Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone: Audio

Nokia Lumia 928

Nokia Lumia 928One of the primary uses of my iPhone is to play various types of audio – podcasts, audio books, and music. So when moving from the iPhone 4S to the Nokia Lumia 928 I want to keep these functions. I’ll break down current state of these three areas for me and cover audio in general at the end.

Podcasts

Let’s start with the worst of Windows Phone audio abilities. I use Downcast on my iPhone and it works great. I automatically download new episodes of podcasts I’ve subscribed to and they get added to playlists which are further sorted. It also supports playback at faster speeds. Downcast is by no means the only iOS podcast app with these abilities. Instacast is a competitor.

Nothing on Windows Phone even comes close. I’ve tried a couple apps: “Podcast” and “Slapdash” which are both free. I’ve had issues with both, even for the basic stuff like subscriptions and playback. Neither approaches the podcast management of Downcast so I haven’t aggressively looked for work-arounds or fixes.

My iPhone remains my podcast player. Hopefully things will improve for podcasts on the Windows Phone front. I paid for downcast and I’m willing to pay for a podcast app on Windows Phone. But none of the ones I’ve tried are worth paying for. And the remaining ones in the Microsoft store don’t seem to come close either.

Audio books

While podcast apps are the bottom of the barrel on Windows Phone, audio books have risen to the top. For me, audio books mean Audible and this completely meets my needs on Windows Phone. The Windows Phone does not support all the iOS features but luckily it has all the ones I want. Whispersync doesn’t work on Windows Phone. While the ability to sync playback locations between devices, or an eBook, sound like something I’d want the reality is I never used them on iOS after the initial curiosity wore off. The WP Audible  app only support playback at normal speeds. Because I like the “performance” of most narrators I only use normal speed.

The only repeatable issue I had was some playback glitches when I was downloading additional books at the same time. The playback would stop and jump to an earlier, random chapter.

There was one time where the Audible book lost track of where I was and started over from the beginning. This only happened once while listening to one 8 hour book. I would also have similar problems with the Audible app on iOS so this is hardly unique. Hopefully it remains rare.

Overall I’m very pleased with the Audible app.

Music

I don’t use iTunes for music anymore, not on the iPhone either, so I’m already past the biggest hurdle. I’ve been using Synology Audio Station for my music along woth storing all my songs in Amazon Cloud Player.

There is a Synology music app for Windows Phone. But as I’m learning, it’s features aren’t on par with the iOS app. Songs can’t be stored locally on Windows Phone although they could be with the iOS app.  In addition, Quick Connect doesn’t work. Dynamic DNS and port forwarding can be used but Quick Connect is easier to set up. But my music on Synology NAS are ripped at a high bitrate so they’re fairly large files, I don’t really want to be streaming them over my cellular connection since I do have usage quotas.

There isn’t an Amazon player for Windows Phone. I did try the web player but that didn’t actually play the songs. So Amazon Cloud Player wasn’t an option.

I prefer audio books and podcasts when I’m out of the house so the lack of local music isn’t a big issue for me. I decided to go with Pandora for those times I do want mobile music. When installing the app I found Pandora is offering ad free streaming through 2013 for Windows Phone app users. It’s still streaming over cellular, but it will use less data than the songs on my Synology NAS.

I gave XBox music a try back when I got my Surface RT. I wasn’t at all impressed with it so haven’t given it a try on Windows Phone. A music subscription doesn’t appeal to me.

So music falls in between podcasts and audio books. It’s not as terrible as podcasts but it doesn’t have all the features I want like the Audible app.

I can always move songs to the phone manually but I’m not the type who wants to put that much effort into managing my music. I might load it up before heading out on a vacation but that’s about it.

Audio In General

Back of the Nokia Lumia 928My iPhone earbuds (the older style from the iPhone 4S) work OK for music and audio. The microphone and phone buttons don’t work. The Nokia Lumia 928 doesn’t come with earbuds. So far I haven’t  needed any but I’ll probably pick up a pair if I find some at a good price.

Bluetooth connectivity to my Jambox speaker worked well for all audio. It also worked as a speaker phone.

The phone speaker is on the back, towards the botom of the phone. The location works well. I can put it in the cup holder of my car and it gets some good reverberation so it’s easy to hear. It’s great for podcasts, audio books and GPS turn-by-turn directions. The power adapter plugs into the top of the phone which is also ideal for cup holder placement.

Overall the Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone is a capable replacement for my iPhone 4S when it comes to audio. Podcast handling need to be improved greatly but audio books and music are OK.

Other Windows Phone articles include my first impressions and migrating my contacts.

Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone: Migrating Contacts

I figured one of the things that would delay the Nokia Lumia 928 from replacing my iPhone 4S would be my contacts. They were a mess. I had them spread across different accounts, with very few in my Microsoft account. I had all the accounts configured on my iPhone so I saw them in one view. But I wanted to consolidate everything into my Microsoft account. I figured it would be a tedious manual process. But while browsing through the Nokia apps in the Microsoft Store I came across the app “Transfer My Data“. It was in the store but not on the phone. It claimed to move contacts from various phones to the people hub. It would also move text messages from some (unlisted) phones. It uses a Bluetooth connection for the transfer.

I downloaded it and gave it a try. It was simple to use, which means there’s not real choices to make. For my iPhone 4S it would only transfer contacts, no SMS messages which was fine with me. It was a simple wizard.

The first screen provides an introduction and reminder to enable Bluetooth on the old phone.

Transfer My Data screen 1

The next screen displays devices available for pairing, I select my old phone and accept the connection on my old phone. Then it displays what it can transfer. I check Contacts and let it do its thing.

Transfer My Data wizard screen 3

The wizard finishes quickly. But the contacts didn’t appear in my People hub. After some searching I went to Outlook.com and saw the contacts there. I went back to the phone and they were there now. Looks like they go online first then get synced down to the phone.

The import seemed clean, at least within the limits of an already messed up contact list. It took the contacts from all the account that were enabled for contacts on my iPhone. Outlook.com then allowed my to de-dup the contacts which also seemed very clean.

The app can be deleted from the phone once the import is done.

It’s nice when things work as expected.

Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone: First Impressions

Nokia Lumia 928

Nokia Lumia 928I just added the Nokia Lumia 928 to The Quest. It’s a Windows 8 Phone (or is that Windows Phone 8 phone?). My primary phone is an iPhone 4S. This isn’t replacing that, at least not yet. Officially it’s replacing a terrible Android phone on a second line. I’m new to Windows Phone, of any version, although I use (and love) a Surface RT and run Windows 8 on my desktop. This article are my first impressions after a couple days.

I ordered online due to the pricing, but picked it up in store because I wanted to touch and see it before taking delivery. While there’s a return period, it’s just so much easier to walk out and leave it in the store. I took the contract renewal because the upfront fee plus the early termination fee was still less than the no-contract cost. It’s a wash if I have to give up the rebate. Plus, much to my annoyance, Verizon doesn’t offer a cheaper plan for an un-subsidized phone. I heard on one of the TWIT podcasts that NewEgg and Amazon were selling the phones for even less, but I couldn’t find anything lower on their websites.

Setup

The phone was activated at the store, but I saved all the setup for when I arrived home. I had to do the setup twice. Something just wasn’t right the first time through. I could send and receive phone calls. I could send text messages but I couldn’t receive any, not even replies. Some research should that some apps just didn’t see my phone number and had (000) 000-0000 listed. The second time through and all was good, but I lost of hour or so of my time.

The setup wizard is standard fair. Pick a language and accept the terms of use that no one reads. Then there’s a prompt to either accept the recommended settings or do a custom setup. Most of the express/custom settings have to do with privacy and who can get one data. The second time through I accepted the express settings in case that was the problem the first time through. The settings can be tweaked after setup.

Next I picked my country and then things got wonky when I was prompted for my MS account (or to create one). I didn’t really have a problem, but it didn’t work the way I expected. I use a custom address for my MS ID. It’s an ID used to subscribe to Office 365 Home and it’s setup as a custom domain with Outlook.com. It took my account and logon just fine. But I later found there was no email, calendar or contacts. It seemed to see Skydrive just fine. More on the mail setup later once the wizard is finished.

Then there was a prompt to backup to Skydrive. This saves Photos to Skydrive, syncs my text messages to the “cloud” and backs up my phone’s settings to the “cloud”. I answer yes to turn this on since it works well on my Surface RT. There’s a prompt to use Verizon’s service to back up contacts. This seems redundant since I’ll be using the Outlook.com contacts, so I don’t enable it.

Finally, there’s a notice about location services and a prompt asking if I want automatic phone updates. I enable the automatic updates. In what I thought was a nice touch, my phone number was displayed a the very end.

After the wizard ends a text message appears with a link to more Windows Phone tips. (It’s a free message)

I had to manually setup mail, calendars and contacts. My account was setup during the wizard but the email option was unchecked and options for contacts and calendar didn’t exist. I checked the email box and started to receive email. But I still had to set up calendar and contacts. I ended up having to set up the same account I used for the wizard, but selecting the “Hotmail” option when I set it up. Then I could enable calendar and contacts for this “second” account. I also enabled tasks, although this was less of a concern for me.

Once the setup was finished I had 23.81 GB of free space.

Impressions

Nokia Lumia 928 next to the iPhone 4S
Nokia Lumia 928 next to the iPhone 4S
The side if the Nokia Lumia 928 and iPhone 4S
The side if the Nokia Lumia 928 and iPhone 4S

The phone support 802.11n on the 5 GHz band which is my preference since it’s less congested in my apartment complex. I get good performance using it throughout my apartment. It seems like most phones support 5 GHz these days so this isn’t unique to the Lumia 928, but it’s new for my phone.

I like the bigger phone. The screen is nice and clear. The text is easy to read. As I get older my eyes have struggled with the smaller text of the iPhone. The phone still fits in a pocket although some may find it uncomfortable in a shirt pocket. It’s heavier than my iPhone 4S, 162 grams (5.7 oz) compare to 137 grams (4.8 oz) but it doesn’t really feel heavier to me when I’m using it. That probably has something to do with the increased size. I’m still getting used to one-handed operation of the phone since it’s larger. My thumb doesn’t quite reach the physical back button. Well, I can reach, but my hold on the phone is precarious since I have to hold the phone lower in my hang, making it top heavy.

The phone feels well built, despite being plastic. Aluminum and glass have a solid and expensive look compared to plastic but I think the plastic will be durable. I don’t use a case and it seems like it will resist scratches. I don’t plan on dropping the phone to test it’s durability, although I figure it’s only a matter of time before the accidental drop test.

The buttons along the side have been a bit annoying. They stick out and are prone to accidental pressing. There is a setting to avoid accidentally turning on the camera when the phone is locked which helps a bit since I was often hitting that button. The other annoyance I have is the lack of a system-wide screen orientation lock. Some apps don’t rotate which is also kind of annoying.

I’ve purposely avoided blindly installing apps that I use on my iPhone, if they are available. I’m using the opportunity to find different ways of doing things. I have installed my Synology apps (for my NAS) – Video, Music, Photo and Finder. I also installed the Lastpass and Audible apps. I pretty much stopped there for now. I want to become more familiar with the built in apps and what I really want to use on the phone.

Like other mobile OS’s, the UI isn’t easily discover-able. For example, I was annoyed that there wan’t an easy way to switch between apps. But then I accidentally held down the back button and a app switcher popped up. After Windows RT I’m also disappointed that there’s not more swipe support. I find myself swiping IE to go back but then have to press the back button. On the other hand other apps require swiping to move between screens.

There are some apps I use that aren’t available on Windows Phone, no denying that. I’ve been trying to avoid app lock-in, going with mobile web options whenever possible.  I think my biggest problem is going to be a podcast app. I really like Downcast and the Windows phone options don’t come close, at least not yet. I’m giving “Podcast” a try. It’s free and seems to be OK but the one problem I have is that I can’t subscribe to any TWIT podcasts using it. Leo seems seems to use a lot of different subscription URLs along with redirects, I may just have to hit the right one.

The Nokia Lumia 928 has been fun so far. The Nokia apps seem to be a step above the (low) quality I’ve come to expect from vendor apps. It does cause some duplication, such as in my music choices. My iPhone 4S is still my primary phone but I do see a not too distant future where the Nokia Lumia 928 and Windows Phone 8 replaces it as my primary phone. Now I just have to get there. I’ll post updates on my progress (or lack of progress).

Back of the Lumia 928 and iPhone 4S
Back of the Lumia 928 and iPhone 4S. The gray box covers some info and isn’t blank on the phone.

Additional Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone Articles

Migrating Contacts From My iPhone 4S

Audio Capabilities – Podcasts, audio books, music