Turn your Android into a Windows Phone

Turn your Android into a Windows Phone

Windows Phone has received a lot of bad publicity, and the main complaint you see from ignorant reviewers is that there is a lack of apps for windows Phones (WP). While there may be many legitimate reasons to not like WP, lack of apps is not one of them, there are currently over 500,000 apps in the WP store, and there were 300k even when I got my phone, so I would hardly call this a lack of apps. Sure there are some apps you may want that do not exist because most vendors do not bother with WP due to the small user base, but in most cases someone else has created a good alternative and I have found the quality of most WP apps to be high. I have only found a very small handful of apps I wanted which were not available at all or were so bad I could not use them, LastPass and Kayako are 2, both of which I needed and both of which are dire on Windows as the developers have put barely any effort into them and they lack the functionality of their Android counterparts.

The biggest cock up that Microsoft did make was not releasing Windows Phone 10 at the same time as Windows 10, and I think this killed it for them, aside from being too late to the phone  party in general. And then they have taken forever to roll out the upgrade to Windows phone 8 users, and many phones will not even keep the upgrade as promised as their phones do not meet minimum memory requirements.

I have a Nokia Lumia 930, running WP 8.1, which I purchased after getting fed up with Android updates making my Galaxy note unusable, killing my battery life etc. It turns out I much preferred Windows Phone, it was faster, more responsive, more reliable, and I simply preferred the more grown up and business like UI. The requirements for WP are also a lot lower and thus the phones are lower spec and cheaper as a result. Certainly there were some areas of functionality lacking, and I got fed up waiting for WP10 to be released for my phone, and so I installed the insider preview instead. Sadly it has been riddled with bugs, with each update seeming to break something new, and then it seems the last update I did must have resulted in the battery being drained super fast, as it was only lasting half a day with no use whatsoever and suddenly became unusable.

At the time I thought it was a problem with the phone/battery itself, so decided to bite the bullet and get an upgrade from O2, and decided to try the much applauded Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (which I will be reviewing). While I like the look of the new Lumia 950 XL,  my experience with WP10 insider preview has given me a bad impression that if I bought a new WP10 phone, I would have same issues, and as much as I like Windows Phone, unless Microsoft pulls a rabbit out of the hat, its days are certainly numbers, unless the rumored surface phone saves the day.

wp_ss_20160317_0001.pngNow annoyingly after I got my new Galaxy S7, my son asked if he could have my Lumia 930, so I did a factory reset on it, and installed latest updates, and guess what, the battery is now fine GRRR!!

So I then decided to find out if WP10 was officially available yet, and it was, although this information was not made easily available by Microsoft, you have to install the upgrade adviser first to find out if your phone supports WP10, and then you have to enable the upgrade. So I would imagine that most WP8 users are never going to find this out. You can find upgrade instructions HERE.

So I now have an upgrade that I didn’t really need and I am tempted to just send it back and carry on using my Lumia. But I first decided to see if there was a way to make Android UI more like Windows Phone, so then maybe I could have UI I wanted, but keep the other advantages this phone offered, and it turns out there is a way.

wp launcherA number of developers have created Windows Phone style launchers for Android that emulate the WP8 or WP10 UI and layout. The best one I have found so far is “Launcher 8 WP style” which has managed to emulate the WP tiles interface so perfectly that you think you have a Windows Phone. The only thing that seems to be lacking is live tiles, as I so far have not seen any of the tiles updating. Most of the others I have tried have not got it right, and just look like cheap knockoffs as they have no got the tiles right. This app also includes themes so you can change the look further.

So if you are a fan of the Windows Phone UI and tiles, but find the Windows Phones lacking and cannot give up your Android phone, give this a try instead.

 

 

 

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O2 customer service driving me insane

O2 customer service driving me insane

o2-support

I have been a customer of O2 for many years now, my company has a business account with them, having tried out most other providers over the years, they were all truly awful when it came to customer service, and O2 seemed like the best of a bad bunch. For the most I rarely ever had to contact them, so never had much to complain about, but this all started to change back in 2013 when I started to have reasons to contact O2 customer service, and realized just how bad it was, and it seems to get worse each time I contact them. What follows is 3 examples of the best trials & tribulations they have put me through. The most ironic thing is that they call these people gurus ?

The number transfer tribulation

this is a long story cut short, this one dragged on for weeks and weeks.

In 2013 my company acquired another company who also used O2, the previous owner of which transferred all his numbers away to another account, which as we found out some months later, included the number of an employee who was still working for us. So I contacted O2 and explained the situation, and the guy arranged to get the number transferred back (or so he said) and stated that it should be done within a few days.
So several days later I call back to find out the status of the transfer, only to be told there is no record of any transfer or any such conversation taking place, and that it is not even possible to do this so I must be mistaken and must have imagined the whole conversation I had with the O2 guy a few days ago. They told me I could not have the number back because it was in someone else’s account, they had no record of it ever being in our account to begin with, and I would need to provide them with those account details and the password, which of course was impossible as I had no way to know those details. I suggested they simply contact the account holder and speak with him and he would realize he had mistakenly transferred a number he shouldn’t have and would agree to transfer it back. But no that would be too easy, they wouldn’t do that, so I suggested they call the number of the phone in question and speak to the user who would also confirm his number was transferred in error, but no they wouldn’t do that either. Instead I had to just through all kinds of hoops for several weeks, each time having to explain the problem all over a again to each person I spoke to, in the end I had to just give up and go down a different route as O2 simply couldn’t or wouldn’t sort it out.
You would think it would be easy to transfer a number from one O2 account to another, but no. What I had to do was go and pick-up a free Tesco SIM card, and ask the employee to contact his old boss and ask for a transfer token, which he then gave to me, and I transferred the number over to Tesco. Then once it had been transferred to Tesco, get another transfer token and transfer it back to our O2 account, absolutely ridiculous.

The McAfee Enigma

The last time I did a phone upgrade, O2 offered me a bundle with included McAfee for up to 5 devices for less than it would have cost to NOT take it. Before you smite me for being foolish, let me first say that I am not a fan of McAfee anyway, my experience with McAfee software are up there with Symantec, i.e.  install it at your own peril, and my experience with McAfee customer support is AVOID AT ALL COSTS. However I decided that I could just use it on mobile devices such as my kids tablets and phones, and if I had any problems I would only have to deal with O2, so it would be ok, its just a mobile app, how bad could it be, oh how silly I was.

The first brick wall was even getting the license activated, which was a challenge in itself. Firstly O2 sent me incorrect login details which did not work, it turns out you have to be a bit of a clairvoyant and figure out that they insert an extra word into your username which you have to remove, but they didn’t even know this, I had to figure it out and tell them. So sirely every single customer they sign up must be having this same issue ?

When you finally get into your O2 apps account, you then have to create another user for yourself to assign the licenses to. I tried to do this 10 times and it would not accept my email address saying that the user already existed.  I contacted O2 support and spoke to some lady who informed me that when this happens, all they can do is cancel the account, and then I have to wait 30 days for it to expire and then get a new account. She also said I would have to use a different email address as McAfee do not allow you to signup more than once with the same address (all of this was nonsense).
I found this quite unbelievable, as she had made no effort to troubleshoot the problem at all and I did not believe for a minute this would solve the problem, and surely if I had to use a different email address in 30 days, then I could just use that email address right now to get a new account, but no supposedly this was not possible in O2 bizarro world.
So I wait 30 days, and then I get some new account details, and lo and behold, to the exact same email address as before, the username was wrong yet  again, so they still hadn’t fixed that problem, it also meant that saying I could not use the same address twice was clearly a crock. So I go through the set-up process again, and had the exact same problem as before. So this time I tried creating a user with a different email address, and it worked. So it seems the problem is that you simply cannot add yourself (the admin) as a user to assign the licence to. So the error is very misleading when it says the user does not exist, what it should say is that the email address is already in us, and it also means that the whole having to cancel the account and wait 30 days was also a complete crock made up by another clueless O2 support person and a total waste of time.

So I finally get it all sorted out and get the licenses issued and get McAfee installed on all my kids tablets, only to finally discover that installing McAfee under the admin user (me) does not protect the other users. You have to install it separately under each user, thus giving them full control over it and the ability to alter my settings and override parental control.  Calling O2 was pointless, as all they did was email McAfee, wait for a reply from McAfee, then relay the message to me, then relay my response back to McAfee and so on, a complete exercise in time wasting. So I contacted McAfee directly, which was equally as useless, each person I spoke to barely understood English and could not grasp my problem at all, and just kept telling me to re-install it over and over again. I had calls from 3 different people at McAfee, each time after 10PM  at night as well,  and went through the same crap with each of them. By this point I had already concluded myself what the limitations of the app were and that it had to be installed under each user and could not be locked down without using another parental control app on top of it, and that it would never work for me and so I told them this and told them not to bother contacting me again as I had removed the software and switched to AVG free which worked perfectly for what I needed and was FREE and far easier to setup and use. Several days later, despite being told not to contact me again, I get another call from McAfee, and the tech then proceeded to inform me what I had already told them, wow, no shit sherlock. Then just to rub it in a bit more, I get a follow up call form O2 as well.

I can honestly say this will be the last time I ever touch anything McAfee or sign up to any 3rd party software through O2, it is like dealing with muppets controlled by other muppets.

The Tablet Transmogrification

So last year O2 were doing tablet+phone bundles, so I got myself a Windows Phone + ASUS VivoTab  Smart windows tablet. Despite barely being used, the tablet developed a fault with the screen, it kept randomly turning itself off and nothing would get it to turn back on, you just had to wait until it decided to do so of its own accord. So of course I contacted O2 as it was still in warranty, and they told me to take it to my local store to get it repaired or replaced. This made me groan, as all my previous dealings with my local store had been about as much fun as shaving with a blunt razor. The store cannot do repairs, and have no idea why O2 customer services sent people to them with that premise, they also do not have the same products in store as O2 sell on the website, especially not business deals, so they cannot replace them either.
So I begrudgingly trudge down to my local store, tell them I have been told to bring in the tablet for warranty replacement, the salesperson taps at the computer for a minute or 2, and then proceeds to tell that they have no record of this tablet, am I sure I got it from them. “Yes”, I told him, it came in a bundle from O2, “did you buy from this store” he asks, “no” I reply, I got it over the phone, it is on my business account, look it up. He then goes and speaks with his manager, who then comes over and asks me the same question “are you sure you got this from us?”. Agghh, we go through the same questions and answers again, only for to again be told, we do not have this tablet on our system, so I cannot help you. So I ask him, can’t you just call O2 customer service and speak with them, no he says, you will have to do that yourself.

So here I am standing in an O2 phone store, where the O2 staff are completely incapable of picking up a phone and making a phone call to their own customer services dept, unbelievable. So I get my O2 phone out, call O2, go through all the menus, eventually get through to someone, explain the situation, and hand my phone over the store salesperson, so he can speak to his own customer services dept. they eventually decide that they will have to put my tablet through as “Another device” because my device is not listed, and just hope that the repairs dept send me back the right replacement, sheesh.

facepalm_crying_out_loud_by_morten8035_d38q1z4

Several days pass, and I get an email telling me that my tablet could not be repaired, but a replacement had been dispatched today for delivery tomorrow. Tomorrow came and went, no delivery, 2 more days passed, still no delivery, so I called O2. They have no record of my tablet or the repair or any idea where that email came from, so advise me to go to the store as it was probably delivered there, oh jeez here we go again. So I go back to the store, and surprise surprise they also have no tablet and no record of it, no idea who sent me the email and cannot help me and tell me to contact customer services. So I call customer services again, and again they tell me to contact the store, I tell them I have done this, and I ask her to call the store, instead she just calls the store and patches me through without even speaking to them, and again the store tell me they have no further details and tell me to contact customer services. By this point as you can imagine I am losing my temper. So I call customer services again and demand that they call the store and speak to them directly and stop messing me about. This time customer services speak to the manager of the store and tells him he has to take responsibility and deal with this.

An hour or so later I get a call from the store, so it appears he did manage to track down the details after all, amazing what can be done when you actually make some effort, he tells me the tablet is due to be delivered next Wednesday, and has no idea why I got an email telling me was to be delivered 3 days ago.

Next Wednesday comes, and I get another delivery notification, so off I toddle to the store expecting the worst. The manager hands over my replacement tablet, and to my surprise (not) it is not the same tablet, not even the same brand, mine was an ASUS, this is a Sony. Is there any information as to why I got a different tablet? nope, nada, so the manager takes a guess and says, they probably did not have any of those left so sent you something else instead, hmm yes ok, but would have been nice of them to ask me first and maybe give me a choice in which model I get sent.

I decide to bite the bullet and take it anyway, as it seems to be a much newer model anyway, and hopefully much better than the one I had before, which luckily turned out to be the case, it was a Sony Xperia z3 tablet. Running the latest Android 5.1.. Ok so my other tablet was Windows 8.1,  but I was not bothered as I had already decided at this point that Windows did not work well on tablets, it just did not scale properly as the desktop is completely unusable on a tablet screen as everything is too small, and to be fair while I had gone off Android since 4.2.2, this 5.1 version did seem a lot better and the tablet was nice and nippy. The only problem I have now is that they did not send me anything with the tablet, and using a regular USB cable does not seem to charge the tablet properly, it charges very very slowly (8% in 6 hours), whereas my wife’s tablet charger seems to work just fine, so it obviously does need an actual charger.

Today I got a call from the repairs dept asking me if everything was ok with with my replacement tablet. I explained to the chap that I had been sent a different tablet, and that I did not even have a charger for it either, can you guess what he said? Sorry there is nothing I can do about that, you will have to contact customer services. Sheesh, then why bother calling me to ask if everything is ok if you cannot do anything about it if the answer is no.

 

 

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Converting from Android to Windows Phone

Converting from Android to Windows Phone

Nokia-Lumia-930-640Until now I have always been an Android user, we have had a few android phones with my last one being a Samsung galaxy note and my wife’s a Samsung galaxy s3 and It was always pretty decent OS with the first phones and even my galaxy note when I first got it with android 4.1, but since I upgraded to 4.2 everything wen’t downhill.

It now runs ok with nothing installed, but as soon as I install some apps, it runs like crap and I have had to install memory and battery booster apps to kill everything regularly and keep it running as it constantly runs out of memory. The battery will barely even last a day now, it used to last at least 2 days on standby before Android 4.2, so android 4.2 has more than halved the battery life.

If I actually dare use it for gps or playing a game, it will be dead within an hour or 2 usually, even with just basic use (email, facebook, twitter) it will be dead by dinner time. It constantly needs restarting or all apps to be closed to get any responsiveness back from it, which is rubbish. what is the point in a phone that you cannot actually use or the battery will run out?

In order to actually use it I have to have a portable charger with me at all times, or have it plugged into my car charger. As I need my device primarily for work when away from the office, this is no good at all.

I am also annoyed by the fact that I cannot actually use the entire 16GB RAM that it came with. This is divided into 2GB system RAM and the rest is USB storage. Can you install anything onto the USB storage? no, that would actually be useful wouldn’t it, most apps will only install to the system memory, which fills up pretty quickly and then makes the phone unusable. So in order to install more than a few apps you have to buy an SD card and then move as many apps as possible to that, but
even Samsung themselves do not seem to understand how this works, I spent countless hours on the phone to their support trying to explain this issue, but they insisted that the 16GB was all the same memory, there was not 2 different types of storage so shouldn’t be an issue, sigh! I even tried O2 support, but they could not get past the fact it was called “USB storage” and so just insisted I must have connected an external USB device.
I have had the phone replaced 3 times, and I have seen many such similar complaints on forums about the battery life decreasing by up to 75% since android 4.2, and my wife’s phone is not much better, so this is clearly not a hardware issue with my specific phone, just a general problem with android, android just seems to get worse with every release.  Needless to say I was fed up and ready for a change.

I have no interest in iPhones, I tried it before, never liked it, sent it back the next day. So I decided to give windows Phone a try. I had just ordered a Nokia Lumia 625 for a staff member anyway, so decided to keep it for a couple of weeks and try it out myself first.

It certainly does take some getting used to, the interface is very simple and childlike compared to android, which initially I found very annoying and frustrating. I also found it very annoying that I could not quickly access notifications and settings as I could with the android, and this became a show stopper for me as it quickly got very annoying having to go hunting for those settings when I wanted to change them and not having a quick access list of notifications.
I tried the phone for a week but still wasn’t liking it, but before I gave up I decided to go and post on some forums about my qualms and see if there was any solution. After all I was an adamant Windows 8 hater as well once, but then windows 8.1 changed that and I am using it right now to type this.
I got a mixed response on the forums, mostly just hateful and obnoxious responses from one Windows phone fanboy claiming I was complaining about nothing, but a couple of more helpful guys suggested I wait for windows Phone 8.1 which would solve my complaints. So I sent the Lumia 625 off to the destined staff member and waited for Windows Phone 8.1.

 

A couple of weeks later O2 released the Nokia Lumia 930, with windows Phone 8.1, so I decided to take another punt and use my upgrade to get this phone. I have to say that 8.1 really made the difference for me and has solved my complaints, it now has a pull down task bar with quick access to 4 buttons, these can be changed but by default are set to WIFI, BlueTooth, Camera and Rotation lock. You also have a link to ALL SETTINGS and underneath all your notifications, just like Android.

quick-seetings-windows-phone-8.1

For more info checkout this article 10 New Features in Windows Phone 8.1 Quick Settings

 

Apps

One of the top complaints have read about Windows Phone is lack of apps, but I really have not found this to be a problem myself and from what I have read neither have others who have actually used a Windows Phone rather than reviewed it purely as a non user and simply based their opinion on number of available apps.
Currently at the time of writing the Windows Phone Store has over 300,000 apps, now this may pale in comparison compared to the 1 million+ apps in the Android store and 900k+ in Apple iStore, but this is still hardly a small number and to date I have been able to find every app I needed or a suitable alternative.
If you are simply going to compare numbers, then you should consider how many of those 1 million apps in the android store are just total crapware, and having been an Android user for several years I can attest to how much crap there is and also most of it is also spyware as well, if you do not carefully check the permissions each app if asking for, then it will steal all your contacts, monitor your calls and WIFI and collect details of all other devices connected to your network. This is especially true of free apps and games.
For every app or game you find, there are dozens of ripsoffs/copies/similar apps/games, and while i’m sure Windows Phone store will end up the same way, currently it isn’t, so you have far less crap to wade through to find quality apps, and it seems as though the ability for apps to SPY is not there by default too.

Whatever system you choose there are always going to be good and bad points, you simply have to decide which outweighs the others. For me the current negatives of Android far outweigh the negatives of Windows Phone, at least for me.

Here are the things I like about my Nokia Lumia 930

  • Good solid phone
    Most phone reviews I read tend focus on form over functionality and will rate phones on how thin and curvy they are rather than how they perform, which I find totally backwards and also pointless, as most phones basically look the same these days.
    The problem with most phone’s is that they are all fighting to be as thin and light as possible. This results in phones that feel flimsy and are easy to break, and frankly I find this to be a pointless battle as phones are already thin and light enough at the sacrifice of  battery life.
    The Nokia Lumia 930 is 9.8mm thick, so it is hardly chunky, it is however very square and does not have the curved edges of most phones, as a result it feels more solid and doesn’t feel like it will slip out of my hand, and I haven’t really felt the need to buy a case for it. I have dropped it several times now without an issue.
  • Better battery
    The (obvious) problem with ultra thin phones is that the batteries do not have sufficient power, and this will not improve any time soon as there have been no advances in battery technology to keep up with the devices that use them, so the thinner phones get, the quciker they run out of power.
    The Lumia 930 has a 2420mAh battery, which is pretty decent and more than most phones I have looked at, no doubt due the fact that Nokia made the smart move to go for  functionality over form, and as mentioned above has not sacrificed battery capacity to make the phone 1mm thinner.
    After I got this phone I tested to see how long the phone would last in standby with zero usage. It lasted 3 days and still had battery left, so is considerably better than my galaxy note/Android.
    In day to day use I am only using 50% of the battery by bedtime, and I can get get 3-4 hours of game playing before I get a low battery warning.
  • Greasy finger proof
    This is one annoying thing with every phone I have owned, as soon as you touch them, the back cover immediately gets covered in greasy finger marks. The Lumia doesn’t suffer from this problem, or maybe it simply isn’t notiable due to the garish colors.
  • The garish color
    This was something I thought I wouldn’t like originally, mine is bright green, not exactly my favourite color. However this has turned out to be quite useful, I often leave my phone lying around the house and have to go hunting for it usually cannot see it even when it is right in front of me as they tend to be black and just merge in with everything around them. I don’t really have this problem now with a bright green phone 🙂 as long as I remember to put it face down.
  • Camera features
    The Lumia 930 has a dedicated camera button which instantly launches the camera app, something sorely misisng from most phones, and best of all it works even when the phone is locked and password protected.
    I could never do this with my Android, as the only way to have instant access to the camera from the lock screen was to disable the password and make the phone insecure, which is really not a good idea when your phone has access to your facebook, email, twitter etc. As a result I often missed out on photo opportunities of my kids because by the time I gave got my phone out, turned it on, entered the password, started the camera app, it was too late.
  • Feels more like a business device
    I use my phone more for work than play, and I must say that Windows phone feels far more suited to this arena and I feel this is probably the niche where Windows phone may take off, especially considering that most business users are windows users and will (eventually) be using Windows 8.1 or its successor on their desktop PC.
    The interface is slick and simple and uncluttered, and the way the live tiles auto update is simple yet useful. If you are coming from Android then it may take a couple of weeks for it to grow on you, but I got there eventually and I really didn’t like the metro interface to begin with.
  • Simple Interface
    While the simple tile interfaces was annoying at the start and is not perfect, it eventually grew on me. It is so simple to use that it is certainly the phone you would want to give to a non technical person like your parents for example, who would likley have a much easier time getting to grips with it and using the tiles than they would with an Android or iPhone, and because of that it would be much easier to support.
  • Wireless Charging
    It comes with an inductive charger, not unique I know, but it is the first device I have owned which supports inductive charging and it is ace. Although the charger does seem a little tetemperamental and requires the phone to be in a specific position, so by the time I have finally found the charging position I could have plugged it in instead.
    I can certainly see myself getting a charging pad and using only inductive devices in the future.

what I don’t like so far

  • Lack of google integration
    I am deeply embedded in the Google eco system, my company uses Google apps and so do I, and I have become very accustomed to all my photos being automatically uploaded to Google+, which is no longer possible, at least not natively.
    Windows Phone will instead upload your photos to OneDrive, which is understandable as it is a Microsoft eco system, but this does mean more work via your PC if you then want to store and share those images on G+
  • Calendar
    I really don’t much care for the built in calendar. It is very hard to read, at least for me as I am very long sighted, even with the system font size increased I cannot read the daily events without opening them.
  • Color scheme
    You have no granular control over this, you can choose a base colour for your system, which becomes the default tile color and affects background and text color, and it is just impossible to read text  in places where the colors clash.
    The simple tile approach doesn’t work for everything.
  • Sound management
    On my android I was able to set reminders and alerts to play continuously until I acknowledged them. I have not been able to do this on windows phone, which means if I do not hear the one time ding or beep to tell me there is an event or text message, I miss it.
  • No extendibility
    The lumia 930 is a closed phone, you cannot get at the battery or add more memory with an SD card.
    Although to be fair, it does have 32GB onboard + 2GB system RAM, which is the same as I had on my android  with an SD card, so I think I am unlikely to ever exceed this anyway.
    My experience with adding bigger batteries to phones was also not a positive one and i ended up switching back to the default battery, so I am probably not misisng out on anything there either. But this may be an issue for some with this phone.
  • NFC is not implemented properly
    I never had cause to use NFC until recently, when I purchased a Yubikey neo to use with LastPass, only to discover that it won’t work because Microsoft have done a non standard implementation of NFC.
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