Wade’s first Nokia Lumia 920 experience

, posted: 18-Dec-2012 08:48

Let me start by providing a bit of background on me. I discovered Android a couple of years ago and it just hit the spot, the options were limitless, there were apps and mods available that just made life easy. Owning a Samsung Galaxy S2 then S3 and frequenting technology forums soon had me addicted to tweaking, modifying and flashing custom ROMs, always trying to achieve the best possible user experience. Coupled with this I work for a typically large global corporation who took the interesting position of adopting Google Mail as it's mail system globally. I suppose to a degree I would consider myself a bit of a Google power user as I am using its services extensively in a corporate environment and on a daily basis. An Android handset therefore provides me a very powerful business tool.

I was invited to try the Nokia Lumia 920 on Telecom New Zealand and I entered into this Windows Phoneexperience as a somewhat biased fandroid, with no prior knowledge of or interest in Windows Phone, and an expectation that it would feel well short of my requirements. In some aspect I almost felt guilt that I was potentially robbing this experience from a true Windows Phone fan. A week into my journey with the Telecom supplied Nokia Lumia 920 and I am absolutely loving the Windows Phone 8 provided by the Telecom Nokia Lumia 920 smartphone.

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Out of the box this is a very manly phone, It is big, it is weighty, it definitely makes an impression. The design cues stem from the 'less is more' philosophy, the single piece polycarbonate body provides a clean, simple visual whilst providing a very solid feel. After using a white phone for the last 6 months the satin black finish is a welcome change.

This phone ships with one of the tidiest USB AC chargers I have ever seen. Nokia have beaten Apple at their own game, the charger is tiny, the USB cable is long and feels superior to what we have come to expect. One does have to ask the question though, why Nokia do you ship a black phone with a white charger and USB cable? The micro-sim tray will look very familiar to Apple users, as it resides in the top of the phone and requires a special tool (included) to pop the sim tray out but again some engineering excellence is highlighted as the tray design makes loading and containing the sim a very simple task.

Powering up the phone for the first time I had no idea what to expect, I had never so much as held a Windows Phone device let alone used one. Given I have had reasonable experience with Android and the Google eco-system I figured there would be some element of similarity so had already created a Microsoft Live account in anticipation. One aspect I did not expect to be so easy was integrating non-Windows accounts, after signing into my windows live account I connected two Gmail accounts, Facebook and LinkedIn also. This seamlessly integrated contacts and calendars into the native apps so literally within a few minutes I was up and operational and connected to the world. It couldn't be simpler.

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Navigating through the menus you soon realize that this is a very different experience to Android or iOS and in some aspects it seems devoid of features and setup options, but then it hits you, the integration and the theming and how it ties the OS and all its apps together. Each app follows a consistent and standard layout all with similar theming, this all combines to provide a stunningly integrated and consistent user experience.

Three key social media apps, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, have a fluidity and simplicity has to be experienced to fully appreciate. Another app that demonstrates this fluidity of design and function is the NZ Herald app, it just works.

I have only began to scratch the surface with regards to the capabilities and functionalities of both Windows Phone 8 and the Nokia Lumia 920. The impressive camera, Office integration, Skydrive cloud storage, but will leave this for future blogs.

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Another surprise worthy of mention is the battery, I am consistently getting over a days use per charge which to compare with my S3 in a similar usage pattern was struggling to get more than 16 hours. Overnight the battery barely registers a drop even over a six or seven hour period and this is with two email accounts running in the background. You just use this phone, you don't need to monitor usage to control battery life.

Another pleasant surprise (coming from a Galaxy S3) is the time required to charge the battery, I have not measured time required but suffice to say it would be half the time required to the S3 (which takes an exceptionally and painfully long time!)

Of course Windows Phone 8 is not perfect, the number of apps available in the app store highlights that it is an operating system still in its infancy. A bugbear for me is the notifications/tones options are relatively limited, you can apply custom ringtones but not custom email or messaging tones, also there is no independent control of volumes. I am also missing a few of the automation/productivity type apps of which I was spoilt for choice with Android. This however does lead me to some questions I have asked myself repeatedly throughout the week, do I actually need the customization that Android offers? Is it a need or a want? Does it cause more problems than it provides solutions? What is the ultimate combination of smart devices?

In rounding off this blog there is one aspect above all else that the Nokia Lumia 920 has reinforced to me over this past week and that is that it is a truly fantastic phone, putting aside that it is a very capable smart device, it is also a truly fantastic phone. In a time before smartphones being as common place as they are today, Nokia was probably the brand that most of us were most familiar with, there were few if any phones that offered that combination of call clarity, strong reception and long battery life that Nokia did so well.

The Nokia Lumia 920 looks to continue this tradition being most pleasant to actually talk on and use as a conventional phone, something often overlooked in the tech specs race. Coupled with my move across to the Telecom $59 Open Smartphone plan with 500 anytime minutes I have found myself in a position where I have plentiful minutes plus a great phone so I am tending to ring people where previously I would have just sent a text or email.

About the author

wadeMy name is Wade, I am probably best described as a slightly demanding tech savvy consumer who is fast approaching an age where one needs to start planning one's mid-life crisis. I'm a family man with two extraordinary daughters, as well as a fabulous and understanding (most of the time!) wife, hobbies include home theatre and car audio. work in supply chain within the manufacturing sector. I have a vested interest in simplifying and enriching both my work and personal lives through technology. I live in a household filled with the usual plethora of Apple devices however my weapon of choice has become Android and the Google ecosystem. Windows Phone is a somewhat unchartered territory for me. Having no prior experience with Windows Phone or SkyDrive, I am very much looking forward to immersing myself into this ecosystem and understanding how it stacks up for my needs.



Let’s Go: a week with a Nokia Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8

, posted: 13-Dec-2012 10:13

Right, full disclosure first: I work for Telecom New Zealand. Don't panic though, I actually earn my keep in the digital experience team, and a big part of what I do is keeping up with how people interact with technology and how those interactions can be made more intuitive and human-focussed. So I was very keen to see how Microsoft's new Windows Phone 8 stacked up against Android and iOS and also to see Nokia's new premium Lumia line in action. The guys here were very explicit about making this piece unbiased, so all these opinions and the weird grammar are completely mine.

Now, this won't be an exhaustive feature review and there'll be a bare minimum of spec-talk - mainly because I figure there's plenty of other sites (including Nokia and Telecom) that'll handle all that better than I can.

Instead I'm going to focus on how this new phone and operating system combo behaves in New Zealand, on a New Zealand mobile network, in the hands of a Kiwi and what were the things about the whole experience that I reckon you'd like to know if you're in the market for a new superphone.

 

Industrial Design

Let's kick off with the outside. A polycarbonate monobody means there's no case joins to detract from the uber-onesie-ness, and the rounded sides means there's no sharp edges to dig into your palm. The edges of the screen are curved as well; they fade softly into the main body. This curve isn't just for design aesthetics, either: a common interaction in Windows Phone is a sideways swipe to navigate between tabs, and Nokia researched that it just feels better when your finger meets a curved surface instead of a hard edge or plane - how's that for attention to detail?

OK, so the phone looks great and is suitably touchy-feely, but how does it stand up to real-world use? Well, Nokia's put some next-level materials in the game here. The physical buttons and the camera strip on the reverse are made from ceramic zirconium, which resists scratches like your dinner plate shrugs off your knife and fork. The Gorilla Glass used on the screen is already well-known for taking an "is that the best you can do?!" stance against even those punishing keys and coins in your pocket or handbag, and the rest of the phone is polycarbonate with colour fused all the way through it - not just surface-coating here. All these materials not only feel great (they're warm, not cold), but the visible effects of any dings or scratches are hugely reduced, so it should look great for longer.

Weight

Talking about someone's weight behind their back is generally considered a bit rude, but in the Lumia 920's case it's a hot topic that a lot's been written about already, so I've left mine in the other room while we chat about this. (We'll just whisper, OK?)

I did some quick informal surveys and the feedback from people who held the Lumia 920 for the first time ranged from "it's a lot heavier than my phone" and "I wouldn't want to get caught up-side the head with it" to "hey, it feels like a real phone" and "premium".

Personally, my first impression was "heavy" but, after using it for a week, I now describe it as "reassuringly solid" and I don't notice the weight any more. The best way I can describe my perception change is like this: remember when you agonised over the size of your first big-screen TV? When you rationalised picture size against cost, and 'significant other' acceptance factor against credibility with your mates? And you at last made your choice and grinned like a happy idiot when it was finally installed? But then 2 weeks later you were sitting there and you realised, "Yeah, I could've gone bigger..."? Well, the Lumia 920's weight is like that: after a few days you just wonder what all the fuss was about.

I know, that's just one more opinion, when what you're really thinking is "But will *I* think it's too heavy?".

Well, we're all about practical advice around here, so I present to you the Authorised Lumia Offline Heft Approximisator (ALOHA, patent pending): grab some spare change, some sticky-tape and your current mobile then find out your current mobile's weight (GSM Arena is useful). The Lumia 920 weighs 185g so if that's heavier than your mobile then work out the weight difference. Then stick a close-enough combo of coins (the Reserve Bank says a 20c piece weighs 4g, 50c is 5g, $1 is 8g, $2 is 10g) to the back of your mobile and bam!, your mobile is now the same weight as a Lumia 920. No, it's not the classiest of looks, I'll grant you, but give it a couple of days and see if you can deal with the weight or if you start walking in circles because you're now leaning to one side.

By the way, think twice before assuming you'll need to add a case protector to the Lumia 920; it seems to have one of the toughest exteriors around. Much like a great Bond film it's been hit with a mallet and slashed with a knife, plus run over by a car and tossed 3 stories high to land on asphalt and after all that it just strolled away with not much more than a minor flesh wound. (Your mileage could vary, and I'm not game enough to repeat this one!)

User Interface

From an interaction design perspective, I think the Modern UI is a great-looking visual style system. It's won't be for everyone but if you're over the visual clutter of icons and wallpapers and buttons and menus that some other mobile operating systems use then this'll be like an oasis in the desert. It's not so much that everything unnecessary has been stripped away, more that a blank page was the starting point and then every element that was added had to fight for its life to stay there. Once you know the basic interactions, you get a sense that if something isn't easy to find then it probably isn't there; the UI doesn't make you feel foolish for not knowing lots of secret handshakes. I liked:
  • The People Hub.Scratch the 'like', I love this. The People Hub pulls all communications together and can show them by person so you can see "what's Maverick been up to" at a glance instead of having to open up individual apps to learn "what did Maverick post on Facebook, what did Maverick text me, has Maverick emailed me, what's Maverick tweeted". Hubs instead of apps is a radical shift, but it's one that (for me) feels far more friendly and intuitive.
  • Animations.I won't describe all these, because if you end up getting a Windows Phone then these design touches are wonderful to stumble across. Icons rotate smoothly as you change the orientation of the phone, the 'More' ellipsis is a great and consistent way to help people learn icons while not cluttering the display for experts, menu list items twist slightly as you touch them, and lots more. It's details like these that give the UI a polished, premium feel. Plus animations on the Lumia 920 are so smooth thanks to the Lumia 920's 60Hz screen refresh rate; the tight integration between UI, OS and hardware is literally visible.
  • Adaptive application menu. Initially the application menu is just a straight list but once the number of apps in the list goes above 40, Windows Phone automatically adds letter headings and separates all apps into sections based on the initial letter. Any letter heading can be touched to bring up a shortcut alphabet index list. It's a really nice touch but it also reveals some design philosophy: that Windows Phone adapts to you and your behaviour.
  

Interactions

There's a shedload of interactions in a large operating system like Windows Phone, so I'll just touch on a couple that are different to their counterparts on other mobile OSs. I liked:
  • Dictation and voice control.I found the vocal command parsing to be as good as Google (though perhaps a little slower), and I had far better success than with Siri on iOS, who I always had to put some kind of weird accent on for. (Maybe that's just me, though...)
  • Camera trigger.One of the smartest things about Windows Phone is all phones have to have a dedicated camera button so the camera can be quickly activated even if the phone is locked or asleep. Your risk of missing that photo op is greatly reduced.
  • Copy and paste. It just works. And it looks darn good doing it. The cursor even locks itself to a spot about 1cm above your finger-tip so as you move your finger around you can see exactly where the cursor is without having to peer around your finger - genius. My one niggle is I don't seem to be able to copy part of a text message, I have to copy the whole thing and then delete the bits I don't want. Hopefully that's an easy future enhancement.

  • Onscreen keyboard. It's fast and uncluttered. I turned off suggestions to get more screen real estate and I find I do miss Android's Swype (so handy when walk-messaging). One puzzler is there's no '.co.nz' button on the email/URL keyboard, instead there's a '.co.uk' button and '.co.nz' isn't even in the fly-out options. I'm hoping a future patch might alter the button to reflect the country/language chosen in the 'Browser and Search language' setting but given our population it might take all of us to get some attention for this one!
 

Technology

Let's chat about some of the Lumia 920's techno-innards and specifically how they work in New Zealand. There'll be no CPU or RAM benchmarks here, instead I thought I'd go into a couple of lesser-sung heroes that I was a fan of:
  • Battery Saver is in the Settings menu. It seems to function a lot like Juice Defender on Android but with a trigger threshold: when the battery level hits 20% the system turns off notifications and email auto-updates to really stretch out that last 20%. The effect is that instead of the battery depleting by 10% overnight, when Battery Saver was activated it only reduced by 4-5%, so it's a great feature if you're away from a charger.

  • The camera is definitely a superb feature of the Lumia 920. Songs will be written in its honour, I'm sure. Nokia has also released some great camera apps exclusive to the Lumia range (check out PhotoBeamer) that you won't get on other Windows Phone devices, too.
  • GPS uses satellites to determine your location and Nokia Maps uses that to map where you are. So far, so same-old. But then the wow-factor arrived: I was walking and it was tracking me. I'm not just talking about a marker being updated every few seconds; I moved a step, it moved a sub-pixel (the map was zoomed-in). No joke, it actually felt like I had my own satellite watching me - it was both very impressive and slightly unnerving at the same time. It's a great example of hardware working superbly with both the operating system and application layers.

  • DC-HSDPA is a new technology that Telecom is currently rolling out to its Smartphone Network, to enable faster data download speeds. The key bits in that unwieldy acronym are 'DC' for 'Dual Carrier' and the other 'D' is for 'Downlink' and means a compatible mobile device can ask the network for double the normal data connections to boost its download speed. So does the Lumia 920 support DC-HSDPA, I hear you ask? Why, yes. Yes, it does. DC-HSDPA is still being rolled out around the country so coverage is increasing as I type, but I did some tests at Telecom Place and a couple of spots around the Auckland CBD to see what's possible with the Lumia 920 and this network upgrade. There's no Speedtest.net app for Windows Phone yet, so I ran the Speedtest.net app on an iPad 3 connected to the Lumia 920 using its Wi-Fi internet sharing feature. Even with the overhead of that translation and extra step in the mix, the results were impressive:


Room for improvement

But it's not all rainbows and fluffy bunnies, there are still some teething issues to work through:
  • The Windows Phone Store needs some more apps. If you're an app-fiend, this is probably the thing that'll give you the most disappointment initially. The good news is almost all the heavy-hitters are available and this is a fast-growing area, plus there's an online tool to help you find Windows Phone equivalents for your favourite apps. One note is there seems to be a 'store' for each country, which means you only see reviews/ratings from people in your country. That's useful if the app has local content, but in a small country like ours a small sample size also means it can be hard to see which apps are popular or good.
  • The time stamps on incoming text messages appear as if they're arriving from 13 hours in the future. This can cause a couple of "what the...?" moments initially, especially for texts received in the afternoon since they show with tomorrow's date, but it's not a huge problem once you know about it. It's a known bug and a software fix is coming soon.
  • Text messages arrive with the sending mobile's number in the format +64271234567 but phone calls arrive with a number format of 0271234567. This means for callerID to work properly you currently need to store phone numbers in both formats, or you won't consistently see which of your contacts is calling/texting you. The good news is this bug is known to both Microsoft and Nokia and a fix is coming in mid-late December through Nokia Care Direct if you need it urgently, and Over-The-Air in early 2013.
  • There's a few other minor things I'd personally change, but they're far from earth-shattering and I'd feel pretty mean to pick on them; it's easy to forget this is basically v1 of a new operating system, while Android and iOS have each had over half a dozen major releases to fix little niggles. A good resource to see what suggestions have already been requested is the Windows Phone User Voice feedback site.
My Verdict

Overall, I've thoroughly enjoyed my initial experience with both Windows Phone 8 and Nokia's Lumia 920 - I can definitely see why they're so popular and I'm looking forward to putting the wireless chargers through their paces when they arrive.

The Lumia 920 hardware is solid (in every sense of the word) and has oomph to burn - I don't think it really needed to get out of first gear when I was testing it. Its size and weight mean it won't be for everyone but if it fits you then you'll be rewarded with a powerhouse of premium kit.

As for Windows Phone, the apps store is still very young compared to Android and iOS, but it's growing the fastest and I think the ecosystem has exciting potential thanks to tight integration with Microsoft's other properties like Xbox, Office, SkyDrive, Skype, Surface and Windows 8.

If you're looking for your first smartphone then I'd encourage you to play with a Windows Phone to see whether the minimalistic "people-focused" interface works for you as well as it did for me. Equally, if you're a power smartphone-user who's open-minded about trying something different to your current mobile operating system, then this one may take some adjusting to, but once you do I think you'll find it hard to go back.

About the author

Hi, I'm Crispin. By day I'm a UX specialist for Telecom's Digital team, so I look after big web projects and help make them awesome for our visitors. By night, I set morality aside and fight crim... errr, I mean I help small businesses with technology support on everything from Bluetooth headsets to NASs to backup strategies. HTPCs are a hobby and the proportion of electronic devices in my home vs 'dumb' ones makes it increasingly likely I'll be an early target for our new robot overlords. I lived in Wellington for 5 years and I'm now based in Auckland with two very determined yukka plants, a large electricity bill and a countdown to the next international film festival.



Android Mobile Software Update FAQ

, posted: 2-Aug-2012 16:21

We wanted to give some background on software updates we roll out to our Android handsets. We often field complaints that our update process is slower than expected, so we wanted to lift the lid and explain the approach we take.

Why test updates, can’t you just release them?
We won’t push any software updates out to customers that aren’t 100% tested and working on the smartphonetwork.

In a nut shell, we believe that thoroughly and rigorously testing software updates means a better customer experience, with less issues. It also means:
  • Bugs in your mobile can be avoided
  • We minimise the number of phones returned to our service centre for repairs(half of all handset returns are for software issues)
  • You’re less likely to need to call us for help
We work with handset manufacturers in the testing process – it’s a very honest working relationship. Telecom, the particular handset manufacturer, and Google, in their role as Android developers, are all part of the approval and sign off processes for each software update.

Why does testing take so long?
The first step is obtaining a stable version of the software from the handset manufacturer to test. Early versions of software releases are often developer-orientated, and whilst contain new feature can contain a number of bugs. There are times during our testing processes that we identify issues that are likely to give customers an unsatisfactory experience. When this occurs we notify the handset manufacturer and wait until a resolution is available.

We only reject software if testing shows it’s likely to impact our customers or the network. That said, the true test of course is when it’s in customer hands – everyone uses their smartphone differently.

What’s involved in testing?
We receive a test version of the software update after the manufacturer has carried out their internal quality checks. We then run a full set-up of tests, concentrating on the defects the software is resolving. We will then run a regression suite of tests to ensure that no new issues have been introduced.

Once we approve the software the manufacturer will then forward the software through to Google for approval. If it passes Google approval, the manufacturer then needs to load it on to their servers.

Aren’t you holding updates back to get us to buy new phones?
We believe the latest software is the best, as it improves the handset’s performance, and the experience the customer will have with it. We have never held back an available update for any other reason than the release failed our testing programme and the manufacturer was unable to resolve this. This would have translated into a substandard customer experience.

But this software is already out overseas, what’s the hold up?
Every mobile network is different – we think it’s important to test software updates on our own network, in our own conditions, to give our customers the best experience we can. There are also time where our testing has identified issues that other networks have missed and are subsequently having customer issues.

What’s Telecom’s position on unofficial builds?
Most manufacturers make open software updates available at roughly the same time they become available to network operators like ourselves. The open updates don’t go through the same network testing programmes, and are therefore available a little sooner, but with the trade off of not being fully tested on the network you’re using it on.

While some customers are comfortable taking software updates from ROM sites, we have seen some issues with ‘unofficial’ builds, and recommend waiting for the release from your network operator.

Aren’t you just filling your handsets with bloatware?
Our customisation is a very small part of the software updates and it is extremely rare that these delay the release of software. We add:
  • Settings ie Access Point Name (a network identifier)
  • A bookmark in the app menu to Your Telecom
  • A Yahoo! icon on the stock Android browser
  • Four bookmarks in the browser
  • Start up and shut down screens (not on all phones)
…but not all of these customisations go on every handset we release. We’ve reduced the amount of customisation and changes we make to software significantly in the last few years, both cosmetically and under the hood.

With modern smartphones, the user is in control, and can change the apps or appearance as they wish (a factory reset will restore these settings of course). The much criticised browser icon on the Samsung GALAXY SIII was just that – an icon change, as a branding exercise, and exists on the majority of our Android handsets.

About the author
Richard Irvine is Telecom New Zealand's Social Media Manager. You can contact him through Telecom New Zealand's Official Twitter account.



HTC One X: Bring on the Games!

, posted: 26-Jun-2012 11:39

Finally, the fun begins.  After purchasing or using any phone, my favourite moment is loading the first game.  I have many games, but for these tests I’ve decided to run the most taxing ones; the 3D ones.  I loaded up several games: Dead Meadow, Dead Space, Grand Theft Auto 3, Need for Speed, ShadowGun, Shinerunner, and Zen Pinball.



Dead Meadow, while graphically impressive, left a bit to be desired, as you never really get free control of the player.  It’s all very scripted.  It provided a good workout for the phone graphically, but I ended up throwing in the towel after 30 minutes of playtime.  After 30 minutes of playtime it was 38.2 degrees Celsius according to my laser thermometer  -  so still OK to hold, with some slight discomfort near the camera.





Dead Space, on the other hand, was a lot more inviting.  The graphics in Dead Space leave pretty much all the other games for dead.  The graphics are sort of a combination of PlayStation 2 and maybe Half Life gaming graphics.  Not quite at the  level of graphics of the current consoles or PlayStation Vita  but, at this rate, it won’t take too long for them to catch up.  Dead Space was a pleasure to play, with the One-X screen being the key component.  I could play it while walking round the aisles of the supermarket, or while seated on a plane, or anywhere I had time to kill.





Grand Theft Auto 3 also loaded up very promptly, the quad-core chipset springing it to life with no trouble.  It’s basically a port of the original game, and was very demanding on the phone.  Unfortunately, once all graphics were turned to max the phone couldn’t keep up and dropped quite a few frames.  However, it was still impressive, considering that just 10 years ago computers would struggle with the resolution this phone is putting out!





Need for Speed was one of my old favourites from years gone by.  I couldn’t wait to install it. After a relatively large download, I was set to race.  The phone performed admirably, with no slow-downs at all.  The game uses the tilt function of the phone to turn and that worked well.  It was calibrated perfectly, with no need for any adjustment.  It brought back memories of the past, of what racing games should be like.  Graphically it is one of the most impressive racing games on a mobile platform and was a pleasure to play.





To enhance my playing experience I bought stick-on buttons, which I used with the MHL/TV-Out to play it on the big screen.  These buttons attach to the screen using suction cups, and provide capacitive input, so you can feel where the buttons are when playing on the TV without looking down at the phone.



Shadow Gun is very much in the same realm as Dead Space, but Shadow Gun THD is designed to run on Tegra 3.  Visually, it was stunning. However, it didn’t quite compare to Dead Space, which is just slightly more polished, both in game play and in graphics.  So I didn’t play too much of it, although Shadow Gun does support movement via an external gamepad.







ShineRunner was next, and was more of an experiment to see whether a Bluetooth controller would work with the phone.  I loaded up Wii Controller from the Play Market, and the Wii gamepad was immediately recognised, which was great.  It didn’t need any additional drivers or root access; it just loaded up straight away.  I then proceeded to play ShineRunner, while leaving my device connected to my TV.  If more games supported this and the graphics were better, you could theoretically replace your consoles with the HTC One X or any similar mobile device!





Video of Shine Runner through TV:



My only disappointing game was Zen Pinball, which was an official Tegra 3 title, used to showcase the chipset’s graphics capabilities. Unfortunately the One-X didn’t run it smoothly, which might be related to the old version of software currently installed on the phone.  If Telecom allows the update soon, it will probably become quite playable, as One-X users from most countries who have received the update have reported.   Hopefully we’ll see this update in the next few weeks, so all the latest Tegra 3 games are smooth!





Overall, it’s a great phone for gaming, whether on the move, or playing it on the TV.  The total spend for gaming on the big screen for various games was:
  • $20 for a Madcatz Wii controller and nun chuck (brand new)
  • $6 for stick-on arcade-style buttons
  • $6 for the MHL adapter from eBay
  • Free to $2 for the games from the Google Play Market.   

About the author

I am Vincent Garcia: an ICT Specialist by day; technology geek and DIY handyman by night. I enjoy playing with gadgets, old and new.  Taking most of them through the paces, and to within an inch of their lives! I also enjoy tinkering with things; spending most of my weekends repairing my motorcycles, or renovating my house.  I live in the windy city of Wellington, with my lovely wife Nicola, and my cat Morange. When I was offered the opportunity to review the new HTC One X series, I jumped at the chance.  The short aeroplane trip to Auckland was all part of the fun!  If you want to ask any questions, please add a comment below, or email [email protected]



You've got mail

, posted: 25-Jun-2012 12:08

Due to the large volume of automated emails I get from the production servers I maintain, I don’t lean heavily on my mobile phone for accessing email, as the email client on my work computer is configured to make these much easier to deal with. However, I still find mobile email access a handy feature to have, especially for those times I’ve already tamed the overnight avalanche of work related emails, and therefore have a much more manageable inbox.

The HTC One X comes with two email apps; one that is part of the HTC Sense suite of applications, which offers access to most email services, and the official Gmail client. By default, the phone is geared towards using the HTC mail app, but as is usually the case with Android, this can easily be changed. Of course, if you don’t use Gmail for your email, the Gmail client isn’t going to be of much use. As I use Gmail for my primary email needs, I’m able to pick the client that works best for me. Which as it turns out is a good thing.

More on that later.


The Gmail client is to the left, with the HTC mail client to the right 

Both clients allow you to configure multiple email accounts, providing you with the ability to easily switch between each account. They both offer a similar view of your inbox, presenting a list which allows for multiple emails to be selected, so actions such as deleting messages can be performed on multiple items. By default the HTC client inbox will only show messages from the last 3 days, but this option can be changed so you can see messages from today, the last 3, 7, 14 or 30 days, or all messages. In contrast, the Gmail client shows all messages.

Where the Gmail client has a slight edge is by having more action icons always visible on the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. While the HTC mail client has icons for searching and composing new mail visible, the Gmail client also allows you to refresh from the toolbar. This is handy for me, as I don’t have my mail clients configured to automatically synchronize. Getting the same functionality from the HTC client involves first dropping down the menu, and selecting the option from there. For those of you who have your mail automatically synchronizing, this may be a non issue though.

As a counter to this advantage, the HTC inbox view allows you to show messages from all your configured email accounts in the same list, which is a feature that appears to be missing in the Gmail client.

Selecting an email in the list will open up the message body. With the HTC app I found this  to be a pretty unreliable action, with the message body often not successfully downloading. When this happens, I have to exit back to the inbox and select the message again before the message body will display. The Gmail app always operated as expected in this regard, with no issues with the message body being shown.

The default font size used when displaying messages in the HTC app is a little too large for my liking, but this can be configured to be smaller. One advantage the HTC message view does have over the Gmail client is that you can use a pinch to zoom gesture to enlarge the displayed text.


The Gmail message view, left, contrasted with the message view of the HTC mail app
 

A nice feature that the Gmail message view has is the ability to swipe left and right to switch between newer and older messages. In order to get the same functionality in the HTC message view, you need to access the menu and chose the previous or next option from there.

The Gmail compose message view is a little more minimalistic when compared to the HTC one, with only fields for the email message components shown, along with an unlabeled send button, with the rest of the functionality exposed under the menu button. In contrast, the HTC app has buttons for the common actions down the bottom. It also includes a People button next to the To field, to provide integration with your contacts. Both clients provide auto-completion on that field as you type.


The Gmail compose message view on the left, is a little minimalistic when compared to the HTC equivalent
 

Email integration is strong elsewhere throughout the phone, with access readily available from applications that allow you to share content. When sharing by email in this manner, you are able to choose whether you wish to send via the Gmail client or the HTC one.

In summary, the HTC One X comes with a couple of capable email clients bundled with it, and they both have their strengths and weaknesses. Because I could never get message body synchronization working correctly with my Gmail account using the HTC mail client, I find that one more cumbersome to use. As a result, the official Gmail app is currently my preferred choice on the HTC One X.


About the author

Hi I'm David, a self employed software developer on the wrong side of 40, residing in Auckland with my wife and two children. I am a passionate All Blacks and Blues fan, gadget junkie, mature aged gamer, and connoisseur of fine heavy metal (and music in general). I currently own an iPhone 4, but am very open to trying new technologies, and can't wait to see what the best of Android can bring to the smartphone table. I enjoy keeping up to date with the latest technological advances in general, and am encouraged to see that the smartphone market is no longer an iOneHorseRace. I’m very interested to see how the HTC One and Ice Cream Sandwich fares in this regard.



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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.

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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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