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!

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Lumia News and Windows Phone 10 Preview Release 2

Bit of a mixed bag of news for this post, but stuff that’s all relevant to this blog. I’ll kick off with a mention that a few days ago, Microsoft posted that the next release of Windows 10 for Phones will include a lot more models in the supported line-up. This will hopefully include (from my perspective) the Lumia 820 – it is on the list, but the ‘final’ release may have a slightly adjusted device list if last minute bugs are found. A link to the Windows Insiders Preview Programme with the full device list (numbering over thirty phones) can be found here:

http://blogs.windows.com/bloggingwindows/2015/03/27/a-quick-update-on-windows-10-builds-for-phones-for-windows-insiders/

Hopefully the next test release will be available very soon and I’ll be able to try out Windows 10 for Phones on my backup Lumia 820.

Next bit of news is to do with the Lumia 830 manufacturing fault I had back in December. I came across this article on wmpoweruser.com last week: http://wmpoweruser.com/nokia-lumia-830-has-a-serious-hardware-flaw-stay-alert-while-buying/ 

The writer of the article had the same issue I had with their Lumia 830, where the screen started to come away from the outer aluminium housing, oddly enough at the same place on the right-hand corner. Though the articles headlines I think are a bit sensationalist, ie. I wouldn’t say that the 830 has a serious manufacturing fault, but awareness is always helpful but I wouldn’t dismiss the Lumia 830 because of a small batch of faults. Nokia has always provided excellent after-care along with a two-year warranty, so as in my personal experience, if something does go wrong, its how a company deals with it and in my case, the device was swapped out in just over a week – which I was more than happy with.

The final post in this news round-up is that the brilliant HERE maps have been updated for Symbian after nothing for two years. Bearing in mind that the Nokia account closure is imminent, this seems like almost like a last ‘hurrah’ towards the Symbian platform. I don’t know what will happen to the Symbian Nokia maps, once the account service closes down, as you now have to have a HERE account to use the maps app on the Lumia. I guess that the favourites will remain on the device but obviously there won’t be any synchronisation available. To update the maps, use the map loader and check for updates – they will have a date stamp of the 26th of February 2015.

  

Denim Update on the Lumia 820

As I mentioned in my last post, the last of the ‘second generation’ of the original Lumia’s which included the 820 and 920 received the Denim update about a week ago. A couple of friends who own the 820 and 920 on EE also received the update (my 820 is on O2) so this appeared to be pushed out by Microsoft and wasn’t operator dependant. What was surprising for me was that the voice-recognition service Cortana was available as well. From what I’d read there was some doubt as to whether the app was going to be available as the CPU might not have been upto the job.

  

However, it was very nice to see once the update had completed – but when I tried to launch Cortana, it failed stating that my language settings hadn’t been set. The language and speech settings suggested that the correct speech add-on was already installed, which led to a few frustrating attempts to confirm the settings. I finally found the correct setting by going into settings -> speech -> speech language -> select your country language. This installs the add-on and if I remember correctly, the phone has to be rebooted (it reports that a critical add-on has to be installed). Once reloaded you can then use Cortana in the same way as the Lumia 830, ie. by pressing the search key and start speaking.

 

In addition, you get Lumia Camera – but not the version ‘5’ which has received so much attention. On the 820, the version number has hit 4.9.3.0 and at time of writing, there are no updates available. Rich capture isn’t available however, this is no bad thing as you still get all the settings to control aspects such as shutter speed, white balance and ISO value. The 820 still takes some excellent pictures with its 8MP camera, especially in automatic mode.

Something I have noticed in the two plus years that I have owned the Lumia 820 is that the four major updates which include the Windows 8.1 and Nokia / Microsoft specific features, thee hasn’t been and detremental change in the performance of the device. Compare this to the Apple iPad, where I have noticed that updating from IOS 6 to version 8 has slowed my iPad 2 down significantly and hit the battery life.

With Windows 8.1 update 2 (aka ‘GDR2’) on the horizon which will offer additional features such as Bluetooth HID profile for the connecting up of external keyboards, I hope to get a lot more use out of my Lumia 820.

Lumia 820 Denim Update Now Available?

A very quick post to let visitors know that it appears that the Lumia Denim update has been released for the 820 and it is currently downloading to my O2 variant.

It also appears that this has been released by Microsoft in India as its their intention that Denim is available to all (CV versions at least), according to WPCentral.

I’m going to leave it running overnight as it appears to be a very slow download / install. I’d advise 820 owners manually check for updates to see if its available for your respective phone.

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!

Evernote vs Office on Windows Phone

I’ve been using Evernote on a variety of devices to help keep notes, blog posts and study material in sync for a couple of years. What helped pique my interest was the O2 customer special deal of a free year on their premium service plan. This includes offline data and a few other services. Its been very nice, I’ve sync’ed between Evernote on Windows Phone, my iPad and my Nokia C7 using the third-party client Notekeeper.

However, one thing that has annoyed me with Evernote, no matter whether you have offline access or not, is that the sync service isn’t quite 100%. Its fine when you have wifi and a good data connection everywhere, but here in the UK I do travel to some places where the quality of the data connection isn’t 100% and this can lead to some problems. In particular, if you are updating a document and want to save a small edit; I was updating some notes for the CP-123 review the other day and I was in a bit of a black spot for mobile coverage. I had a few minutes to kill, so I added another paragraph to the review and saved the document. Evernote went through the motions of syncing and because I’d had experience of this before, I went back into the document to make sure my changes were there. Unfortunately not – ten minutes of note-taking gone into the ether.

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As I said, Evernote has got ‘previous’ in this area for me and this has been the final straw. In addition I usually sync between my Lumia and my iPad and I’ve had problems when Evernote has said its sync’ed my document (via wifi) from the phone to the cloud (or from the iPad to the cloud) and neither device will pick up the changes. Eventually after much stabbing of the ‘sync’ button it would complete, but this isn’t the best way to keep your documents upto date.

So I needed a way to sync documents between my iPad and Lumia and for the Lumia to store documents locally until I could sync the changes with a good data connection. I’d never really used the Office suite supplied with the Lumia, but it offered a way forward; I could sync with OneDrive (which I have both on the Lumia and iPad) and I can store files on my MicroSD card on the Lumia. I’d also read a lot about Microsoft Word and Excel on the iPad but didn’t have an Office 365 account. However, a closer read through the Apple app store revealed that I could have limited editing facilities by simply using my Microsoft account.

Word and Excel on the iPad take up quite a bit of space (about 450Mb apiece) but you get pretty well fully functional word processing and spread sheet apps, on the iPad. The iPad version can be linked to both OneDrive and Dropbox. Though the Lumia doesn’t support Dropbox integration from within the app (one for an update Microsoft?) the recently announced DropBox app does allow you to download files (but only upload photos – so one way transfer at the moment) so if you needed a file and it was residing in your DropBox folder, there is a way to get the file.

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This way I can keep my documents in sync by using cloud storage as a transfer system and if I’m out and about save it to MicroSD card if there is poor mobile / wifi coverage.

Another couple of advantages of using the Office suite is that the Word app on the iPad is very functional – there are a lot of features available and its not just some cut-down RTF text editor. Something else that has always irritated me about Evernote on the Lumia is that that it doesn’t support landscape typing, you have to use portrait mode all the time. For someone that has large hands, this just reduces the functionality of the application – so when I found that I could use Word on the Lumia in this mode, that sold it for me.

Don’t get me wrong, Evernote is a very good application for keeping notes, but the irritations I’ve described have just pushed me towards the Office suite. Until there is good connectivity everywhere, for me having the option of local storage in an app is a must and that’s where at the moment, Office is a win for me.

Lumia Satellite Navigation Practicalities

One of the key things that I needed from a New smartphone when I decided to move from Symbian was good satellite navigation. I looked at alternatives such as the Apple iPhone and it’s Satnav solutions, reading the reviews carefully, but unfortunately there didn’t seem to be anything that hit the mark and everything was a compromise. When I looked at HERE maps (or Nokia Maps as it was then), I didn’t have to make any major changes and it was something I was familiar with. When I bought the Lumia 820, I eventually settled on a Nokia car mount (the model escapes me – CP-115 I think) which I had to modify by cutting the rubber grip with a scalpel knife as it was such a tight squeeze. Other third party Satnav mounts never seemed to stick to the screen, so this worked for me for a good while.

Because the Lumia 830 has a 5 inch display, I would need a brand new mount. Thankfully the Microsoft / Nokia website has clear specifications which includes the dimensions of the device, I was able to compare this to the available jaw grip specs of the CP-123, which confirmed that it would do the job. So I ordered one for Christmas and tested it in the New Year once my Lumia 830 was back from being replaced due to the manufacturing fault.

The mount itself is huge – a large plastic arm with the sucker grip at one end and the phone holder at the end, connected via a universal joint. The phone holder clamps can be adjusted by moving the clip at the bottom of the holder, so that the phone is firmly held in place. There is one big disadvantage in using the CP-123 with a large Lumia phone such as the 830 or 820, is that one of the grips presses the camera shutter button. The only way I’ve found to get around this is to clamp the phone into place, the camera app starts, press backspace to exit it and then start HERE navigation and there isn’t any further problem. I tried different orientations including where the volume button gets pressed, but this was more than the phone could cope with so I went back to gripping the camera button instead.

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To secure the mount in place, there is a lever which when pushed into place, clamps it to the windscreen – and it really does hold it into place. I’ve driven up and down side roads and motorways and the phone is reassuringly secure – no chance of it falling off the screen because the sucker loses grip. In addition, there is a tab on the rubber sucker to help the release of the mount from with windscreen.

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There is a small hole where the MicroUSB charging cable can be plugged into the bottom of the phone (Lumia 820), in the centre phone clamp. A useful tip if you are using a Lumia phone for Satnav for any sort of distance navigation, is don’t bother with any of the third-party 12 volt chargers, such as ones designed for the iPhone, because they don’t provide a Lumia with enough charge to offset the discharge rate when using the phone for navigation. Typical third-party chargers only supply about half the one ampere needed to keep the phone topped up. I went through a number of these before I finally ended up with an Nokia DC-20 dual USB port charger (supplied with MicroUSB and 2mm coiled cables) which does the job perfectly. I bought my DC-20 from Amazon, as it doesn’t seem to be listed on the Microsoft / Nokia website.

I now have my perfect satnav system using my phone and my old TomTom PND has been retired to the bottom of the study drawer.

Overall, both the CP-123 and DC-20 are excellent products and well worth seeking out if you want to use your Lumia for satellite navigation.