Nakedmolerat’s Nokia Lumia 920: Nokia Apps (City Lens, Maps, Drive, Xpress)

, posted: 11-Jan-2013 14:32

Intro

One thing to note about Nokia Lumia 920, is that it also comes with Nokia apps. I have found them to be quite excellent. I would definitely miss the apps if I were to move to a different platform. Saying that, after 4 weeks of constant usage I do not see myself jumping ship. I will summarize my whole experience in the next post.



Nokia City Lens (augmented reality browser)

The first time I read about this, I thought it would be one of those 'novel' apps that are 'cool' but not useful at all. The way this app works is that it's like a scanner that shows you things that might be of interest around you. You can select to filter it to 'food', hotel etc.



This app uses your location/GPS to determine your location. Once the GPS is locked (not more than 15 secs), you hold your phone in front of you and move up/down/left/right to see whatever is ahead of you. If there are clusters of shops, touching (+) sign will zoom in. This app also tells you how far the location is from you. This is amazing! If you are in a town that you are not familiar with, this app will be really handy to have.

I met one of my old friends from university while in Hamilton. We decided to have Indian Food. My friend is new to Hamilton and I am also not familiar with that town. I fired up my internet explorer browser to search for a nearby Indian restaurant. It was then that I decided maybe I should give this app a try. Result?







 

Sorted! This app integrates really well with Nokia maps and gave us the direction to the caf?. Looking at the reviews on the internet, it also works really well overseas!

Nokia Maps (HERE)

Nokia Maps are nothing like Apple maps. The work was started way back in 2001. The maps had major improvements made after Nokia bought Navteq in 2007. I remember my first GPS capable phone which was the Nokia 6110 Navigator. At the time, I believe Nokia maps were way more advanced than Google maps. Hence, this is a great chance for me to see if Nokia maps have actually improved since 2007. The good thing about the maps is that they are offline and therefore there is no need for continuous data usage. I am aware that recent Google maps on android also offer users the option to cache the map for offline use.

Starting the app, you will be asked to download the maps that you would like to use. For New Zealand, the map size is around 60MB. Unfortunately, this map has to be downloaded via wifi. For some reason, it will not let you download over the regular 3G network. This is probably to avoid 'bill shock' due to excessive charges for data usage. Good on Nokia, although I would prefer to have the option to download anyway I like.

 

Nokia maps offer an extensive database of downloadable maps (95 countries on the list). One country of interest to me is Seychellessince we go there on holiday often. Unfortunately there is no map offering for Seychelles. I guess I have to use Google maps when I am there! (Please let me know in the comment section if you would like to know about map availability).



Starting up the map application, you have options to display map, satellite, public transport and traffic. I haven't tested this in Auckland but I think only the map and satellite will be of use to me. Searching place is easy and Nokia GPS works extremely well. Outside a building, it never takes more than 15 secs to acquire your position. The map itself is intuitive and not difficult to learn. Once you type the location, you have the option to start navigate. Again, this is straightforward.



Nokia Drive+ Beta

When navigating, you have the option to display the map in a landscape or portrait mode. The voice guidance is on par with a TomTom unit. It also informs you of the speed limit and warns you if you drive too fast. If you miss your turn, rerouting is instant and fantastic. As usual, the navigation offers options to prioritize distance, times or speed. There are options to save your favourite location, view in 2D/3D and the colour will change automatically at night and during day time.



Nokia Xpress

Unlike above, this app has got nothing to do with maps or navigation. This app was actually designed by Nokia to save data when browsing. It works similar to Opera mobile where the data will be compressed before being sent to your phone. Basically it is a browser that interacts with Nokia servers.

clip_image001

Starting the app, you will be greeted with Xpress Home. This is basically a shortcut of your common websites such as speed dial in Opera. You can search by typing word in the address field. One thing to note, you can always double tap on a word and search.

 

It will automatically show search results from Bing.



Swiping to the right will show search results on Wikipedia and Youtube.

 

One thing to note is the 'magazine' function. It basically downloads each topic/link and display the content of the website in a magazine style. Example is as per screenshot below. Geekzone was divided into a few different pages/headlines. You can see the rest of the story by clicking the link.

 

After a few days of usage, I saved 65% of my browsing data. That is huge! One thing I noted is that sometimes browsing using nokia xpress can be slightly slower than using a regular browser. I suspect this could be due to a number of factors. The data has to be compressed first and therefore it can take longer if the server itself is overloaded.



Summary:
  • Nokia City Lens is a wonderful idea. It turns out I used it more often than I thought I would. It is definitely a great app when you are in an unfamiliar town or when travelling overseas.
  • Nokia Maps did not suffer from teething issues and offline support is excellent. The coverage includes 95 countries and counting.
  • Nokia Drive+ is excellent. The ultimate question; do I see it replacing my trustworthy TomTom unit for navigation in NZ? The answer is YES! In fact, I will be removing the TomTom unit once I find a decent cradle for this phone.
  • Nokia Xpress is a great browser. It is really worthwhile to save the meagre mobile data allowance we have in New Zealand.
About the author

Hi, my name is Fergus. I am a big fan of the nakedmolerat character in Kim Possible - Rufus. I work in  the health sector. I am also a volunteer firefighter when I am not working. I started using computers when I was five years old. I am the 'guy' that family and friends approach when they have issues with their computers. I am also an Android fanboy (Yes! I believe Android will takeover the world soon). It was such a great opportunity when Telecom New Zealand and Geekzone offered me to be one of the Nokia Lumia 920 / Windows Phone reviewers. I hope my reviews are helpful to the readers.



Samsung Galaxy Note II: More Than Just A Giant Phone

, posted: 9-Jan-2013 12:04

Thanks to Telecom New Zealand  and Geekzone, I have had the opportunity to review the Samsung Galaxy Note II over the 2012 holiday period.
 
Most of the reviews and commentary I have seen about this handset really focus on it's 5.5" screen size and too-many-xmas-mince-pies weight, so instead of subjecting you to 'yet-another-blog-about-how-2-weeks-with-the-Note-II-makes-the-Galaxy-S3-seem-really-compact'  (it does.) - I thought I'd focus on some other aspects that I haven't seen talked about too much.

Battery Life
 
The Samsung Galaxy Note II has simply amazing battery life. Some days have seen as little as 5% battery drop in a 24 period, including a few short phone calls, several text messages, a few emails, and a few web page views in the browser. Even taking into account the fact that the battery is significantly bigger than most other phones, the battery drain when idle is minimal (1% overnight with flight mode on). The best I managed with my Galaxy S3 was about 3% per hour.
 
Without even trying, and with regular usage, I have gone four days and nights without charging the Note. This will of course depend on your individual usage, and the signal strength in your area. I live in Hawkes Bay, and Telecom coverage is superior here, especially as where there is Telecom coverage, it is always decent 3G coverage.
 
I think that as well as the bigger battery, Samsung - the hardware maker, and Google - the operating system maker, have really put in the effort to be frugal with battery use.
 
Gone are the days of "I have a smartphone so I am going to have to charge up again after 5pm if I need my phone tonight".
 
I am happily using my phone as normal, and going two or three days without charging, and still having enough battery life to take photos of the kids, or check directions when out and about.
 
The User Interface
 
TouchWiz is the customized user interface (or 'skin') that Samsung puts on its Android handsets. It gets a bad rap from a significant portion of the modding community, but to be fair, I think it does a good job of taking the clean-and-crisp-but-tailored-to-geeks standard Android UI, and making it friendly to use for non-geeks.
 
I think it's easy to lose sight that by far, the market for these devices is not dominated by tech-heads who demand every last drop of performance, or the most-stripped-back UI for that faux-geek kudos, but in fact it is dominated by regular people, who aren't necessarily computer enthusiasts. TouchWiz is for them (and me! I like it on the Note II).
 
Regular folk won't even really know what TouchWiz is, which probably marks its success. Anyone who already knows they don't like it probably has the ability and desire to try a different ROM or launcher. 
 
The TouchWiz interface is 'nice'. I'm not going to say it's the best out there, but it isn't ugly, and it IS useful. Add to that, the specific features of the Galaxy series - like the S Pen, multi-view, floating video window, and Samsung has delivered a product that works extremely well as-is. That's the real clincher for me - the out of the box experience has been awesome.
 
Sliding your finger down from the top of the screen reveals the typical shortcuts to turn various features on or off, including Wi-Fi, 3G, email syncing and more, and being able to easily control screen brightness.
 
My only customization to the phone so far is installing my favorite games and apps, including "Tasker", from the Play Store.
 
Tasker allows me to do lots of different things, but because I don't use my phone at night, I have Tasker turn all the notifications off from 11pm until 6am. Additionally, it detects if I have plugged the phone in overnight or not, and if not, it puts the phone in airplane mode for that 7-hour period, saving a few more precious % of battery life.
 
Samsung's lock-screen still leaves a bit to be desired, it is rather plain, and the ability to customize the shortcut icons is there, but not as easily accessible as you might expect. A lock screen app like Widget-Locker will allow you to build a much prettier and more functional lock screen that can display widgets and icons to your liking.
 
Ultimately, Android, including TouchWiz, is very customizable, and you can put what you want on your home screens. I'll cover some useful apps and widgets in further blogs.
 
I'll be keeping TouchWiz.
 
It Just Works
 
I can't believe how little I have changed on this phone.
 
If you know me from the Geekzone forums, or in person, you will know I usually tinker with my phones, but the Galaxy Note II seems to mark a milestone for Samsung, in that the performance of the phone is brilliant out of the box, the functionality of the phone is brilliant out of the box, and there is very little to be gained by messing around with the operating system.
 
Having said that, "Dear Samsung & Google, please take the most popular 'root' applications like Titanium Backup and SetCPU, and provide sanctioned access to that functionality, without gaining root access to the device."
 
I hope you enjoyed reading about something other than size, weight, and processing power. Keep checking back on the Telecom Tech Blog for further posts about Galaxy Note 2 features that matter.
 
About The Author
 
My name is Tony Hughes. I am an I.T. & telecommunications consultant based in Hawkes Bay.  I am a musician, I love to play guitar (acoustic or electric), and enjoy playing the bass as well. I geek around with mobile devices, Ubuntu, Debian, the Raspberry Pi, Linux in general, and web technologies. I have an operating system installation habit of about one a week for which I do not require help. Just more operating systems.



Nakedmolerat’s Nokia Lumia 920: Windows Phone OS, Kid’s Corner, Speech

, posted: 3-Jan-2013 15:31

Intro

One thing about the Windows Phone is that I never thought that the tiles concept could actually work. Unlike Android, the interface can be overwhelming if you are not used to a smartphone. With Android each manufacturer has their own 'skin'. For example HTC has HTC-sense and Samsung has Touchwiz. This type of customization means that phone owners using different manufacturers' products will have different experiences. It also contributes to 'slow' and staggering updates. On Windows Phone the user interface is similar between different devices from different manufacturers.

Tiles

Once the phone is set-up, you will see various blue tiles on the screen. Some of the tiles are animated. For example 'People' will show pictures of your contacts randomly. These tiles are actually a 'shortcut' for each app, contact, etc. How to put these tiles on your start screen? From the app list, you press and hold. It will offer you the option to 'pin to Start'. The colour of all the tiles is set in the settings - Theme. Unfortunately you are not able to set each separate tile to different colours.

Some tiles can be 'live'. The live tiles concept is different from the Android widget where you can see continuous updates. The Windows phone 'live' tiles will only update every 30 minutes. For example the app that shows battery percentage will not show the correct percentage until the update is due. However, you can always 'force' an update by opening up the app itself. Since the tiles are only a 'shortcut', you don't have the ability to toggle Wifi/Bluetooth/GPS switch while on the start screen. This is something that you have to get used to if you move from Android.

The Windows phone tile can be resized to 3 different sizes: square, square x 4, square x 8



By swiping the screen to the right, you will see the app list. It can be scrolled up and down. Clicking on the letter box, will bring up lists of alphabets that act as a shortcut to your apps. One thing for new users to note is that your 'games' will not appear on this list. Instead, you have to select 'Games' which will open a new 'games' screen.

 

Lastly, you have settings. This can be selected from the app list and it will show you all available settings. The settings are designed to be incredibly easy to understand.

One thing to note is that Windows Phone 8 offers unique features that allow your children to use your phone safely. This is the Kid's Corner

Kid's Corner

You can enable Kid's Corner by going to Settings |- Kid's Corner | On/Off. You can then select which apps are available in that area.

Once set, you can access this by swiping from the Lock Screen to the left side. Normally you swipe upwards in order to unlock your phone.



Example of my Kid's Corner:

 

What is limited in kid's corner?
  • Internet Explorer disabled (no web access).
  • No in-app purchases can be made unless you setup a PIN to your wallet.
  • Your child is not able to access your regular apps or settings.
  • Clicking in-app links will open up internet explorer and you can navigate by clicking further links but the address bar is disabled.
  • No calls or text messaging allowed.
  • Bing search button (bottom right) is also disabled.
  • Volume is limited to 20 instead of the usual 30.
You are still able to customize the tiles in kid's corner.

This is a brilliant idea. No bill shocks and no more having to 'reconfigure' your phone after a few minutes in your child's hands. Unfortunately, the Lumia 920 is not waterproof. So you might want to make sure those little hands are dry and clean!

Speech

One feature of the Windows Phone that most impressed me is the voice assist ala Apple 'Siri' or Samsung 'S-Voice'. Holding the windows button for 2-3 seconds will make the phone ready for voice instructions. Prior to that, you will need to install speech language (different from the language setting you did at the beginning of setting up the phone). This has to be done via Settings | Speech. For English, you have three options:
  • English (India)
  • English (United Kingdom)
  • English (United States)
I use English (United Kingdom). This seems to work better with my accent.

  

As per the pictures above, you can set the phone to play audio for confirmation. I found this extremely useful when replying text messages while driving. Incoming text messages can be played to Bluetooth, Headsets or Wired Headsets.

When I first received this Nokia Lumia 920, I hadn't read about the speech capability of Windows Phone 8. I did play with the settings prior to that. I found them too simple and I didn't expect it to function well. I was out driving and all of a sudden my car stereo stopped and the Lumia informed me that I had a text message. It asked if I would like it to be read or ignore. The phone was connected via Bluetooth.

Once done, it automatically asked me if I would like to reply, do nothing or re-read the text again. I chose reply. You can start replying to the text. It will stop after a certain length and ask if you would like to add more, send the text message or start your text from scratch again. I found this great and easy to use. I was able to reply a few of my texts with no difficulty while driving around town that day.

An example of the instructions is in the screenshot below. It turns out that some apps can utilize this exceptional speech programme. Surprisingly, you can also use speech while on the call with someone!

  

The phone integration with Microsoft One Note allows you to dictate a note-taking. All you have to do is to say 'note' and your message thereafter. This is extremely useful if you need to jot down points after a phone conversation.

Summary
  • The phone O/S is simple and incredibly easy to learn. Great for someone who is new to the smartphone scene and wants something that 'just' works.
  • Tiles are great but maybe the live tiles concept can be made similar to the android widget.
  • Tiles customization should be improved so that users can set different colours or sizes.
  • Kid's corner is a great innovation.
  • Speech is one of the best features I came across. For some reason, the Android phones that I have used did not offer a speech feature as great as the Windows Phone.
About the author

Hi, my name is Fergus. I am a big fan of the nakedmolerat character in Kim Possible - Rufus. I work in  the health sector. I am also a volunteer firefighter when I am not working. I started using computers when I was five years old. I am the 'guy' that family and friends approach when they have issues with their computers. I am also an Android fanboy (Yes! I believe Android will takeover the world soon). It was such a great opportunity when Telecom New Zealand and Geekzone offered me to be one of the Nokia Lumia 920 / Windows Phone reviewers. I hope my reviews are helpful to the readers.



Nakedmolerat’s Nokia Lumia 920 impressions

, posted: 19-Dec-2012 13:40

Intro

First, thanks to Geekzone and Telecom New Zealand for choosing me to participate in this Blog. I am extremely excited about this opportunity. I never thought that I would be selected as there are others on Geekzone that are more 'geeky' than me. Most of my IT knowledge is self-taught. I don't have any formal training in IT.

I shall introduce myself. I work in the health sector. I use my phone mainly for calls, txt, email, browsing and certain apps related to my work. Occasionally I do play games and I take photos.

I have been using Android for some time now. It started with an HTC magic back in 2009. I have been using a few other Android-based smartphones from different manufacturers since then. Currently I am using Galaxy Note but I also have a Motorola Defy and Samsung Galaxy Nexus as backups. I don't have much experience with IPhone / iOS though.

The Nokia Lumia 920 is my first Windows Phone device. In this post, I am only going to highlight interesting points from my viewpoint. Please write in the comment section if you have specific questions.

Unboxing

I received my Nokia Lumia 920 about a week ago. The phone comes with white wall charger and USB cable. It also comes with a headphone, manual and SIM key to unlock the micro SIM card slot. My first impression of the phone. WOW!

I have always been impressed with Nokia products. I think Nokia is synonym with phones that are long-lasting, tough and durable. The Nokia design team is highly respectable and they are known to push the limits. The Nokia Lumia 920, one-piece monoblock polycarbonate body is such an exceptional design. The phone feels premium in hand. At the back, the 8.7MP camera is detailed with ceramic zirconium.

Main specifications:

  • 4.5" Display size, IPS
  • Aspect ratio: 15:9
  • 332 pixel per inch(ppi) (to put this into perspective, iphone 5 has 326 ppi)
  • Storage: 32 GB, not expandable
  • 2000mAh battery with standby 460 hour on 3G (Telecom smartphone network is 100% 3G), 74 hour music playback
  • Front / Rear facing camera

Head onto Nokia site for details (www.nokia.com/nz-en/products/phone/lumia920/specifications). The Nokia Lumia costs NZ$ 999 (if you are getting it upfront, without any network contracts).

Mobile Network

This phone supports:

  • Quadband GSM (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
  • Pentaband WCDMA (850 / 900 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100)
  • Pentaband LTE (800 / 900 / 1800 / 2100 / 2600)

This means you can use this phone on ANY network in New Zealand (ie. Telecom New Zealand, Vodafone New Zealand, 2Degrees) and pretty much everywhere throughout the world. On top of that, this phone also supports DC-HSDPA. Theoretically you can approach download speed of 42Mbit/s. This is double the maximum theoretical speed of ADSL2+!

LTE is just 'warming' up in NZ. There is some discussion on Geekzone forums with regards to this. Telecom and Vodafone are on top gear getting their 4G network ready. This means the Nokia Lumia 920 is a future-proof phone. Once the 4G switch is turned on, your Nokia Lumia 920 should be able to give you access to that part of the network data service.

Display

The phone display is spectacular. Personally, I have not yet come across any phone that produces a crystal clear image. Side by side comparison to my android collections, Nokia Puremotion HD+ display beat them all. This Puremotion technology in Lumia allows 2.5x faster response time for individual pixel compared to standard IPS displays. Because of this, it enables the refresh rate of 60Hz. As far as I know, there is no other phone that has a refresh rate this high.

The display is bright and I can actually read it right under the sun in the middle of the afternoon. Thanks to Clear Black Display technology and sunlight readability enhancements.

One more thing to note, the screen is ultra-sensitive. In the menu below, you can set the sensitivity to high. What it means is that you can use gloves or even fingernail to scroll. This would be useful during the winter!

Dedicated Button & Ports

Facing the phone, on the left side, there is no side key. On the right hand side, there are volume rocker, power/lock/unlock and dedicated camera button. Pressing the camera button for 2 seconds will bring the phone straight into the camera app when locked even if your phone is password protected.

Top part, there is a headphone jack and noise cancelling microphone. For the bottom part, you have stereo speakers and micro USB jack in between. Three specific touch buttons at the bottom of the screen:

Left arrow - Back, but if you press and hold, it will bring you to the recent running apps. Unlike Android, you are unable close these running apps by swiping.

Windows - Bring you into the main screen / Tiles

Zoom - straight into Bing search and also gives you choice to scan QR codes and Microsoft Tags.

Soft Reset (if the phone froze)

Press and hold the power button and volume down button for 10 seconds. You will feel that the phone vibrates and automatically reboots. You will not lose your apps or settings.

Hard Reset - everything will be deleted, back to factory state.

Hold the volume down, power button and camera button until you can feel the phone vibrating. Quickly release the power button but keep the volume down and camera button for a further 5 seconds.

If you can reboot the phone normally, hard reset can be done by going to [Settings] - [About] - [Reset Your Phone].

Camera

Smartphone cameras are now an integral part of our life. The Nokia Lumia 920 main camera sports 8.7 MP and Carl Zeiss Tessar lens. The maximum resolution can be as high as 3552 x 2448 pixels. The short pulse high power dual LED flash can function as far as 300 cm. The secondary/front facing camera produces a picture resolution of 1280 x 960 pixels.

One thing to note is the camera also uses Nokia PureView camera technology. This is the same technology as Nokia PureView 808 that can take 41 MegaPixel picture. One can expect excellent quality.

Setting up

Please note that my phone is from Telecom NZ. Turning up the screen, you will be greeted with the infamous blue Telecom Logo. Other than this customized start-up screen, there is no other obvious Telecom brandishing stuff on the phone.

The setting up is outrageously simple. The phone offers multiple languages. After that it will guide you step by step. They have made it really simple for new users by offering 'recommended' vs 'custom' settings. Each setting has short explanation about what it does.

Once done, you will see blue coloured tiles and a greeting text message from Windows Phone.

Summary

  • The phone is gorgeous.
  • Puremotion HD+ display, 60Hz refresh rate, 332 ppi make Lumia 920 the phone with the best display out there.
  • Elegant camera.
  • The phone design is simple, dedicated camera button is a great idea.
  • Easy to setup - no prior smartphone knowledge is required.

In a next post I will explore the Windows Phone operating system.

About the author

Hi, my name is Fergus. I am a big fan of the nakedmolerat character in Kim Possible - Rufus. I work in  the health sector. I am also a volunteer firefighter when I am not working. I started using computers when I was five years old. I am the 'guy' that family and friends approach when they have issues with their computers. I am also an Android fanboy (Yes! I believe Android will takeover the world soon). It was such a great opportunity when Telecom New Zealand and Geekzone offered me to be one of the Nokia Lumia 920 / Windows Phone reviewers. I hope my reviews are helpful to the readers.



Nokia Lumia 920 and wireless charging

, posted: 18-Dec-2012 15:32

When Nokia announced the Nokia Lumia 920 they also introduced wireless charging, a feature that makes charging a mobile phone as easy as leaving it on the table.

Basically Nokia has announced a series of accessories that will either charge the Nokia Lumia handsets or charge and perform other functions, such as work as a speaker set or NFC tag.

This is the Nokia Charging Plate DT-900. You plug it to the wall and any time you drop your Nokia Lumia 920 on the charging plate it will start charging. No mess plugging and unplugging cables from the phone.

Nokia wireless chargers are compatible with Qi inductive power standard. Devices can be charged up to 4cm from one another. It's pretty much the same principle used in some electrical toothbrushes you can find in your supermarket. Other smartphone manufacturers also support the Qi standard, including HTC, Samsung, LG.

Here is my Nokia Lumia 920 charging wirelessly. It even works through the Otterbox Commuter case I put it on:

From my experience charging time seems to be similar to what I'd get if using a USB wall charger.

Wireless charging is a feature on Nokia Lumia 920. If you have a Nokia Lumia 820 you can use an optional Nokia charging shell, replacing the original backing of your smartphone to achieve the same results.



TelecomTech's profile

Telecom New Zealand
Auckland
New Zealand


Telecom Tech is a different type of blog. We're sponsored by Telecom New Zealand, but most of the posts here are from every day users like you.

We choose tech savvy Geekzone users to "test drive" the new handsets from Telecom New Zealand.

The team will post firsthand reports on using these smartphones on New Zealand's smartphonenetwork. Make sure to keep an eye on this blog. Who knows who might be our next "test drivers"?

   

Catch up on previous Telecom Tech reviews - read about the Nokia Lumia 1020Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Nokia Lumia 800, Nokia Lumia 710 and HTC Sensation.





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