An Android smartphone saved the day

My main smartphone is (still!) a Windows Phone: A Nokia Lumia 735 that has been through a lot but despite its promising (back then) route, it sees instead a declining future mostly due to the lack of support from Microsoft (as a part of the Windows Phones). I am used to it, so I cannot take the (hard) decision to just drop it.

I also have a backup smartphone, an Android-powered Samsung A3 (2016), which was mostly used in car, paired with my car’s Mirrorlink-enabled head unit – it was the cheapest Mirrorlink-enabled smartphone I could find some time ago. Apart from that, I also use it for Web browsing, social media etc. Both smartphones are pretty entry-level but have been exploited to the extent possible.

During my summer holidays, I found myself at Moutsouna, Naxos island. As soon as I got there, I had to make an urgent call; alas, I did not have signal – at all! I tried walking out of the house, walked even at the pier (facing the Aegean sea), moved to a higher, open spot of the village hoping for cellular connection but with no luck.

I friend of mine approached me and asked me about my carrier – he was sure I was on a specific one, whose signal was so bad in the area that all locals had switched to other carriers (and this was my case). He then advised my to switch to 2G (!!) if I wanted to make a call. I went through my Lumia’s menu, only to find that 2G-only was not supported. I tried with 3G-only but still no signal. And then I made the choice…

Got my A3 out of the backpack, quickly swapped SIM cards and went through its menu; I could switch my A3 to 2G only and I actually managed to make the call I had to! I never swapped the SIM back during my 7-day stay at the island, and made use not only of the updated apps available in Android (stuck versions behind in Windows Phone) but also its better camera.

Damn you Windows Phones, you keep disappointing me…and the same goes for my carrier!


Lumia 735: Time for a clean update

I kept trying to install one of the last Windows Mobile updates (before MS stops the stream of updates in the near future) since September; despite the fact that I could successfully download it, the installation kept stopping at some point with one of these hard-to-understand Microsoft error codes.

Yesterday I got a notification for a new update (the October one) so I tried installing it, too. It seems that the update required a total of 1.18GB of storage – hard to find that with a total of just 8GB of storage (including system reserved storage). I kept removing apps, offline maps, cleaning the cache. I was still short in space. So I decided that it was about time for the big step.

First I backed (almost) everything up, using the built-in feature of Windows Mobile (my first backup after quite a long time). Then I went for a hard reset, wiping everything from the device and started everything from scratch. After a couple of reboots I managed to install the latest Windows 10 Mobile Anniversary update (Build 10.0.14393.1770) along with all my apps (including the ones that initially shipped with the mobile, totally useless). I only had to enter my credentials, fine tune some settings and everything was there, including the home screen tiles 😉

I was excited to see that despite the hard reset, both the stored WiFi passwords and the Continuum hack was there, fully working as they used to. Overall, it was a process that took me something more than 1,5 hours and now my 735 feels more responsive and with more free storage space.

Hacking my Lumia 735 to support Continuum

I recently came across a video showing how to enable Continuum on any Lumia smartphone and use it without display dock. It sounded pretty interesting, especially taking into consideration that we now have a smart TV at home (after the old TV broke down) and I wouldn’t want to invest in proprietary solutions like a Continuum dock. My Lumia 735 does not officially support Continuum (in fact I have a hard time projecting content to our smart TV as well) so I thought I should give it a try to see how it goes.

I took some time last night (less than 30 mins in total) to download the necessary files, hack the phone’s registry and restart the phone a couple of times. Then it actually worked! I managed to project my Lumia’s screen to my Toshiba’s laptop screen (despite the warnings I got that the laptop’s hardware does not support projecting from other sources). It was rather laggy but I could see a full-size desktop on the screen and actually run my Lumia’s apps using its touch screen as a touchpad 😃

Unfortunately, this was not the case for my Samsung smart TV; my Lumia could see the TV but could not pair successfully, while I kept seeing that the TV also tried to connect to the phone but with no luck. Interoperability issues I guess, with too many different protocols for performing a simple task.

In any case, the specific application of Continuum was not really useful, as I had a fully working 17-inch laptop in front of me so I had access to more processing power and a full size keyboard, along with a mouse.

However, the next day I thought I should give Continuum a try at the office, where in one of the meetings rooms there is a Philips Smart TV with a Miracast dongle attached to one of its HDMI ports. So I switched on the TV, selected the proper HDMI port as the source and waited. At the same time, I switched on the WiFi on my Lumia and launched the Continuum app. It took only a couple of seconds to see the home page of my Lumia mirrored on the meeting room’s smart TV!

What does this mean in practice? Let’s say I participate in a meeting where we share content and keep notes using the Intel NUC attached in the second HDMI port of the same smart TV. If I want to share something that I have on my phone, I just have to switch the image source (from one HDMI to the other), saving me from:

  • having to use any app credentials in another’s user account (running on the NUC),
  • having to switch to my user account on the NUC,
  • having to remember the credentials I use for a given app/account (I tend to forget lately)

From the convenience of my smartphone, I can show photos, videos, slides or even open a web page to share it with everyone in the room – wirelessly and with no hassle. How cool is that?

Lumia 735 & Windows Phone 10

I have been testing WP10 as an Insider for quite some time now; using my Lumia 720 which does not have a SIM, so I only used it occasionally for browsing, gaming andtaking photos (it has a great camera BTW!). My experience was so and so, with bugs, stuff not properly working and low performance. However, the latest build (10586.29) looked pretty responsive, many bugs were fixed and it looked appropriate for a daily driver. For some strange reasonould not wait until WP10 become officially available for my Lumia.

So I decided to give it a try on my main phone, Lumia 735. It was risky, as the phone was properly set up, it ran WP 8.1 smoothly and I had no issues at all. But I had to do it; I always update all my devices to the latest firmware, OS version, drivers etc.

The first step was to back up everything to the cloud, using the integrated functionality of the OS. Then I installed the Windows Insider app and went for the Fast Ring, so as to get the latest updates. Updates were downloaded, several restarts took place and I set up my Lumia from scratch – no backups were restored. The process took quite a while and kept me up for long but it was worth it: now I have the latest Windows Phone 10 build setup and running. Thanks to my previous experience with my Lumia 720, I was familiar with the new functionalities and settings introduced by WP10, so I was no stranger to the OS. Everything runs smoothly, the phone is at least as responsive as it was with WP8.1 and I am pretty pleased with the experience. Battery life seems the same, too.

Let’s see how it goes and…really looking forward to the new WP10 build!

Lumia 735 – First impressions

I had my Lumia 720 for 1,5 year and I replaced it with a Lumia 735 about one month ago as I got some extra cash to spend. I am still using my 720 for testing purposes, having installed Windows Phone 10 and my frequently used apps. My first impressions from 735 so far, compared to my long experience with 720, are the following:

Screen: Lumia 735 has slightly larger screen and higher resolution. Both are more than welcome and nice improvements over 720.

Battery life: I still have the impression that Lumia 720 does better in terms of battery life, even though tests and specs are against that. Maybe it is the specific unit or my type of usage, but I believe that 735 drains battery faster using the same settings e.g. for brightness, battery saving and apps allowed to run in the background.

Camera: Mixed feelings here; Main camera has the same sensor and lens and the images produced may be a little sharper and with ore vibrant colors. In addition, front camera is a big improvement at 5MP. However, the lack of a physical button for the camera is a main issue, at least to me; it is really hard to take a selfie trying to reach and press the software button and even for normal photos, it is always easier when having a dedicated hardware shutter button.

Lumia 735_green

Other features: Both phones support NFC out of the box; Lumia 735 also supports wireless charging (charging pad should be purchased individually) as well as 4G (compared to the 4G of 720); both are nice improvements. 735 does not boast a unibody design, which means that It supports interchangeable covers and user replaceable batteries. So far I have not noticed any cranking noises, which was really nice.

Overall usage: Both mobile phones are really snappy in terms of everyday use. What I like in 735 is the fact that it features the hidden menu bar which bears the typical Windows Phone buttons (Back, Home and Find) – this allows for a little bit more usable space for typical usage and it just comes up by sliding from the bottom to the center of the screen. It took me some time to get used to it but now I love it! I also like the organization of the settings in groups; both improvements must be due to different software versions between 735 and 720. Another nice improvement are the hardware buttons which feel more responsive compared to the ones of 720.

Conclusions: I like my brand new phone, its larger screen with higher resolution, its bright-green colour and new software features. At the same time, I am still really annoyed by the lack of a physical button for the camera as it seems a major usability issue to me – but maybe this will make me use my Olympus E-PM1 mirrorless camera a little bit more!