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I have bought the Nokia Lumia 920 about 4 months ago and wanted to blog a review. Please note that this is written in the end of November 2013 and that things might have changed since this has been written. Perhaps there are OS updates released, or Nokia updates or app releases/updates. I got the Lumia with the Portico update but I received the upgrade to gdr2 (Microsoft update) and amber (Nokia update) rather quick after buying the device. I have blogged before aobut my experience about the upgrade from gdr1 to gdr2. Which was painless. I have enrolled in the developer program of Microsoft (for about 18 euro’s) and have enrolled in the GDR3 preview program. Microsoft bought Nokia during the past 4 months and they have unlinked the Nokia update (Bittersweet shimmer, now called Black update) and the GDR3 update from Microsoft. So I have the GDR3 preview at the moment and I have to wait for the GDR3 final. Nokia will release the black update after Microsoft finalizes gdr3. There are also resources online which claim that there will be an enterprise update in Q1 of 2014 for Windows Phone 8. An other post is 4 months old and there is a timespan of q1 or q2 for the enterprise update. On the previous link (official Microsoft site) is also an announcement about the increased lifecycle support for Windows Phone. They have increased it from a year and a half to three years! Eat your heart out Android! You can have a telephone running windows phone 8 for as little as 140 euro’s. (Nokia Lumia 520) That is an awesome budget phone with a great OS!

pros

  • no lag! fluent user interface
  • all mandatory apps are available
  • unified UI
  • good lifecycle support (Operating System updates)
  • Nokia adds nice things to the OS
  • growing market share (especially in Europe)
  • awesome camera (Lumia 1020 even has 41 megapixel!)
  • decent hardware (Nokia’s are stronger than Thors hammer)
  • auto Skydrive upload (had Dropbox on my Android HTC Desire C which was also nice)
  • tiles! you just have to experience them
  • good Bluetooth sync with (Ford) car
  • Nokia Drive+ included (for non Nokia phones it’s about 35 dollar/euro)
  • a lot of Nokia apps (for camera’s)
  • Facebook app is more responsive on windows phone than on my HTC Desire running Android 4.x
  • same for Whatsapp
  • no app required for barcode scanning (build in OS)
  • no app required to check who is singing this song (build in OS)
  • you can open Microsoft Office documents
  • build in PDF support
  • screenshots are easy

cons

Conclusion

My next phone will definitely be a (Nokia) Windows Phone! Looking forward to the new 9xx phones. Because the 1020, 1520 are both too big. I even pushed my first windows phone app to the appstore. It is a small and simple flashlight (zaklamp) It is free, so check it out!

As you can see, the most caveats are about missing Dutch (minor) applications. This is just a matter of time. The rest are just missing features in apps. There are no or almost no downsides to the mobile operating system that windows phone 8 (gdr3) is. Please let me know if you agree or disagree. Looking forward to your point of view!

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There are three build in templates in Windows Phone 8.

  • FlipTile
  • IconicTile
  • CycleTile

 

Flip template

The flip template has an image and when it flips, it has text on it.

Iconic template

The iconic template has an icon and when it has been set to “wide” it has three text lines visible. If you want to only use line two or three, you need to supply an empty string to WideContent1. Otherwise it will not render any text and it will just display a large version of the icon. That took me a while to figure out. As you might have guessed, I used this template at first. But it is limited. When a tile is not set to wide, it only has a title and an icon, which was not enough for me.

 

Cycle template

This requires a lot of images which was not suitable for me.

 

Custom live tile

So I looked for an other option. There was a resource online which created a usercontrol and rendered it as image and set that source image to a FlipTile, but it was not widely used because of the bad performance. The best option there is, and which you have probably already have found, is a writeablebitmap.

 

image

 

So fire up the Package manager console:

  • Go to upper right quick launch (ctrl + q, or what your shortcut is)
  • Type in ‘package’ and hit enter
    image
  • Then type ‘install-package writablebitmapex’ (ps. you can also use nuget)
  • You should also install WP Power Tools from codeplex: https://wptools.codeplex.com/
  • It is recommended to use a FlipTile for your custom tile and just compose a bitmap as background and do not use the flip side.
FlipTileData ftd = GetFlipTd();
Uri u = new Uri("/App.xaml", UriKind.Relative);
try
{
    ShellTile tile = ShellTile.ActiveTiles.Where(t => t.NavigationUri == u).First();
    if (tile != null)
    {
        tile.Delete();
    }
}
catch { }
ShellTile.Create(u, ftd, true);

The GetFlipTd method is the one where the magic happends. (composing the bitmap) This code will get you started:

private FlipTileData GetFlipTd()
{
    WriteableBitmap wbSmall = BitmapFactory.New(159, 159);
    WriteableBitmap wbMedium = BitmapFactory.New(336, 336);
    WriteableBitmap wbLarge = BitmapFactory.New(691, 336);

    wbSmall.Clear(Colors.Green);
    wbMedium.Clear(Colors.Green);
    wbLarge.Clear(Colors.Green);

    TextBlock lbl = new TextBlock();
    lbl.Text = "Nice custom tile";
    lbl.FontSize = 18.0;
    lbl.Foreground = new SolidColorBrush(Color.FromArgb(255, 255, 255, 255));

    WriteableBitmap tBmp = new WriteableBitmap(lbl, null);
    wbSmall.Blit(new Point(19, 19), tBmp, new Rect(0, 0, tBmp.PixelWidth, tBmp.PixelHeight), Colors.White, System.Windows.Media.Imaging.WriteableBitmapExtensions.BlendMode.Alpha);
    wbMedium.Blit(new Point(19, 19), tBmp, new Rect(0, 0, tBmp.PixelWidth, tBmp.PixelHeight), Colors.White, System.Windows.Media.Imaging.WriteableBitmapExtensions.BlendMode.Alpha);
    wbLarge.Blit(new Point(19, 19), tBmp, new Rect(0, 0, tBmp.PixelWidth, tBmp.PixelHeight), Colors.White, System.Windows.Media.Imaging.WriteableBitmapExtensions.BlendMode.Alpha);

    wbSmall.Invalidate();
    wbMedium.Invalidate();
    wbLarge.Invalidate();

    SaveFileToIS("Shared/ShellContent/Small.jpg", wbSmall);
    SaveFileToIS("Shared/ShellContent/Medium.jpg", wbMedium);
    SaveFileToIS("Shared/ShellContent/Large.jpg", wbLarge);

    FlipTileData ftd = new FlipTileData(); // 19 px border
    ftd.BackContent = "";
    ftd.BackTitle = "";
    ftd.Title = "";
    ftd.WideBackContent = "";
    ftd.SmallBackgroundImage = new Uri("isostore:/Shared/ShellContent/Small.jpg"); // 159 x 159
    ftd.BackgroundImage = new Uri("isostore:/Shared/ShellContent/Medium.jpg"); // 336 x 336
    ftd.WideBackgroundImage = new Uri("isostore:/Shared/ShellContent/Large.jpg"); // 691 x 336
    return ftd;
}

The secret is the location where you should store the image. You can debug/view this with the WP Power Tools. When you store the jpg (or png) in an other folder you will get “Argument Exception :uri for Isolated Storage” It was poorly documented, but I have found it here in the answer (2nd part) http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/wpapps/en-US/9c68b4e7-9863-4bcf-a839-b21fac8cc231/argument-exception-uri-for-isolated-storage

and the specific path was also mentioned here http://stackoverflow.com/a/15589739/169714 

 

If you want a custom tile, it needs to be in /Shared/ShellContent/ !!

 

Good luck!

 

image

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The Nokia Lumia 920 amber update which includes Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 GDR2 update will arrive over the air (OTA). There is a list on the Nokia website where you can see if it is available and if not, what the status is. My phone seems to be from Switzerland. The status on the Nokia website was set to ‘coming soon’, but I am really impatient when it comes to new software, so I downloaded the Nokia Software Updater for retail 3.0.8. Also known as NSU for retail. It is a >100mb .exe file and cannot be found (at the moment) on any official Nokia website. So I took mine from http://jkorondy.com/Lumia920 When you connect your phone and see a firmware which starts with a 3, then it contains GDR2+Amber.

 

nokia update

nokia-update-to-amber

After a reboot and logging in with my Microsoft account (live id) it tells me that there is a backup in the cloud which can be restored.

After another reboot (because of the Dutch language pack) it starts to download my apps from the store. But there are a few invalid apps. (I believe that it might be updates for apps without gdr2) so the apps fail to download and install. The problem (and solution) is described on this Windows Phone 7 tutorial website. So I had to manually uninstall all failing apps. It worked on my phone by going to the store and view the download app list and manually cancel the downloads.

 

Ow forgot to mention what the outcome was of my “Should I move to WP8” blog post. Well, I moved from Android 4.x to WP 8 and have all the required apps. None are missing. All apps have this nice native UI. Really like/recommend it!

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nokia-lumia-920I have had the HTC S710 a few years back. It had Windows Mobile 6.0 After that phone I got an HTC Diamond 2. It ran Windows Mobile 6.1 and later 6.5. I loved both phones because I work all day on my Windows notebook and had it connected with USB to charge and sync my calendar and contacts with Outlook. It was awesome! But after a while Android kicked in and became very popular in a short time. My favorite phone brand started to release more phones with android OS than with windows OS. So I moved to an HTC Desire with Android 2.x on it. I rooted it and got a custom rom on it to cope with the limited app memory. 

After a while I decided to make a native android app. It is Dutch and not that good, but it was worth the challenge and I learned a lot of it. After the HTC Desire got reboots because of the heating issue, I switched to a HTC Desire C. It was a cheaper phone, but had all the software that I wanted. It runs Android 4.x but the CPU (and RAM) seems limited and made the phone laggy. Even installing Zeam Launcher did not fix it. The HTC rom seems slow. All the eye candy.

Because my previous HTC Desire didn’t handle all the rom changes that well, I decided not to try moving roms again because of the heating issues that may occur. So what is next? A new Android phone like the Samsung Galaxy SII plus? Or perhaps a Windows Phone 8 with wireless charging? The Nokia Lumia 920 had a price drop and Nokia is known for great hardware quality. I have had Nokia’s before; the 5110, 3210, 5210 with swappable covers. The hardware and software never let me down and the battery was great! So why not try Windows Phone 8? I love windows 8 and am looking forward to 8.1. I work all day with Visual Studio 2012 and have 2013 preview installed. I know C# .Net and HTML5, so building apps is no problem. So what can be a problem? Apps (and small OS features)!

So Here is a list with my “can not live without apps”:

 

 

samsung-galaxy-sii-plus

furthermore, I cannot live without proper A2DP support to stream my Spotify music to the radio in my car, but according to http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2770012 Windows Phone 8 does support version 1.2 Can someone verify that it works well with a Sony X-Ploid radio?

So dear reader, what do you advice? A Samsung Galaxy S2 Plus or Nokia Lumia 920 or something else? Both the Samsung as the Nokia support 4G internet.

The Samsung Galaxy S2 Plus with Android 4.x is now 260 euro and the Lumia 920 is 330 euro. The Lumia 520 is just 152 euro’s and is nice to use as test device for application development, because my notebook does not allow the Windows Phone emulator to run. My notebook has no Second Level Address Translation (SLAT) support and cannot run hyper-V. So I need a Windows Phone device to build apps for that platform. So what to do?

 

ps. Here is my phone history: Nokia 5110 –> Nokia 3210 –> Nokia 5210 –> Alcatel 511 –> Motorola T720 –> Sony Ericsson W800 –> HTC S710 –> LG Cookie –> HTC Touch Diamond 2 –> HTC Desire –> HTC Desire C –> Samsung Galaxy SII plus or Nokia Lumia 920??

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