ReBuildAll Blog
Thoughts (mostly) on .NET development

Nokia and Windows Phone   (Mobile)   
This article will discuss my opinion on Nokia and Windows Phone. If someone reading it notices that I got my facts wrong, please do correct me :-)

Updates to this article appended to the end.

A Hungarian proverb

There is a Hungarian proverb that translates roughly like so: one of my eyes if crying, the other is laughing. It refers to some kind of thing which is both good and bad for a person. And that is what I feel when I think about Nokia and Windows Phone adoption.

Crying? I am just not reassured, that Windows Phone will be so great for Nokia. This feeling might be caused by my previous clash with the Windows Mobile platform (pre-Windows Phone 7), that you can read about here. This obviously does not apply to Windows Phone 7 (or at least not entirely), but I can't help my bad feelings. There are some features of Symbian (we will get into this later) that are missing from WP7 (and also from iPhone or Android).

I will admit I never used a WP7 phone for more than a short time in a shop or lending it from a friend to try things out. I have also done some research (reading about it, reading phones manuals). My opinion is based on these facts. But I still have that same feeling which I had with Windows Mobile previously: that you are not in control. The phone (or Microsoft) does certain decisions on how you should use your mobile phone, and the restraints just make me more angry :) I know many would recommend Android to me based on these facts. Maybe. :) (I will also admit at this point, that some features I critisize here might already be available on Android, or might be available via separate apps, etc. My Android information is dated :))

Laughing? So why would I be happy about this move of Nokia? I have been developing in .NET since 2004, both professionally and for a hobby. I really really like the platform, and Microsoft's strategy to have the same programming APIs across a wide range of devices is just really tempting. I do not need new tools or new skills for that matter (as I have programmed Silverlight for example), I can just hop in and start coding Windows Phone 7 (I have written some apps in the emulator already). And I can soon run it on a Nokia, which sounds pretty interesting.

Profiles and groups - are features dying?

Wow, Windows Phone 7.5 Mango now supports grouping your users. That is awesome. Nokia phones did it 10 years ago, and in my opinion better too. In Mango groups serve only to be able to view a group of users together (their socials updates, etc) and to communicate with them. Granted, groups might not be integrated into the social aspects of newer Nokia phones, but what about basic "PHONE" settings? Like setting a ringtone for a group? Like selecting which groups will alert you (ring) in a given profile?

... Oh wait ...

Windows Phone does not have profiles? Well it sure seems so. Set a ringtone. Check. You can have it on silent. Check. You can have it on vibrate. Check. You can't use vibrate and silent at the same time. What?

If I want to have silent available, I have to TURN OFF Vibrate in settings? To have vibrate on again, need to set settings again. Otherwise, the volume down button will put you into either SILENT or VIBRATE. Frankly, that seems just stupid. And I wonder if anyone who wrote this part of Windows Phone has ever seen how Nokia does profiles? (yes, I doubt the person has seen that feature in action).

My only hope is, that Nokia will port these missing features from Symbian into their Windows Phone offering. That would give them a huge edge over other Windows Phone manufacturers too - at least for some time, as they have to contribute those changes back into WP7. But that would just make WP7 better. However, I am afraid this porting over features will not happen - but who knows?

And do not even get me started on things like "who needs profiles?" and "people do not use their phones to make phone calls anymore", because those things are just stupid.

To sum up this section, I think that Symbian offered a lot of control over your settings and a lot of settings to choose from and customize, how your phone works. Loosing these things in the transition to Windows Phone would be unacceptable to me, but we will have to see what the good guys in Nokia think about this. Granted, the settings were not logically organized and often hard to find, but they were still there. I dislike the "we know better than the user" design philosophy, which is visible in both Windows and Windows Phone.

If features from Symbian end up missing from the WP7 Nokias, that is just a downgrade, plain and simple.

Why Software Sucks?

But why does Nokias software suck?

As a side note, there is an excellent book called Why Software Sucks? I do recommend anyone involved in software development to read it :)

But back to Nokia. Why doesn't Symbian work so well? I would think this is because the systems core is ancient (at least by computing standards) and building on a not so solid foundation is just not that easy. But Nokia has some capable people, and you can see the results by looking at the N9 and MeeGo. You have to wonder where Nokia kept that software talent all these years, because that thing really works well. Also note, that my criticism is only for the software side of Nokia phones. Their hardware is really something to admire, especially recently. I just wished their software would been on par with the hardware they make.

Nokia handled some things concerning their software badly. The software development speed, update cycles and software philosophy left a lot to be desired. I have seen it many times, that old phones just do not get all the nice updates new phones have gotten. This is now changing. In the Elop world, Symbian^3 devices get all the updates that newer phones come out with. Sweet. I hated that you need a new phone every 6 months to get the new features. It seems now all manufacturers are updating - more or less - old models with new software. It might seem like loosing money, but it is building up customer satisfaction. Besides, people often get locked into contracts, and cannot upgrade their phone so often. By releasing new software for new phones only, you just make those people angry.

The software updates with Nokia are coming SO SLOOOOW. There are bugs to fix, applications to update, and the updates are just coming very slow. When Symbian Anna finally arrived in the summer, it arrived one operator, one phonemodel at a time, and many months later than promised. I have been reading Nokia forums and found out, that they need to test every variant of the software. Presumably by hand. And there are variants for different color versions of the phone. Yes. You read that correct.

I see Nokia wasting money here. Money and time. And by that, customer satisfaction.

Building packages for all phone models, variants and operators SHOULD BE automatic. These variants then SHOULD BE tested automatically. I would have expected that a company like Nokia can press a button at night, and in the morning see if everything went ok, without a single person being involved in the software testing process. All packages should be built and packaged automatically and then tested, also automatically. Judging from the speed they do things, it is just not how things progress. (The reality of testing mobile phone software might be more complex than what I described above, but still it should be more easier than it seems to be now.)

Because the update process is such a big pain, of course they will not want to do it too often, so what we get is updates coming really slowly.

A new software platform again?

It was in the news that Nokia is making a cheap, simple, Linux based platform that it wants to put on the cheaper phones. And you know, this has me wondering. Why oh why do we need ANOTHER PLATFORM? You already have MeeGo, don't you? Instead of thinking about adopting that for cheaper phones, you go ahead and start developing something new again? Excuse my language, but that does seem like bloody stupid to me.

The whole technology industry is about product lines.

Take hardware. Intel processors. If in the production some processors do not qualify high enough, they have some features disabled and labeled cheaper/lower end models. Intel is even selling processors where you can unlock faster speeds AFTER you bought it by paying for an unlock code. I do think that practice is disgusting, but it does point out one key thing. They do not design and manufacture as many processor types are they sell. They simply lock out features of high end models to make them low end. Same goes for graphics cores.

Take software. You create a nice little program with a lot of feautes. Name it the Enterprise version. You lock some features down, that is your Professional version. You take away more features, Home version. And heck, make even a free Express version too. You can see it all over the place. Microsoft does it with Windows, and most independent software vendors do it too. It is much easier to lock certain things down than to create entire new versions. No one really thinks Windows Home Premium is a complete rewrite of Windows Ultimate, with certain things left out?

Why does not a company like Nokia go this way? Why make something new, when looking at the N9, you already have a very mature and good operating system. Use that. Lock things down, but use that.

The same argument goes for the now dying S40 platform. I never quite understood why you need a different platform.

There might be certain hardware restrictions to work with - like cheaper models not getting so strong hardware - but I will argue that having a single codebase is still cheaper than multiple code bases. Cheaper to make, cheaper to maintain and test.

A mistake?

I will go as far as to saying Nokia's decision to adopt Windows Phone seems like a mistake to me. Looking what Nokia has available today, it is very clear that these things have been in the making when they decided to go the Windows Phone 7 way. These offerings available now seem to me that these might have been the solution to their problem, and not adopting Windows Phone 7. Frankly, it makes you wonder about all the theories concerning why Elop chose his former employer's mobile platform.

I will explain.

Nokia now has MeeGo ready. N9 has appeared in stores. If there would be no Windows Phone 7 in the making, MeeGo devices could now appear one after the other. Read the reviews of the N9 over the internet. Praises. The user interface is compared to the iPhone, the user experience is said to be great. And some people are sad because it is not available in their country. The reaction would have been the same without Windows Phone 7. In fact, it would be even much much better, because everyone could look forward to improvements to the MeeGo platform and new devices. Not today.

On the development side, S^3 and MeeGo can be both targeted using the same development tools (Nokia Qt). So developers really do not need a lot of effort to transition. The development tools BTW also came a HUUUGE way forward, they are easy to install, maintain and use. Ovi Store is available today with lots of apps.

So right there, you already have a complete mobile platform and ecosystem available. But Nokia had to destroy it all. I do not believe for a second that four mobile ecosystems would have been too much.

Of course MeeGo cannot work in its current form, because both platforms (S^3 and MeeGo) are essentially dead ends. Current developers will work with them, but I really doubt anyone new will invest lots of time and money in training new developers for these platforms.

So, instead of the already ready and fine working MeeGo, we get Windows Phone 7 Nokia phones, that will maybe work OK, but will certainly need time to fine tune and get used to. I cannot even imagine when Nokia will be able to make a phone like the N8, with all those multimedia features: photo picture quality, video editing features, etc. As far as I know, WP7 does not have video editing?

Frankly I did not see the driving reason behind WP7 adoption back in the beginning of the year, and I see it even less now. I think Nokia threw away a tremendous opportunity by choosing Windows Phone 7, and I really doubt they can climb up to top spot again. Very sad actually.

I can really understand the comments by former Nokia chief Anssi Vanjoki who also said Windows Phone 7 was not needed by Nokia. If you understand Finnish, read his comments here.

Update 22.10.2011: Engadget just reviewed the N9, coming to similar conclusions: it is just a shame Nokia killed of MeeGo.

Windows Mobile 6.1 suxx (HTC Touch Diamond 2)   (Mobile)   
There have been some updates to the text of this post since it was first published, marked in the text as updated

I have now been using a Windows Mobile 6.1 based device - an HTC Touch Diamond 2 - for 2 months. Before deciding which WM phone I requested from my workplace I read reviews, looked at pictures, even went to a store to try out the phone. The reviews were praising, the pictures looked good and nothing did I suspect from a casual use of the phone at the store.

Could I have been more wrong!?

Quite frankly I have never seen or used a phone this bad. The phone features are more lacking than a Nokia (business) phone 5 years ago. Basic needs that I would assume to be normal in a phone cannot be used or do not work. It has been a big disappointment for me (maybe partly because I expected too much? but can you expect too much from a smartphone?).

I will detail out all my thoughts/complaints below. When reading you might say - hey this works for me, or there is this application that solves your problem. Well, I do not want to hunt for applications and install them on my phone, just to have what I would expect to be basic services - nevertheless, please feel free to throw any comments at me at the end of this article. :)

I have used Nokias for the past 10 years, so you will see a lot of comparisons to those below. My most recent experience is with a Nokia E71. The only reason I parted with that is because it was a work phone and I just switched workplaces 2 months ago :) Other than Nokia I also had a Sony Ericsson phone for a short time. Although I did not like that too much, it was still ok feature wise, not nearly as bad as Windows Mobile.

There are some good things about Windows Mobiles phones, I do not doubt that, but I did not find my digital assistant inside mine, sadly. The HTC game which uses the tilt sensors is really nice (Teeter) and I also like Bubble Breaker :) The youtube channel seems usefull and there is a nice Facebook client as well (although a little buggy). But frankly, these are just extras (for me).

So here it goes ...

No default backup solution

I did not find a backup solution in the phone, by default. Needless to say, Nokias nowadays contain such an application, where you can backup to the memory card in the phone. With PC Suite you can also create backups of your phone and it takes all settings, files, contacts, messages into the backup archive, from where you can even restore selectively.

Hard reset your Windows Mobile device? There went all your bookmarks from the browser. Same when upgrading the ROM.

At least contacts, messages, etc can be saved by using ActiveSync. User files can also be saved by using MyPhone. but that brings us to another major problem.

No multiple sync partners are possible

I take it really bad when a device tries to be smarter than me. And when talking about sync features of WM6.1, this seems to be the case. If I set the contacts to sync with Exchange, I cannot sync them also with a computer (unless I start tweaking the settings every single time I sync - not an option). It just so happens to be I would like my contacts in Exchange, but also have them on my home computer (another complaint, is that the phone only syncs with the default contacts folder in Outlook. Nokia PC Suite lets you choose where you want to sync, and I also used that feature actively).

Bring MyPhone into the picture: you cannot save all things (contacts being most important) to MyPhone when you are syncing with Exchange. How stupid is that? Now I have some things in Exchange, some things in MyPhone. Yay?

I realize with multiple sync sources/destinations there could be possible problems. But:

- Nokia's PC Sync included an option which sync partner should be considered when a conflict arises. When the mobile phone is the "master" data source, it doesn't matter if conflicts come, they will not bother you
- I do realize these potential problems and want to live with them, thank you.

Terrible alarm sounds

I don't know who designed the alarm sounds / alarm settings but the person did not use the device as an alarm clock to wake up to. ALL OF THE SOUNDS are quite frankly horrible to wake up to (I tested them all). The biggest problem is, there is no such option to start at a low volume and gradually increase it (fade in). The sound just starts playing at full volume. Some mornings I thought I would just throw the mobile at the wall to make it silent :-O You day just started bad right from the beginning when waking up to these noises.

Anyway, this problem I fixed - because I had to. I created my own sound, as a 4Mb WAV file. It is this long, because repitition was done in the sound file itself. It also has a nice 20 second fade in at the beginning. Waking up is pleasant again. ;-)

But this does still bother me, because the next hard reset / ROM update will erase my sound and I have to transfer it there again. Not to mention you can't just use any sound, it has to be .WAV and has to be put into the Windows folder. Ringtones aren't this restrictive and quite frankly why do different rules apply to alarms than to ringtones? And that brings us to ...

Ringtone settings are lacking

Ringtone options are too basic. Nevertheless, they are the smallest problem given all my other complaints.

My first Nokia (business) phone back in 1999 had more complex profiles than this device. There are not really any real profiles, more like states: vibrate, silent, ring. But you cannot combine the settings as you would like them. Also, SMS notification is completely not tied to these states.

As a result, if you want SMS to vibrate, it will vibrate ALWAYS, even when the phone is set to just ring. Yeah. No to mention by default there was no SMS notification at all, no vibrate, no sound.

No custom states/profiles, you cannot create new ones yourself.

And again, no gradual rasing volume for ringing.

Text message delivery notification shows only number

Now I know this is a problem with my device / HTC Touch Diamond 2 only, because I have seen this work in a WM phone before. But for me, the delivery notification only shows the phone number. Not the name. I send a message to 5 contacts (from say 300), and only get 4 reports of delivery, does the phone manufacturer really think I will be satisfied with 4 numbers?

Not to mention status is not shown - the latest Nokia phones also show pending status for the messages, which might be interesting for multipart messages. It is also good to know if the message is still pending or what is up with it.

Text messages only to "mobile" numbers

Now what in the hell is this limitation? Again, the device tries to be smarter than me and offers me to send SMS only to mobile numbers. Sounds sensible until you have a friend who has two (or three) mobile phones, and exchanges them regularly. Or just has a work mobile and a home mobile. Or one for one country and another for another (like me, I have a differnt number for Finland and for Hungary).

I tend to have several such contacts.

In Nokia after you entered the recipient name the phone offered me to choose a number if someone had several numbers. Or I could designate a default number (and change that whenever I want to), and then it would not ask.

In WM, I would need to exchange numbers to be able to solve this. Terrible.

Week numbers in calendar (updated 30.10.2009)
Thanks for Tavi for the information on week numbers

I originally wrote no week numbers but as it turns out they are available in the default WM calendar, they just have to be turned on (silly me). So one complaint off the list :) (the WM calendar might not be pretty but is functional)

HTC TouchFlo calendar however does not contain them.

Week numbers are quite important especially here in Finland, because everyone uses them in scheduling.

Internet Connections settings chaos

I had a PDA back in 2004. It ran Windows Pocket PC Edition 2003SE. I remember it had horrible internet settings. Well, the same settings screens greeted me 5 years later. And they are still horrible and still not intuitive to use and configure.

Not to mention I can't figure out an easy way to sometimes use the WAP settings and sometimes Internet settings. Yes, I do need to do that, because some sights let me on when I am using WAP settings only, and some only using Internet settings. Nokia had a simple option: ask which connection to use when going online.

And even more ...

Battery time is abysmal, good if I get 2 days of usage. Ok, big touch screen, lots of services, but I still find it too short.

It has connection droppings, at least once a week. The cellular network just goes away, and I have to reboot and/or switch off (and then back on) the phone mode.

Whenever I switch to offline mode, when I go online again it asks my PIN again. Little bit uncomfortable.

Typing on the device is not fun. To type fast you need the stylus. Touch screens just cannot do equally well as buttons. Scrolling on a touch screen is nice, but I don't think touch is something I could not live without.

Update 28.10.2009: Typing national characters is a pain. While with previous phones I started using national characters (finnish and hungarian) more and more because typing of them became easier, now I started to use them less and less. (thanx to Dave for pointing this out :))

Update 29.10.2009: When automatic clock updates are set, the clock is updated to random times, about once a day. Automatic clock updates cannot be used. This seems to be a problem on multiple Windows Mobile phones, not all of them even made by HTC.


My advice based on my experience is that if you can avoid Windows Mobile, do it! Somewhere I read that iPhone and Android users are the most satisified ones, and behind them comes Windows Mobile and Symbian users, equally satisfied around 66%. I don't know what those people have been using!?

The whole phone feels like Windows Pocket PC 2003SE with a new application called phone installed on it (and not really well done at all). The entire OS is ancient, uncomfortable and illogical. Windows Mobile brings shame to the smartphone name. The HTC user interface, TouchFLO eases the pain a little, but I feel disappointed by that as well. It just does not feel like a product that was intended to be a serious smart phone UI.

As I have stated above several times, the OS's customization features are really bad. It just doesn't let you do things your own way and forces you down given paths.

I am just now downloading WM 6.5 update for HTC Touch Diamond 2. Probably will update tomorrow. But reading about this update on the internet I am just unsure if it will be any better (I will write about my experience with it after I have used it for some time). I guess I am looking forward to getting another phone for personal use (Touch Diamond 2 will remain my work phone), and that might be the Nokia E72 to be released in the coming weeks.

(I have also received recommendations for iPhone and Android. iPhone is not an option, because you cannot get it operator free. First of I do not want to be the customer of the operator that sells it in Finland. Second, as I sometimes use my phone in Hungary, a sim-free phone is really nice to have. And third, no, I will not even consider buying and hacking it sim-free. Android I do not know yet - but what would you choose: the one you know works or the big unknown. Nokia E-series has my vote :P)