Lumia 930 – 1 week on #ConnectsTrial

For good part of last 6 months, I ensured that I took a moment to bug @Connects team w.r.t Lumia 930. Of course it wasn’t available back then.. they knew it, I knew it but that had to be done. I even reminded them that they never sent me a 1520 to review :) and I suppose it worked :)

On 14th of this month, I got an email stating that they have 930 and I could be the first one to get my hands on it.. quickly filled out the form.. bang bang.. they dispatch the device the next day. I patiently waited good part of the morning for DHL to bring it in… At noon, I get an email stating package awaiting to be collected!!

The packaging isn’t brick box like earlier Lumia models but a flatter version like the one for Lumia 630.. I suppose this is the packaging for gen 2 devices.
930-Pic1 930-Pic2 930-Pic3 930-Pic4

The device is striking.. even without switching it on that much is clear.. the screen reminds me of Lumia 800′s curved glass and it is ever so slightly curved. The aluminium and the back shell remind me of Lumia 925 but its significantly flatter.. in fact the dimensions of 930 are about the same as Nexus 5. The back is tapered to give a feeling of thinness. I am not a big fan of green but I’d take the green or orange models instead of white or black ones. The green gives a nice neon lightening effect on a white table.. it is remarkably pleasant.

The first thing I did after powering it on was restored a Lumia 1020 backup on it. The device did warm up during this time and while all Lumia devices do warm up, I think aluminium chassis aids heat flow. The AMOLED display is just gorgeous.. At 441 dpi, it is significant ahead of any other devices out there oh and its full HD – 1080p. The device use Snapdragon 800 chipset and comes with 2GB of RAM. The outcome, its snappy.

It comes with 20MP CMOS as opposed to 40MP CMOS in Lumia 1020 but the combination of faster SoC and smaller CMOS means that taking pictures is a pleasure.. Here is a test capture showing speed differences.. both 1020 and 930 are set on 10 second delay.. I have tried best to tap at same time

the lens in 930 is wide though not as much as that of 1020. min focus distance is similar to that of Lumia 1020. You can view some of the pictures I have uploaded and judge for yourself

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152213561226921.1073741827.543056920&type=1&l=d8d7d8ce45

The battery life is similar to that of Lumia 1020.. my usage gives me just enough to last through the day. I have occasionally seen it warming up but I think a firmware might be due to fix that issue. Another side note, on a white background, I have seen the screen flicker a bit.. again a firmware update should sort that out.

I did power my 1020 a few times and I find it offensively slow and laggy. except for the 40 MP sensor I don’t cant think of anything that would pull me back.. I would trade it all in for a Lumia 930. Infact I am seriously thinking how on earth are @Connects team planning to get this device back.. they really think I am joking.. sigh.. I suppose they are in for a surprise :)

 

My thoughts on Lumia 630

Towards the end of May 2014, Microsoft Mobile aka Nokia Devices released their first / last windows phone device. Its was different on many scales – it was the first device to feature Windows Phone 8.1 – Windows Phone Blue. Prior to that only developers had access to the Blue builds thanks to the Dev Preview Program.

Thanks to @Connects team I had a Lumia 630 at my desk on 2nd June.
 1Shot_20140602_100914 1Shot_20140624_143725

It comes in a very compact box as compared to previous Lumia devices. The colour of the device I got was gorgeous orange. Its very bright and nice at the same time. This is the first device that my daughter wanted.. She has played with a variety of Lumia devices before - 800, 620, 820, 920, 925 and 1020 (cyan, black, yellow, white & silver) and never asked for one

The device resembles previous Lumia devices in terms of over all layout. Micro USB at the bottom, the power and volume buttons on the side. Headphone jack at the top. The few missing ones at the camera button and hardware buttons for back, windows and search. Soft buttons make appearance when the screen is powered and provide haptic feedback. Camera can be launched by using camera app or by pinning camera to notifications bar – quick launch area.

1Shot_20140624_143858 1Shot_20140624_143939

Hardware:

  • Quad core Snapdragon S400 1.2GHz
  • 4.5 inch IPS LCD display with Gorilla Glass 3.
  • 5MP rear camera
  • 512MB RAM

It does not come with Ambient Light Sensor, Proximity Sensor or Front facing camera. Rear camera does not have flash of any sorts. Even Lumia 520 shipped with Ambient Light Sensor and Proximity sensors. 620 had LED flash to go along. Not this one. Lack of ambient sensor means no automatic brightness control – you need to manually keep a lid on it.. With camera and brightness control occupying 2 of the 4 quick launch buttons, you’d start wishing for more.

The only hardware issue I had was that it refused to see my home Wi-Fi network. I have it set on 802.11n which works fine on Lumia 920 / 925 and 1020 but not on 630.. oh well. Camera is okay for most  casual snappers – simple 5MP snapper.

Its not a bad device – most apps start just fine. The processor handles most tasks easily. 512MB RAM limitation however does hit many apps and games and there’s just nothing you can do about it. This device would have fit perfectly to match Moto E and Moto G devices with other low-end devices adding to the mix.

However I have been disappointed to an extent.. the device isn’t available at advertised £89.99. Recently MicroMax India announced 2 Windows phone device that will be priced better than Lumia 630. Both of these devices run Snapdragon 200 (Dual core) with 1GB RAM. Beyond the hype, most should go for larger memory than more cores. Earlier today morning Microsoft launched Nokia X2 – the 2nd iteration of the android line up. Spec-wise even that has a better setup than 630 and is priced lower.

From being happy about a decent low-end device, today I am left unsure about what’s its place would be in the market. Nokia Lumia 520 captured 30% of Windows Phone market in a month and helped Windows Phone in many markets. I am not so sure of 630.. lets hope Microsoft Mobile has more tricks up its sleeves.

1Shot_20140624_143908 1Shot_20140624_144042

 

 

 

Cineworld – Transparent tiles and Uri Schema

Traditionally Windows Phone allowed Tile images to be transparent or otherwise. With advent of Windows Phone 8.1 and start screen background, devs are pretty hyped up about using transparent images.

For once I myself received a request for cineworld app. so the cycle tile is been done away with (if you have it pinned, cycle tile will continue to update as was before.. ) if you repin you get flip tile with primary background transparent.

I was also asked for Uri Schema for cineworld app. I have added 3.

cineworld:film?1234

cineworld:cinema?22

cineworld:search?xmen days of

the film uri schema takes EDI value.

Photography with Lumia 1020

Thank for Nokia Connects I had a Lumia 1020 to test for about 2 weeks. Being a phone camera enthusiast I was delighted to try it.

The Lumia 1020′s main attraction is the massive 41 megapixel camera and the design of the phone itself conveys the fact that its a camera with a phone and not the other way. The camera indeed takes awesome pictures – I do however miss the increase in minimum focus distance as compared to 925. Here are some of the oversample (resized / reduced size) saved and synced to SkyDrive – I don’t have full res at hand as they are not synced to SkyDrive (my main issue with the implementation).

WP_20130923_08_36_28_Pro

WP_20130923_08_37_07_Pro

WP_20130923_17_31_40_Pro

WP_20130924_08_10_05_Pro

WP_20130926_08_03_54_Pro

WP_20130926_17_46_39_Pro

WP_20130927_08_34_05_Pro

WP_20130927_08_34_05_Pro (1)

WP_20130929_13_27_32_Pro WP_20130929_13_26_47_Pro

WP_20130929_13_32_10_Pro

WP_20131001_08_47_49_Pro

WP_20131001_08_48_09_Pro (1)

WP_20131001_08_55_21_Pro (1)

WP_20131001_08_56_07_Pro

WP_20131001_08_56_32_Pro (1)

Happy Photography

Lumia 1020 and Pro Cam app

For the last 10 days, I have been trialling the Lumia 1020. It comes in an awesome cylindrical box that looks like a giant zoom lens. Of course they could have packed the whole thing in more compact cylindrical box but that’s a different thing. the box is charcoal grey – again I’d have preferred something deeper darker black.

But the box was opened in no time and the phone was peeled off without second thoughts. You want unboxing videos, go to YouTube.

Two things struck at the first glance…

  1. Camera bump is quiet wide.. 3 cm in diameter. its about a 2 mm or so in thickness..
  2. The body reminds me of Lumia 800 – the tapered edges, curved glass. The feel is very matt – unlike Lumia 920

WP_20130920_18_49_48_Pro

WP_20130920_18_52_14_Pro

As a result of the bump, the positioning of device on horizontal surface leaves much to be desired. I occasionally use the phone while it’s on table or breakfast bar.. nope the circular design of the bump means that it’s not stable and clatters while in use.

Also at work I plug the device for testing whilst I am developing. The device depending upon where you placed it rests on the bump – which can be a good thing depending upon how you see it but it’s still not stable.

Weight wise it is somewhere between Lumia 925 and Lumia 920. You have to remember that 920 has Induction charging circuits which 925 and 1020 lack. 925 is also lighter because of aluminium frame.

Now we know it’s all about the camera with 1020 – it sure is grand. By default pro-cam is now set to be the default lens. Nokia is selling pro-cam and the concept of reframing which isn’t too bad – however I am not a big fan of how low-res + high-res images are managed on 1020. This feels like a hack and it shows. To me it feels a big departure from previous Windows Phone experience.

Additionally the high res CMOS comes with an increased in minimum focus distance. It’s now at least 20+ cm. having done a macro series with 925, I can’t believe how hard it has been to get macro focus without using digital zoom. Sure 1020 can do a 3x digital zoom without loss of quality but that defeats the purpose.

So what is so wrong with Pro-cam? Well Pro-cam takes a 34 / 38 mega pixel picture and save to Camera Roll (with some tweak possibly direct move without photo lib API). It then resizes the image to 5 meg and saves that camera roll as well but this time with knowledge of photo lib.

This just means that there are two files in camera roll when you plug it into a PC – however the photo library has no clue about the high res version. And since it has no clue, the high res image is not synced with skydrive. The low-res image is uploaded to skydrive. Now you could say.. nothing wrong with this!!. Let me tell you this, I have been using 920 / 925 as a point and shoot replacement – skydrive uploads full 8.7 megapixel pic and I hardly ever plug my device to copy pictures out. Most of the times, checking skydrive is a tiny bit easier and faster. 1020′s camera experience spoils that fun.

I was sufficiently annoyed to pen an email to Stephen Elop which he kindly replied to. And having gotten so far, I decided to write my own app that would be like stock app but take high res pictures. In a few mins, I had a sample working and it was copying high res to camera roll using photo lib API.

All this time I had assumed that pro-cam behaviour was purely because WP Dev team couldn’t fix the API. I was so wrong that I penned another email to Stephen Elop. I do not expect an answer for that.

The stock windows phone camera still works however it has no idea about supported high resolutions and will continue shooting at 8.7 megapixels. Do I think stock app will be updated. sure it can be updated and should have been updated by Microsoft, If GDR3 doesn’t fix that, we will have to wait for Windows Phone 8.1

I will be returning the trial 1020. Not sure I want this device right now. Might consider waiting for 1520.

If you really want 34 / 38 megapixel pictures, get used to pro-cam or get a 3rd party app – mine should be out in a few weeks.

Haswell Ultrabook 2 weeks on

I have been using the Intel Haswell Ultrabook for 2 weeks now. Most of my usage is either during train commute or late in the evening.

I could look at hardware specs but I already did some of it in previous post and this is an extract from Jessie Liberty’s recent post http://jesseliberty.com/2013/07/25/intel-haswell-ultrabook-pre-release-first-look/

“The computer came with 4GB of memory and a 180GB SSD with an Intel Core i5-435OU Processor (formerly code-named Haswell). “

So lets start with what I have installed on it so far.

  1. came with Windows 8 Pro – with a shiny Intel logo on boot screen. Used MSDN key :)
  2. Visual Studio 2012
  3. Windows Phone 8 SDK
  4. Paint.net
  5. tweet deck

I am a light user of apps.. Mostly have only the app I develop installed as they are deployed during testing :)

So how has it been during the 2 weeks I have used it ? Well I have so far had about 4 solutions open at once in addition to  two emulators – WP7 and WP8. Have had azure compute emulator running as well.

Its managed to do it all just fine – bearing in mind that it only has 4GB RAM and I have seen about 80 mem usage without any slow down. If I am doing too many things, the fan eventually comes on for a bit.

The full HD screen is awesome in terms of being able to squeeze in more on the screen – especially for VS.

So far I only noticed one thing – it doesn’t have a Wacom / EM digitizer. I tried a capacitive stylus but the experience wasn’t particularly good so I took to drawing pad out earlier.

I could always buy a cheap Wacom addon – or just carry drawing pads – not like I design UX every day.

BTW the backlit keyboard is awesome.. I no longer need to strain my eyes or keep the lights on when coding late at nights :) Its still one of the best things personally :) the screen brightness control is also excellent

Lastly everyone wants to know about Haswells battery life.  I only use it for a few hours like I said before – commute and evening work – the few times I have left it unplugged, it never dropped below 75% which even for a 3 hour usage isn’t too shabby

Positive changes to Windows Azure Mobile Services coming our way

Over the last few weeks, I have hassled / lobbied twitter for votes (for my uservoice) on recently announced changes to Windows Azure Mobile Services. I doubled / triple tweeted two contacts – neither where amused :(

I mentioned in past that I have been in conversation with Josh Twist. He turned out to be very patient and our conversations included what I think are acceptable limits for free tier. Having replied and not having heard back , I was kinda losing hope of anything happening on that front until earlier this morning.

Josh forwarded my conversation to the mobile services team and I spoke to Kirill Gavrylyuk. Based on our conversation, free tier will get some changes – 100 device limit will be replaced. I know with what – however I will let Kirill and Windows Azure team send out the email notification :)

One thing to note is that Free tier doesn’t have SLA and wont have SLA. I think that’s perfectly acceptable. I am very happy about upcoming changes.

I would like to thank both Josh and Kirill for kind consideration. I would like to thank all those who got hassled by me.

Here’s to Windows Phone and Windows 8 development!! Happy coding

Converter to toggle visibility when content is empty #wpdev #wp8dev #wp7dev #win8dev

Recently Gustavo Guerra posted a question on StackOverflow.com stating that behaviour of TextBlock was different on Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8. If the Text is empty, WP7 renders TextBlock with Height set to 0. On WP8, it occupies full height.

I replied back stating that he should consider using a Converter for the same. Of course I had a similar issue with Cineworld app. The screenshot shows ratings & review screen I implemented – its almost a copy of Windows Phone Store ratings & review.
wp_ss_20130704_0002[1]

what I noticed was that if user chose to not review it, the textbox would be fully render. So I did what I suggested Gustavo do. Created two converters – StringLengthInvisibilityConverter and StringLengthVisibilityConverter. Almost identical but doing the opposite thing.

 

public class StringLengthInvisibilityConverter : IValueConverter
{
    public object Convert(object value, Type targetType, object parameter, System.Globalization.CultureInfo culture)
    {
        string itemVal = value as String;
        if (String.IsNullOrWhiteSpace(itemVal))
            return Visibility.Collapsed;
        else
            return Visibility.Visible;
    }

    public object ConvertBack(object value, Type targetType, object parameter, System.Globalization.CultureInfo culture)
    {
        throw new NotImplementedException();
    }
}

public class StringLengthVisibilityConverter : IValueConverter
{

    public object Convert(object value, Type targetType, object parameter, System.Globalization.CultureInfo culture)
    {
        string itemVal = value as String;
        if (String.IsNullOrWhiteSpace(itemVal))
            return Visibility.Visible;
        else
            return Visibility.Collapsed;
    }

    public object ConvertBack(object value, Type targetType, object parameter, System.Globalization.CultureInfo culture)
    {
        throw new NotImplementedException();
    }
}
<TextBlock Text="{Binding Review}" Visibility="{Binding Review, Converter={StaticResource InvisibilityConverter}}" TextWrapping="Wrap" Style="{StaticResource PhoneTextNormalStyle}" Grid.Column="0" Grid.Row="1" Grid.ColumnSpan="2"/>
<TextBlock Text="(rating only)" Visibility="{Binding Review, Converter={StaticResource VisibilityConverter}}" Foreground="{StaticResource PhoneSubtleBrush}" TextWrapping="Wrap" Style="{StaticResource PhoneTextNormalStyle}" Grid.Column="0" Grid.Row="1" Grid.ColumnSpan="2"/>

 

Now I know one of you clever person is going to tell me I could have just used one :P Let me tell you this:

  1. I thought of it
  2. I could have searched around
  3. Realised no one really cares
  4. Created two converters and got the job done :)
  5. Submitted update and nap time

.

Customising Panorama control #wpdev #wp7dev #wp8dev

This control is deemed like the showcase control in windows phone. Its simple, its elegant and non of the other platforms have anything similar. Its been described as being synonymous to a magazine cover. Dave Crawford’s design talk is a great intro to this

Most Modern UI stock templates use a very typographical layout. Its all textual with no branding samples in sight – unlike real life where branding is a foremost part of the experience. Here is link to dev center’s article http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/windowsphone/design/hh202892(v=vs.105).aspx This article talks about various aspects of using panorama control etc.

For myself, the first time I was tempted into using Panorama was after playing with the new Facebook Beta app. This app divided windows phone community by marking a significant departure from textual nature of panorama. So far in Cineworld app, I had restricted myself to Pivot but I could see myself using panorama..

Branding:If an app requires specific branding, its best to create a user control that provides the option to set Brand logo and optional text messages. One isn’t restricted to a two line header on each page :)

wp_ss_20130619_0003  wp_ss_20130619_0004

As you can see, instead of excessively large page header, the customised header is very compact and since its a user control, we can consume it across other pages within the app. So what can we do with Panorama, well it exposes a TitleTemplate. We take the UC and we shove that in TitleTemplate. You can further customise the HeaderTemplate to change how panel headers look like.

Film

I am definitely not saying you should do what I did. However what I will state is that Metro or Modern Design is really just about good design. Just because stock templates do it one way doesn’t mean no one should do otherwise. Kudos the designers of the new Facebook BETA app for doing something different.