An Experiment in Windows Phone 8.1

I’ve heard that Windows Phone 8.1 is pretty good. I’m gonna take a look…

Windows Phone 8.1

I’ve heard a lot over the past few weeks about Windows Phone 8.1. With the keynote at Microsoft Build over and done with, Windows Phone 8.1 was released into the Wild, Wild West of Microsoft’s Developer community. The cool thing about it is that ANYONE can get their hands on the newly minted beta bits.

All you have to do is sign up for a free Microsoft Developer account, jump through a few hoops, open up the Microsoft Developer’s App on your Windows Phone and poof! You can download Windows Phone 8.1 before the final bits are made available to the general public. My good friend Paul Thurrott has the full, detailed instructions on how to download the update and install it on your phone.

If you can browse the web, you can install the update. It’s really that simple. However, be advised that despite what Paul says in his article, your phone may want to download and install a few pre-req updates before it actually pulls down Windows Phone 8.1. It’s not a huge deal or anything to be concerned about, just something you might need to know, if you run through the process. It may take a little longer than you might think.

The thing that’s really cool about all of this is that you can get Windows Phone 8.1 on ANY – and I do mean ANY – phone that runs Windows Phone 8. I went and purchased a Nokia Lumia 520, an entry level Windows Phone 8 device, and paid under $80 with tax for the device as an AT&T Go Phone. An unlocked version can be found at just about any electronics vendor on the web for under $150, so if you looking for something cheap that will give you access to the OS so you can at least try it out without spending a lot of money, the Lumia 520 is a good choice.

Information on the Nokia Lumia 520 can be found here. The device is a basic, no frills, entry-level device. It’s got most of the features you might want, but done at a budget. It’s got 512MB of RAM, a 1.0gHz processor, and a 5MP rear camera. It does NOT support AT&T’s LTE network, and while you’re going to get 4G service from the device, carrier locked or unlocked, you’re going to get HSPA/ HSPA+ connection speeds at best. However, there is a plus side to all of this…

You don’t HAVE to pay for any service. If you – uh-hem – go the Go Phone route, while you will need to register the device with AT&T, and will need to pick a service plan when setting up the device, you don’t have to pay for it to use the device, Wi-Fi only. As AT&T Go Phone is a pre-pay service, you won’t be charged anything until you purposefully activate the SIM and pay for a month’s service. However, if you opt NOT to activate the SIM card that comes with the device, it will be deactivated 30 days after you register. This is what I did.

Anyway, with the iPhone 6 and iOS 8 set to be released in the next three or so months, and with the Samsung Galaxy S5 starting to make its way to a carrier near you (as well as my recent review of the HTC One (M8)), I thought it might be a good idea to take a quick look at Windows Phone. I plan on upgrading from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 6 this fall, and I honestly wanted to be able to say in the blogs and review that I will no doubt be exclusively publishing via Soft32 what is comparatively good, bad and ugly about all three major mobile operating systems available today. (Un/Fortunately – depending on your point of view – Blackberry’s QNX-based mobile OS isn’t a contender any longer…)

Over the next week or so, I will be briefly looking at the following Windows Phone 8.1 components as they present on the Lumia 520:

→ Camera/Gallery – more of a concentration on the Gallery app, as the camera is only 5MP
→ Ecosystem and Multimedia – some interesting surprises await!
→ GPS and Maps
→ Cortana – Microsoft’s Siri and Google Now competitor

I will also follow this all up with a brief, but thorough device and hardware review. I’ll compare it to both the iPhone 5 and the HTC One (M8) (no… I haven’t returned it just yet.. Shhh!) and we’ll see if Windows Phone 8.1 has a chance of making an impression on the market with the right MS Marketing push, or if it’s really just a huge pipe dream.

If there are any specific items you’d like me to cover in this iOS/ Android/ Windows Phone comparison, please let me know in the comments section below. This is going to be an interesting undertaking. I haven’t played with Windows Phone AT ALL. When Microsoft abandoned Windows Mobile for Windows Phone, I left the WM community and dallied with Android for a couple years before heading back over to iOS and the iPhone 5. I’m pretty much a Windows Phone rookie, and will be looking at the mobile OS for the first time.

Windows Phone 8.1 is said to be a worthy competitor to iOS 7 and Android 4.4.x. We’ll have to wait and see, but I’m certain, as with everything, it will be an interesting journey. Again, I’d love your thoughts. Please feel free to chime in and give me your thoughts in the comments section below, especially if there’s something you’d like to see compared and/ or reviewed.

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  • cgavula

    I’ve done this on a Lumia 1520 and a Lumia 920. Windows Phone 8.1 is a good OS. Not sure how it is on a 530 since thats a lower end device – also not sure how valid comparisons a low end WP device to high end iOS and Android devices is, but should be interesting nonetheless.

    • Christopher Spera

      thanks for the vote of confidence, Chris! 😉

      My thought was not to compare the devices, but the operating systems. would love to talk to you soon. Give me a call!

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