I have been using a Nokia Lumia 920 since Thursday November 8th when a box arrived at my office and like a kid on Christmas morning I tore it open, turned it on, and proceeded to spend the rest of the day – and several days thereafter – downloading apps and personalizing my home screen. The following are my experiences during my first week with the phone.

When reading a review I always scroll to the end to see the final verdict. I won’t make you wait that long. By Friday morning I had stripped my SIM from my long used and loved iPhone 4 and had officially replaced it to the Lumia 920. Clearly I’m a fan of the device and below are my impressions.

I was a fan of the Lumia 900 and used it for a good bit before the siren song of my iPhone 4 called me back. There were in fact just three major issues with the 900 that prevented my total commitment.

  • Display. Ever since I got the iPhone 4 I have become a retina display snob. Each time I perused the web and saw less than smooth fonts I cringed. While the display on the 900 was nice – it didn’t compare to the iPhone 4. The 920 banished the word retina from my brain.
  • Tiles. I love Live Tiles but the Windows 7.5 start screen was far too cluttered with those medium sized tiles. I found it hard to truly personalize the device and while you may think having three tile sizes doesn’t change much I promise you it changes the entire experience.
  • Internet Explorer. How a web browser exists that didn’t let me navigate forward or back without intermittently bringing me to the home screen was beyond frustrating. I hated IE9.

The 920

Many reviews are noting how big the Lumia 920 is. I admit, it’s big and I have had a few people note that it’s simply too big for them. That’s a matter of personal preference but the size isn’t an issue for me. The phone feels solid, is made out of high quality components, and feels great in my hand. For those with size concerns the 920’s little sister the 820 is a smaller device.

  • The Screen. The screen is beautiful and once I saw how smooth it was I knew one of the issues I had with the 900 were completed eliminated. The screen is sharp, bright, has great color saturation. And with winter coming I am excited it works while I’m wearing gloves.
  • Nokia’s Apps. Nokia has invested heavily in providing its users with great apps right out of the box. Some of my favorites include:
    • Nokia Music which is a Pandora like streaming service but requires no account. It allows you to create your own artist mixes and then save them to the handset for use while offline. In fact, I’m listening to one right now as I sit on a plane without WiFi.
    • Drive. Nokia devices offer free voice assisted turn by turn location. One of the great features – temporarily absent from the current Drive+Beta – is My Commute. You simply put in where and when you commute and the app will alert you to traffic conditions before you leave and re-route you if necessary to avoid traffic. It even has a Live Tile which shows you traffic and expected commute time.
    • Camera Apps/Lenses. Nokia’s acquisition of Scalado is already paying off with Cinemagraph and Smart Shoot. Cinemagraph allows users to easily create animated GIFs from photos they take. Smart shoot allows you to remove objects/people from photos to focus in on what you were taking a photo of. Both are fantastic differentiators.
  • The Camera. The image quality and stabilization on the camera are fantastic. In the past I often needed to use my DSLR to capture images of my active son but I have been able to capture images I never expected to before. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to test the low light imaging but I have high hopes.

Overall, the device exceeded my expectations. It is snappy, I can use it outside in direct sunlight and I’m not worried about it scratching as it is white all the way through. I haven’t yet found a use for NFC but I’m glad I have it and I’m hoping my wife buys an NFC enabled phone so we can more easily share photos we take. Wireless charging is also nice and I plan on purchasing some wireless charging plates for my home soon. If the 820/822 is anything like the 920 I would whole heartedly recommend both as I made the transition and couldn’t be happier.

My impressions of Windows 8

As highlighted Here, Here, and Here I am a fan of Windows and the interface formerly known as Metro. But enjoying the idea of an OS and the reality of using it are often poorly aligned. Much of what I hoped for has been realized while some of what I feared is also a reality.

What’s great:

  • Resizable Live Tiles. As I mentioned in the opening, tile sizes completely changes how I use my phone and present endless opportunity for personalization. I was able to pin my phone, messages, personal mail and work mail to the very top of the screen – always handy. Then it was decision time on what’s next. A small, medium or large calendar tile? How about my Wife’s Live Tile. Small medium large? The options are endless and I believe Microsoft is right to say this is the first truly personal smartphone. Your home screen is really a reflection of what’s important to you and what information you need.
  • Personalized recommendations. Microsoft has added app recommendation based on which apps you have downloaded and searches in Bing (opt-in) to provide some exposure to new apps and developers. As developers remain challenged to get discovered this could help many break through the noise of 120,000 apps.
  • More Apps. It is clear that the app store has more apps than even just a few months ago and many of the top apps Microsoft promised are beginning to appear – such as Words with Friends and Angry Birds Star Wars.

What I hate:

  • Internet Explorer 10. After using IE 10 for 30 seconds all I could wonder was – dear lord how soon until Google brings Chrome to Windows 8. IE10 is better than IE9 but in my opinion it remains one of the most poorly thought out and implemented mobile browsers. Hitting back sometimes brings you to the previous page but could just as easily bring you to the home screen. Want to go back forward? Well even though you’ve been able to do that since the early days of Netscape you’re out of luck on Windows 8. Even bookmarking a page doesn’t mean it is easily retrievable in the omni-box. Many websites come up as PC sitesnot mobile optimized sites despite specifically requesting mobile sites in the settings.In a word, IE10 is BY FAR the weakest part of Windows Phone 8.
  • Promised Apps not yet ready. Microsoft made it clear that it had secured 46 of the top 50 apps. That’s great – but many of them are not ready yet. After preparing for the launch of Windows 8 for so long I would have expected more apps to be available at launch. Microsoft hasn’t helped its case by not even having its own Skype app ready for launch. A beta version was released several days after Windows Phone 8 launched. If Microsoft’s own properties cannot be ready at launch why should their partners be ready? Releasing the SDK to developers so late was a big miss.
  • What does a Live Tile Do?!!! Microsoft has updated its store to show which apps have live tiles and is making the case with developers to offer live tiles. Unfortunately that is not enough information for end users. Microsoft should create a field that shows what the live tile actually does and how different sizes impact its function. I know Ebay has a live tile but I’m still wondering what it does as it hasn’t gone live yet. Knowing what a live tile does would make personalizing my experience easier.
  • Voice   assistance. Many people knock Siri and I agree it had niche uses. However, I think it’s great for finding out what movies are playing and when, which restaurants have tables, etc. Microsoft has voice assistance – and has even embedded it in its apps with an API – but there is no easy tutorial to understand what it can and cannot do.

After nearly 1,500 words my conclusion: Microsoft and Nokia have winners on their hands. Windows 8 has a learning curve that will scare some users away but I implore people to stick with it. What I have highlighted here is the difference between an older model and an older OS but it doesn’t have information on everything a Lumia or Windows 8 offers. I highly suggest investigating Windows 8 and understanding how some of the features – people hub, groups, live tiles etc. – could change your smartphone experience. Will everyone love Windows 8?No. But I do.