Sometimes it Just Takes a Reset to Clean up Your Phone

wp_ss_20161101_0007I’m not sure what it is about mobile operating systems, they just don’t always clean up after themselves and seem to be awful about eating up their limited space sometimes.  I can only assume that there is some sort of glitch and a large batch of updates or temporary files don’t get deleted properly.  In Windows or Linux on “real” computer, It’s the sort of thing that I’d easily track down and delete on my own.  Mobile operating systems tend to be locked down way more preventing users from poking around in the system files, or anywhere beyond the basic documents folders really.

A while ago, my wife kept having issues with her Kindle Fire tablet filling up with space.  Even after cleaning off Photos and Videos, which she had quite a few of, there still was never quite enough space.  It’s only 8gig to start with, which isn’t much, so choices for apps and such have to be carefully weighed.  Eventually in frustration I did a factory reset and voila, problem solved.  The “System” block went from close to 6 gig down to somewhere around 3-4 gig, considerably more manageable to be sure.

I had a similar experience on my Windows Phone recently as well.  It kept filling up despite my effort to prune more and more apps.  Eventually it stopped taking screen shots and it had tons of weird freeze ups.  Once again, in desperation, I did a reset.  Now it’s floating around 5 gig of space used (of 8 gig) and I’ve reloaded most of the apps I had previously needed to prune.

It also runs much more smoothly.

This isn’t a process to be taken lightly however.  In my case, I keep most of my data backed up through One Drive or Amazon to my NAS, and Apps can easily be redownloaded (often automatically).  Probably the biggest hurdle I had with my phone was dealing with my 2 Factor Authentication App.  It doesn’t back up or sync since that would be a security issue, and I have a ton of services running through it.  In many cases I simply changed the 2 Factor Auth to run through SMS instead of the App, in others it was easiest just to temporarily disable it.

This all needed to be done before hand.  Many services won’t let you easily disable or change your 2 factor settings without the current codes, for good reason.  If you wipe out your authenticator, you’ll have no way to get those codes.  I had to deal with this first hand after the SD card I was using crapped out on me, taking my authenticator with it.  In at least one case I had to call into support and talk to a person to recover my account.

My suggestion, from doing this some in the past with other devices, start making a list of Apps you want to reinstall.  Then remove them.  This lets you actively track if there is anything like an Authenticator that may need to be dealt with.  After you can’t uninstall anymore apps, start checking whats left, photo galleries, Email, SMS, Call logs, checking for loose ends as you go.

It can be a pain but doing a factory refresh on an ailing space strained device can really help out to clear the cruft that seems to build up around the edges.

Goodbye Lumia 520, Hello Lumia 635

nokia_lumia_635_blanco_libreI’ve been in Phone Hell the last week or so.  It all started with Blizzcon.  At kind of the last minute, I decided to get the virtual ticket for Blizzcon.  Unfortunately, there is no support fro the live streams on Windows phone, so I swapped my SIM card into my old Galaxy S3, problem solved (solved-ish, Blizz still had capacity issues).  Later I swapped my SIM card back since my S3 has audio issues on phone calls.  This was when my problems started…

For no explainable reason, my Lumia 520 stopped keeping powered.  It could be fully charged or even on the charger, laying on my desk and it would just randomly power off.  It happened constantly making the phone unreliable and unusable.  When this happened it also wouldn’t easily turn back on, I often had to open the phone and remove the battery.  Other times, simply pressing power would fix it.  i ordered a fresh battery which solved nothing.  I did a factory reset which fixed nothing.  Eventually I did a check and the phone is still under warranty, so off to Microsoft it went.

This left me stranded on my GS3, which isn’t a bad phone and I do like Android, except it’s damaged and the audio doesn’t work for calls.  This means I have to try to get my wife (whom 99% of my calls are to/from) to call my work phone, which is “ok” to do but possibly frowned upon if done too much.  Also getting her to remember this and juggle two phone numbers for me (for texting vs calling) is kind of a nightmare.

On Black Friday, I found that the Lumia 635, which is the spiritual successor tot he 520 was on sale for $40.  I went ahead and bit the bullet and just ordered one.  I don’t know if they will even actually fix my 520 yet an this GS3 is simply not usable.

Honestly just needing a new phone wasn’t my only reason for ordering the 635, it really wasn’t even a huge factor.  The 635 has a slightly better processor, possibly a mildly better camera (the 520 has an AWFUL camera), and it has the new “sensor core” technology which gives more functionality to some apps.  It was kind of a no brainer upgrade really.  Migrating to it was also an extremely painless experience.

Initial Set Up

After receiving the phone, I have been pretty impressed with moving to it from my old phone.  The initial couple of screens are some “Welcome to Windows Phone” screens, but after putting in  my Microsoft account, the phone automatically downloaded all my data and settings including setting up and downloading all my apps.  It even synced my old Alarm settings, which seems trivial but it’s still pretty impressive.

The biggest hassle, aside from waiting for the downloads, was rearranging the home screen.  I spent a lot of time fiddling with my 520 home screen getting it just right, and now it seems I may have to do it again.

This was hindered a bit by needing some system updates.  Oddly, out of the box, the phone was “up to date”.  I knew this wasn’t the case because the newer versions of Windows Phone 8.1 add support for folders on the home screen, which wasn’t active on this phone.  I had to re-enable the “Preview for Developers” app which tells Microsoft you are a WP dev and want/need the latest updates.  In reality, it’s just a secret backdoor end around designed by Microsoft to get around the slow carrier updates.  Technically I’ve made a simple app with the Touch Developer App, so I’m kind of sort of not really a “WP Developer”.  Several system updates later, my folder functionality was restored and the home screen was in an acceptable state.

The Phone Itself

The Phone itself is pretty decent.  It’s a bit larger and has a different feel from the 520, but it still feels pretty solid.  I imagine part of this is that it’s definitely heavier than the 520.  The back feels possibly a bit cheaper, it’s definitely more plastickey than the 520.  Not necessarily cheap, just not quite as nice.  The back also fits on a lot more solidly than the 520, which seems like a good thing, but my (probably mistaken) belief has been that the looser back on the 520 actually protects the phone from drop damage since the back flies off if dropped dissipating the falling energy.

WP_20141202_07_55_33_ProA few quick tests shots with the camera siggest it’s definitely better than the 520 camera.  If/when I get my 520 back I may do some side by sides, for now I just have one sample from the 635.  Still no flash, still no front facing camera.  I don’t really need either since I find the flash tends to wash everything out and make too many hard shadows, especially with a phone camera, and I don’t really do selfies or video calls so no need for a front camera.  Oddly, there is an app pre loaded called Limia Selfie, not so useful without a front facing camera.

There also isn’t a hardware camera button, which I know is a big complaint but it seems to be policy going forward on Windows Phones.  I honestly never really used the hardware button on my 520, so I don’t really care that it’s gone.  I can see where it was convenient though.

Wrap Up

I don’t have much else to say about the phone just yet.  I have not used it too much, though it seems to be about the same as the 520 experience.  I am having some configuration issues with getting my email working but I also haven’t really looked into that much yet.  I also can’t find the Pinterest App at all, which I know I had on my 520, but seems non existent in the store and my app history.

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.