Lumia 800 as a PA

, posted: 19-Mar-2012 11:07

The thing most sole traders and busy executives can agree on is the complete lack of time to accomplish most tasks. I have found that a well prepared and setup smart phone, with a few basic features, starts to pay for itself in a very short time by providing information, remotely, on demand.

This is my first blog post for Telecom and Geekzone and I’m going to evaluate the new  Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone, on Telecom XT network, in my busy world. I hope to guide you to getting better value from your smart phone if you are a sole trader, small business exec or if you’re just busy enough to want a PA some days. 

Unpacking the Nokia Lumia 800 and getting started is easy; the packaging is practical and minimal. I don’t like in-ear earphones, so the complimentary hands free kit won’t be used.

A Nokia supplied cover is excellent value; it is purpose made and goes on like paint. The cover is important to me as I spend a great deal of time in a shed environment where abrasives, knocks and solvents are normal hazards. The complimentary cover is smooth enough that the phone can be easily slid in and out of trouser pockets by adding almost no difference or thickness to the overall bulk of the device.

The supplied charger is an extremely small wall adapter with USB power output and a supplied micro USB cable allows for wall charging or USB connection and charging from a computer. Apart from a manual and license agreement, that’s pretty much the box.

Getting Connected
Because there are several new ideas in how this smartphone allows for collaboration and integration into  a busy lifestyle, I decided to try all the settings and buttons I could find for a few days before resetting the device (via Settings, About menu) and starting 'for real'. You will need to download and install Zune to your primary computer or laptop, which is like iTunes if Microsoft wrote it, and you will need to be sure as much information as possible is up to date everywhere you use it as this device aggregates contact, social and other information from as many sources as you have.

This includes making sure the media you have is known to Zune if you intend taking videos, photos and music on the road. For this reason, this prep work is required to get the most value out of this way of working.

Connecting the phone to Zune via USB cable and getting started is a breeze. Zune provides wizard-like setups and some custom steps if required. I completed the wizard walk-through before I started at the first menu item and worked my way through the software until I had understood and tweaked everything to my liking. This took about 30 mins. After that, I tidied up my Facebook and LinkedIn profiles and made sure I had current and valid credentials for Gmail, Office365, my office and home Wi-Fi and all the other software tools I use to keep up with the world.

All this housekeeping took the better part of the morning, but resulted in a magical experience in terms of connecting with my contacts and connections (and their contacts and connections and so on). The interface is smooth, sleek and very responsive and at the touch of a button, I can see what the people in my world are up to and how I may best be able to expand and nurture bonds with distant friends, family and colleagues. All information is aggregated by contact name and the sensitive yet accurate touch screen navigates easily through the social minefield our world has become.

Zune allows for, and the smartphone supports, wireless synching. Essentially, when plugged in to the power supply, this smart phone will synchronise to Zune on the setup office workstation, over the home office Wi-Fi.

At this point I would like to add that this is one of the few smartphones that does not require any kind of priming by a computer or laptop and it is possible to get the device to full functionality without an initial, assisted setup - Zune adds features, content and management but is not required if you find you 'live' exclusively in Facebook, Google or other networks, for example.

Real World Use
Handset envy is high on this model and you will expect to have to show your smartphone off for a few days. After the hype subsides, the smartphone quickly proves its use. My first week ended with the requirement to book a theater show in Auckland for myself and five others, be the sober driver, coordinate pre-show drinks and a light meal as well as scout out a suitable post-show tear down - usually an hour or two to get organised for me.

Theater companies now have websites that sell tickets; booking and paying for the show via the in-built web browser was straight forward. I did not have all the contact or address details for the people in the trip and I used the handset from the roadside to contact, locate and navigate to the various pickup points via those people's Facebook or similar profiles and the information they have carelessly left freely visible.

I had preprogrammed the location of the theater in the phone and had no trouble navigating from Hamilton to downtown Queens Street, Auckland, in time for the show even though it's been a few years since I was in that neighbourhood. Along the way, the GPS showed distance to target, average speed and tracks seamlessly along the maps in a 3D-like interface.

This smartphone maintains local maps and for that reason, when signal drops off, the maps don't fall away as they do on similar devices that stream the maps as you travel.

During the show, the handset proved to be discreet and comfortably out of the way.  The volume control works without unlocking the screen and I could mute the sounds to vibrate just by lowering the volume to 0. The tile interface updates and shows, at a quick glance, where the social landscape has been altered.

I used the free Wikitude app to locate coffee shops in the Auckland CBD after the show without a problem. That the coffee shops don't advertise opening times is not a consideration of the smartphone but likely an oversight by Wikitude or the advertisers themselves - getting around was simple and getting lost, impossible.

Once introduced to further contacts while on the trip, I was able to 'friend' people as I met them via the Facebook and a third party LinkedIn application, negating the need for business cards and hand written numbers on tissue paper.

The GPS is presented by the free and inclusive Nokia Drive application and is smart, very responsive and easy to use. Noticeably, this GPS locks on a lot quicker than any I have used before and reroutes accurately within seconds if I miss a turn or overshoot an off ramp. Given Auckland's road network changes frequently, I found the maps to be up to date and the guided drive without a hitch. I found the free and included Bing Maps had trouble connecting, loading and locating me, but because I want to know where to go, rather than what things look like from the air, I have never used static maps from these types of devices and always go for the navigational application first.

Lastly, the evening being a success, a few pictures wouldn't go astray and despite some initial concerns around the camera's ability (based on other blogs' negative reviews of this phone's camera), I have found the camera to take excellent photos and fantastic video, even in adverse conditions.

The handset supports SkyDrive and allows for automatic uploading of media into any connected and supported location - Facebook included. This type of technology should be used with care due to the high quality of the pictures (by default) and bandwidth required to support this kind of data transfer. However, any content can be manually uploaded when in Wi-Fi range at the touch of a button rather than over costly 3G bandwidth. I have failed the camera's post snap auto-correct component as I found it made the few photos I tested it with worse, but I am sure there will be instances where this may actually enhance pictures.

If you are that way inclined and ask really nicely, you can take a photo of a new colleague and associate it to an address book contact with a few keystrokes (or use a picture from any other connected source, Facebook et al. included). Use of the camera does not require the handset to be unlocked, activation is by pressing the camera button for a few seconds, allowing for picture or videos to be taken only, not viewed afterward (unless the handset is then unlocked). This, I found to be great middle ground between security and ease of access.

First Impressions
After using the handset for a week, I have a few frustrations that I would share before I heap praise on this very exclusive tool. As with Android and iOS, there appears to be very slight disconnects between applications that could make for a really smooth experience. For example, if I open a contact's address details, there seems to be no way to navigate to the contact directly from the address book via the Nokia Drive application; I am forced to re-enter the address in the Drive app or copy and paste which works just fine but is an unnecessary, extra step, in my view.

Another frustration is the battery life is advertised at a very unrealistic 335hrs of standby time. Using tools like GPS and social networking means the smart phone is constantly compressing and streaming data so a spare charger in the car, at work and at home is a requirement. If the device was, say, 2mm thicker to compensate for a better battery the hardware would be complete.

On the up side, the device is sleek, well designed and has great screen quality. 'Typing' is easy and suggestions seem accurate for misspelled words. Working on documents from the road is limited to minor alterations rather than full blown document creation due to screen size and virtual keyboard interface.

Most importantly, I can view all my inboxes, SharePoint sites or web based shares and use the few spare minutes during the day to de-clutter information and send quick notes, contributing toward a  clearer inbox when I return to my old fashioned desk at the end of the day.

With two year old twins I have a lot of video and photos to take and the video quality is exceptionally crisp and easy to share via all the popular connected mediums available today. If there is no app for your preferred social interface, the web browser seems complete and had no trouble opening the websites I most commonly refer to.

In Summary
If you are a busy body and look for seamless integration into common applications and business connections during the day without the wait of a desktop experience, this handset will save some hours over your working week as well as add some socialisation to your weekend. I have not experienced a smartphone like this before and consider it to be a game changer due to the tight integration into my existing social and business life.

Future posts will share my experiences of untethering my desk and spending more time in the world.

Best Use Hints:
  • When putting any mobile phone in a pocket, always make sure the screen is facing your body for protection against knocks and bumps.
  • Always backup your SIM card before moving to this newer micro SIM format.
  • Get a spare charger, cable and car charger for the smart phone in the initial purchase.
  • Spend time learning how to use the device properly if you want to get the most of it.
  • Get a broad range of reviews from like minded users before committing to any smart phone purchase.

  • Sleek, stylish and well designed.
  • Good solid strong feel with no build seams or obvious weak points.
  • Seamless integration into social and business networking.
  • Great price point and deals available at the moment.
  • Included sleeve and applications are well suited.
  • Battery life is much lower compared to my less functional Android device.
  • Uses a great deal more bandwidth than my previous handset but does provide a richer experience.

Worth 4.5/5.0 if I had a awesome-o-meter.

About the author:

Hi, my name is Gund Wehsling (gundar on Geekzone). I am a freelance ICT contractor in Hamilton. I also share the care of my two year old twins out of work hours and support local community groups with the little spare time I can find. I have had several smart phones over the years and find them to be very helpful when used as a business tool. My expectations of the Nokia Lumia 800 are high given the hype and fanfare that was the launch. In my blog posts I will share experiences using this mobile phone as a tool in a busy and demanding lifestyle. Meanwhile, if you need some experienced long or short term ICT help, my contact details are here:

Other related posts:
Kids and the Nokia Lumia 800
Nokia Lumia 800 Battery Issue
Nokia Lumia 800 as a Remote Office

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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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