When moving to a new Windows Phone handset, you have a number of unique configuration tasks to perform including installing and uninstalling apps, configuring accounts, and syncing content like photos, music, and podcasts. You should also understand what’s not going to make the trip to the new phone.
Yesterday, I bought a Nokia Lumia 900, replacing my previous Windows Phone handset, the Samsung Focus S. The phone itself is beautiful, and while it would be all-too-easy to spend some time simply discussing its admirable form factor, I’ll put that off until tomorrow so I can focus first on a more pragmatic endeavor: Setting up this phone the way I want it and copying over as much of the data from the previous phone as is possible or desirable.
Sadly, Windows Phone doesn’t offer a complete solution for this, akin to Apple’s iCloud, though my understanding is that such a thing is coming with Windows Phone 8. For now, we must undergo a process that involves some automatic and many manual steps. And certain things simply aren’t possible yet, including moving over text messages.
As I noted in Day 1 of this series, AT&T had me sign-in with my Microsoft account (nee Windows Live ID ) before I even purchased the phone. This accomplishes a number of things, including setting up the Mail, People, Calendar, Messaging, and Office apps to work with my Microsoft account, and configuring Music and Games with my Zune ID and Xbox LIVE Gamertag, respectively. This account is also configured for the Marketplace, where you purchase apps and games for Windows Phone, as well as buy and stream (with Zune Pass) music and download podcasts. It even automatically connects to your Twitter account (assuming you did this previously), so you can tweet or share a photo on Twitter immediately, no configuration required.
That’s a ton of functionality with just a single sign-in, as it has been since the first Windows Phone handsets shipped almost two years ago. So I was able to walk out of the AT&T store with not just a usable phone, but one that contained most of my contacts, with phone numbers, and my email and schedule.
The rest would require a bit of work.
Start screen and pre-installed apps
Because I do use a few different phones, I like to make sure they are configured the same way, with the same Start screen layout and the same set of apps. But this strategy can make sense if you’re moving from one Windows Phone to another, too. And a good place to start is to layout the Start screen tiles as in the same way as your previous phone, adding and removing tiles as you go.
Default Lumia 900 Start screen, ready for cleanup
For the Lumia 900, there are a few tiles I’ll never access—AT&T U-Verse Mobile, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Radio, and Vimeo—so those get deleted quickly, and the underlying apps get uninstalled. There are two that are new to the Lumia and potentially interesting—ESPN and App Highlights—so I’ll leave those around and see whether they earn a permanent spot on the Start screen. (Unlikely on both counts.)
Then, I spent a few minutes scanning the All Apps list, uninstalling the preinstalled apps I’ll never use. There were several of these, but it’s a quick process.
Next up, I like to set up the remaining accounts I need. In my case, this is my work email, based on Exchange Server (and thus utilizing the Outlook account type) and Facebook. Both simply require your user name and password, a bit of sync time, and then they’re good to go.
The work email gets combined with Hotmail in a linked inbox, and I use its contacts and scheduling information in People and Calendar, respectively. Facebook provides contacts information for People but also the built-in sharing feature, for pictures via the Pictures hub and Camera app, and for status updates from the Me app.
Next up, I went to reinstall the apps I use most frequently. There are a number of approaches here, including:
Manual. Looking at the old and new phone side-by-side, I can see which apps are missing from the new one, search for them in Marketplace, and install one-by-one.
Web. If you visit the Windows Phone web site and then the My Windows Phone page, and then Account, you will see a list of the purchased (really, purchased and downloaded) apps that are associated with your account. You can select the new phone on the left and then click a Reinstall link next to each app to push that app to the new phone.
The Windows Phone web site offers an app reinstall service
Reinstaller. You can also use an app called Reinstaller, which you install on the new phone, to somewhat ponderously pick the apps you want to reinstall and then step through each install. It’s not as automatic as you might like, but it’s an alternative.
The Reinstaller app
I installed some apps using each method to try and get a feel for which made the most sense. Frankly, none are great. Reinstaller would be perfect if there was a way for it to silently install all the apps you pick in the background, but it doesn’t do that, so it’s not much faster than the web install process. But you can do it from the phone, which may be preferable.
You may be curious which apps I installed immediately. Understand that this is a partial list because, as with a PC, I tend to start with just those apps I use all the time. But I did install the following apps right up front: Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Kindle, AP Mobile, NYTimes, Paul Thurrott, Screen Capturer (homebrew; requires a developer unlocked device), USA Today, and wpFandora (Pandora app).
Note that some of these apps--Facebook, Twitter, Kindle, NYTimes, wpFandora—require, or at least work better with, an account configured, so I did all the signing in as well before proceeding.
I don’t play many mobile games, but I do keep a few on the phone, mostly so my kids have something to do if they’re bored in a restaurant or whatever. But if game playing is your thing, I’d include the game reinstalls as part of this process, of course.
With my accounts and apps set up, it was time to turn to the other content I use on the phone. This includes:
Photos. I usually sync a default set of favorite photos to all of my mobile devices. With Windows Phone, this requires using the Zune PC software. If you have photos on your older phone and wish to copy them to the new one, simply copy them to the PC with the Zune software and then back to the new phone again.
Music. I have Zune Pass, so I can manually download songs from the Zune Marketplace, which is tedious. But anyone can sync music from their PC to the device using the Zune PC software, and I have a few playlists I like to have handy.
Podcasts. In the US, we can sync podcasts to Windows Phone over the air and via the Zune PC software. Because the former is automatic, I try to use that for the podcasts I listen to most frequently. But not all podcasts are available over the air, and if you find one that’s not available, you can still sync it manually from the Zune PC software using an RSS feed.
Office docs. Because I do a lot through SkyDrive now, my OneNote notes and SkyDrive-based Office documents are all available, over the air, through the Office hub. So there’s nothing to do here, it just works.
IE Favorites. Windows Phone doesn’t offer a way to sync favorites between devices, which is too bad, and could be a problem for those with lots of favorites. I don’t personally have many: ESPN, Google News/Technology, and a few others. So I just recreate those manually and delete most of the favorites that Nokia and Microsoft preconfigured.
What you lose
Of course, some data simply won’t carry across.
Text messages. There’s no method I’m aware of that will migrate text messages, so that’s gone.
Phone/People. Your Phone history and People recent lists are not copied over.
App settings/saved games. Unless an app saves settings to the cloud somehow, you won’t get any customized app settings back by reinstall on a new phone. This is a problem for a number of reasons, but especially for games: Game progress, high scores, and so on are not carried over.
But wait, there’s more...
There are actually some more configuration options I’ve made on the Lumia 900, as well as unique Nokia apps and services, but they’re device specific, so I’ll explain those in future articles.
Next up, a look at the hardware: This is the prettiest Windows Phone I’ve ever seen, and one of the highest quality and capable smart phones on the planet. Don’t let the haters tell you differently.