Lumia 520 – Updated Notes and Thoughts

wp_ss_20140913_0001  One issue plaguing the “review” industry is the new factor rush to be first.  This isn’t really a review, but more a few notes and thoughts on my Lumia 520 Windows Phone after using it for a month or so.

I want to start off actually by saying, I’m still mostly happy with the phone.  For $50, it’s a really great “replacement” phone for that cracked screen whatever that has a broken speaker making calls impossible to hear.  Windows Phone OS itself is really great too.  I like the interface and the colors.  If I were going out and picking up a nicer phone I’d be really inclined to go for the Lumia 1020, which has a kick ass camera and Windows Phone under the hood.

I wanted to start with this because the rest of the tone of this list will come off as pretty negative since the phone is flawed.  It’s also $50, so it’s easy to forgive the flaws and understand WHY they are flaws.  It’s a cheap and underpowered device.

The Camera Sucks

This is probably my biggest annoyance with the Lumia 520.  If I really need to take Photos on a trip or something, I’ll be carrying my DSLR with it’s 14mp goodness, but I’ve gotten used to being able to use my Cell Phone in a pinch.  The 520 really doesn’t do the job at all though, even in a pinch.  Low light performance is abysmal and it’s slow.

The focus is also really flakey.  I take a lot of photos of small things up close (toys) and it’s frustrating to point the phone, tap to focus, only to end up with the background in focus and not the object I’m trying to photograph.  The auto focus action will bring the closer object into focus briefly as it runs through it’s mechanics though, which makes the whole business even more frustrating because it means that it COULD focus on what I want, it’s just choosing not to.

The end result photos tend to be a little hazy as well.  I’m a little worried that the lens may have been scuffed up some causing issues as well.  The iPhone I carry for work has a completely useless camera since the scuffed lens makes everything uselessly hazy.

It’s Crazy Durable

IMGP2063 I’ve heard a few mentions here and there that Nokia makes durable phones.  The 520 doesn’t seem to be any exception.  I’ve dropped it more than once on hard surfaces and its done just fine.  It explodes into a phone, back and battery, but it’s still not damaged.

I actually think this may be somewhat related to the back design.  The back is curved and wraps around with it’s edges actually on the front face, so it completely protects the phone and is fairly durable itself.  It also pops off pretty easily, so an impact will jar the back off dissipating the energy of the impact instead of damaging the phone.

Storage is/was Too Little

wp_ss_20140913_0003 I have fixed this issue by putting a 32gb microSD card into the phone but I’ve been fighting against storage issues from the start.  Base storage is 8GB.  I want to say the system takes up half of that.  I have not been keeping music or podcasts or audiobooks on the phone either.

I’ve had to uninstall some apps just to keep up with the storage needed to use the phone.  My personal opinion is that these things should ship with at least 16gb as a standard, maybe even 32gb.  Memory really isn’t that expensive, especially if a company is buying it in bulk for manufacturing.  The 32gb card I bought is a nice Sandisk class 10 and it was only $15.  That was on sale admittedly but it also includes all the overhead of Amazon and Sandisk and packaging and putting it in SD card form.

Memory is cheap.  These companies (not just Nokia/Microsoft) need to get with the program here.

The Windows Phone Store Could Be Better

wp_ss_20140913_0004 This is, unfortunately, a problem that will last beyond the Lumia520 if I upgrade to a nicer Windows Phone.  There was a recent news article about how the Windows Phone store is full of scam apps.  I’ve already listed the apps I’m missing and that list is still pretty much the same.

I also kind of hate that I can’t buy an app and opt to not install it immediately.  This came up as part of my storage issues.  Asphalt 5, a racing series I’d played on Android, was on sale but i didn’t have enough space to install it.  When I tried ot buy it just to add it to my account for later use, the phone just told me I didn’t have enough storage and refused to let me purchase it.

I could probably have done it through a website somewhere but that is an extra needlessly inconvenient step.

The Hardware is Underpowered

IMGP2064 This is definitely more a Lumia520 issue than a Windows Phone Issue.  It’s a problem that has become increasingly worse, possibly attributed to the system updates that I’ve done since picking up the phone.

I see a lot of “Loading…..” and “Resuming….” screens.  I get a lot of times where an app fails to load so I get the Loading… screen and it dumps back to the homescreen.  Sometimes this even happens with the home screen, so I’ll be in say, Baconit (Reddit Reader) and hit back to the home screen only to end up back in Baconit.

It’s worse when Baconit then has the same issue and now I end up in some other app I had open previously.

It’s more than a little irritating at times.

I still like the phone and the OS.  It’s a cheap phone, so some issues are to be expected, but the performance of this cheap phone is way better than I’ve experience on a cheap Android phone or tablet.  A lot fo this is helped by solid hardware, something cheap Android devices seem to not have.  Nokia for a long while has been THE Windows phone Brand, and now they are owned by Microsoft, the Windows company.  They have also been making cell phones for ages, I loved the hell out of my old Nokia candy bar phones.  They have been around long enough to know what they are doing unlike a lot fo these newer cheap Chinese companies.

Google’s Nexus 7

So, I’ve mentioned in passing here and all over everywhere else that I have been using my new Nexus 7 tablet.  It’s been one of my standard "long build up choices".  I’ve known for a while I wanted a tablet and planned to get one for some time.  Things finally culminated in the Nexus 7.

I actually went back and forth a bit between the Nexus and Barnes & Noble’s Nook HD for a bit.  The Nook HD has superior hardware as well as a potentially useful HDMI port.  It lacks a camera of any kind and comes with a locked down B&N version of Android.  It would have to be rooted.  I figured the Nexus was the way to go ultimately.  The HDMI port would be less useful than it sounds and quite frankly, as much as I want to support B&N as an underdog, it’s getting really hard to continue to support them.  I am sure that content deals are part of the hold up but they really seem to treat their digital customers as second class persons.  At some point though a company needs to just tell these distributors to take it or leave it.

That’s a complaint I’ve made before elsewhere.  I’m here to discuss the Nexus.

It’s a pretty spectacular product, and I’ve certainly been getting my money’s worth from it.  I’m actually using it for more or less what I expected to use it for, consuming information of various types.  It’s great for Facebook and Google+, it’s great for ebooks and digital comics, it’s great for reading news.

I’ve been working on decking it out a bit to make it more of a production device though.  I ordered a case with included keyboard, though unfortunately it needed an adaptor I didn’t have and since the adaptor is shipping from China I’m waiting for a slow boat to send it my way… eventually.  I also have a MOGA controller that I’ve been using some to play games on the device.

What’s most surprising, and something I had been hoping for, I actually use my phone less now that I have the tablet.  It’s a good size for most activities and has much more storage for storing apps and such on it than my phone.  Which leads me to a side note, the larger version really seems like the way to go space wise.  I have already installed several of the more advanced games I have and each takes up like 2-3 GB each.  It actually kind of blows my mind that a mobile game would be so huge but the graphics and performance result is pretty amazing. 

I actually have one complaint so far, and it’s kind of a minor one.  It lacks a rear facing camera.  Yeah yeah, I will tell you how stupid it is to hold up a tablet and use it as a camera pretty much anywhere, but I have gotten into a habit of snapping quick photos with my phone and uploading them to Twitter or Google+.  I managed to figure out how to activate the front camera for photos but it’s a pain target and snap without being able to actually see the interface.

Like I said, minor issue.

Anyway, I am sure I’ll discus this device some more in the future, but for now, the verdict is, it’s great.

Lens Surgery

I have this old 200mm Lens that I think came with a Ricoh film camera I got for cheap years ago.  It essentially cost me nothing.  I haven’t used it much however because the photos all turn out really hazy.


I figure I’m not using it and it’s probably not worth enough to pay for a professional clean job, so I decided to disassemble it to see if a good cleaning would correct the problem.  This also would make for a decent learning experience to see exactly what makes a lens work.  Granted, it’s an old manual lens and not a flashy new automatic lens, but it’s still something I’ve always wanted to check out.


I wasn’t real sure where to start and some quick research online pretty much just suggested “Start removing screws and pulling things apart”.  Which si what I did.  There were 8 obvious screws, 4 on the silver mount ring and 4 on the side of the barrel near the mounting ring.

IMGP7306 After going a ways, I had the metal ring removed and a larger internal assembly.  I could tell before starting that there was a film of some sort on the inside of the glass on the business end of the lens, so I knew I would need to go farther.  I removed some internal parts as well as part of the main barrel but still came to a stand still unable to reach the backside of the main front glass.


This was when I found some extremely tiny screws on the side of the barrel.  After loosening these screws, the main front glass could be turned and screwed free very easily.

I cleaned all parts I could reach and reassembled the whole thing as best i could (think i may have gotten part of the barrel turned wrong but it’s not real important since it mostly means the setting indicators aren’t accurate.

The real test of course is to take a photo.


Sadly, It did not fix the problem.  I’m pretty sure that the main problem is that the lens is simply “a cheap piece of shit”.  I did notice that using Photoshop to “auto correct” makes the photo actually look fairly normal.  I still don’t plan to use it for anything critical. 

Mostly I just need to go out and find a decent telephoto lens for my DSLR, since that is the one major piece missing from my lens assortment.

The First Full Day of Android…

I think I’ve finally got something I like after rearranging my little icons all over the place back and forth.  I still have not figured out how and if I can rename the single folder I’ve placed on the screen.  Thankfully the pre-installed apps, while not uninstallable, are removable from the main screens.

Of note on tests and discoveries.  At one point I accidentally triggered something called “Car Mode”.  I’ll have to look into how this happened and it took me a second to figure out how to get OUT of “Car Mode”.  This mode is a simplified interface with larger icons for things like voice dial and Maps.  Essentially the idea is you’d put the phone on some mount and interact with it minimally while driving.

As for battery life, I removed it from the charger this morning at around 6:30 when I woke up and plugged it in to charge off my laptop at around 2:30 PM when it alerted me that it was getting low.  Eight hours isn’t too bad though It looks like I’ll want to invest (eventually) in a second charger for the desk at work.

I’ve been getting notifications about tying together “friend accounts”.  Irritatingly it seems to have doubled up my twitter followers.  i wish it would just take the obvious ones and pair them for me.  Guess what phone, is the same person as 

The music player works so far.  I had little trouble with everything it played on random except for MP3s from an Allison Iraheta album I got from Amazon.  Everything else came from Amazon so I’m not real sure what the malfunction is.  I’ll probably just recopy these tracks and see if that fixes it.  The scrobbling works great.

I’m not real sure I like the built in FriendStream app.  It combines Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr together.  I like the Idea but I find it a bit cluttered and hard to follow.  Also I can’t open links directly in it without going to a secondary screen.  Finally I wish it would “remember” where I had left off instead of jumping to the newest items every time it comes up.  I’d rather scroll up into new stuff then scroll down and figure out where I left off.

Today’s installed apps… (I plan to get more detailed on a lot of these later) – In case i feel the need to shop while mobile.  not that i couldn’t go to the website.

Barcode Scanner – This seems useful and it seemed to sort of work on the only barcode I found handy on some granola bars, though it said they cost 40 bucks a box, which is WAAAAY off.

Google Earth – Mostly a novelty.

Google Sky Maps – Because stars are fun.

WCIA’s Mobile App – I saw a short clip promoting this on a local television channel and figured hey, sure.  I have not tested it a ton but if the School closings tab works it’s worth keeping around.  Too bad we’re probably beyond school closing season.

A Handful of Games – I’ll get into this aspect another time.

I also installed another NoAgenda app then proceeded to completely uninstall all three of the apps.  None of them do the most basic thing desired of playing the most recent episode of the show.  I also exported my iTunes Podcast list to the Podcatcher App I’[d installed yesterday.  Basically, now i can download the show (among others) direct to the phone, who needs some lame program.

HTC Inspire – Day Zero

After much debating on which Android phone would be the one i wanted for my carrier (AT&T), I had finally narrowed it down to the Captivate, which my brother has and enjoys, or the iPhone 3GS, which many people have.  Then it was announced that AT&T was getting a second Droid phone that was worthwhile (the first being the Captivate), with the HTC Inspire.  The price was right between my two dilemma price points and it was “newer” than the captivate, though i have not yet compared the actual specs.  Anyway, it was getting a lot of positive buzz up tot he launch so I went with it.  I went with it on it’s launch day, February 13th, 2011. 

Unlike any iPhone launch, there was not a line outside the store.  In fact no one seemed to be promoting the device device in the stores though I’m not sure any of the other customers I overheard were looking for this style of device to begin with.  The store where I had mine had the display model unceremoniously dumped on the counter near the other Droids since the display was only designed to hold 3 phones.   According to the store clerk i was the first person in the area to own one” which is probably true considering what a bustling center of technological activity Central Illinois is, This is ESPECIALLY true in the manufacturing town of Decatur, home of Mark Whitacre.

Anyway, after 3 hours in the phone store, i had my new phone?  Why 3 hours?  Well, that’s a longer story but basically, my wife and I were getting upgrades for her and the kids’ phones.  Also we made some adjustments to our minutes that I’ll probably touch on in a later blog post.

I’m not going to do a full review or anything yet, I’m sure I’ll get to that eventually.  I’m satisfied with it a lot at the moment.  We’ll leave it at that.

Zero day App Installs:

Angry Birds – i know nothing of this game other than it’s name, I figured I should see what the hype is all about.

Final Fantasy VII Soundboard – There didn’t seem to be a real Final Fantasy game available but I did find this nifty musical soundboard.

Foursquare – Because I really should get around to annoying my friends online with pointless “check ins” constantly.

Google Goggles – Take a picture, do a search, I tested it with a book cover with good results, I’ll try it out more and give more thoughts later. – i think i can play music off of this but mostly I want it to Scrobble what I am playing.  I’ll have to get back on how that works out.

NoAgenda App – I was hoping I could get the shows with this but it doesn’t seem to do that.  Mostly it’s just a sound board (In the Morning!).

Nook – So i can read my nookbooks when my Nook it’s available/convenient.

Pandora – Because I like music.

Portal Soundboard – The Cake is a LIE!

Posterous – So i can get my mobile photo blog back in gear.  Also my FoodBlog.

Remember the Milk – So I don’t forget…  something….. I can’t remember now….

Skype – because it seems useful but i never use it.

SSH Droid – Because SSH is for Nerdy Linux hacking and whatnot.

Team Fortress 2 Soundboards for all 9 Classes – Because ENTIRE TEAM IS BABIES!

TWiT.TV – So I can get all my shows in one place.

Google Voice – voice transcribed voice mails sent to my emailbox are better than regular voicemails.

Wardrive – I plan to map out all of the wifi hotspots I come across.

Yelp! – I like this service and figured this will make using it easier.