Sure, I use and review a lot of phones, and have for years. But when an important new smartphone comes out, be it innovative in terms of hardware like the original Samsung Galaxy Note or innovative in software like the Nokia Lumia 920 with a brand new OS, I actually buy one and use it as my main phone for a few weeks to months so I can really get a feel for all it has to offer and the pain points. I've been using the Nokia Lumia 920 as my daily driver for more than a week now and have put my Samsung Galaxy S III (my personal phone) in the desk drawer, SIM-less and silent. Confession: I have an iPhone 5 on my second line. Aside: I used the Nokia Lumia 900 as my main phone for a two month test period after that phone came out.
I'm a multi-platform gal, and I'm not married to a mobile phone OS. That said, I've been rolling with Android for a few years now and have really enjoyed it. It's more open and customizable than iOS and the endless hardware variety is appealing to this restless geek. I respect iOS, and with iOS 6 and the larger screen plus LTE on the iPhone 5, I've enjoyed it quite a bit. I liked many things about my Lumia 900, but in the end I wandered back to Android, and that urge came quickly. With the Lumia 920, I've suffered none of the telltale nerdy tics: no opening the drawer to look at my GS III, no thinking it would be OK to pop my SIM back in for an afternoon so I can get my Android fix. Wow.
The Nokia Lumia 920, and Windows Phone 8 in general have come a long way. The growing pains (no cut and paste, no LTE and uncompetitive hardware) are largely gone. The phone has a gorgeous 4.5" IPS display with an ever so slightly higher pixel density than the Retina display on the iPhone 5 (small enough that it really doesn't make a difference). But the pixel density is a lot higher than most Android phones, and that I do appreciate. I get to live large and sharp at the same time. Colors are vivid and accurate but not exaggerated as with some AMOLED and Super AMOLED displays (it's a matter of preference, I know some folks love those better than life colors). Videos look awesome as do photos; it's become my go-to device for watching videos. The hardware design is superb and the Lumia, especially in red, yellow or cyan, really stands out as unique yet tasteful. It's not plasticky or cheap looking and it feels nice in the hand, though it is oddly heavy.
The Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy S III and iPhone 5
Windows Phone is as ever extremely quick and that was the case even on older phones with dated hardware. Now we have the horsepower to handle even more intensive games, complex web page renders and 1080p video. Removable storage (available only a few models and not the Lumia 920) is handled much better now. Windows Phone 8 can mount as a mass storage device on Windows PCs just like a flash drive so you can copy stuff directly to the phone if you don't want to use Windows Phone software and iTunes to transfer content (geeks, take note).
The Lumia 810, HTC 8X and Lumia 920
Live Tiles offer a level of customization that the iPhone lacks, yet the UI is nearly as brain dead to use and very fun. But Android folks who live for custom ROMs and widgets will feel a little empty inside. I miss the widgets and the ability to have things like the current temperature displayed in the title bar as I do on my Android phones, courtesy of Weatherbug and The Weather Channel. The Weather Channel Live Tile on Windows Phone shows me the current predicted high and low temps for the day but not the current temperature outside and I have no say as to the update schedule.
With 130,000 apps in the Windows Phone store, many of the major apps are there, though there are still some big players missing like Nook and Pandora (both are forthcoming). Other than those two and our family favorite for cross-platform grocery list shopping, Grocery IQ, I've got the apps I like from iOS and Android on my Lumia 920. But you might find your favorites aren't available. And that leads to the proverbial chicken and egg problem: more apps will come if more folks buy Windows Phones, but will folks buy Windows Phones if their preferred apps are missing? Microsoft has a lot of clout and is working hard to support developers, and that's why we have a relatively large selection of apps for an ecosystem that owns less than 10% of the market. But will it grow? I can only hope so.
And that leads to the pain points: app selection being the foremost. Windows Phone has a hearty selection of games and XBOX Live integration, but many popular titles available for the iPhone and even Android are missing. Windows Phone, given its XBOX tie-in, should be the best gaming platform in the land, but iOS trounces it right now. Microsoft's XBOX Music and Video services, including subscription services for music are pretty hearty, and the ability to sync to iTunes for non-DRM content (that generally means music but not video) really helps for multimedia lovers. I'm not too worried there. But Microsoft has no eBook store, so you're looking at Kindle right now, a cloud reader for Kobo and you'll have to wait for Nook.
And there are a few areas of the OS that need polish. There's no unified notification center (Toast notifications as they're called in Windows Phone lingo go away in 10 seconds), so you're dependent on Live Tile notices until MS adds the notification center. There's no search in the calendar app. Multimedia and ringtone volume settings are one in the same: lower your music volume and you've also made your ringtone softer. Voice commands and dictation are quite good, but they don't give you that artificial intelligence feeling and seamless usefulness that Siri does.
But all things considered, I'm really enjoying my bright red Nokia Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8. I'm not waiting for the moment I can yank my Android smartphone out of the drawer and switch back. The Lumia 920 is fast, fun, stable and easy to use. I can live with the app selection for now, since it covers my most important apps. It's not going away anytime soon. Check back in a month or two OK?
And for those of you not on AT&T, the HTC 8X is also a very sweet Windows 8 phone, and we'll have a review of the 8X soon.