Lumia 820 Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2 / GDR2

On Friday night the second development build of Windows 10 for Phones became available to download via the Windows Insider preview programme. After a few hiccups during the release process and people hitting the servers with a ‘check for update’ request every few seconds, things settled down and the download became available. However what became apparent was that the phones that weren’t part of the initial preview, were getting Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2 aka ‘GDR2’. 

  

I decided to hang fire when requesting the update and waited until Saturday morning when things were quieter and my download request on my Lumia 820 came through without any delay. As per the initial reports I received GDR2, which to be honest I was pretty pleased about.

One of the things I’ve been wanting to try out is the Bluetooth HID keyboard support so later in the day, I dug out my keyboard (a no-name third-party keyboard) and switched on Bluetooth on the Lumia 820. It looked to pair the device and up popped the keyboard, so I typed in the code presented on screen, on the keyboard and hit return. I then loaded up Office and started a blank Word document and started typing. Despite one report that I’ve heard by Steve Litchfield at All About Windows Phone where the keyboard / screen response was delayed for about five seconds once you started typing. However mine was absolutely fine and I found the typing was accurate for the whole time I typed.

  

  

  

Still running Lumia Denim, but now on Windows 8.1 Update 2…

Pleased with that test, I then had a look at the next major difference which can be found in the settings menu. The seemingly random order list has been categorised into nine groups:

Network + Wireless

Personalisation

Accounts

System

Time + Language

Input + Accessibility

Privacy

Update + Backup

Extras

… which makes finding what you are looking for a little more logical – though I do have one slight criticism is that the items listed in each group aren’t in an alphabetical order – they are still in a random order.

I did also notice that you can change the name of the phone (as shown in the graphic above) which makes more sense so you can identify your phone on a network or Bluetooth search.

Another minor change is at the bottom of the start screen, instead of just a right-pointing arrow, you also have the words ‘All Apps’.

There are probably more ‘under the hood’ changes, but these are the main ones I’ve found so far. Though I haven’t found any reliability issues, you should note a few things if you want to try the update yourself:

If you sign up for the Windows Insider update process, there is no guarantee that you will get GDR2 – you may get the Windows 10 preview straight away, so its at entirely your own risk (and I accept no liability whatsoever if you brick your phone due to this article!)

I’m going to stay with GDR2 for a while before I try Windows 10 and see how the reliability pans out. Hopefully GDR2 will be released officially soon so I can update my Lumia 830!

The Many Cameras of Lumia

One of the strengths of the Lumia series is the camera technology and variety of ‘lenses’ available to the smartphones. However, to someone who has just bought a Lumia, this can lead to a little confusion. To be honest, I had this problem when I changed from the 820 to the 830, because I was expecting the latest camera software to be installed, called Lumia Camera 5.
To help those beginners, here’s an overview of the camera software that comes with the Lumia and a few tips which is the best to use. Out of the box on the Lumia 830 of you look through the apps list, you have:

Camera
Nokia Camera
-or- Lumia Camera (more of which later)

The Camera App

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This is what you call your standard Windows phone camera app, which I assume its also installed on order brands of Windows phones (HTC, Samsung etc). It offers a number of ways to control the camera such as ISO value, exposure, burst mode, picture or movie and flash. It also has a link to the other lenses that are installed – such as Nokia Camera. You can pinch-zoom on screen to zoom in on something (note this is only a digital zoom) and press the shutter button. Tapping the shutter button on screen takes the shot without the focus assist light, pressing the physical camera button engages the focus assist light if it’s enabled in the settings. You can then see what you’ve taken by tapping on the icon in the top right corner which will open your shot in the photos app.

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If you want to make changes to the photo settings (for example manually controlling the ISO values) you have to go to the three settings ‘dots’ -> photo settings and make your changes there. This method is a little clunky compared to..

Nokia Camera App

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This is one of the free ‘lenses’ that are offered with Lumia phones that have some controls over the standard camera app. This can be started by accessing it through the Camera app or from the app list and can also be pinned to the start screen. It’s different in the respect that the common camera controls can be found on screen, instead of having to go through the menus described above. Personally I find Nokia Camera the best to use, simply because the camera controls are on screen, so I’ve added it as a shortcut to my start menu. In addition, you can set the default camera to launch when you press the camera button in ‘settings’ (go to the settings app, swipe to the right so the ‘applications’ list is shown, find ‘photos+camera’ and set the ‘Default Camera App’ to ‘Nokia Camera’.

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Lumia Camera 5
Because Microsoft is gradually replacing the Nokia name with the Lumia brand, the Lumia camera app is designed to replace Nokia camera. It’s being rolled out as part of the Lumia Denim update, which in the UK has been rolled out to the Lumia 930 and 1520 at time of writing. However, Lumia Camera 5 as its called, has no release date for the Lumia 830 for the SIM-free (country variant). Unfortunately, though the Lumia camera app is also available in the Windows app store, 830 owners can’t install it because it needs the Lumia Denim update – which is already installed!?! The situation is confusing to say the least! Putting things into perspective, I still have a fully functioning camera phone, an update would be very nice but it doesn’t stop me from using what is a very good camera phone. I’ll keep an eye on the update rollout and post any news I find.

Update Monday 9th February
I spotted a tweet from @AA_WP (the very nice chaps over at www.allaboutwindowsphone.com this evening stating that the country variant (CV) Lumia Denim update was rolling out here in the UK. It was also stated that it included an update to the problem where Netflix streams won’t play. I’ve installed the update which took about 50 minutes in total to complete, the main difference is that Lumia Camera 5 is now available. A separate app update is also made available – initial impressions are that it has an incredibly fast startup, takes some very nice low light images and has had a bit of an interface change.

Unfortunately it seems that either there is still a problem with Netflix as the stream still won’t play, or the report from @AA_WP was wrong and the Lumia Denim update hasn’t fixed it. If you want to take a look at their report, click on this link.

I’ll post more details over the coming days specifically about Lumia Camera 5 and if there is any further update to the Netflix issue.

Update Tuesday 10th February
Very bizarre – Netflix is working fine this evening! Only changes I made last night were to reinstall Netflix which didn’t resolve the issue. Then MeTweets broke, so I reinstalled that I left the device for the night. I’ve just caught ip on the All About Windows Phone thread above and I checked Netflix, oddly it started working fine! No idea why but I’m more than happy this has been fixed at last!

Nokia Lumia 830 Review

I finally got my Lumia 830 back last Thursday, after UK mail attempted a delivery whilst I was out and I drove to their depot to collect my parcel. Bit of a dash across city to get there on time as UK Mail would have sent my package back to the supplier if I didn’t collect that day! Once back home and powered up and the wireless settings had been added, the restore started. Everything was up and running again in about ninety minutes, just a few account passwords to confirm and to get rid of a few of the default apps (eg. Facebook) so the app list is setup how I want it.

I do want to mention the top quality service I’ve had from Clove Technology in getting the device swapped – manufacturing faults occur and its good to know that there is top-notch service to back up up your purchase if things go wrong.
 
Physical impressions of the Lumia 830 – a nice, large monoblock device equipped with a 5″ screen. The screen is very shiny – so shiny in fact that if you leave it on the side of an arm chair, it will slide itself off! I’ve got a Shocksock pouch by Cellapod and if I leave it on the screen, it mysteriously moves…!

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I’m not going to repeat what has already been written about the specification and the whole device, as this has already been covered elsewhere in many other websites and blogs. Instead, I’m just going to cover what I particulary like or what I’ve noticed in comparison to my Lumia 820 and moving up from my old to new Windows Phone 8.1 device.

SIM Card: the 830 takes a nano-sim, whereas the 820 takes a micro-sim. This was easy to transfer over, just popped into my local O2 shop and asked for a contract nano-sim and used the ‘swapmysim’ online service to transfer my mobile number to the new sim (which took less than 24 hours). Once inserted, the phone automatically detected that it was a contract O2 sim and set everything up for me. No need to type in lots of internet and MMS settings – everything was detected and working straight away, which was a nice surprise!

Something I noticed when I set up the first 830 in comparison to the second 830; during the phone activation step, it seemed to be much easier to get it activated. On reflection, I’m sure this was because I was restoring from the first 830’s backup, rather than from the 820’s. A point to note, don’t bother trying to activate the phone by text message as you won’t get anything. Use the activate by email feature and have another device that is setup to receive email to your Microsoft account handy.

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Above: Lumia 820 (left) and Lumia 830 (right)

Once activated and connected to your wireless network, the device starts to download all your apps saved as part of the backup. You’ll need to download the HERE offline maps for your countrie(s) and as a default the phone will store all content on your MicroSD card (I have a 64Gb SDXC installed). The phone is fluid to use, there are no hold-ups or slow transitions – the 720p screen is gorgeous with colours beautifully displayed.

I originally wanted the white back cover version (to be honest only the black, orange and green versions appear to be available to buy) but unfortunately my supplier Clove Technology didn’t have one available to ship at the time I ordered it. Instead I ordered the orange version with the intention of buying a white Qi-compatible back cover to replace it. This was quite easy to find on eBay – ironically it arrived the day I shipped my faulty 830 back to Clove. The cover is easier to take on/off than the Lumia 820’s, secured by about a dozen small clips all around the device. Once on, its secure – I don’t know what it will be like long-term or if it will develop ‘creaks’ as the device gets older, but its easy to change!

The 820 has a 4.3″ screen – something that I found when using the on screen keyboard in single-character / portrait typing mode my large fingers would get the letters ‘I’ and ‘O’ mis-typed. However using the 830 and the slightly larger keyboard has eliminated this problem – along with using WordFlow. Something to bear in mind for future devices that a minimum size 5″ screen is the best fit for my hands. I was initially a bit reticent about WordFlow when it was first announced as I wasn’t sure how much control I would have writing on the device, but I have been pleasantly surprised and find myself jumping easily between WordFlow and typing single characters. So much so, I’ve installed the Swype extension on my Nokia C7 which though not as quick, does offer me a similar typing experience on the slower device.
 
A lot of people nowadays focus too much time on the CPU and RAM of a device, especially when comparing Windows Phone to Android. Why doesn’t it have 2Gb of RAM I hear people cry, when similar Android devices have that amount? Simple answer – Windows Phone has been written to be a far more efficient operating system than Android, its all down to how the O/S and applications are written to make use of the available memory. The Lumia 830 has 1Gb of RAM – which seems to be the standard amount on most Windows Phone devices and this looks like the benchmark amount with Windows Phone 10 on the horizon. I’ve never had a problem running several applications at once on both the Lumia 820 and 830 so unless you intend running a rendering application as well as 100+ apps at the same time, it does the job and performs well.

The two main (non-phone) reasons for buying the Lumia 830 were use as a car Satnav (more of which later) and as a camera which I carry around with me as I find it very useful in my day-to-day job in IT technical support. The Lumia 820 camera was great and I’ve took some great shots with it in the two years I’ve had the phone. However I wanted something a bit more capable and the 830’s 10Mp PureView camera caught my attention when the phone was announced last year. I’ve only had chance to take a few shots since I’ve had the phone back but I’m very impressed with it. Colour reproduction is very good and the shades especially in the poor January daytime light are not bad at all. I’m looking forward to using this outside all the more as the weather improves.

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Couple of shots taken in automatic mode using the Lumia 830 or the river by Stourport-on-Severn
 
The car Satnav I’ve been using since the original Nokia maps were launched on the N95 back in 2007. Using the phone as a Satnav is something I’ve been gradually been doing as the quality of the navigation and mapping has improved over the years to the point where I’ve stopped using my TomTom PND altogether a just use the phone as a navigation device. It’s got me out of a few navigation problems; getting lost in Leeds town centre whilst making my way to a company event (on foot) using Nokia maps on the E71. Another time was when I was using my C7-00 to navigate to a rural site whilst in battery saving mode and virtually no power left (and no way to recharge it as the car 12v supply was knackered) and it got me there on time – an absolute legend.
 
Choosing HERE maps (the evolution of Nokia maps) was really a no-brainer for one simple reason – offline maps stored on the phone. In Google’s world you always have a data connection and download the maps as you go, because you always work in a big city with plenty of data connections. In my job working where a data connection isn’t always available (let alone a phone signal, yes this is true in 21st-century UK), if I’m to rely on the phone for navigation, offline maps are essential and the choice where Google maps were simply not even in the running. Yes I know you can download maps or sections prior to travelling, sorry too much hassle and unreliable when HERE does it so much better (and the feature wasn’t available when I moved to WP8.1 in Feb ’13). I’ve gone through a number of Satnav mounts in the past few years, trying to find the ultimate one – I’ll be giving my verdict on the Nokia CR-123 in a later post. As a quick summary for HERE maps on the Lumia – reliable, does the job getting you from A to B day in, day out – just as you would expect.

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Lets round up this post with a summary of the Lumia 830:

I like:
Quality of the screen 5″ 720×1280 gorilla glass.
Exchangable battery and covers.
MicroSD card slot (upto 128Gb).
Wireless charging.
Glance screen.
WordFlow keyboard.
Free satnav with HERE maps.
Cortana (just getting used to this, but first impressions are good).

Not so keen on:
Micro USB socket at the top of the device.
Less-rounded corners than the Lumia 820.
Hardware switches (volume, on/off and camera shutter) aren’t a different colour to the frame, but they feel solid/well-engineered as they are now metal.
Not much else at the moment!
 
I’d give the device a 9/10 rating – The Lumia 830 is a cracking phone to own and use, Windows Phone and Microsoft/Nokia are making the right moves with offering this specification device and I’m looking forward to using it over the coming months!