The Journey From Symbian To Windows Phone

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Guest writer Keir Brython reports back on his four months with the Nokia Lumia 1520 after a year with the Nokia 808 PureView. It's safe to say that he didn't find the journey from one platform to another all plain sailing and it's telling that he now has to carry around both smartphones, since the Windows Phone won't yet let him do everything he wants a smartphone to do.... Brickbats and bouquets abound in this real world testimony.

Keir writes:

"After the launch of the Nokia Lumia 1520 I was mainly seduced by its specs and when I finally saw one in the flesh at a local retailer I was mesmerised by the screen which looked so vibrant and had such clarity that I would've sworn it had been painted on the surface of the glass. The inclusion of MicroSD expansion and wireless charging were the two particular features that convinced me to jump from my Symbian powered 808 into the world of Windows Phone. Those features were missing from the Lumia 1020 and the storage space in particular had been a show stopper until the 1520 came along.  

1520 and 808

I was pretty impressed by the quality of the 1520 when my package arrived. I'd organised for my service provider to send me one of those ridiculous nano sized SIMs so I was all ready to go. Windows Phone was generally easy to set up and understand but the first disappointment arrived when I tried to organise all of my contacts. I sent them from my 808 to the 1520 via Bluetooth which was easy enough but they straight away got mixed up with contacts from another source, my Microsoft passport account. Now, if you're anything like me, you might have made contact with all sorts of dubious people over the life of your Hotmail (in my case) account. The last thing I wanted was to see all of those names, aliases, photos and details mixed in with the meticulously maintained database of contacts from several generations of Symbian phones. Too bad. I had to spend many hours tidying up, deleting, linking and doing general housekeeping on my contacts before they resembled a workable list once more.

1520 and 808

The 1520's screen is a sensation. The 808's is not so bad either despite the low resolution

The other thing that I didn't like was the mandatory 'cloud' storing of my contacts. I can see how it is useful, you have an online backup and you can share the contact list between multiple devices but I have a fundamental issue with uploading the details (which contain full names, numbers, addresses, birthdays, photos) of all of the people I know onto a file server in another country and having no say in it whatsoever. I would much prefer to keep all of that stuff local and make my own backups thanks very much. Too bad. 

Initially I found using the 1520 to be an absolute joy. I very quickly got over the size of the device and was only reminded of it when other people would comment on how massive it was. To be honest, their tiny phones now seemed absurdly difficult to view and I wouldn't want to go back to squinting at a tiny screen. I wasn't really having any problem fitting my 1520 into my trouser pockets either, even my skinny jeans were coping fine.

The selection of applications available for Windows Phone was acceptable. I found both the Nokia suite of apps and also the Bing suite of apps (now renamed sans Bing) to be of extremely high quality and I was impressed by many of them. Bing News, Bing Finance and Bing Weather are probably my most used applications. Skype for video calling also works extremely well on the 1520 and I am loving being able to keep in touch with Mum on the other side of the planet with ease and clarity.

There is a general superficiality to Windows Phone and its ecosystem though. Once I've read the news and checked my Facebook updates each morning there's not much else left to play with. Even on Symbian I had more stuff to keep me entertained. But where the Symbian ecosystem is slowly evaporating, the Window Phone ecosystem is getting stronger so this situation will surely end up more in Windows Phone's favour.

When I moved from Symbian I knew that I would be giving up a lot of functionality and I was right. My Nokia 808 was a real powerhouse. I would often download music videos from YouTube Downloader and then copy them straight to a USB stick and plug them into my Blu-ray player. On Windows Phone there is a YouTube downloader program too but you can only view the videos you download from within the program itself which is a bit naff to say the least. You can't copy them to a USB stick either and they're also not available to send to your TV or Blu-ray player via DLNA. On the subject of DLNA, my 808 could work in two modes, you could turn on a kind of DLNA server and then the device could be found and perused by your TV or Blu-ray player. Alternatively you could run the Nokia Play To application and essentially take over a target device and stream your media. On the 1520 only the latter option exists and while my 808 worked fine with my Sony Blu-ray player, the 1520 doesn't. So no more DLNA for me and since the 1520 also doesn't have an HDMi out port or the ability to write to a USB stick, it's a jolly big leap backwards.

I also have two Nokia Play 360 NFC Bluetooth speakers. They are brilliant. I love them. My 808 loved them. My 1520 not so much. When I touch my 1520 to the speakers it says "Oh do you want to pair with these?" and I say yes. It pairs and then connects … then promptly disconnects. I tap the 1520 to the speaker again and it connects. It goes through this process EVERY time I use the speakers. Despite having the speakers in its list of registered and trusted Bluetooth devices it acts as though it's never seen them before every time I want to listen to music.

Once connected to the speakers, music playback is flaky at best. Generally speaking I get a few songs in before pauses and clicks get introduced to the playback and the only remedy is to disconnect from the speakers and reconnect again. What a nuisance.

There is another major problem with using the 1520 as a music or media playback device. It corrupts its media database. The problem first manifested as duplicate song entries. So I would have 2, 3 and I think the record is 7 listings of the same song even though only one existed on the device. This same problem extends to photos and videos too. I have tried everything to correct it, formatting the MicroSD card with the phone, with the PC andcopying everything back several times. These attempts fix the problem for a short while but give it a week or so and it'll be doing nutty things again. At the moment it's deleting the second song on every music album. I kid you not!

1520 music issues

The second song on this album, the title track in fact, is my favourite. Where's it gone?

I am not the only person reporting the media database corruption problems with Windows Phone. At first it seemed to only affect Windows Phones that featured MicroSD cards but Lumia 920 users have experienced the fault too. Have a search, there are tens of discussion forums and thousands of people pulling their hair out trying to find the solution. There isn't a solution. It's a bug. Microsoft has almost begrudgingly accepted the fault and is working on it. In the meantime, I use my 808 for listening to music. The other thing that I still use my 808 for is taking photos.

The 1520 camera is okay. It's probably better than most other smartphones but it's not great. Sometimes in low light conditions I am surprised by the results it achieves due to its clever optical image stabilisation but mostly I miss my 808. It is probably unfair to compare the performance of the 1520's tiny camera with the giant masterpiece in the 808 but there are two things that make the 1520's camera completely flawed. Firstly, it has a lens that borders on fisheye which means that when you photograph portraits, you'll need to make sure that the subject is completely centred else they'll look bizarre. I took a photo of a friend with his dog and it was a great shot but once I'd used the 'zoom later' technique to frame the photo just as I wanted it, my friend's head was noticeably elongated by the lens distortion. Again, I'm not the only one to notice this. None of this really matters anyway because shortly the camera will be entirely useless due to the second problem. After four months of treating the 1520 like china and mollycoddling it to the extreme, I have noticed that the inside of the camera's glass is covered with a lovely layer of dust. How the hell am I meant to get that out?

I had better throw in some positives hadn't I? Windows Phone is very easy to use. I bought my mum a Lumia 625 and she loves it. She has told me that she loves it about 10 times. There is probably nothing else that I could have bought her that she would've been able to get along with so easily. No doubt an iPhone would have been easy enough for her to use but the screen would have been too small for her to use comfortably and it's way too expensive and fragile anyway.

What else? I love the wireless charging. It has changed my life. It's truly not a gimmick and I never consciously think about the state of my 1520's battery due to firstly it being big enough to start a car and secondly having wireless charging plates at my home and office. It's brilliant and it's a feature I would struggle to live without.

My other favourite feature of Windows Phone is the Family Room. I had never even read about it and kind of discovered it by accident but it allows you to share notes, photos and updates, a message thread and best of all a calendar with one or more other people. I have it as a shared space with my partner and we have managed to organise our lives to a ridiculously nerdy degree. I keep a shopping list in there for crying out loud.

The MS Office and business side of Windows Phone is very strong and well executed. Mostly. I had the misfortune of trying to attach a PDF document to an email a month or soback and while I eventually got there by a ridiculously convoluted process, that's an hour of my life I won't get back. Give us a file manager please Microsoft and let us attach whatever we bloody well want to our emails!

Oh yeah, the volume thing. Windows Phone doesn't have profiles so when you adjust the media playback volume, you're adjusting the volume of everything on the device including the ringer! It's a bit of a disaster and I struggle to understand how it was considered acceptable by anyone at Microsoft. Also, when you put your phone on silent, it's kind of optional. Viber for example ignores it. Seriously.

Look, a lot of these problems will probably be addressed by the imminent release of Windows Phone 8.1. It's got to get better right? Let's hope that they've spent most of their development effort on fixing up the real functional deficiencies and less on voice recognising personal assistants that hardly anyone will use once the novelty has worn off.

So in summary, I would say that Windows Phone is not a suitable path to follow if you're a hard-core Symbian user. You're going to find it frustrating. If you're the kind of person who didn't use half of the features of your Symbian phone anyway (and let's face it, you wouldn't be reading this site) then you're going to love its pretty face and shallow personality."


Thanks Keir, for the article. I think a lot of (current and previous) AAS readers will be in much the same boat in terms of journey and experiences, though do note that the volume control issue, at least, is completely solved by Windows Phone 8.1, which breaks the controls down properly.

Comments welcome from others. Have you tried something similar (maybe you moved from the 808 to the 1020), or have you moved to iOS or Android? Or are you clinging to Symbian and devices like the Nokia 808 as the last of their kind?