tuned out

Dead though the platform may be, I still like Windows phones. (This is probably the same impulse that led me to buy an Amiga 1200, long after it was obvious the company wasn’t coming back.)

And because I like Windows phones, I did a modest upgrade this weekend, from my ancient-in-phone-years Lumia 822 to the Lumia 735, the Microsoft-branded version of the 735 which debuted on Verizon, my carrier, last year. The 735 is bigger, has a much better screen, is somewhat faster. Given how long I keep my cell phones, this one will see me until either a.) there’s a major upgrade in the WinPhone platform or b.) the platform dies. I’m not taking bets.

Anyway, the experience out of the box was uniformly positive, with one weird exception that is almost a deal-breaker. First, the good news: it took me under a hour to kill all the apps I didn’t want, update what was left, then update the phone to the latest version of 8.1.

Better still, moving to Win 10 was easy, unlike some of my experiences with the 822. From download to reboot and upgrade of various pieces of software, maybe an hour, probably less. If you’re used to iPhone or Android upgrades that may seem like a long time, but believe me, for a WinPhone it’s the Indy 500.

And Win 10 mobile just works. Like a lot of WinPhone fans, I mourn the loss of some of the things that made Windows phones unique, but the big thing, the tile-based interface, is still there, as are live tiles, though they don’t get used enough.

Once I had a working Windows 10 phone, and all the built-in apps were updated (and I deleted Facebook and a few others again – die, dammit) I began downloading the handful of apps I use. One of the things that makes me an ideal Windows phone user is the fact that I just don’t need a lot of apps – in fact, I’m always looking for an excuse to delete what I have. And as it turns out, WinPhones have most of what I need – Kindle, Audible, Amazon shopping, NY Times, PocketCasts (a fine company, not least because its podcast app runs on iOS and Android and Windows phone), a few others.

And importantly, very importantly, the 735 supports FM radio. This is a huge deal for me, since I walk when the weather is nice, and if I’m not listening to a podcast or a book, I’m listening to radio. Having an actual, real honest-to-god radio inside my phone is enormously comforting to me. I wouldn’t have gotten the 735 without it.

But…there are times when I need radio by other means, and for years my go-to application has been TuneIn Radio. Of late, TuneIn has branched into streaming books, language lessons and major league sports, but the core has always been the radio stations you can listen to through the app. TuneIn isn’t perfect – sometimes streams refuse to play for no good reason – but it’s the best of its kind. I’ve kept a list of favorite stations – like WFMT in Chicago – in TuneIn for years.

And it’s cross platform, always has been. I’ve used TuneIn since WinPhones were on version 7.5, and I had an HTC Trophy. It’s one of my most called on apps, and it ran just fine on the 822, which is a four year old phone.

But it doesn’t run – excuse me, “isn’t compatible with” – the 735. This makes no sense. According to the Windows store, the 735 is missing some piece of hardware TuneIn needs in order to run well, which doesn’t seem likely, given that the phone is in all ways newer, faster, better than the 822. Granted, it’s a mid-line phone, but as far as I know, it’s not missing some common component that used to be in cell phones, but isn’t now. And TuneIn supposedly runs on other mid-level Windows phones.

My guess is this has something to do with Windows 10. TuneIn ran on the 822, but then it was on the phone when it running 8.1 and just came along for the ride when I upgraded to 10. Doesn’t make sense, but that’s all I can think of. In the meantime, I’m looking at other “radio” programs, all of which seem to promise a lot, but aren’t likely to be as good as what I’ve lost. Here’s hoping it’s temporary.

(Yes, I know Microsoft talks about universal apps and Windows 10 Mobile. I know the lingo. For the purpose of talking about Windows phones, I use WinPhone as shorthand for all of that.)



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