Windows Phone 8: a great platform that is fast, slick and responsive.
Most of the time.
Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Windows Phone, but I’m not a dogmatic follower of the Microsoft way. Windows Phone 8 is an improvement over Windows Phone 7, but while I enjoy its responsiveness, the ease with which I can perform particular tasks quickly and the way the OS syncs with SkyDrive (not to mention the quality of the camera on my Nokia Lumia 920), I’m more than aware that this is a platform with a few notable bugs.
I’ve already looked at improving battery life on Windows Phone 8, but it turns out that there are a few Windows Phone apps that can exacerbate the problem. Meanwhile I’ve experienced screen freezing and auto-brightness issues on several occasions – events that interestingly appear to be linked.
Apps that Drain Your Battery
It’s no fun having to charge your battery all the time. I’ve been in meetings with my phone switched off and found that I had to start charging it afterwards (typically using a car charger) but it seems that the fast battery drain that can occur on Windows Phone 8 isn’t just about leaving all of the connection options activated (although disabling Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, mobile Internet and NFC are all good options).
Although at present it isn’t clear why this works, uninstalling and reinstalling particular apps can help. Nokia Drive Beta has been mentioned among the culprits, along with Facebook and Skype. The best thing you can do here is reinstall the apps (be sure to back up your settings), and when you’re not using them press the Back button to exit rather than hitting Start and launching another app.
You can also prevent apps from running in the background in Windows Phone 8. Head to Settings > Applications > Background tasks to begin blocking apps you wish to prevent from running in the background.
Screen Freezing? Time to Reset
The exact causes of frozen Windows Phone screens aren’t known, but fixing is simple. You just need to reset your phone when the display becomes unresponsive. Do this by holding the volume down and power buttons simultaneously for ten seconds.
When your phone reboots, you may find that you need to reset the time if you haven’t been using the automatic option. Do this by opening Settings > Date + time. You can also enable Set automatically here.
It’s always worth checking for updates, so if your screen freezes use the Settings > Phone update option to check for updates that might help to stop your phone freezing again in future. You might also check the Windows Phone Store for any app updates that might be pending – publishers of apps that have been found to cause issues might have released updates to prevent further problems.
As alluded to earlier, I’ve experienced the screen freeze and auto-brightness bugs at the same time, suggesting that the two issues might be related in some way.
Windows Phone 8 devices all have a light sensor that is used to detect the brightness of your environment and alter the screen brightness accordingly. When this fails to work, you can run into all sorts of problems, such as the screen shutting off in the middle of a call (frustrating if you need to key menu options in), or the device freezing.
The best solution here is probably to disable auto-brightness in the Settings menu, instead setting a manual alternative that suits your current light source. Finding out that the screen freezing and auto-brightness bugs might be related was an interesting realisation, and something that might hopefully be resolved by Microsoft themselves.
Windows Phone 8 devices have been randomly rebooting since release, and the Portico update first released in North America in December 2012 has largely resolved these problems. Even after the update was installed, however, some users reported issues.
If your phone has a removable battery, you might try removing and replacing following a random reboot of your Windows Phone, but if this doesn’t work or isn’t possible then a factory reset is probably your best option. Note that this will mean the loss of your personal data, apps and settings, so you will need to take steps to back them up.
You can do this via Settings > About > Reset your phone, tapping Yes to confirm.
Conclusion: Windows Phone 8: Imperfect with Easy Fixes
As I have only experienced two cases of random reboots in the six months I’ve been using Windows Phone 8, I was surprised to learn that this was a widespread issue. However it seems that these bugs can be attributed to apps misbehaving, rather than a general underlying issue with the operating system.
There is, it seems, a pattern of similar problems across all mobile platforms. Although it is fortunate that factory resets and uninstalling apps can resolve these issues, let’s hope that in future this is a situation that is overcome with better platform, hardware and app design.
In the meantime, you should have everything you need right here to deal with the vast majority of Windows Phone 8 issues.