Mention Windows Phone and many people will ask, "But isn't it too late for them?" I showed my Nokia 822 on Verizon to many relatives over the holiday weekend and they almost all said something like, "Ooohh, this is slick." Their reactions confirm my suspicion that it's not too late.
The "live tiles" are basically small, non-overlapping windows that display either the program name, program icon, or both, and -- if the app provides for it -- live data, such as the number of unread messages. In Windows Phone 8 Microsoft added the ability to resize some of the icons to three different sizes. The larger ones can display more data. The smaller ones display less data but you can fit more of them on the screen.
The Nokia 822 itself is one of many Windows Phone models in an attempted Nokia resurgence. The company was once a major player in the U.S. and dominant in many other markets, but its smart phone platforms never caught on in the U.S. Nokia decided to take a major investment from Microsoft and hitch its wagon to Windows Phone. From no U.S. footprint at all a year ago it now has Windows Phone 8 phones with Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, both 3G and 4G.
The Nokia 822 is Verizon's first Nokia phone in three years and its first Nokia smart phone ever. It's an LTE phone with global roaming. It's available in three colors: white, black and gray for $99.99 with a two-year commitment ($149 with $50 rebate) or $449.99 with no commitment.
On the other hand, the 822's display, at 800 by 480 pixels, is unimpressive. It's far short of the iPhone 5's 1136 by 640 pixels or the Nokia 920's 1280 by 768. It's larger than the iPhone 5's, but that means the pixel density is that much lower. So don't expect the highest quality video, but for mundane everyday tasks, and generally for reading text, it looked good to me. The CPU is a dual-core 1.5-GHz SnapDragon S4. The phone comes with 16 GB of flash storage built in.
The battery is 1800 mAh and removable. Nokia claims 3G standby time of up to 486 hours, talk time up to 10.2 hours and music playback time up to 62.1 hours. In a day moderately heavy use it lasted for me from about 6 a.m. to about 9 p.m. All of this was on a 4G LTE connection.
Like Android to a degree, the experience you'll get from one Windows Phone to another is not exactly the same. This Nokia 822 has some significant software that is Nokia specific and one Verizon-specific app, My Verizon Mobile, which lets you manage your Verizon Wireless account.
I used the Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive+ (the turn-by-turn GPS app, designated BETA on my phone) on a couple of trips over the holiday weekend. Nokia has an excellent reputation for maps and it owns Navteq, one of the major companies in the business. There were some odd behaviors that you see with most GPS apps, such as when it took me on a circuitous route through a neighborhood where I knew a simpler, faster way. On a couple of occasions on an interstate highway (78 and 287 in New Jersey) where we needed to continue on the highway and not take the exit on the right, it told us to keep left and take the exit. Something in the map data is coded wrong. But it always got me to where I wanted to go.
The most interesting Nokia app is CityLens, an "augmented reality" app. You look at the street in front of you in a camera viewer and it overlays location information on the view. The categories of location data you can view are food, hotels, shopping, famous, fun, sights and transport. There is also a "nearby" category which never seemed to have much in it when I looked. It's an odd category name, since anything you look at in CityLens is necessarily nearby.
Of course, services like CityLens are only as good as their data. In the relatively small town where I live, CityLens showed the majority of the businesses in our little downtown, but also several that had been out of business for a couple of years. And back in Manhattan it misspelled "Penn Station" as "Penn Statioin." Not a big deal, but it shows a certain lack of attention to detail.
Apps On Windows Phone
There are still some important apps missing for Windows Phone 8. For instance, there's a Microsoft PDF reader but it's just plain awful. I've tried to read several documents and it's common for pages to be too blocky and pixelated to read. The iPhone has an Adobe Reader that displays these same documents without any problems. Adobe will only say that it is investigating what to do on Windows Phone and when.
Here are some other apps I've looked for and not found:
- Dropbox -- There is a free Dropbox viewer from someone else that seems to work OK, but I'd still rather have the brand name.
- Gmail -- The Windows Phone 8 Mail app does do Gmail, but I would prefer to have the option of the Gmail app so I could deal with that mail separately from other mail being handled by the Windows Phone mail app.
- Amazon Cloud Player.
It's also common for an app to be available but obviously a generation or two behind the iOS and Android versions. It's not hard to see why app vendors don't dedicate as many resources to Windows Phone. I do believe the incentives exist for app companies to write for WP8. But WP8 buyers are still pioneers in this sense.
In BYOD environments, mobile device management (MDM) software support might be required. I checked a few of the top MDM vendors for Windows Phone support. MobileIron and AirWatch are currently supporting Windows Phone. Good Technology is telling customers to expect it in the first quarter of 2013. Zenprise is saying "later this year."
I'm still skeptical of the value of wireless charging, but if you like it the Nokia 822 has it. First you need to buy the Nokia Wireless Charging Cover, which replaces the standard phone back cover. Verizon and Nokia sell a variety of charging devices, including the Nokia Wireless Charging Pad and the JBL PowerUp Wireless Charging Speaker for Nokia.
If you're interested in the 822, here's another factor to consider: The Nokia 920, available only on AT&T, has largely similar specs but a far superior display. It, too, costs $99.99 with a two-year commitment. There are other differences, such as the 920's sealed battery and the fact that it's quite big and heavy, but unless you have a clear preference for Verizon, the 920 on AT&T is probably the better phone.
Price: $99.99 (with two-year contract; $449.99 without contract)
The 822 is a second-tier model in Nokia's Windows Phone resurgence in the market. It's inexpensive and has a top-notch camera and intriguing software, including a music app that streams free tunes, "augmented reality" to show you what points of interest are right in front of you, and Nokia's highly-regarded maps. It also has a screen that's clearly a class or two below iPhone quality. If you want a better screen, choose the Nokia 920 instead.
- Windows Phone 8 and its dynamic UI
- Excellent camera.
- Nokia CityLens for "augmented reality".
- Nokia Music with free music streaming from dozens of music channels with 17 million tracks.
- Wireless charging (added cost option).
- Inexpensive phone (with two-year commitment)
- NFC, SD card slot, removable battery.
- Few Windows Phone 8 apps.
- Low-resolution screen.