On a sunny morning exactly a month ago I got up with the final decision not to buy a new smartphone for some time yet. I felt like I could leave only the necessary apps, keep clearing the memory and maybe live with occasional glitches. I was still in bed and it was a day-off. I decided to listen to the radio. Firstly, it turned out that to listen to FM radio you have to use your headset. So, I turned to TuneIn Radio app instead. There were a couple of minutes left until the start of a newscast. I managed to tune in only ten minutes later with freezing search and restarting the phone. Then after five minutes of listening the app froze again. And at that moment my decision not to buy a new smartphone quickly changed into the decision to go and buy one almost immediately.
Well, I had to find out if any store had the Lumia 640 XL on display for me to see if it more or less fitted in my hand, as well as if I could tolerate the cyan. One store actually had a single Lumia 640 XL on display (and discounted for that). I rushed there. The moment I saw the cyan edges on the shelf I knew I didn’t resent it. The moment I took the phone into my hands I knew it wasn’t awfully big. The next moment I knew I’d love to have it right there and then. But I held the thought for another hour while I was getting to another store to buy it. Why not in the first one? I just don’t buy things that are only on display and played with by who knows how many customers. The store I bought the phone at doesn’t have a display, you click the computer screen, place an order and then get your order from the window.
My order of Lumia 640 XL came in a big flat box marked with a blue stripe, although the pictured phone was orange. Microsoft doesn’t fall for the fancy all-white or all-black boxes that look and feel like you’re buying expensive watch. Instead, Microsoft box tells you that you are buying a mid-range oven or washing machine.
When you look inside the feeling grows. With only a phone, its battery, a charger and a couple of leaflets the package is minimalistic. A headset wouldn’t hurt. I know that audiophiles among you will strongly resent the idea of using those little things that go with many phones. But actually the ones that came with my Huawei were really good, sounded right and lasted all those three years (and would last almost one month together with Lumia).
So, here we are, my new phone is injected with a sim-card (I only have one, so the second slot remains empty) and a micro-SD card (64 GB). Lumia 640 XL would eat a micro-SD card of up to 128 GB but those are still quite pricey for me. Besides, I do not carry tons of music and do not shoot video, therefore 64 GB should suit me for a long time.
The battery then goes into its nest. I am not sure they sell extra batteries or I don’t buy a new phone when I might start needing a battery replacement, but the fact that I can replace it (or at least use the old trick of removing the battery when the phone freezes and doesn’t respond – I’ve actually had to do so once in the course of the month) is reassuring.
And here comes the Microsoft logo on a black screen. It looks so sexy and chic, I feel like I’ve bought an iPhone of sorts. Only mine is several times cheaper while I am sure quite a more technically advanced one. Then comes that awesome colourful wallpaper. With a swipe up it goes away and shows me the unmistakable tiled screen of a Windows Phone.
It is unique. While both iOS and Android offer icons on some background, the background of a Windows Phone consists of “icons” stretched to the tiles of three sizes. You can freely move tiles around the screen and change their sizes. Accidentally I find out that you can combine tiles in folders and even rename those folders.
The list of apps on the second screen (swipe to the left) is not fancy or compact. It is indeed a list. But with all the apps fitted on your main screen separately or in folders (and the main screen scrolling up and down if needed) you won’t need the app list until you go there to add a new app to the main screen (or in Windows Phone parlance, pin it to the start).
It took me less than an hour to configure the phone, wi-fi and install and configure all the major apps. But to be honest, Windows Phone is ready after the basic initial configuration – a lot of apps are pre-installed. With good native mail, calendar, camera, numerous photo editors and basic tools the only ones you’ll need to add are your preferred social networks and messangers as well as special ones for handling your wine collection or finances.
Did I tell you that Facebook and VKontakte were preinstalled? They were but I deleted them. I also deleted a couple of other apps that I don’t need. There is no bloatware in Windows Phone unless you count Games that can’t be deleted and serves as the folder, sort of, for any games you might install. You can call all the MSN apps bloatware, but they are easily visible and can be deleted, nothing’s hidden and really bloating your memory.
And those MSN apps are quite good – especially Health and Fitness, Food, and Travel. Unfortunately Microsoft has just closed Food, Travel and is going to close Health and Fitness. The loss of the latter would be painful. It did include a lot of unnecessary things like health-related news, but has a very nice step-counting and analysis feature. Microsoft Health became available in Russia only last week and is not so nice-looking. It has its own unnecessary features like golf tracking.
Speaking of Russia. Russian customers don’t have Groove Music streaming options, Groove TV and Films, as well as I am sure a number of other features and apps available in the US and select other markets. Well, that’s the drawback of living beyond the limits of a few presumably civilised countries.
Anyway, now I am not only with a new smartphone but also on a completely new operating system that has very few fans and users. It has been a month and I am mostly satisfied with how it works. I’ll later dwell more on its pros and cons, on the apps in general and in particular, on my experiences and expectations.