Windows 10 Mobile – The Bad and The Ugly

So in my last post I reviewed the major features and changes to Windows Phone/Mobile that I most appreciated in its newest release. Well I have also been keeping a Bad and Ugly section of my little OneNote pinned to my device start screen. Today we go over that.

Power and Volume buttons:
So I just do not get this. The power button is placed in the middle of the right edge snuggly between the + and – volume keys. Now since we don’t have double tap to wake the device out of the lock screen yet, you must tap the power key every time to get to the start screen. Did I say its right between the volume keys? So you must eyeball it or, I have taken to sliding my index finger North to South across all three keys and then back again to target the middle power button. Just harder than it should be.

Bluetooth:
Just broken. Ok, I mean it works, its just not stable. I have connected to my LG headset, my Microsoft Band 2, a Nokia wireless speaker, a keyboard and mouse. So it works, its just for how long before, opps, a spontaneous disconnect. OK toggle the device off then on and your back…oh another disconnect. Toggle off then on. Ok its fine. Oh, listening to an audio book and a call comes in, you complete the call and then the audio comes in as a stutter. Reset the Bluetooth, restart the audio and your ok; for a while.
So this may be exaggerated but its not unusual to have a dropped Bluetooth connection once a day. Not fun when your on a conference call while your driving and suddenly everything goes quiet and your headset starts humming that its lost connection.
The good news, this can be fixed with updates from Microsoft and the sooner the better!

Storage:
One or two blog posts back I mentioned my initial experience loading up the 950XL and directing all content including new app installs to the storage card. It didn’t go well. I had to do a complete reset and start over. Like Bluetooth, the use of the storage card is not stable in this initial release. Presently I have configured the settings to install new apps to device storage and downloads, music, pictures and videos to the SD card. While this has helped, I still occasionally see performance issues in working with pictures and videos and some apps like Movie Maker cant seem to fetch vids that are stored on the SD. Like the Bluetooth issue I believe this can be fixed with an update and again, the sooner the better.

Battery and Background Tasks:
I am linking these two as I am guessing they are related. Battery life on my 950XL is just OK. Its not as good as my 1520 in day to day use and a similar load out. Now I should explain am pretty fanatical regarding charging. I have a cable or dock almost everywhere I go. I plug in at my desk, in my car and have several around the house. I say this to make the point this has not been a huge issue for me but it has been noticeable. I have a hold-over battery app from the Windows 8.1 days and it regularly alerts me to battery drain. A habit also from the 8.1 days has been to check on apps running in the background. So if you go to “All Settings” and search on Background you will find the of all apps running in the background. These are all the apps installed that want to perform some action behind the scenes to keep itself updated or perform some notification. Right now I have 61 items listed there with 29 of them active. However, several of these apps are listed in here multiple times (see image below).

Growing Pains
So there have been a few other growing pains in migrating to this new platform. The device has locked up and spontaneously rebooted on occasion. The XL is a dual SIM device and Microsoft has taken to showing an indicator of Sim selection by placing a small 1 and 2 above the messaging and phone tiles. My mind tends to register that as a unread message. I’d like to see another way, perhaps color, to indicate the active SIM. There is no VPN active indicator. I use VPN regularly and hate finding I did toggle it off and all my traffic has been routing through work. And this could just be perception, but word flow and voice dictation don’t seem quite as accurate or contextual as the 8.1 version.

At the time of this writing I am waiting on delivery of the latest firmware update for the platform. Of course I would hope to see an improvement in all the items I mention here (well they cant fix the power/volume buttons can they?!). In any case, this platform obviously needs some time to bake. Here’s hoping that the ingredients turn into one compelling dish!

Thanks and be blessed my friends!

 

Windows 10 Mobile – The Good

So I’ve had 4 months on the Windows Insider version and the last month with my Lumia 950XL and I’m still learning and finding things out about the Windows 10 mobile platform. I keep a OneNote page pinned to my start screen so as something occurs to me, good or bad, I make a quick note. I’m going to share that list over my next few blog posts.

  • Peek Notifications
    When I started using Windows 10 mobile, one of the first things that jumped out to me is how it puts messages right out there for you regardless of the device state. No matter what, if you are in a game or the phone is on the desk and dark, if a text or Skype message comes in, you are treated to an expandable curtain or shade that pops in. At the bottom of the notification is a tiny “handle” you can grab and pull it down like a curtain. The result is you get a few more lines of text and an input box in which you can respond. This allows consumption and response without opening up your device, logging in, and opening the app. Very useful.
  • Hello
    The much anticipated arrival of Microsoft’s bio-metric authentication method has arrived on the 950 and 950xl. We have a few Surface Pro 4’s at work and with policies that lock our screens after 10 minutes of inactivity, the feature of the hardware scanning and identifying your face in place of an 8 character complex password is invaluable.
    In relation to mobile devices that sync with Exchange Active Sync, we have a policy that requires a pin be set in order for mobile devices to connect to Exchange mail. So authentication is required on any  device per policy and much time can be spent repetitively logging in if the device is closed for 10 minutes. Hello looks to get at this effort by providing a zero effort way at authenticating. The method on the phone differs from its PC counterpart by using Iris mapping rather than full facial recognition. In practice I have had good results using Hello. I have run it through training half a dozen times each with and without glasses. There is an initial awkwardness when using it. The phone does need to be situated at eye level and I’ve found I have to do this slow head nod or phone tilt motion as it seeks to find its target. Still, not having to tap that pin in a few dozen times a day has potential. It also needs an increased target distance from the user. It needs to see me from arms length and not 6-8 inches from my face. It is still marked as being in Beta so Microsoft isn’t done with it yet and I’m eager to see who they will optimize it.
  • Messaging across devices
    So our friend Cortana seems to be working for us behind the scenes as well as being out in front waiting for us to say “Hey, Cortana”. Now when  you get a  text message or a call on your phone and miss it, a notification shows up on your Windows 10 desktop, tablet or Band 2 and you can reply (well text messages anyway) from the device you are at and not have to pick up your phone . You need Windows 10 on the desktop for this to work but when it does, its very useful.
  • Device Encryption
    So pull down from the top and go to All Settings. Tap on System and the Device Encryption. Slide it on. Done! I am anxious to find out how/if this can be controlled/enforced through Group Policy or MDM (mobile device management). It does need to be more explicit. Is it also encrypting my SD card, what level of encryption, what about data syncing to the cloud? A simple On or Off isn’t quite enough information but I’m glad its there as an explicit setting.
  • MS Office
    Microsoft has updated its version of Office that ships with Windows 10 Mobile. These Office mobile apps maintain full compatibility and fidelity with their desktop and 365 companions. Microsoft has done a stellar job with converting these apps into their mobile form. If you get an Office document via email or download and open one on your device you will see it just as it was created and have all the basic functions to perform simple edits on your device.
  • Converged Messaging
    I’ve not had much experience with this one yet. What I can tell you is when I get a Skype chat message it shows up in my “text” messaging stream. The Skype message shows as a different color than the text messages and I can respond from there without opening Skype. I imagine there is the capability for other messaging apps to tie in similarly and be able to exchange messages without opening a separate app. This is just conjucture so don’t take that as a confirmation! And to this point, we also use Skype for Business at work and those IM messages DO NOT appear in the messaging app stream.
  • Camera
    The Lumia line was known for its camera under the Nokia brand name. Fortunately Microsoft not only continues this tradition, it enhances it. The photos from the device are amazing and the videos sharp. You can still launch the camera from an unlocked device by pressing the dedicated camera button and sync everything to the Cloud with OneDrive. A few editing apps are now built in to the camera that previously were downloads and many of the apps from the 8.1 mobile days are still in the store and functional with the device.
  • Edge Browser
    So remember the App Gap issue with the Windows Phone platform? Well, my way around that has been by using the browser to access sites or resources that haven’t been developed for the platform. I don’t  have an app from my bank on Windows Phone so I pin a shortcut to my Start screen and just use the Mobile site. The use of responsive design and HTML 5 is rapidly turning websites into apps that respond accordingly when they detect a mobile device. So a modern browser is just what’s needed on this platform and Edge is Microsoft’s new generation browser. Favorites and the Reading list function across the mobile and desktop versions. So I have pinned access pages for my bank, my hospital health portal, my EHR mobile rounding site, my internet provider, WordPress, my credit card account site and Food Network. What? I like Food Network. There are features on the desktop version that haven’t made their way to the mobile version such as putting the site on edit mode and editing and sharing a page, but here’s hoping those features are coming soon.
  • Continuum
    So without a doubt, the biggest/riskiest new feature of Windows 10 is the capability to connect your “phone” to an external screen and use the device in a desktop mode. This seems a key pivoting point in Microsoft’s vision for phones of the future. It is the fruition of the Pocket PC. As part of the deal with ordering my 950 XL I was able to order one of the new Continuum docks for free. I have hooked up the dock and the phone and sat down a few times and used the phone as a desktop. It works fine for some basic tasks like email and Office document editing and web browsing. I’m just not sure of the use case. Am I going to set up a station at home or work for the purpose of using my “Pocket PC” this way. No, I wont. There is simply not the demand and there are too many limitations to make it compelling. So how can this be useful?  I have a Microsoft wireless adapter connected to a second TV at my home. I have connected my 950XL up to it and streamed YouTube for the kids while the adults watched other shows on the main TV. I streamed Pandora over the holidays. My business use case for this feature is actually with a wireless miracast connector in a meeting room with a Qi wireless charger and bluetooth keyboard mouse combo. I had to bring nothing with me (well, the phone!), I can connect to resources, project to an audience, be productive and disconnect and go. That kind of immediate, impromptu ability is valuable. you still have to set up your rooms in advance or outfit each one with the needed gear but its pretty low cost and easy to do.

So that’s my Good list so far. What do you think? Is Microsoft on the right track, can they make this a viable platform by building on these features and stabilizing the platform? What new ways do you find you are using Windows 10 desktop or mobile. I’d love to hear about it and see what I might be missing.

Tune in next for the Bad and the Ugly list as Microsoft has some work to do on this release and I’ll share what I found that has been making me crazy (hint does the color blue mean anything to you?).

Thanks for reading and be blessed my friends!

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Windows Phone users are..special!

Hey everyone! So I’ve had two weeks with the 950xl and its time to share the initial impressions.

I’ll be right up front, my first week was not positive. I have used Windows phone since 5.0 and am committed to the ecosystem and the vision. So no risk of me leaving the platform.  Much like the first versions of many Windows OS’s 10 mobile is rough around the edges. After a few happy years with Phone 7 and 8 its a bit tough to struggle with this release.

Now the first weeks’ issues were largely the fault of my eagerness and some early optimization needs Microsoft needs to address. When the 950XL arrived I immediately popped in my 64 Gig SD card and ATT SIM. After setup, I configured to have all pics, vids, downloads and apps installed on the SD card. Well, test completed and DONT DO THIS! The performance suffered noticeably and I had regular reboots all week long.  So after some research on the Microsoft and Windows Central forums I realized others had been experiencing problems with SD card stability also. So after being in denial a few days I removed the SD and did a reset. After resetting my device and installing my apps on local memory and not SD Card I’ve been stable with no reboots. So on to the second week…

If you read my last post you saw my list of required productivity apps; the apps I use regularly for work. So as I completed the initial setup (painless I must say and how can you not love the offer to download a backup of your config and apps and how your settings like wireless connections and passwords are just there?!) I immediately connected up to my Microsoft and work accounts and loaded up my productivity apps. Ok so far so good. All the apps load up and function just fine. The start screen of tiles is familiar all the way back from Windows phone 7. Much of the rest of the OS is recognizable if you are using Windows 10 on the desktop. You have the notification center and settings just like on the desktop. This has always been a consistent element of Microsofts’ vision. They want to put a PC in your pocket. If you remember back to Windows Mobile 5 and 6 the interface had the start button and app list as you would find in XP. Now Windows 10 mobile mimics Windows 10 desktop. This is the primary reason I believe most people look to other mobile solutions. For the most part I don’t by the app gap theory. Some may decide that’s an issue but I don’t think thats the majority. Windows has a certain overhead or complexity that puts many users off. Users are used to a certain complexity on their PC’s but when it comes to a phone or a tablet and they think quick, simple, easy and don’t see that in Windows.

I feel like the use of technology mirrors how people see cars. We all have cars but most just want to get in and drive from point A to B. Then there are the “car guys”. They know the motor statitics, tweak the tuning, add customizations. They just love customizing and optimizing their vehicle. That’s the Windows Phone crowd. You know, special.

Well I have been up and live just over a week. As suggested before there are frustrations in the experience not being as smooth and stable as it was under Windows 8/8.1. Its not that its bad its just not better. All but one app (come on Insteon!) that I’ve tried works. Performance has been adequate, Camera is good, it connects to my peripherals, battery is adequate.

So I can “DO” what I need to do. But there are some early issues and some new stuff we haven’t explored. I’m keeping a OneNote page on Good, Bad, Broken and New and will explore those I my next post. Until then, be blessed my friends!

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Windows 10 Mobile – We’re Live!

So the Lumia 950 and 950XL launched this past week. I got my hands on the 950 today and my XL is on order from the Microsoft store. But this isn’t about first impressions (my anxiety over the pre-releases on the 1520 are gone and all seems fine). That post will come later.

Microsoft has been running a theme with the phrase “Do More”. I even have a t-shirt from Ignite 2015 that proclaims “I Do”. So I’ve been mulling over what does the device DO for me? Will Windows 10 mobile make me feel more productive?

Besides the basics of phone, email and texting there are a few key apps I use for work life that get things done for me. I’ll  list out the personal apps in another post. Now for my “work” related apps and features…

Communications:
Skype/Skype for Business – IM, VOIP and Video
Twitter
LinkedIn

Productivity:
MS Office
OneNote
Office Lens
Handyscan

Reference and Information:
Wikipedia
YouTube
Browser
News Apps
RSS Feed

Security:
Device Encryption
ActiveSync remote Wipe
VPN
Remote desktop

What’s noticeably missing?
SharePoint access solution!
MS Remote Desktop app fails install!

Now what’s new in Windows 10 mobile that I want to assess impacting my work?
Cortana
Windows Hello
Call Recording
Continuum
Edge Browser

OK so in the time this article has sat in draft I have received my 950 XL. A few days to get it loaded up and then I will return with an update. Until then, be blessed my friends!

Windows 10 Mobile Part 2

So we have just started playing with Windows 10 at work. We have a few Surface Pro 4’s and early feedback is very positive. The Microsoft bio-metric authentication scheme Windows Hello alone has my team fighting over the devices.

I bring up Windows 10 because some of the most compelling features of the mobile version of Win 10 is in conjunction with its big twin brother. This particular feature caught me by surprise while I was using  the preview version of Win Mobile 10. I had received a call I wasn’t able to pick up. By chance I went over to my Surface Pro 2 shortly after the call and as I logged on, Cortana popped up to tell me I had missed a call! It also offered to call or text back, right from the PC. Well sort of. Microsoft is using Cortana as a bridge between the PC and the phone. Now that’s an assistant! Yes Cortana please return my call!

And then I found you can text from Windows 10 through Cortana to the phone! Nice! I found myself playing with this for an hour. My wife finally shouted “Stop texting my phone!”. Now the call and the text actually require and are made by the phone. But with my Bluetooth headset I can do it sitting at the PC and never touch the phone and never miss a beat.

I did feel a gap currently exists in being able to see texts from the phone on the PC. Presently its one way from the PC to the phone. But I have to think its a matter of time until you can have Cortana share incoming texts from the hone to the PC and the ability to respond back.

Once you get what’s going on you start to see another layer to Cortana and its place in the eco system. Being the data transport between devices your communications can follow you everywhere. Its exciting to see the potential here so come on Microsoft, leverage this handy “assistant” and further blur the lines between my phone and my PC (and my tablet and my band and my…).

 

Windows 10 Mobile. Here we go!

So we are a week away from the launch of Windows 10 “Mobile”. I put the quotes around Mobile as I am adding that to distinguish Windows 10 on a phone vs. all other Windows 10 models.

I installed what may be the last insider preview (10581) build prior to phones being released on Nov. 20th with what used to be referred to as the RTM build. Prior to this release my experience has prevented me from using it as a daily driver. I’ve now been using 10581 for the last week on my Lumia 1520 and am at the point of leaving Windows Phone 8.1 behind.

All the basics are solid. Phone, Text, Data, check. I’ve loaded all my major apps and only 1 isn’t running (whats up Insteon?).

I’ll be doing some mico-blogging (that’s a thing right?) on apps, tips and tricks, my experiences and my day to day use so if this interests you check back here for more.

Go Redmond!

The Microsoft Renaissance

So with just over three weeks to go until the release of Windows 10 and I have been putting a lot of time into using the newest builds of Windows 10 and Windows Mobile 10 pre-release. I have also been reviewing presentations from Ignite that I didn’t get to attend but were interested in the content. So I’ve just been soaking in the Microsoft roadmap and considering how tech is changing the world. I mean, I’m sitting here outside, by a pool using a wireless internet connection, an 8 inch Windows 8.1 tablet and wireless keyboard to write this. I have a “2nd screen” in the guise of a 6 inch Lumia 1520 next to me streaming some Pandora radio and I start to get hit by it all. We are in a computing Renaissance. And I ask, did those in the historical Renaissance know they were in it when it was happening? Do we? I mean these are some amazing freaking times.

Dictionary.com offers this definition of Renaissance:

1. the activity, spirit, or time of the great revival of art, literature, and learning in Europe beginning in the 14th century and extending to the 17th century, marking the transition from the medieval to the modern world.
2. the forms and treatments in art used during this period.
3. (sometimes lowercase) any similar revival in the world of art and learning.
4. (lowercase) a renewal of life, vigor, interest, etc.; rebirth; revival:

I’m an old guy now, got seven grandkids. I’ve worked in tech since 93′, not as long as some but there are “kids” working for me that weren’t born yet! All of it has been incredible but these last 5 years has reached a whole other level. I’ve come to appreciate the term Disruptive. The rate and depth of change has never before been seen. Ever. In History. Ever! The very nature of communication has changed. This is Gutenberg’s printing press on steroids and I believe a Renaissance in every way.

Now lets get some acknowledgements out of the way. Apple and Google very much lead the way and pioneered a lot of what we are now experiencing in terms of the user interface, mobility and cloud functionality. But this is a blog about Microsoft and what I see coming out of Redmond has me plenty excited.

First and foremost, Microsoft is all in on Cloud and Mobile, Devices and Services. From what I see, this is more than the corporate line. I could see that in 5 years, businesses wont be using a Microsoft product that isn’t tied to if not directly hosted in the cloud. They also continue to strengthen the tie ins of all their product sets. And this is often overlooked or ignored by the popular tech press but Microsoft back end products run the enterprise. Not Apple, not Google, not Amazon but Microsoft. Those back end products are the life blood and bread and butter for corporate America. These are products such as Office, Server SharePoint and Visual Studio. And bringing newer services to the cloud and mobile such as Azure, Skype for Business, OneDrive, Cortana voice assistant, cloud development suites and business intelligence offerings and new pieces of the Office suite like Yammer, Mix, Delve, Sway and a new browser in Edge. Then forward reaching products like the Surface Pro, a wireless display adapter (very under appreciated), Surface Hub and Hololens which are carving out new markets and exploring new capabilities.