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Eight days with Windows Phone 8

Martyn Williams | Nov. 7, 2012
It's been eight days since Microsoft launched Windows Phone 8 and eight days since I started using an HTC 8X, which has the new software installed, as my main cellphone. So far, I'm impressed with Microsoft's new platform.

Microsoft promises more apps soon, including a version of Pandora with a year's worth of ad-free music. It says it will soon have 46 of the top 50 smartphone apps available for Windows Phone.

There's also a fairly broad selection of apps from smaller, independent developers, so while you can't find a news app from the BBC, you can download an independent app that pulls in BBC news and presents it in a similar way to an official app.

You can check out the selection in the Web version of the Windows Store.

Getting Around

My Android phone, fitted with Google Navigation, is an important tool in my car. I use it often and was a little disappointed at first that the Bing Maps app doesn't give updated turn-by-turn directions while I'm driving. It would plot a trip for me, but when I started driving it didn't automatically keep up with my journey.

AT&T offers an app for that, but it costs US$10 per month (what are they thinking?). I wasn't about to pay $10 for a service that was free on Android, and I thought I'd found a significant weakness in Windows Phone 8. But then I discovered the GPS Tuner navigation app. It costs $5 for the basic version, which offers voice-guided navigation and pulls in free maps from your cellular connection. For about $40 you can download offline maps -- a nice option if you want to avoid data costs.

Cloud Services

 With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft is tying everything to its SkyDrive service. At first I tried to resist -- my data is spread across too many locations already -- but in the end I gave in because it was easier that way. It didn't turn out to be a big problem. SkyDrive backs up phone settings, which should make switching to a future handset easy, and also photos. When you tweet out a photo, it puts it in a public folder on SkyDrive and embeds a link to that in your tweet. 

Playing Nice

If there was one problem I was sure I would encounter, it was syncing the Windows Phone with my Mac computer. I downloaded Microsoft's Windows Phone software for Mac and sure enough, it didn't recognize the phone. I wasn't surprised, but Microsoft sent me to a newer version on Apple's App Store and it worked. The ease with which it worked was an even greater surprise, especially after my attempts to get Google's Music Manager to work with an Android phone.

The Microsoft software not only keeps the Windows Phone synced to iPhoto, it also presents my iTunes library and playlists and easily allows iTunes music to be transferred and synced to the phone. The only things that won't work, and this is an issue with all non-Apple products, are songs that use Apple's DRM (digital rights management) copy protection.


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