Dec-2012 13:35

It is business as usual: we all have to give a publisher our credit card information so that we can buy apps, subscriptions, etc. One would think Microsoft would make it easier for every customer to give them money, but that is not so.

My main credit card, the one used for online purchases, expired yesterday so obviously it was time to update it so that I could continue buying apps for my smartphone.

So I go to windowsphone.com and see the following:

So far so good. I click "Edit payment info" and get this:

Bummer Microsoft, something wrong with your systems uh? By the way, "contact customer support" is just an helpful suggestion. It could be hyperlinked to a page with a real phone number to contact support. But not, it is not.  The "Contact Us" at the bottom leads to a page suggesting I contact my operator or OEM. Very unhelpful because neither has control over YOUR billing.

So I click "View billing info" which instead takes to me a page https://commerce.microsoft.com/PaymentHub/PaymentInstrument which seems to work:

 

That's my new credit card there. But it wasn't easy to get it there, because that page doesn't have any "Add payment option" link. I suspect it would be in the other page appropriately named "Edit payment info" that already spat out the dummy on me before.

The way I got that credit card there was by using the Windows Phone 8 Wallet app. It worked, but in a cumbersome way. It should work on the "Edit payment info" page but it didn't. I had to enter a new card in the Wallet app and check the box "Set up card for app and music purchases". Lucky there is an app for that, right?

Note though that unless you check the box to make the new card a payment option for your app purchases, it will not be stored anywhere else but on your phone. If you check the box to make the card a payment option for app purchases you are actually redirected to a page outside the app (no way to see the URL but I suspect linked to the Windows account) to add the card information. In effect it seems you are adding the card to the Microsoft account payment info and this is then downloaded to the phone. Works for me but. . .

When I started entering my data I was thinking "cool, I can enter the information here and once it syncs to the cloud I can restore the data in case this phone needs to be reset or if I get a new Windows Phone". The sync in this case exists only one way - from your Microsoft account to the phone. This means updates you make inside the Windows Phone Wallet to an existing credit card doesn't reflect on the Microsoft account - I tried, when my card expired and actually was told by the app to first delete the card online then go back to the app.

No problem, I hear you saying, just enter the data directly in your Microsoft account and it will flow to the phone. Except that as we saw before, one page brings an error and the other doesn't even have an option to add payment options. This means If I want a backup option then the way to go is setting up on the phone itself while having all credit cards set as "App purchase" options, which is not ideal.

Anyway, the card is loaded. I wonder if this was a problem with my account only and how it would have worked if I didn't have the Wallet app (like Windows Phone 7 users for example).

In the next post I will comment on the Windows Phone Wallet app itself and how it works (or it was supposed to).



Nokia Lumia 920 first impressions and power saving tips

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Nov-2012 13:01

I have been using a Nokia Lumia 920 for a few days now. Pretty impressed with speed, still getting used to the size (compared to the Lumia 800 I had before), loving the larger screen, hating the Windows Phone Desktop companion app for Windows 7 (where is the Zune wireless sync and automatic photo sync gone?!?!) but now Windows Phone 8 devices show up in Explorer as another drive so Copy and Paste it is (and actually pretty fast).

Found a problem with Office Hub (it seems it doesn't like SkyDrive accounts with 2,200 folders and 30,000 files) which is not a big deal since the standalone SkyDrive app deals with this very nicely.

Some things seem "incomplete" (as mentioned the Windows Phone Desktop app) such as the SMS backup - all good but can I access my SMS from the web please?

Good to see all apps I had on my Windows Phone 7 Nokia Lumia 800 work on this Windows Phone 8 Nokia Lumia 920.

Had a couple of Skype experiences and it worked well. Used Bluetooth to play music with a Samsung Wireless Audio system and a Philips Fidelio clock with no problems - hey Bluetooth seems to work fine!

I read around the web people complaining about their new Nokia Lumia 920 battery life. I have no complains about it. Actually this one was last charged around 14 hours ago and with light use (a little Bluetooth, WiFi updates) it is at 50% now.

Here is what I've done to manage the device's power consumption:

Email accounts:
  • Push email: I have it off all the time. I use Office 365 and could have push email active but because I receive a high number of emails every day I rather not have the phone constantly updating the Inbox. I manually update these.
  • Hotmail update: change the default to daily if you use the Windows Live account only for managing the device, or for something suitable to the volume you receive. There's no manual option here.
Settings:
  • Bluetooth and WiFi off: if you are not connected to a Bluetooth or WiFi access point, having these on is just a waste of battery.
  • WiFi search: uncheck [Notify me when new networks are found], [Automatically connect to WiFi hotspots] and [Send information about WiFi connections to help discover nearby WiFi].
  • Turn WiFi and Bluetooth on/off quickly: download an app such as Shortcut Tilesand use it to pin a tile to the home screen that allows you to quickly toggle WiFi, Bluetooth and other settings.
  • Lock screen timeout: I have mine set to one minute.
  • Lock screen background: I use a static photo. Do not use the Bing, CNN, Facebook services as that might initiate data traffic.
  • Tap+send: I don't use NFC so this is off. You can obviously create lots of automated tasks with NFC but unless you have tags and actively use them, turn this off.
  • Location: if you don't use maps, turn this off. If you do, leave it. Mine is on.
  • Backup: I have [app list+settings] on, the rest off. I don't mind if I lose my text messages and my photos are manually copied if I want them - uploading every photo taken to SkyDrive is a sure way to use the battery and mobile data.
  • Brightness: I set to medium, no automatic brightness.
  • Find my phone: I leave this set. You could save a bit more battery by turning this off but can't manage the phone remotely.
  • Background tasks: I turned all off.
  • Music+Videos: unless you use Xbox Music, turn [Connect with Xbox Music] and [Xbox Music cloud collection]
  • Photos+Camera: [SkyDrive auto upload] off
  • Internet Explorer: turn [Use SmartScreen filter] and [Send a Do Not Track request to websites] off.
  • Messaging: turn off the Facebook messaging option and if you don't use Messenger turn your status to Offline.
Applications:
  • A large number of apps have automatic updates implemented. Turn these off. For example the Currency app by xe.net updates currency exchange values every 10 minutes by default. If you have weather apps that shows current weather for your location in a tile you might want to replace this with just looking outside the window.
Phone settings (proceed with caution here):
  • Switch radio to best service in your area. Every phone has a Maintenance menu. If you are using a mobile operator that offers 100% 3G service (Telecom NZ for example), having the radio searching for 2G service is a waste of battery. You can open the Maintenance menu and set the radio to use WCDMA only.
  • Caution is needed here. If you go overseas not all operators are 100% 3G and if you don't turn this back to default you may not roam in all areas. If you try to use the phone in an operator with older 2G and newer 3G mix (Vodafone and 2degrees for example) then you will have limited coverage in some areas because their 2G/3G services have different coverage areas. If you need to place an emergency call while outside your operator area and only 2G is available then you won't be able to do it. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
Any suggestions from you folks?



Can we trust app reviews?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-Oct-2012 09:57

Scratch the whole thing. As pointed out below, a change in policy means that now all reviews always show the reviewer's first name, instead of the tag name.

Apologies for raising a red flag where none is needed. I will keep the post below as evidence that I can err as well.

Looking around the New Zealand Windows Phone Marketplace we see very few apps with lots of reviews. Those with many reviews are mainly the big names in games, plus the very good New Zealand made ones. That's why I was curious when I saw the new ASB app for Windows Phone had 39 reviews and a five star rating - every single review was a five stars review.

Then I looked at the names of people reviewing the ASB app: (in the order I see in the Marketplace): Regan, Andrew, Joanne, Simon, Matthew, Ben, Bobby, Royce, Keith, Annabel, Stephen, Darren, User, Jack, Geoff, Peter, Tim, Leighton, Jeff, Bruce, Alastair, Craig, Andy, Angela, Jonathan, Eby, Danil, Karan, Vinesh, Danny, Brian.

Nothing strange there. But let's look at other app reviews.

  • On Sale New Zealand: keithpatton, attaelayyanm, mohitsb, ryancrawcour, jamesfwarren, vmcoll, MulberryQuasar, Fallaenae, darylooh.
  • NZ Radio: User, Shane, Keith, MackinNZ, xStally, iczephyr, UrbanKiwi, SomeBluehippo, GotItWrong, Gavin, mohibtsb, RootedEvergreen, snakes1704, Player531062019.
  • Supermarket Finder: Bruno, seanjackson24.
  • DayOut: tomisbetterthnu, tianhai.
  • NZ Cell Sites: John, Player371984687, Evil Red Diablo.
  • God Defend New Zealand: davidgladstone.
  • NZ Weather: Gortdon, User, Klem0n, dhrot.
  • Weather NZ: Kevin, Keith, SomeBluehippo, suprrudey, Phivii, Mudz12, Evil Red Diablo, tomisbetterthnu, Shiny Empire, wim mertens, Obfukaster, guvnor255.
  • The Official All Blacks Application: User, Klem0n, Player584951968, SatanicAntz, JeffBridges21, iczephyr, stewartisland, sumerman1, CosGirds, AdvisoryCloud, MisterOlly, bigdogphone, scozzard, PeskyBeaver, sista001, Phile Whitehead, Keithpatton, Crispo66, matteusvelloso, nzigel.
  • Fruit Nija: Nick, Steve, Damien, NZ Infection, ArkhamZBest, CurbsideCupatea, RevivalV3, tomisbetterthnu, Pb Elements, FancyAardvark1, normanstrange, CoolestKiwi, Chaks Corner, BrainOffline, PeanutG85, APEKTRON, minalg, M Doms, coaxke88, AtomicSharky, TropicalRajput, The Mega Me.

Ok, I will stop here. Can you see a pattern?



What will be Windows Phone 8 update strategy?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Sep-2012 09:30

Now that we know Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 share some of their code, I wonder. Will we finally see an update policy for Microsoft's mobile platform that reflects the one we are used to in our PCs?

For years Microsoft has released operating system updates every second Tuesday of the month (second Wednesday New Zealand time). Only in cases of a real treat such as a zero day exploit has Microsoft released an "out of band" update. This policy has been going on for years and still most people I talk to and remind "tomorrow is Windows Update day" say they never knew it.

On top of those monthly updates Microsoft releases Hotfixes, which are patches that fix small problems in specific areas. For example there's a patch that fixes a problem when plugging a USB hub in a specific type of computers with specific drivers and so on. These only need to be applied if you are experiencing a very specific problem.

Every few months or years Microsoft releases a Service Pack for its operating systems, which contains all the previous updates and hotfixes all in one. It's Microsoft's policy not to release new features in Service Packs.

Then there are other software updates targeting applications such as Messenger, Movie Maker, Skype, Security essentials and others which are not essential part of the operating system but offered by the company.

I wonder if Windows Phone 8 would follow the flawed model implemented with Windows Phone 7, or the more advanced and logical model adopted by the company by its PC operating systems and applications until now?

Perhaps Microsoft should separate the applets built-in inside Windows Phone 8 and consider those as applications instead of core, and release them independently of the operating system.

For example a new feature implemented in its mobile email client could be delivered to users around the world with more speed than before. Instead of waiting for the whole Windows Phone 7 process of sending an entire operating system to OEMs then waiting for those to customise each image to different devices, then waiting those to be sent to each mobile operator around the world for approval, then the slow staggered delivery perhaps Microsoft should consider making these updates to apps independent of the entire chain and deliver them directly to end users.

This would speed up adoption of new features, use existing Windows Update infrastructure and get slow OEMs and mobile operators who are not actively supporting the ecosystem completely out of the picture when it comes to happy users. The chain of approval would only ever exist for core operating system functions.

This is completely different from the strategy used by other smartphone platforms too, and could be a differentiating point.

Somehow I think Microsoft would never do that though.



freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I work for Intergen and I'm also the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums.

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