Bat­tle of the Win­dows Phones

Finweek English Edition - - TECHNOLOGY - HTC 8X Price: Nokia Lu­mia 920 Price: Simon Din­gle si­mond@fin­week.co.za

Is there l ife be­yond An­droid and iPhone? Mi­crosoft thinks so and last month un­veiled Win­dows Phone 8 with HTC and Nokia in tow. Both man­u­fac­tur­ers have f lag­ship de­vices run­ning the new op­er­at­ing sys­tem, and con­sumers set on switch­ing to Win­dows Phone will have a tough time de­cid­ing be­tween Nokia’s Lu­mia 920 and HTC’s Win­dows Phone 8X. That’s why we’re here - to pick for you.

Win­dows Phone 8 is Mi­crosoft re­boot­ing its mo­bile strat­egy and tak­ing the fight to the dom­i­nant play­ers at the top of the mar­ket. The new op­er­at­ing sys­tem is a win­ner – that’s my opin­ion – and an­a­lysts at In­forma are pre­dict­ing that it will match the iPhone’s mar­ket share in the next two years. It’s easy to see why: Win­dows Phone 8 has some fan­tas­tic features and shows real in­no­va­tion from Mi­crosoft.

We’re not here to talk just about Win­dows Phone 8, how­ever, but also to pick the best hand­set run­ning the op­er­at­ing sys­tem. So let’s start with in­dus­trial de­sign.

Both phones look great. The 8X sports a matt cas­ing with a soft fin­ish that feels both rub­bery and smooth at the same time. It slips eas­ily into pock­ets while adding some grip while you’re hold­ing it. The

Nokia is also ahead when it comes to ser­vices. The Lu­mia 920 in­cludes Nokia Mu­sic where you can lis­ten to stream­ing, pre­de­fined mixes for free or down­load them for off­line lis­ten­ing. You can also pur­chase mu­sic for be­tween R6 and R8 per song or around R100 per al­bum. Mi­crosoft’s own Xbox Mu­sic ser­vice will be launch­ing soon in South Africa, how­ever, so Nokia Mu­sic won’t be a strong dif­fer­en­tia­tor for much longer.

Speak­ing of mu­sic, the 8X ben­e­fits from HTC’s deal with Beats Elec­tron­ics, which sees spe­cific au­dio am­pli­fi­ca­tion built into the de­vice. At first I thought this was just a gim­mick, but you can def­i­nitely hear the dif­fer­ence. It’s not a deal­breaker, but fans of rock and dance mu­sic will pre­fer the sound of the 8X.

An­other in­cluded ser­vice in the 920 is Nokia Maps with turn-by-turn nav­i­ga­tion and lo­ca­tion features for mon­i­tor­ing traf­fic con­di­tions and find­ing restau­rants, ac­com­mo­da­tion and other at­trac­tions. Nokia is streets ahead in this de­part­ment where its only real ri­val is Google. So if lo­ca­tion ser­vices and nav­i­ga­tion are im­por­tant to you, then the 920 takes the cake. The 8X has Mi­crosoft’s Bing Maps ser­vice which doesn’t do half as much, so you’d have to get a third-party app for nav­i­ga­tion and the like.

In gen­eral, the 920 has soft­ware and tweaks that really show a greater de­gree of pol­ish than what’s on of­fer in the 8X. Wire­less charg­ing, for ex­am­ple, is well im­ple­mented in the Lu­mia and there are a wide range of ac­ces­sories that sup­port th this. You can also stream mu­sic wire

l lessly by link­ing the phone to sup­ported

R6 700 Lu­mia 920, on the other hand, has a glossy plas­tic fin­ish that de­mands at­ten­tion from those around you and feels highly ro­bust.

The 8X is very com­fort­able to hold with its slim lines and 4.3” dis­play. The Lu­mia 920 is phys­i­cally big­ger with a 4.5” screen and is a lot heav­ier than the 8X. Both prod­ucts are beau­ti­ful to look at, and the Nokia is more com­fort­able in ac­tual use than what you’d ex­pect from its ap­pear­ance. I love the bold, colour­ful ap­pear­ance of the Nokia, but pre­fer the feel and fin­ish of the 8X.

Pho­tog­ra­phy is im­por­tant for smart­phone users, and we found the back cam­era on the 920 to be no­tice­ably bet­ter than that of the 8X, es­pe­cially in low light. Both are 8MP, but the 920 ben­e­fits from Nokia’s track record with cam­era tech­nol­ogy. An­other plus for the 920 is that Nokia has some great ad­di­tional apps for the cam­era that en­able shoot­ing panora­mas and adding ef­fects. The 8X has an in­no­va­tive front-fac­ing cam­era, how­ever, with a wide field of view and 2.0 aper­ture that’s very cool for hold­ing at arm’s-length and tak­ing self-por­traits with friends. I was im­pressed with the cam­era in the HTC de­vice, but the 920 is the clear win­ner in this de­part­ment.

R8 000

sound sys­tems.

One ma­jor prob­lem I had with the Lu­mia 920, how­ever, was its in­sta­bil­ity. On two oc­ca­sions the phone crashed and wouldn’t re­spond. The only way to fix the prob­lem is to si­mul­ta­ne­ously press the vol­ume-down and power but­ton for 10 sec­onds, forc­ing the phone to re­boot. This process also cu­ri­ously re­set its cal­en­dar to 1 Septem­ber.

The one thing th­ese two phones do share, of course, is the Win­dows Phone 8 op­er­at­ing sys­tem. While still lag­ging be­hind An­droid and iPhone in terms of ma­tu­rity, Mi­crosoft has pro­duced a clean and in­tu­itive user ex­pe­ri­ence. I like the aes­thet­ics of Win­dows Phone 8 more than any­thing Ap­ple has pro­duced in its soft­ware and find its clean lines and neat grids a pleas­ingly sim­ple alternative to An­droid. From that per­spec­tive I’d hap­pily switch to Win­dows Phone.

What I can’t ac­com­mo­date, how­ever, is the lack of apps. I use Drop­box, Flip­board, Instagram, Path, Simfy and the FNB app on a daily ba­sis and none of those are avail­able for Win­dows Phone 8 at time of writ­ing. Un­til they are, I sim­ply can’t imag­ine mov­ing away from An­droid.

For new smart­phone users or those not ded­i­cated to a spe­cific set of ser­vices, how­ever, the lack of apps won’t be a prob­lem – and it’s really the only is­sue I have with Win­dows Phone 8. Ev­ery­thing else is awe­some.

I es­pe­cially love Kids Cor­ner, which is a new fea­ture of Win­dows Phone 8 that lets par­ents set up a screen of games and other apps for their kids to ac­cess with­out hav­ing to pro­vide a pass­word or be­ing able to mess with mom and dad’s other apps. Killer.

So that leaves me with the dif­fi­cult task of pick­ing a win­ner be­tween the 8X and 920. It’s tough to do so, but if I was forced to choose right now, I would prob­a­bly go with the Nokia.

I much pre­fer the look and feel of the HTC and it’s also a far more rea­son­able size. The Lu­mia 920 wins when it comes to ev­ery­thing else, how­ever. The cam­era is bet­ter, Nokia’s bun­dled ser­vices are a strong dif­fer­en­tia­tor and I’m sure the bugs with the sys­tem will soon be patched away.

Ver­dict: Fights don’t get closer than this, but we’re go­ing with the Nokia Lu­mia 920 – by a hair.

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