October 12th, 2011

Upgrade Complete

I mentioned a while back that I disliked my phone. Man, oh man, did I dislike that phone. I won’t rehash here what all I disliked about it, but rest assured I disliked it with a passion. I was counting the days until I could get a new phone, and when the day hit, I went to the AT&T store.

(Side note: I hear a lot of griping about AT&T, but I’ve always had good luck with them. I’m sorry if your experience hasn’t been the same.)

I had some experience with Android phones by that point and I knew it could be a good option for me, but Microsoft had just released their newest phone operating system, the bulkily-named Windows Phone 7, and I was very interested in it, too. I figured a trip to a physical store would give me the chance to have some hands-on time with both.  After playing with them both I honestly had no strong feelings either way. It was weird – I usually have immediate inclinations one way or the other when I’m presented with two choices, but with these phones, I knew I’d be happy either way. What finally pushed me to the Windows Phone 7 was the idea of having something new, something very few people had.

 

I bought the Samsung Focus (pictured). Really, when you get right down to it, smartphones all pretty much do the same things: messaging, email, web browsing, apps, and the occasional phone call. It really gets down to how you want your phone to do those things that determines what would be the best choice for you. You can see right away it’s a little different than other smartphones – Microsoft made some interesting choices that have turned out to be pretty nifty.

I’ve had the phone for almost a year now, and it’s the best cell phone I’ve owned so far.  There was a pretty big update a couple of weeks ago that added some features that should have been on it from the outset, but I’ve been so happy with the phone that waiting for the updates wasn’t really a big deal for me.

Here’s some stuff I’ve really come to like about the phone:

  • Those boxes you see are called Live Tiles, named that because they show changing information. The numbers show how many missed calls, texts, and emails you have, and other tiles for other apps show things like online presence, current weather, and sports scores.
  • Xbox Live integration is built-in. I can see my Friends List, compare gamerscores, change my avatar, and reply to messages all from my phone. There are also games for the phone that offer gamerpoints.
  • Linked contacts. I have three different email accounts on my phone and can choose to have all the contacts from all accounts synced to my phone. If I have “Bruce W.” as a Hotmail contact and “Bruce W. – Work” in my Gmail account, I can link the two together so that all of Bruce’s information shows on one contact card.
  • Facebook integration is seamless. Not only can I import my Facebook contacts to my phone, I can also link them to existing contacts. Their Facebook profile picture becomes their contact picture on my phone. When someone changes their profile pic, it changes on their contact card on my phone, too.
  • Voice control. Out of the box I could use voice control to open apps or dial contacts. With the latest update, I can now speak-to-text, which is especially handy since you shouldn’t text while driving – not just because it’s illegal, but also because it’s way unsafe.
  • Bing. I use Google for searches when I’m sitting at a computer. It’s not that I don’t like Bing, I’m just used to doing things the way I do them, you know? But Bing is all over this phone, as you  might suspect it would be, since it is a Microsoft phone and Bing is Microsoft’s search engine. I wasn’t sure how I’d like Bing all over my phone, but I have to say it works really well. Search results show up as “web” or “local,” and searching for businesses give results nearby, with the option to call right from the search page. Certainly not revolutionary, but it works really well. The update brought visual search (show Bing a UPC symbol or a QR code or a book cover via the camera and it finds info on the web for you) and music search (like Shazam, have Bing listen to some music and it’ll tell you what the music is and who it’s by).
  • Office. Files from Word and Excel open beautifully on the phone, and OneNote syncs to webspace for backup and access elsewhere.
  • Wireless sync. When I’m at home and connected to my wireless router, after 10 minutes of being plugged in to power, my phone will automatically sync with my computer over the network.
  • Overall feel. Sure, the physical phone itself has a nice weight and feel to it, but I’m more specifically talking about using the phone. It makes sense (for the most part) and feels really neat to use – swiping left for more options, holding down on an icon to get a list of actions, tapping a letter to quickly get through a list – simple things, but implemented nicely.
Sure, there are some things I don’t like. I thought I’d give the “no physical keyboard” thing a try, and it’s been okay, but I’d still prefer a keyboard. Even though the update now lets me create custom ringtones (something I could not believe wasn’t on the phone originally!), it still won’t let me do custom alert tones, and that’s just weird and wrong. And because it’s relatively new, it doesn’t have some apps that I wish it did (Redbox and Chase Bank are the two I’d like most to see), but for the most part the mobile websites get me by.
I take a lot of flak from certain people because I didn’t get “this” phone or “that” phone, but I honestly don’t care two hoots. There is no “best phone,” there is only “best phone for me.” I’m convinced that if more people gave the new Windows Phone  a try, more people would like it, but I can’t sit here and say everybody should have one. Get what you like, just know that I’m happier with this phone than I have been with any phone I’ve had up to this point.
September 19th, 2007

419

I don’t answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize. I just don’t. I’m not alone in this, so don’t look at me like I’m some kind of freak. Voicemail was created for exactly this sort of situation: you leave a message letting a person know who you are. That’s just how it works. Like George Costanza said, “You know, we’re living in a society! We’re supposed to act in a civilized way!” Part of living in society is leaving voicemails.

That’s really not my main point, but it needed to be said.

Anyway, there is one exception I make. I have a friend who lives in a different state. He has an aversion to being named here, so I won’t tell you anything more about him except that he lives in the 419 area code, likes snakes, and one time played three recorders in front of a live audience (one in his mouth and one in each nostril).

I occasionally receive calls from him him from work. Since his workplace has several different phone lines, I don’t have them all in my cell phone under his name. Therefore, I don’t recognize the numbers. I do, however, recognize the 419 area code, so I’ll generally still pick up. It’s one of the perks of being a friend of mine for 20+ years (no, I’m still not telling you his name).

So the other night when my phone rings and it’s a 419 area code, I don’t hesitate to pick it up. I immediately say, “You’re lucky I recognize your area code or else I’d never answer the phone when you call.” This was somewhat confusing to the lady on the other end of the line, who was actually calling to get my opinions on the local political landscape (which I also felt was weird – why is someone from a completely different state calling to ask me about my local city government? And where did she get my number?).

It took a minute or two to straighten out the confusion, and by that time I felt she had earned my time, so I went ahead and answered her questions.

So now I’m faced with the fact that I have a very specific Kryptonite, and if my defenses are that easily overcome, what’s next? Will I start answering calls from any area code with those three numbers – 491, 941, 914? It’s a slippery slope and I’m more than a bit concerned.