What’s new.. so much

I have been away for quite some time… and really don’t have much time for this… but I want to get two new “What I am using” posts but to test this new WordPress app (still trying to get the new LiveWriter working) here is a quick blurb. First post I am working on is the new Microsoft Band and the other one… hold on yeah it’s an iPhone. The quick statement for this post is, I love the Microsoft Band (1 and 2) but pair it with an iPhone and it really gets boring, IMHO. For all of the chatter about no apps, wow do I miss the apps I used on WindowsPhone (hmmmmm I sense another post on that one).

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Activity monitoring devices

I wrote a quick post about my Lumia 1520 and it’s ability to track activity, much like a Fitbit. I have been really enjoying the Nokia Motion Monitor beta eventhough it was local to the phone unlike synching up to a cloud service like fitbit.
Well yesterday I received an email from Nokia Beta Labs to inform me the beta has ended. Before I get into what I am looking forward to I have to complain a little. I have been using WindowsPhone 8.1 since the developer preview release and really liking it. There is one piece that is missing and that is the Cyan firmware upgrade. Why does that matter? Well in order get the value of Nokia Motion Monitor into the Bing Health Fitness the phone needs that firmware in order to enable the sensor data to be recorded. The data is still recording to the phone so not a major issue just odd timing.
Okay, the goodness is the tracking data will be posted to the Bing Health and Fitness app. This is an app I already like, despite it’s workout tracker is a little too limited. The beauty is there will be no sync, no need for a USB dongle or Bluetooth Low Energy. This SensorCore technology should also open it up to other apps (looking at you GymBuilder Pro).
Since adding friends to my fitbit profile I have found it to be a much more useful device or should I say service. The peer pressure to get up off your butt is huge. The dislike I had for the fitbit had been mostly because I am a windowsphone user and the sync process was less than optimal. However they recently updated the software and it now synchronizes as a background task. I found that out by accident… Recently moved into a new residence so lots of steps. I received a notification on my fit that I had taken the lead within my Fitbit friends… wait how is that possible since my laptop was packed away and I certainly not gone in and performed the steps to sync the data. Ahhhh the other laptop in the house, with the fitbit dongle attached was online. To have this same thing with a device that I seem to always have nearby conjures up thoughts of discarding my fitbit as just another device.
That thought is flawed in my experience. As I mentioned above I recently moved so I hit my goals and more for a few days. Now yes I have the 1520 which is a large phone, but even if I had my 920, there were times when I wouldn’t want to risk phone when lifting boxes and furniture. I have mentioned something similar in the previous post about continuing to use my 920 for things like working out or mowing the lawn. Conclusion, these types of service are a useful tool for monitoring your activity (recent health issues it is something I am very focused on again) and the peer pressure factor is huge. Neither solution is perfect (I have mentioned fitbit seems to fail for activities like strength training and bicycle cardio work) but I can see combining them for the near future but if my Fitbit dies I will go with a phone only solution.

Devices Advancing, even small steps

So this one probably ties in with my health stuff as well as my recent technology upgrade.

When researching the 1520 there was a news article about an app that would track your steps. I didn’t see the need at the time. How does this apply to anything? When Sarcoidosis hit this time it really wiped me out. Between the discomfort, energy drain and working conditions I really had to make a conscious effort to focus on not stopping.

I got a FitBit flex, and while it works there are some flaws in the whole concept.  Aside from the fact that the company couldn’t keep enough replacement bands in stock (hmmmm wonder why, maybe because they ripped too easy) and the fact that shortly after releasing the Flex they came out with a new one with all of the things they left out of the original, such as counting stairs and showing the time. Some of the limitations are simply the mechanics of doing it, there is only so much detail you can gather. Granted the arm swing is the most logical, so a device hanging on your wrist makes sense. The issues I found are:

  • You have to be careful of how tight the band is otherwise it doesn’t move and therefore records nothing.
  • It doesn’t record activity like weight lifting very well. Bike riding, as long as you put your hand on your thigh as you peddle it works well but not very practical.
  • Carrying something, where you arm is not swinging, while walking doesn’t record anything.
  • Pushing a shopping cart in the grocery store triggers it to record sleep mode for some reason.

None of this is for detail tracking so those are just the limitations and just the general tracking and visual reminder is handy.

So now I can get a similar function with my phone. Considering all of the sensors a phone has that certainly makes sense. I know there are other apps but most of them seem centered around running, and running is still something that is really not possible for me. I can see the same impracticalities appearing but one less device seems to make sense. So I installed the app from Nokia Beta Labs and gave it a few days to see what it would do. Without expecting it to be perfect, I have to say it is a well designed app, although it does not have the back end data/web services of something like Fitbit, and simply works.

Live tile shows current data, app is well laid out to give a nice representation of the activity, and the system adds what appear to be some timely notes (too soon to tell).

Live Tile for Nokia Motion MonitorNokia Motion Monitor AppNokia Motion Monitor App - app interjected notes

It has only been a few days so it will be interesting to monitor this app as well as compare the data against the data my Fitbit collects.

Windows Phone 7 – Lumia 900

So it’s been a few months now so I figured I should post.

To get it out of the way right away… Windows Phone 8 announcement and it’s demoting the Lumia 900. I find it odd that Microsoft and Nokia spent so much marketing a phone that they knew was going to be lessened. I did hold off on getting the Lumia knowing Windows Phone 8 was near, there were conflicting reports of whether or not the Lumia 900 would or would not run Windows Phone 8. My Samsung Focus was wearing thin and when I saw the lame second version they came out with, combined with the AT&T pricing for the Lumia 900… I got a sweet phone. My reaction to Windows Phone 8 not running on Lumia 900 was disappointment. Not anger and I do not think the Lumia 900 instantly became a brick. Between the software Nokia continues to roll out and improve and the updates Windows Phone 7 is slated to receive I can see this being a viable device for quite some time.

So with special pricing and the trade-in value for my Samsung Focus I spent around $50 for a new phone. Out of the box the device looks great, feels solid without being heavy and the display is great.

The button placement (all of the buttons on the same side of the device) was an adjustment (Samsung Focus had Power and Camera button on one side and the volume controls on the other) but I found the placement more ideal especially when in landscape mode watching video podcasts or other videos. The buttons seem to have a slightly audible rattle if you pay close enough attention, an odd annoyance considering the quality of the build and a basically seamless device.

I put a case on it originally but it really just detracted from what is a very cool looking device and the screen and case have really held up well to normal wear and tear without a cover. The body and screen seem near scratch proof, but they have this silver medallion to advertise the Carl Zeiss lens and this does not enjoy the same benefit as it seems to scratch very easily.

The camera is a little disappointing, but I prefer taking pictures with my DSLR. Nokia’s camera extras software, especially the panorama mode, add some great features and the camera is adequate in a pinch.

Call quality (who uses their phone for phone calls?) is very good. The sound for ringtones and alerts is very good which was a big upgrade from the Samsung Focus. Volume for music and video is very good (oh I wish the Zune premium headphones had a microphone).

Wifi issues were fixed almost immediately in a fix rolled out (amazingly AT&T didn’t hold that back). Interestingly enough I cross into several areas where LTE coverage is available.

As expected the phone was much faster than the Samsung Focus I had been using.

The charger that comes with the phone is great for charging the phone quickly, oddly you cannot order one as an accessory.

In general this is a very nice phone and I can only hope Nokia sticks to the same form factor for their Windows Phone 8 device.

Of course the biggest problem continues, AT&T and their decisions to not update the platform. Nokia rolls out exclusive apps and a few (Nokia Counters) require the latest version. While other carriers have rolled out Tango, no signs of it on AT&T.