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Daniel Irvine on building software

Verdict: Nokia Lumia 620, the tiny phone running Windows Phone 8

11 August 2013

I’ve been using the Nokia Lumia 620 as my primary phone for the past four months and I’m ready to deliver my verdict. It’s not good.

Let’s start with the short version: the Lumia 620 is hindered by a serious lack of memory. The phone’s 512 MB of internal RAM--395 MB of which is available to applications--is nowhere near enough for Windows Phone 8. This one fact cripples the phone and makes for a lousy user experience.

Got a Lumia 620? You'll be seeing this frequently.

Microsoft’s app memory limits show that each running application is reserved 150 MB of memory. If each app uses its full allocation, that means you can have a sum total of  two running applications before apps start swapping in and out of memory.

The end result is that:

  • switching between apps is very slow since the apps are effectively shutdown each time
  • switching back to an app often causes it to forgot what you were doing since it hasn’t properly handled the shutdown/start-up procedure
  • some applications, like UC Browser (see below), will occasionally max out their memory causing a reclaim operation
  • overall, performing any sequence of multi-tasking actions will take you longer than on Android or iOS.
Windows Phone 8

On the surface, Windows Phone 8’s simplicity and elegance is refreshingly attractive after being subjected to the complexity of Android or iOS. There are some key problems though:

  • The built-in Internet Explorer sucks for some things, like loading popups and managing page caching. For example, if a popup loads in a website, you must click back to close the popup. But by this time the initial webpage will have invalidated, requiring you to refresh the page. You will need a third-party browser like UC Browser, which does a slightly better job.
  • Microsoft and Nokia generally make good quality apps which hold up well. Third-party developers do a worse job and their apps are a constant cause of user rage.
  • Nokia Music is particularly annoying to use on the Lumia 620: it’s just too slow when switching between panes.
My advice for Nokia and Microsoft
  1. Put another 512 MB of RAM into the Lumia 620 and re-release it. That might make it usable.
  2. Make the application life-cycle model easier for developers to get right. If my app has been deactivated and then reactivated it should remember exactly where I left off. This is the number one annoyance with apps. Developer’s shouldn’t have to worry about doing this--Windows Phone should do it for them.
  3. Build more diagnostic apps for users. It’d be great to see how RAM (not storage) has been allocated, and it’d be even better to let me cap the amount of memory particular apps can use. 

About the author

Daniel Irvine is a software craftsman at 8th Light, based in London. These days he prefers to code in Clojure and Ruby, despite having been a C++ and C# developer for the majority of his career.

For a longer bio please see danielirvine.com. To contact Daniel, send a tweet to @d_ir or use the comments section below.

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