I hate writing articles like this. I really do. I cherish all the people who read my reviews, watch my videos, and I have a healthy respect for what my small sphere of influence represents. My entire life I’ve been a problem solver, and I like heading off bad situations before they happen. My most valuable contribution to this system is how I share my experiences using various devices. As we wrap up the year now on News Years Eve, and say goodbye to 2013, I felt it important to discuss what one phone had the biggest impact on my daily gadget use.
I feel it necessary to deliver this disclaimer: There is no such thing as a one size fits all tech solution. Just because this was my favorite phone of the year, it doesn’t mean I’m endorsing it for everyone, and I find debates surrounding which phone is “best” quite tedious. I chose the title “favorite” for a reason.
My favorite phone of the year is:
The Nokia Lumia 1020.
The camera sounds like a gimmick, the punchline to a joke no one set up, and yet it worked. It absolutely represents an audacious attempt at generating headlines, and it probably made as many people roll their eyes as want to examine it, but it totally worked.
I love good cameras.
If there was any chance I might want to take a pic or shoot video of something while I was out and about, odds were incredibly high that I would leave the house with the 1020. The performance is simply astounding. The quality of image Pureview delivers, it’s no wonder the old point and shoot camera market is in serious trouble. Less that, there was simply no debate which phone won the camera war this year.
The incremental fighting between iPhone and Android handsets this year simply reinforced another tired aspect of tech journalism. When a market matures, and discussion is dominated by Apple and Samsung, it gets a little boring to write about. The visceral fights we’ve had between Galaxy and iPhone cameras were debates over minutiae. The 1020 was a radical leap into new territory, and only could have come from a company at the outskirts of the smartphone wars. A company on a distant third place OS. A company which clawed its way into fourth place sales (behind Apple, Samsung, and LG) last quarter on the merits of a $100 phone.
A company in a position like that can do dangerous things, wonderful things. Writing about tech a good market disruptor around to shake things up. Nokia gave me that this year.
More than any other phone this year, I had a 1020 by my side. While reviewing other phones and gadgets, the 1020 was there to document my experiences using those other devices. It doesn’t hurt that Microsoft finally got a few developers on board Windows Phone to start producing apps and services for the platform. They still have a lot of ground to make up, but the experience on a Windows Phone wasn’t so stark this year.
Nothing is Perfect…
Having used the phone as much as I have, there are still some glaring issues the platform needs to address. Things which drive me crazy about carrying a Windows Phone in my pocket.
- Notifications: There are rumors this will come in Threshold, the merging of Windows RT and Windows Phone, but honestly, moving into 2014 there’s simply no reason why it shouldn’t have been done already. The platform needs some unified architecture for storing notifications which is easy to access. This would benefit the end user, but it would also make it easier to deliver smart accessories like watches and heads up displays.
- Audio: Windows Phone has one unified volume control for everything. If you turn the volume of your music up, your notifications get louder too. I don’t particularly enjoy using headphones on my Windows Phones as I’ve been startled by quite a few emails and phone calls.
- File Management: I know it’s good enough for iPhones that users have no control over files on their phone, but this is another area I wish Microsoft had copied Android. Even on Windows RT, I can pop in a thumb drive to swap files at will, or attach ANY file I want to an email with nearly zero restrictions. I want to be able to see what files are stored on my phone, where they are stored, and I want the final say in what happens to those files.
Lastly, this is more of a wish than a direct criticism, but it’d be nice if this cold war between Google and Microsoft would end. I know it wont, but for the sake of their customers and the market at large, these two companies could do some amazing things with a cease fire agreement. Google needs computers and partners to run their services on, and Microsoft needs competitive services to make their platform more interesting (and to keep the pressure on their own teams to innovate). I know neither company sees it that way, which is a shame. As Google refuses to develop for Microsoft’s ecosystem (and squashes any attempts by 3rd parties to fill those gaps), we also see a Microsoft starting to close the doors on outside development. Apple introduced the concept of App Stores for full fledged computers, and now we risk a future of walled gardens.
So there it is folks. My favorite phone of the year and what I thought was wrong with it. What was your favorite gadget of the year? Why did you choose it? What made you keep coming back? How would you make it better?