A Weekend With Lumia Denim

Undoubtedly most of you know by now that Lumia Denim, the next firmware version behind Windows Phone, is rolling out worldwide.  The update, which is actually a firmware (the Denim part) and software (the Windows Phone 8.1 part), is essentially only available in Europe at the moment but you can expect that it will hit the US shores in the new year.  If you are curious as to what is coming in Lumia Denim with Windows Phone 8.1 then check out my Guide to Lumia Denim.

How then, you may ask, did I get Lumia Denim on my Windows Phone?  Those of you who know me or follow me on Twitter know that last month I moved back the United States from England.  I was in the UK for two years during which time I acquired the Lumia 1320.  That phone is the country variant version of the 1320 for the UK which, you guessed it, is one of the phones that now has Lumia Denim available.  Now when you will see Lumia Denim on your phone is anyone’s guess but unless you live in Europe and have one of these country variant phones, the chances are likely it will be 2015 before you see any updates.

But I digress.

I’ve spent the weekend with Lumia Denim on my 1320 and overall it has certainly been a worthwhile upgrade.  That said, it isn’t perfect and I have run into a few issues but not enough to make me want to revert back to Lumia Cyan. Let’s first talk about the speed.  The single biggest change I’ve noticed on my 1320 with Lumia Denim

My Phone Results on Lumia Denim
My Phone Results on Lumia Denim
My Phone Results for the Lumia 1320
My Phone Results on Lumia Cyan

running on it has been the speed improvements.  Application opening times and resumes are much improved, app switching is improved and general responsiveness is much improved.  As I put in my Lumia 1320 review, this phone isn’t a slouch when it comes to speed and it was already pretty snappy.  It seems in this update however that Microsoft has really focused on improving performance and hit the mark.

Like I did in the review, I used the My Phone app to do a bit of benchmarking of my 1320 under Lumia Cyan and Lumia Denim. The screen captures to the right are from those test.  The first one, with the white background, is from back in August on my original review of the 1320 while the one with the black background is from this weekend after upgrading to Lumia Denim.  Technically, if you look at these, the Lumia Denim numbers are slightly lower than Cyan.  However, it is clear in using this upgrade that Microsoft has improved the performance, particularly on resuming and switching applications.  To be fair, the My Phone app may simply need to be updated to fully appreciate the changes in Denim.  I’ll keep a watch out and if there is an update I’ll update this post.

Live Folders in Lumia Denim
Live Folders in Lumia Denim

 

While technically not a part of Lumia Denim but rather the update to Windows Phone 8.1, the new Live Folders on the Start screen are awesome.  I played with the folders a bit on my 1320 when I had the Preview for Developers app on it and they worked okay but were a bit sluggish.  Under this update they are snappy and perform flawlessly.  Coming from iOS, the ability to have folders on the Start screen is a big deal and Microsoft certainly did this right in my opinion.

Again, while technically not part of Lumia Denim, Cortana is now much more widely available globally with this update with Windows Phone 8.1.  Cortana also has dramatically improved from the beta builds in the Preview for Developers.

Cortana for Windows Phone
Cortana for Windows Phone

Results are much faster returning and the Shazam-like music discovery works very well.  I tested it while driving (no, I was not driving at the time) in a noisy car and it was able to listen and bring up the results in the Music app without me having to turn the radio volume up.

Now let’s talk about the one negative that I have experienced since upgrading to Lumia Denim.  That has been lock ups of my 1320.  Not often – only twice actually – but more than I ever had with Lumia Cyan.

When I say lock ups I mean proper lock ups.  The phone was completely unresponsive to any interaction and I ended up having to do the Volume Up + Power button for 10 seconds to reset the phone.  Once I performed this type of soft reset, all was fine.  The first one occurred on Friday about 3 hours after I had upgraded and I chalked that one up to the restore I was done from OneDrive and other updates on the phone.  The second one however, which happened Sunday, was completely unexpected.  I powered the display up and swiped up to enter my PIN and it was completely unresponsive.  The screen was on my Lock Screen but I could not get any buttons or the touchscreen to work at all until I did a reset.

That 2nd reset happened at about 11:30 AM Sunday morning and as I write this article at 8:30 PM on Sunday night, I’ve not had any issues with my 1320 since the reset.  I will of course continue to monitor it along with things on Twitter and Microsoft Communities to see if others are seeing this problem.  So far it seems to be isolated.

Obviously 48 hours with a new firmware and software update is not enough time to completely vet it for good things or bad things.  However it does give you a taste and so far I’m quite pleased with Lumia Denim.  The real test of course will be when others start to see it being made available on their devices, particularly those in the USA, to see if the same positives I’m seeing are mutually seen.

I will be adding additional posts around Lumia Denim as new improvements or issues are discovered.