4GEE Testmodo Challenge #4: Three Readers Test Nokia's WinPho Apps

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Our three readers, Craig, Baij and Amanda are back, and have tested Nokia's very own apps on the Nokia Lumia 1320. Powered by EE's 4G, how did they get on with Here Maps, Here Drive, and the rest?

For a phone to succeed in doing everything for us it has to have a rich variety of high quality apps available. The numbers race between Google and Apple about which store has the biggest quantity of apps is boring now; nobody cares about how many apps you have in your store. At least, nobody should. For those that do, Google and Apple each host over 1 millions apps whereas Windows Phone has over 245,000. The reason why it isn't interesting is because you don't install a million apps on your phone, you install a few dozen perhaps.

Arriving late to the party, Windows Phone didn't have an easy time making friends with developers who were already pretty settled with iOS and Android. However, searching the WP store now reveals most of the "big name" apps that I use regularly: Skype, Twitter, Facebook, BBC iPlayer, 4oD, Authenticator (for 2-step auth), Evernote, eBay, PayPal, Netflix, Plex... For these apps, there isn't too much to say about them; they mostly work well and they are mostly well-designed (often much nicer on the eye than their iOS and Android counterparts).

I say "mostly" because there are occasional frustrations. Open the Netflix app and you'll find you can't choose which user account you want to use, instead defaulting to the first one. The Plex app is great but doesn't have the ability to support Chromecast on Windows Phone yet. Other discrepancies exist between apps across the platforms. Sometimes these differences are minor and sometimes they are deal-breakers but either way it can make you feel like a second-class citizen to the other platforms. In addition to this, of course, is the omissions of Google's apps and Dropbox I mentioned in the last Testmodo review.

Looking specifically to what Nokia brings to the Windows Phone table, there are a number of bundled Nokia-specific apps. Nokia Here Maps is Nokia's answer to Google Maps. I'm going to give you fair warning here: I'm about to say things that Google fanboys (including me) won't like to hear.

Nokia's Maps app is very good. What makes it equal to Google Maps is that it does the bread and butter things like searching and navigating well, as well as Google Maps does.

Google Maps on the left, Nokia Here Maps on the right.

What makes Nokia's Maps better than Google Maps is its offline ability, for those moments when you can't access EE's 4G network, or any network at all. It has the ability to properly store maps offline, not like Google's abysmal attempt. Nokia actually allows offline caching of entire countries with fairly small maps; Scotland only requires 100MB of storage. Once cached, it even offers the ability to search for places and navigate to them, all with flight mode enabled. This is not a small victory, it is a trouncing. I'm left wondering why Google Maps can't do this yet.

As you'd expect, the maps and sat-nav apps from Nokia are closely tied, allowing for searching of destinations and then jumping to the Nokia Here Drive app to actually guide you there. Drive app, again, handles the basics with ease. It is a sat-nav with turn-by-turn voice guidance, real time traffic updates and even has a handy find-my-car feature built in.

An extra feature of the Drive app that I particularly like is "My Commute". This allows you to configure pre-set commutes (like home to work) and pin that as a live tile to your start screen. By doing this, you get live updates as to how long the commute will take. The attempt to give you route information about your daily commute without you even asking for it is very similar to the Google Now feature I've grown to love on Android.

My time with the Nokia Lumia 1320 Windows Phone has been a pleasant one. What was most surprising though was how many of the pleasantries came from Nokia. The Nokia extra-value features are actually what makes the platform so decent. I couldn't possibly recommend buying a Windows Phone that isn't a Nokia Windows Phone. Nokia appears to be doing as much as Microsoft, if not more, in making Windows Phone an attractive and viable smartphone option.

Craig Russell is an Edinburgh-based software engineer working in mobile app development. Read his blog here and follow him on Twitter here.

The Windows Store has around 245,000 apps compared to the iOS and Google Play stores which both have over a million apps each. While this still sounds like a lot of apps, you may actually find that some of the apps you're accustomed to using on iOS or Android devices don't exist on the Windows Store, or have limited functionality. Before you take the plunge and move to Windows Phone 8, this is a great resource to use to see if your favourite apps exist in some form on Windows Phone 8.

Having used Windows Phone before, it hasn't been too much of a shock to the system to go back to it until I try and swipe down from the top of the screen and nothing happens. I then remember this isn't Android anymore, Dorothy.

One thing I'll say for Nokia, they sure do try their best to support Windows Phone 8. There are a whole bunch of Nokia apps you can download for your Lumia, some of which are pre-loaded onto the device itself.

Working for a film company, I watch a lot of film trailers and the Nokia Trailers app is a great way to keep up-to-date on the latest movies and either stream or download the trailers as well as look at the one-sheets (posters for the movies). The huge screen of the Nokia 1320 was perfect to watch trailers on, and coupled with EE's super-fast 4G I sped along, downloading as many trailers as I liked (well, until I filled up the meagre 8GB of internal memory on this device.) You can also add upcoming movies to your watchlist to be reminded of when they're out or when the premiere is on, and can share trailers with your social network. Streaming quality tends to be SD but downloads can be set to HD, and they're a pretty good way to show off the screen and 4G data on your phone to others.

Nokia gives away the excellent Here suite of apps for free with the Nokia Windows 8 Phones and Here Drive is their excellent navigation app. All maps can be downloaded for free and used offline so you don't have to run up roaming charges when using the app abroad. I've used this app in the US and UAE and it's really excellent (again, the 6" screen on this device comes in handy as well as the speedy EE map downloads). I used to love CoPilot on my Android device but the amount you pay for maps on that app is ridiculous especially when you get worldwide maps for free with Here Drive.

Finally, you can't talk about Windows Phone without talking about the excellent MS Office app. Office has been available on Windows Phone for some time now, unlike the Office suite that Microsoft just released for iOS last week. If you use Office apps at work, it's easy to copy Office documents to your OneDrive cloud storage and then access them on your mobile device. It's reasons like this that more and more businesses are moving away from BlackBerry and towards Windows Phone, I should think.

London-based Baij Patel is the IT Director at Twentieth Century Fox, and reviews movies and gadgets in his spare time on his blog. Follow him on Twitter here.

In my opinion, one of the most important (and most-used features) on my mobile phone is the camera. Forget email or business apps -- it's all about shooting photos and video. So when Giz asked us to test out a few of Nokia's own apps this week, I focused on ones that feed my snap-happy tendencies.

Considering the camera on the Lumia 1320 is only 5-megapixels, I was tickled pink that it was still capable of shooting 1080p video. Although I'm not a video blogger myself, I do upload a lot of on-the-go videos to YouTube for work, and I also rather enjoy uploading a cheeky video to Instagram now and then (although, sadly, Windows Phone users currently can't upload video to Instagram unless they use 6tag, as commenter Soulforge pointed out. Hopefully, this feature will arrive soon on the official app...)

First, you'll need to record your video, using Nokia's built-in camera app. When you're recording video, you can impressively customise your recording settings, tweaking things like white balance, continuous focus and video quality. It's so nice to record video on such a large screen, compared to my usual iPhone.

Once you're done recording your clip, download and then fire up Nokia's own video trimmer app. Now, I do have to preface the next bit by saying that on other platforms (Android, iOS), there are video-editing capabilities included in apps like Instagram and YouTube. So this does mean you're limited, but not as much as you'd think. You're still able to upload edited clips to Facebook and YouTube using Nokia tools in no time whatsoever (oh hi, 4GEE!) -- it's just Instagram that needs to catch up. All that being said, the video-trimming app had a fairly lovely UI (like most Windows Phone apps), and it did what it said on the tin with ease.

Once you're happy with the edits, you can share to Facebook, SMS or email directly from the video-trimming app. If you want to share to YouTube, you'll need to fire up Nokia's Video Upload app.

Nokia Video Upload is a gorgeous solution to the Window's YouTube app limitations. With your Google / YouTube log-in details, you can easily upload your edited video to YouTube, and set basic video attributes like clip title and privacy as well. It even has a progress bar. The *only* thing I'd like to see would be more capabilities to include things like video tags, description and the video's freeze frame. That being said, for on-the-go uploading, it's fine. I can hop onto YouTube on my desktop and change that.

All in all, I'm impressed with Nokia's built-in video uploading tools. Considering that other apps have limited their Windows Phone capabilities, Nokia has delivered quite decent (and only slightly limited) solutions.

Canadian Amanda Foley lives in North London, working as a community manager at the Government Digital Service. Follow her on Twitter here.


Check back for the next Testmodo challenge on the 24th of April, and follow our Testmodo winners' tweets using the hashtag #testmodo4GEE.

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