Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nodo (WP7 March) Update Review

So now that I have used my HTC Surround with the March Update (Nodo) for the past 1.5 weeks, how was the update?  Was it worth the wait?

I didn't want to rush into writing a review for this as I wanted to at least use it for a bit first before jumping to conclusion.

I'll go over the update process, the pieces in the promised updates, things that are not mentioned in the updates (i.e. battery life after update - I know because iPhone updates have a thing will killing your battery life) and whether or not some Canadian WP7 issues were addressed.

Update Process
Having to use a SIM Unlocked HTC Surround from Telus (on Fido), I didn't wait to find out if I ever will get a "Update Available" notification on my phone.  So I went and updated my phone with this hack (brought to our attention by one of our readers).  It took several tries but once the update was recognized, Zune Desktop took over.

Now, I have around 11GB of stuff on my phone that needs to be backed up.  First thing Zune Desktop tells me is that it's around 43 minutes to complete the update.  Actual time to finish was around 50 minutes. Completely seamless, backed up my phone content, created a restore point.  For the everyday casual phone user, this was perfectly executed by Microsoft.

For the computer geek in me, it's odd that Zune Desktop doesn't let you specify where you want to store the backup.  Found it eventually through some directory searching.

Update Process Score: 4.5/5

Update Rollout

First of all, I have to say that I am not a MS fanboy (eventhough it seems like a weird statement because I am writing stuff about WP7 on this blog).

I am however a software developer for 15+ years and I have seen my share of software deployment strategies.  Some good, some not so good along with successful and unsuccessful rollout of software updates.  Even though many thinks that Microsoft have botched their update rollout and it seems like a mess, I personally think that they are doing the right thing at this release point of WP7.  A lot of people have compared it because Apple releases an update to everybody all on the same day.  Apple can do this because they own the hardware.  Even if Apple owns the software + hardware on the iPhones/iPods/iPads, they still run into a lot of problems on these kinds of mass updates.  I just think the tech blog community is so in love with Apple that their MacFanboyism took over and states everything is good.

Unlike Apple, MS is dealing with many manufacturers (and their firmware).  This staggered update approach maybe frustrating for some WP7 users but I think at this point in WP7 life, it is needed as MS is trying very hard to win customers over with their software as well as how easy it is to update.  I know MS have been very apologetic about this "mess" but I for one commends them for taking their time of ensuring that everyone's phone can be updated seemlessly.  Sometimes, slow and steady wins the race.  I would imagine that as MS gains more experiences with their partners and the updates processes, they will be quicker in delivering updates.

Update Rollout Score: 4/5

Updates in Nodo:
Copy & Paste - Yes, I can copy and paste good now.  Want to copy and paste over and over again?  Click here.  For the most part it is pretty initiative and easy to use.  The repeat paste bit is a little bit strange but works none-the-less

Faster apps and games - Definitely delivered.  This is very noticeable especially with graphical intensive games.  Other apps launches quicker as well but it made a already quick OS even faster

Better Marketplace Search - Didn't notice the difference in search context - it claims to be context sensitive now.  Marketplace is much more stable and much quicker to scroll and retrieve apps lists

WiFi Improvements - MAC address can be accessed from from Settings->System->About->More Information, your MAC address is now displayed.  Still cannot attached to a hidden SSID however but MS never promise this so I'll let it slide.

Outlook Improvements - If you are using outlook, the update have added the ability to search your company's exchange server for email addresses.  And no, turning contacts syncing on will not sync your the exchange global address book to your phone (thank goodness)

Facebook integration - not really noticeable - not any faster

Camera Improvements - again, I didn't notice anything different, but the problem with the camera not saving your settings remains

Updates in Nodo Score:  4/5

For Canadians (and likely non-US based users)
After the update, I checked on couple of annoying things that has to do with Bing maps, unfortunately, the problem remains.  The lack of metric distances also remains.  Still stuck with miles :(

For Canadians Score: 0/5

Side Effects
So what about the intangible things like battery life, or you can say the "unannounced" things that people like you and me care about?  After my experiences with iPhone updates, I pay a lot closer attention to some of these "unintended" features (one iOS update halved my battery life and another makes it so laggy it made it unusable)

Battery Life - From what I can tell so far after 1.5 weeks of usage, the battery life is pretty much the same as before Nodo update.
Videos - No Problems - I watch a lot of anime on my phone but I did not notice any problems
Music - No Problems
On screen keyboard - No lag whatsoever
physical keyboard - No idea
Headphone in/out behaviour - no difference
Browser speed - still blazing fast - looks to be the same as before.
Side Effects Score: 5/5

Overall Score: 17.5/20 (Canadians: 17.5/25 - mostly because we didn't get any special treatment)

Conclusion: So, should you upgrade (if and when you get the update notification)?  My answer to that is absolutely.  Just getting the more robust/stable marketplace is worth it by itself (no more reboots to get the marketplace/zune video player to work after marketplace crashes).  Games launches faster and if you are using it more for Outlook, the ability to lookup contacts in your corporate exchange server is great (just make sure you turn that setting for sync outlook contact to ON).

If you are unsure about something that I didn't cover in this article and would like to know more about it before you take the plunge, leave me a comment and I am sure our helpful readers and myself should be able to address it.

Happy updating!

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