Making the #SummerSwitch to Windows Phone: Apps and Features Review

Windows Phone Review Blog

I am starting to become attached…


As I noted in my First Impression post , the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone has an amazing camera- a feature I, as a mom and as a blogger find drool-worthy in a phone.

Yes, I’m rambling about the camera again…

To switch gears for a moment, I’m going to use this post to share more about the Nokia Lumia Windows Phone’s other, more hidden talents.

Like what, exactly?

Consider this fantastic list of little-known features posted by PC World , which I happened to find while browsing on Reddit this morning (using the sleek and user friendly Baconit app for WindowsPhone).

The music finder is one I had no idea about and had to try it. From my dining room, with music playing on low volume in the kitchen (adjacent to the dining room), I turned on the “listening for music” feature. Similar to the way Shazam can pick up details about an ad, within seconds I had details about the song, artist and even the album, just by using the listening feature.

Windows Phone: Apps and Features

Cool. As. Hell. I tried it several more times and it was correct with every song. If you’re like me and you love music, this is a great feature. Next time I hear a song and want more info on it, I know it will be immediately at my fingertips.

What else can this thing do? That’s what I wanted to know!

Windows Phone Features

Here are my favourite features, aside from the camera:

Windows Phone Features1. Kids Corner – This isn’t just a special app that your child can use, it’s like giving them their very own phone, filled with kid friendly apps chosen and downloaded by mom and dad. What’s especially great about Kids Corner is how secure it is- when the kids are using it, there’s no worrying about your child pressing something they shouldn’t, accidentally sending an embarrassing message to your contacts or messing with your settings. Your part of the phone (and all the important information in it) remains secure while your little one plays. This special little corner of your phone is all theirs, and is completely customizable, so you can name it, choose the picture that they see on their home screen, even the background and tile colours. Install the apps you want (also super easy to do) and you’re done!If you don’t want to use it for your kids, you could also set it up as an alternate phone, for those times when a friend or relative asks you to borrow it. Hand it over worry free- they can make calls (assuming you’ve allowed the “phone” app to operate there) or use other apps without messing with your own private information.

Windows Phone Features2. Completely customizable “Live Tiles” – This is a fun and unique feature that helps the phone feel much more personal. Instead of just standard app icons showing up on your home screen, Live Tiles give you ever-changing, up to the minute images and notifications that mean the most to you (my personal favourite tile on my home screen is my Mums ‘n Chums icon, which is a miniature image of the site’s home page!). Personalizing is fun and super easy, even for a newbie. For example, when you upload your contacts during set up of the phone, a contacts tile is automatically created on your home screen that shows you randomly rotating photo collages of your friends’ avatars. What a refreshing alternative to the standard old “contacts” icon on other phones. Such is the case for all of the Windows Phone live tiles- each one is constantly updating and changing. Have the Facebook app? Watch it flip from the logo to updates on what’s happening on your news feed without even needing to press it. The Twitter app icon doesn’t just tell you you have an update, it tells you who mentioned you- again without having to touch it. Your calendar icon updates daily with the day’s events showing right on the tile so again, you don’t even have to visit the actual app to get the basic details and times of events. I’m loving having a quick update of what’s happening across all of my accounts at a glance when I’m on the go. Live, up to the minute mini-updates on everything, all at once? Nice.

3. Unique and useful Nokia Lumia apps – Nokia City Lens lets you explore an urban area to find nearby attractions, food, hotels, shopping, transportation and more just by holding up your camera. See real time updates overlaid onto the image you see on your screen- updates such as nearby landmarks or famous places, complete with directions for how to get there from your current position. I know it works in bigger cities, but I wanted to see how it would do in a small suburban town, so I chose Halton Hills for my experiment. I had read a review online which said it doesn’t work in some smaller, less populated areas so I was curious as to how it would perform here. It did very well, and I’m impressed at how many places it found.

Nokia City Lens App

Choose what you want to search for and go!

Nokia City Lens App

After telling City Lens I was looking for food (because I’m always looking for food), all I had to do was hold the camera up, as if to take a picture (this is an image of downtown Georgetown). Overlaid on the picture are numerous local dining options, including their distance from my current position. Again, I was surprised by the accuracy of these- the fish and chip place was the closest, just by the red awning you can see on the right side of the street. I would love to see these overlay icons themselves in more accurate positions (for example the fish and chip place icon seems to show it on the opposite side of the street to where it actually is, and also makes it look like it is the furthest away when it is in fact the closest), but again, since the distances are listed beside them, it’s still easy to pick out which place is the closest. Super handy app overall with lots of potential uses, and definitely helpful when you’re visiting an unfamiliar place. We have several daytrips planned for this summer, and I can’t wait to put this app to use.

Nokia City Lens App Search Feature

I also discovered (by accident actually!) that in addition to the overlay icons, City Lens will also give you a list of those same places it has found, as well as additional ones, all of which are given in order according to distance from where you are standing. This is a screenshot of just the closest restaurants from where I happened to be when I took the picture in Georgetown, but I was also able to scroll down the list, which was very long, and which listed most of the restaurants in all of Halton Hills. If you’re out of town and want to find the closest Chinese food restaurant, this app can get you there.

Other great Nokia apps I’m looking forward to trying are Nokia HERE Drive , Nokia Maps (which give walking as well as driving directions) and Nokia Transport (find local public transit and get door to door scheduled directions, even for different types of transit).

The number of apps for Windows Phone are definitely lacking in comparison to Droid and iThing options, so that is one con to be aware of. Switching to the Windows Phone after using a Droid was a bit of an adjustment for me, but I find that what this phone lacks in apps is made up for in useful features. About the apps, I have found a ton of great third party alternatives, such as Metroogle for Google, Baconit for Reddit and Instagraph and Metrogram, both for Instagram. You can, however get official versions of popular app favourites like Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Foursquare, Netflix, Tumblr, YouTube, WordPress and more. I spent the first 3 days with my phone surfing the app store and found a ton of great apps that I’m now enjoying using every day. I’m looking very forward to trying out the Xbox games collection next!


The Windows Phone #SummerSwitch program is a 30-day blogging challenge that includes a series of product reviews. Products for review are supplied to Mums ‘n Chums by Microsoft Canada for the purpose of such reviews and in some instances we have recieved monetary compensation for participating. However, as always, the views and opinions stated in ALLMums ‘n Chums product reviews are strictly our own and we are under to obligation no provide favourable opinions for Windows Phone, Microsoft, Nokia or any other brand.


 

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I founded Mums 'n Chums in 2009 after realizing that the area I live in was drastically underserviced as compared to surrounding areas for support and activities for growing families. Mums 'n Chums grew popular very quickly and I have been dedicated to nurturing that growth through frequent networking, social media engagement and in person meetups. By the end of its first year, Mums 'n Chums had close to 500 members and was receiving regular inquiries from fans outside of its service area, asking when we would be expanding to serve them as well. After much careful research and polling, I expanded the site in May of 2011 to cover the entire North end of the GTA (from Cambridge to Markham), areas I believe are still receiving far less attention than they deserve from other sites and family services. We also changed the focus from small scale local mom and tot meetups to more of an informative purpose, closing down our forum and adding several talented contributors to the blog. We do still offer several large scale family events per year, such as our popular Birthday Bash events and our Holiday Bash in December. Our contests have also become a member favourite, and we strive to offer amazing prizes from trusted brands like Babies R Us, La Roche Posay, Johnson's Baby and many more. In March of 2016, after months of work spent migrating all of the site's content to a new platform, Mums 'n Chums re-launched with its fresh, new look. The changes and expansion have proven a great success and we're still getting inquiries from several other cities within the Greater Toronto Area, whom we have decided to serve as well. I have built this site and its' reputation carefully and look forward to continuing its growth!