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Sean’s Editorial: This Is How I Use “Rooms” For WP


With the release of Windows Phone 8, there are a tremendous number of new features available Many aren’t available for WP7, or are but have inherent limitations. Some are major additions and some are minor changes. The feature that I find myself utilizing more than any other option on my Lumia 920 is the new Rooms feature. If you haven’t had the opportunity to upgrade to WP8 yet, Rooms are similar to Groups for WP7, but with many additional and VERY useful features. My wife and I both have WP8 Lumia 920’s, so I’ve had the chance to use the Rooms feature often and will give you some of my experiences, the positives of Rooms, and some of the needed improvements to this unique feature from Microsoft.

 
Bare with me for a second, this is more of a recap of  Rooms before I better describe how it has become such a vital aspect of my phone and world. First, let’s start off with what the Rooms feature is. Like Groups, Rooms is a collection of contacts from your People Hub that you want to group together for easier and more organized communications with. The 1st big difference between the 2: Groups are people you add into a hub without their permission, making it easier for YOU, the user, to better keep track of up to 25 people and communicate with them via the various integrated services on WP. Unlike a Group though, a Room requires you to be invited to or for you to invite participants in a Room you’ve created. A Room can’t exceed 10 members and you’re limited to participating in no more than 5 Rooms at a time. In addition invites are only sent via SMS, so you need to be in network range to send or accept. Once you’re in a Room, WiFi can then be used as your connection. This was an issue for me personally, as my home is not within my carrier’s network range. I had to wait to get into reception before accepting an invitation and sending an invite for a different Room.
Many of you have read about the features included in Rooms for WP8, so I won’t spend a lot of time detailing what’s already been written. It has a very simple minimalist feel and look to it, but does a great job of capturing the essence of Windows Phone with all the integrated services right at your fingertips and easily accessible. Here’s the short of what a Room consists of:

     

  • Members Screen-live tile of the members of the room/What’s New via social networks/Member Photos/Group email/Settings
  • Messenger-IM with the members in your Room
  • Calendar-Add/View/Edit events
  • Photos-Add/View/Comment on Room members uploaded pics/
  • Notes-Add/View/Edit notes added by Room members

 

So who is this wonderful feature, created by the reinvigorated and innovative team at Microsoft, available to? If you own a WP8, you’re in luck as all the services come stock and work great with your device. What if you own a WP7…or maybe you own a WP8 but know someone with an iPhone that you would like to share this experience with. Well there’s good and bad news. It IS available to  WP7 and iPhone owners, but with limitations. I’m personally in a Room with my wife and in another with other Lumia 920 owners, so I have to be honest…I’m not sure of how well the non WP8’s behave in a Room. This is how Microsoft describes the experience for non WP8 Room members:

If you have a Windows Phone 7 or an iPhone, you can join a room that someone with a Windows Phone 8 creates and invites you to. You’ll be able to set up the room’s shared calendar on your phone and view, create, and edit events on it. Your changes will appear on the other members’ phones and their changes will sync to yours. Other Rooms features work best on Windows Phone 8. Group chat(Messenger) in Rooms is only available on Windows Phone 8. Room members with a Windows Phone 7 or iPhone won’t be able to participate.

 

  

Rather than focusing on the specs, I’m going to spend my time in this piece talking about how I personally use these features on a daily basis, quite perhaps, more than any other aspect of my Lumia 920. As I mentioned before, I’m involved in 2 rooms currently. The Lumia 920 Room is a group of 10 owners of the 920 where we discuss many things 920 related and some other things too. It’s a great way for me to stay connected with other Winphans and feel the WP love! The second Room I’m involved in is one my wife and I made to stay connected in our busy world. I’m going to talk about that first as it garners most of my time and well…I’m using it as I’m writing on my laptop this very second.

 

I’m sure many of you can relate to this description: I am married, we have children, we both work, our kids have busy schedules, somebody wants this, somebody wants that, etc. Well the same holds true for my wife and I. We both have busy schedules and we have children, but don’t want to lose out on what matters most, each other. Our Room has really helped to make us more communicative throughout the day and easier to share the day’s doing even though we’re apart. It’s why we fell in love in the first place, we enjoyed sharing experiences and thoughts together. We are in an era however, where finding time with your loved one or people you care about becomes harder due busier schedules, finances, and other various factors. A Room is really the 1st of its kind. It offers a bit of a social network feel, but in a much more intimate setting and brings some easy ways to connect the important and not so important part of your day to the person or people who are important in your day.

 

Obviously, the most used feature of a Room is the Messenger, or chat. This is a downfall of WP7, the lack of integrated Messenger just doesn’t make sense. Aside from FB chat, KIK, and a couple of others, there is slim pickins’ when it comes to IM and Window Phone. Having Messenger integrated gives another very stable IM choice to people considering a switch and with something as important as messaging, more is better. I spend most of my time near my home and as I mentioned above, my carrier’s network does not reach to it. A simple SMS is out of the question and most SMS apps have unreliable servers making texting a challenge often. My wife however, works in town and is in network range so SMS is fine. However, if my apps server is down then she can’t reach me then we’re back at square one. That has been our experience until having a Room. There are times were are carrier’s network is bad, but Messenger is always reliable. What is great for my wife is that the message shows up in her Messaging Hub just like a SMS or FB chat does. This gives you the option to have a live tile for your Room or not, either way, you’re going to get a notification.

 

An interesting feature to a Room’s Messenger chat is the storage of conversations in your Windows Live email. It’s not always consistent as to what will or won’t show up in your inbox, but some items do appear there. In the long run, if Microsoft straightens that out and has a Room consistently feeding through your email, that’s just one more example of 3 Microsoft’s 3 screens concept. If your WP isn’t near you, you don’t have to miss out on a conversation. Your Messenger also comes with voice to text dictation, which is a great little feature. In addition to the above features, Messenger allows you to check-in with your location and with the tap of the map, other members can look at their Local Scout for where you are.

 

So my wife and I both love to take pics and save pics we see on the internet and then share them with each other. Instead of having to send emails back and forth or sit and wait for the other person to scroll through their various photo albums looking for that one pic they saved, it’s much easier to use the SkyDrive integration and share it directly to our Room’s photo album. You can comment on a pic while viewing it as well, which can lead to long threads of their own aside from Messenger. Because of the SkyDrive integration it’s super easy to upload any image directly to the Room’s album, whenever you share an image you’ll see the Rooms you participate in as an option. You’ll also be notified via your live tile when a member uploads a new image. On a recent trip to L.A., my wife was able to almost stream her day in pics posted to our album. It was wonderful being able to experience things almost in live time as she showed me the world from her eyes. More than that, it was fairly easy for her to keep me up to the moment with how simple and NOT time-consuming it is to share. In addition to viewing pics while in your Room, your shared Room album is stored to SkyDrive allowing you to access those same pics from your laptop, tablet, Xbox, as well as your phone’s Photo hub. Ahem…3 screen concept yet again!

 

When you have busy schedules, that means you have filled up calendars and keeping them all in order can be a mind-boggling and time-consuming task! Your Room comes equipped with its own calendar that has also been integrated with SkyDrive thus adding itself to your existing Windows Live Calendar without you having to do anything. You might think “I’ve already linked my Windows Live Calendar with someone, how is this any different?”. The answer is this: When you add a new appointment/event with your phone’s calendar, you must enter an attendee to share it with and an email is sent with a request to accept or decline…too many steps, too much time, and things that can go wrong. With your Room, when a new item is added, it automatically includes all members and then places it in their calendar. No emails to accidentally end up in bulk or junk and get missed, just set it and that is that! Events from your Room will show up on your Calendar tile on your WP, laptop, or tablet. Yes, I know, 3 screens…I cannot say enough about SkyDrive and the way Windows Phone has integrated it into our devices!

 

The last main feature I’ll talk about is Note. Your Room’s Notes is a shared folder using your WP’s One Note, which has been integrated with SkyDrive allowing for you guessed it, a 3 screen concept! Start a Note or add to it. Christmas is right around the corner and my wife and I haven’t done a lick of shopping for gifts yet! We both are quite busy so it can be hard to both end up at a store looking for Christmas goodies at the same time. No worries, we’re going to sit together and using our Room make a gift Note. We can add or eliminate items later whether we are in the same room or in different areas with SkyDrive. If I buy a gift, just notate it on the Note and my wife can see not to get it. She doesn’t have to stand waiting for me to reply to a text or email if she’s at a store and isn’t sure if I already got it. We’ve all waited for that damn text or message at one point or another, be honest. NO MORE! If she thinks of something for me to pick up while I’m shopping for groceries, BAM…add it to the Note and it’s just that simple! Like Messenger, Note also comes with voice to text dictation.

 

In addition to the features I described above, the members of the Room all appear in one spot as live tiles. The members live tile in a Room are the same as in your People hub, so each member’s live tile shows their social network updates dancing about on their tile and all contact info can be accessed there as well. One of the features that appealed to many of us early adopters of Windows Phone was the Hub concept. It still does to newcomers, not needing so many apps to do simple tasks unlike the device they recently left behind whether it be Android or iPhone. Well Windows Phone has done it again! I’ve seen many apps that attempted to emulate each one of these tasks individually but Microsoft has done a great job at building each service into WP8 and then offering a way to use them all at once without the need of an app.

So I’ve given you all the upsides to a Room. What are the things that could be improved upon? This is a much shorter list. I actually only have 1 legitimate complaint, the rest are things that need just a little tweaking. My major complaint is this: there is no way to mute a Room. If you have an active room, your phone could be alerting you for hours on end as your Room’s Messenger gets lit up by members. Keep in mind, members of a Room can be from all over the world so it’s always Windows Phone time somewhere in the world in my 920 Room. The ability to turn off a Room’s alerts would be great! At this point the only way to turn off chat alerts is by leaving the Room in entirety. Not a good solution.

Aside from that, I would like to see the ability for a Room to do a better job at linking its members social networks together. Because it’s Windows Live, we all share each other Windows Live contact info. What if I want to know someone’s Twitter, their other social networks, or other contact info. There isn’t a quick way to do it in a Room yet. Yes you can share contact info via email, but that’s an added step that usually won’t be taken.

My last thing I can see a bit of an issue with is less to do with a Room and more to do with a carrier’s network. If you have poor network coverage the Room definitely doesn’t function as well. Just because you have enough reception to text doesn’t mean you have a strong enough signal for a Room to operate in “Real Time”, you may notice delays in Messenger and troubles syncing with SkyDrive. When I’m on WiFi I have yet to face any issues however.

When I first heard of Rooms in June, I thought it was cool sounding but had no idea how useful and in the theme of Windows Phone Rooms would really be. In terms of normal non gimmick function and by that I mean function but not a selling ploy like Siri for example, I really think this is the clear choice for top addition to Windows Phone 8. I think it will take a second, but you will hear more and more about Rooms in time to come. There are so many ways to make a Room work for each person, the question is simple…how will you make your Room or Rooms work for you?

To learn more about Rooms for Windows Phone 8 just click here.

 

 

 

 

Posted by TheWinPhan in Archive, 2 comments

Windows Phone panorama comparison: Nokia vs. HTC

panorama-nokia-htc

Both Nokia and HTC are providing a Panorama picture function with their Windows Phone devices. Nokia released its “creativity suite”, while HTC integrated this feature in the camera app.

Both devices help you to create your panorama picture. HTC takes three photos, while Nokia takes four photos to create your panorama. I tested the function on a HTC Titan and a Nokia Lumia 800.

Let´s have a look at the HTC-helper:

HTC-Panorama-Helper

As you can see on the picture above, HTC uses a line for horizontal adjustment and on this line a dot to find the best point of shooting the next picture.

HTC-Panorama-Helper-taking-picture

Once you have reached the circle, the camera shots automatically the next picture.

Let´s have a look at the Nokia-helper:

Nokia-Panorama-Helper

As you can see on this picture, Nokia uses a different way to create panorama pictures. As mentioned above, Nokia takes four pictures for the panorama. Nokia uses a rectangle to give you help while positioning the device. It takes some time to figure this out, but once you are used to it, it is as easy as with the HTC panorama function.

Nokia-Panorama-Helper-taking-pic

Also Nokia´s app is taking pictures automatically once the best position is reached.

Now let´s compare the panoramas

First I want to show you two panoramas that I have taken outside (first is HTC, second Nokia):

HTC-Panorama-outside

Nokia-Panorama-outside

The HTC panorama is not as wide as the Nokia panorama. Of course this is due to the difference of taking three vs. four pictures. The HTC camera has made the sun flair too lightening, which disturbs a little bit in my eyes. The Nokia panorama looks more natural, even with this difficult painting. Both panoramas are acceptable, but there is room for improvements on both sides.

Let me show you two panoramas from my living room (first is HTC, second Nokia):

HTC-Panorama-inside

Nokia-Panorama-inside

Here you can see even more difference between the panoramas caused by the different numbers of pictures that are taken for stitching the panorama. The Nokia one is again wider than the one from HTC. The HTC camera once again has a problem with the lightening (see the windows), while the Nokia camera takes it easy and made a good photo at this part. But on the first photo the Nokia camera had a problem with the focus.

Conclusion:

Both devices have a good camera, and both cameras did their work over all good. HTC gets a bonus point as the panorama shot is integrated into the camera software, while Nokia´s bonus is a wider range for the panorama. As I do not take panoramas all the time, I am fine with using an app. In my eyes the Nokia one is a little better, because lightening is not such a strong problem as on the HTC Titan.

Posted by msicc in Archive, 0 comments
Microsoft lures developers with million deal

Microsoft lures developers with million deal

nokia-microsoft-app-campus

Microsoft and Nokia are teaming up again to push the Windows Phone OS. This time it is all about developers.

Over the next three years, both companies are investing the amount of 18 million euros into a newly founded developer program.

Read my full post at 1800PocketPC.com.

Posted by msicc in Archive, 0 comments
HTC Titan vs. Nokia Lumia 800

HTC Titan vs. Nokia Lumia 800

htcvsnokia

Today I am going to compare the HTC Titan to the Nokia Lumia 800.

Display:

The HTC Titan spots a 4,7 inch display, while the Nokia Lumia has a one inch smaller display. The Titan has a clear SLCD display, while the Lumia has an AMOLED display. Here you can see the difference (brightness on both devices is set to automatic):

WP_000032

The Lumia´s color are more powerful due to the AMOLED technology. Personally, I think the calibration has too much of red in it. This makes me feel the HTC display is more natural in color.

Typing:

Well, let´s go ahead. Typing on Titan is really easy and fast, with nearly no wrong taps on the keyboard. Typing on Lumia is also easy, I was impressed that I was able to use it nearly as fast as the Titan.

WP_000035WP_000036

Camera:

Both devices have an 8 MP camera. I know that MP is not all, but in a comparison it still has to tell something. Also both devices come with a F2.2 lens. Nokia has the clear advantage of a Carl Zeiss lens on the hardware side. Carl Zeiss is a German manufacturer which is specialized on optical hardware.

WP_000093

WP_000023

If you compare the two images, you will recognize that the Lumia´s color are not as powerful as the Titan ones. In my opinion the Titan´s Image looks a little better than the Lumia´s. Both Images are taken with flash. The quality of both cameras is really good for smartphone cameras. So here I will stop with a draw for both devices.

Performance:

Both the Titan as well as the Lumia are fast devices. In daily use, I did not recognize any problems or difference between them. In this case, let us have a look on the numbers (WP Bench):

WPBench20111127072011WPBench20111127071923

As you can see, the Titan has a little better result than the Lumia. The difference is so small, you won´t even check this in daily use.

Sound:

The Titans speaker is on the back, while the Lumia´s is on the bottom of the device. Both speakers have a good sound, while the Lumia´s has a bit weak loudness. The Titan has also a sound optimizer, while the Lumia does not have this. I am sure Nokia will bring any sound optimization in future. For now, plus goes to the Titan.

Differences:

Until now, both devices seem to be a good decision. But as OEM´s, both Nokia and HTC are trying to differentiate from others.

Nokia has its own Navigation System, Nokia Drive and Nokia Music as well as Nokia Maps (last one will be a paid app on other OEM devices). It has no front camera and no gyroscope. We were told that there is also a Nokia section in the marketplace. Well, at least in Germany with o2-sold devices there is no Nokia section. You have to search the Marketplace manually.

HTC has a own Marketplace section, with tools and gadgets you will find useful (for example a torch-app). The Titan also has a front camera for video calls as well as a gyroscope.

Conclusion:

Both devices are really good smartphones. If you want to have a good, well priced device, I recommend for sure the Nokia Lumia 800.

As I am an enthusiastic user and also developer, my decision is the HTC Titan. You will get an future secure device, which has all possibilities a modern smartphone needs.

Thanks for your attention and feel free to leave a comment below.

Posted by msicc in Archive, 0 comments