Spring may have sprung two weeks ago, but believe us, it's still winter somewhere. (Ed note: I'm typing this from underneath an NVIDIA Snuggie -- Dana.) In fact, Darren's had a reason to test out some touchscreen-friendly gloves, even in his southerly state of North Carolina. Up north, our own Jon Fingas has been playing with the Lumia 620 on Canada's Telus network. No complaints from him about the 40-degree temps, though.
Moshi Digits Touch Screen Gloves
It may be warming up across much of America, but if you look hard enough, there's always a place where Old Man Winter is blowing. Be it Yellowknife or Siberia (or New York during far too many months of the year), there has long since been a need for gloves that serve two purposes: keeping one's hands warm and enabling the use of a modern smartphone. Indeed, quite a few outfits have stepped up to introduce gloves that enable the operation of a capacitive touchscreen, and I was recently able to take Moshi's Digits for a spin at our own Expand event in San Francisco.
These definitely aren't the first capacitive gloves I've worn. Most of 'em, however, are depressingly thin. As in, they're more like autumn gloves than winter gloves -- and really, what's the point of having a pair of gloves that requires another set atop of them in order to keep the feeling in your fingers? Moshi's alternatives are shockingly thick, and yes, they actually kept my hands warm in low-40s conditions with plenty of wind to go around. Better still, they're lined with a grip strip that helps you maintain control of your device (and gives you a heads-up as to which side is up).
Using a phone with these takes about 10 seconds of learning. You'll notice that you generally have to apply slightly more pressure than you're used to, and you have to put a little more thought into your aim when pressing smaller icons in the corners. That said, these things just work. Pinching and zooming was flawless, sliding to unlock was a breeze and pecking away an iMessage came easily. And my hands were warm. The gloves themselves are well worth the $30 asking price, and for those asking -- yes, this now means I'm moving to Canada, where the cold can no longer prevent me from properly Instagramming gorgeous views of Lake Louise.
-- Darren Murph
Nokia Lumia 620 on Telus
Can you really develop a strong bond with an entry-level smartphone? I'd say so, after spending a few weeks with Nokia's Lumia 620. It's not that the phone does anything exceptionally well: it's that it's so fundamentally well-balanced.
What Mat said in our review is true. The 620 is a pleasure to hold -- small and smooth, but grippy. Windows Phone also takes care of most of the interface slowdowns that often crop up with typical low-end phones. The battery life and display quality are more than good enough to get me through the day. And yes, even the cameras are up to the job. I've snapped a few macro photos that I didn't think I could get from a phone that costs $250 off-contract. The phone is also very individualistic: my test unit only had the sober black shell, but Telus supplies a white back in the retail box, and the more exotic colors (neon green, anyone?) really add character.
I'm not so upbeat that I would shun the Lumia 920 for its lower-end cousin, mind you. I've run into performance limits more than I'd like. The browser takes a bit too long to render pages, apps take longer than usual to resume and the 21 Mbps HSPA+ data is noticeably slower than LTE, at least on Telus' network. As a Canadian, I also notice the absence of the 920's hypersensitive touchscreen: spring might be on its way, but it's still chilly enough that I'd prefer to use my smartphone with my gloves on. If you absolutely have to buy a phone on contract, the Lumia 620 currently has a lot of similarly priced competition at Telus that trumps it in performance and screen size, including the ATIV S, Galaxy S III, One X and Optimus G.
However, I can't stress enough how much of a bargain the Lumia 620 is off contract. Never mind the usual gripes about missing apps or poor compatibility with Google's ecosystem -- the Lumia is cheap and cheerful enough that I honestly stopped worrying about those other factors early into my usage. Consider it the true replacement for a basic feature phone, ticking all the smartphone checkboxes without having to either spend a lot up front or else shackle yourself to one carrier. About the only better pound-for-pound value I've seen is the Nexus 4, and that says a lot about what Nokia has accomplished with its starter smartphone.
-- Jon Fingas