Its about time!!!!!!
In the Windows Phone community, the Lync application stands out as an app that generates a lot of excitement and attention. In this case, the community has been waiting since WP8 for an app that would take advantage of the new capabilities of both Windows Phone as well as Office 2013. While perusing my Nokia Lumia and specifically the WPCentral app which is critical to my daily management of my windows phone, I came across the article that the Lync 2013 client for WP8 was available. Being the geek I am, I immediately jumped on it and installed and configured the app and made sure I could log in before unceremoniously uninstalling the Lync 2010 app. Make no mistake, I could not live without the Lync 2010 client. I regularly use it to join conference calls and I receive incredulous looks when I have folks at the AT&T store look at my cellphone bill. They always want to understand how it could be that I only use 200 minutes a month and carry a Lumia 920 smartphone. The answer is always the same, the Lync client. Understandably, I have pretty high expectations of the app. This article is my experience since yesterday morning with the application. I have used it for customer conference calls and schedule calls as well as video calls. Others such as Justin Morris have already done a first look as well. He does a nice job so check his write up out as well.
The Lync team delivers
The app sets up easy enough whether you are using Lync on-premises or Lync Online. I am using Lync online right now and have not been migrated to the new Office 365 Wave 15 experience. Since I am using Lync 2013 on my PC against Lync Online now, I had no reason to believe that the Windows Phone app would work any less. I was not disappointed.
Initially you are greeted with the Lync app welcome screen. Upon agreeing that you are part of an organization that has Lync for mobile devices set up, you will get the sign in screen. As I mentioned before, this app will work against Lync 2010 on premises or Lync online. My organization uses Lync online, so I put in my credentials
Now, under more details, you get into some of the additional nuances that your individual configuration of Lync may require.
With my lync online configuration, I only needed to put in my user name and I selected my sign in status to be Online (of course). You may need the additional information if you are going to put your discovery information in place. Autodiscover should work, however, for a good majority of folks and everyone using Lync Online.
Once signed in, you are prompted for some final configurations that need to be made if you happen to have an account that is enabled for VoIP. In our case, we are using JaJah with Lync Online and so my Lync account is voice enabled and I am prompted to select the necessary configuration that I would prefer. These settings control whether you are going to allow VoIP over your data connection and/or Wi-Fi. I for one prefer Wi-Fi only for this, if I don’t have Wi-Fi, Lync can go ahead and call me back. I don’t incur any additional charges (all incoming calls are free) and we are on an unlimited VoIP plan so its all good AND it keeps my minutes down . I also recommend continuing to have video over Wi-fi. I know some folks try to do facetime and things like that over 4G and while my data connection would support it, I would rather change the setting for a one time exception.
The last screen shot here is to put in the country code and phone number for your mobile device so, if necessary, Lync can call you from a conference bridge. This is the feature that I can’t live without. It is what has kept my cell phone costs down for the last several years and really shows the cost savings of Lync.
Once your number is in place, the final setting is to set up the push notifications (if you want to use them).
Now lets get into how it plays….
The Lync 2013 application interface is consistent with the Lync 2010 version. That is to say, the look and feel is very similar. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been some significant enhancements.
Initially, we are looking at the contacts list, that is not particularly remarkable. Again, its true to the previous implementation in the Lync 2010 App.
Where things get interesting is when you look at the ‘My Info’ screen. You get the note at the top and your presence info. A nice enhancement is that you see your current call forwarding setting right on this screen. Making a change to that call forwarding setting is as simple as tapping the call forwarding setting and it brings you the call forwarding screen.
From here, I can make the change to go from no call forwarding to Simultaneous Ring (which is my particular favorite). You can select what number to simultaneously ring and change the application of those rules (as in, do you want it ALL the time or only during working hours). I for one ALWAYS set mine to Only During Working Hours.
The other critical enhancement to the main screen is the addition of the meetings view. This view shows you all of the upcoming Lync meetings that you have and gives you the ability to launch the meeting from the Lync client. It’s a nice addition that I would personally like to see added to the Lync 2013 client as well.
Another nice addition here is that if you don’t see a meeting you know was recently added to your calendar, you can manually refresh by tapping the ‘…’ and bringing up the actions menu.
What’s the call experience like?
Now that we’ve gone through the niceties of the interface, lets get to the meat of it. How is audio and video quality? Well, I can tell you that in my limited experience, VoIP quality is outstanding over Wi-Fi. When you click ‘Join a Meeting’ you get the familiar screen of joining a meeting and then are brought into the meeting.
You get a lot of options once you are in the call. In the upper left, you see the ubiquitous notification of how good your network connection is displayed. You also see the number of participants that are participating in the conference call. If the person speaking has a picture in the system, then you will see that picture, otherwise, you will at least see their name. As you can see, my microphone is currently muted, you can control the mute functions right here, although, I typically have a Plantronics Voyager Legend in my ear and I prefer the handy mute button on the Legend. You have the ability to put the call on hold and change the audio device you are connected to.
You can change to the phone’s speaker or you can switch to Bluetooth on the fly. Its nice and easy although that wouldn’t be the case if you were trying to drive, so make sure you get this setup before you start driving. At the bottom are the controls for sending IMs or turning on Video. If you are in an IM conference, you can click the Phone icon to start an audio call.
Call a spade, a spade. The 2 items that Microsoft took the most heat for with OCS and Lync were not having VoIP for mobile devices and Video for mobile devices. Video is available on the Lync client for Surface and it works quite well. Now, I just want to be able to unlock the potential of my Lumia 920. Well, the Lync 2013 app brings it and does so very well. Video quality is good. Its as good as I would expect on a mobile phone. I’ve used Facetime and Skype. I’ve used Skype on a PC, Surface, iPad, iPhone and my Lumia and the Lync video quality was definitely comparable.
In the bottom right is your thumbnail video. If you want to switch to the back camera, you tap on the image (just like every other video calling app).
The Lync 2013 app has made major improvements on the notifications front. In the past, you would get a push type notification that would just show up at the top of the phone screen and then time out and go away. If you were able to catch the message, then that’s fine. However, if you were driving or busy and didn’t see the message, you were out of luck. With the new app, Microsoft has made some changes to the way they display error messages.
As seen here, error messages are displayed in a highlighted yellow. They sit and have you swipe when you want to dismiss them. I like that feature a lot because I’m a big ‘fire and forget’ when it comes to setting up applications or joining meetings. I hit the button and just expect magic to happen and when it doesn’t, I’m left standing there going, ‘whaaaat??’. This is a nice addition to the app. Finally, the Live Tile provides the display of any missed contact that you might have from the Lync app.
It’s a little more pronounced then the previous version of the app. I like the larger notification, although I will admit that I generally don’t pay too much attention to it myself because if I’m driving, I don’t care who is IM’ing me so much. I will check when I stop though, so I do like seeing the number of missed contacts. I also like that I can check my voicemails from O365 on here and the Lync App will display notifications on the lock screen.
The reality is that this is a LONG awaited application with very long awaited features. Specifically, the meetings display, the VoIP and video functions have been long overdue, but Microsoft wanted to make sure they delivered this functionality well. With more 4G phones and better access to wi-fi, now is a good time and Lync 2013 does a good job of surfacing those features. I encourage Windows Phone users out there, take advantage and leverage the platform. You can help save on your monthly phone charges and get a nice experience as well.
The Lync 2013 App for windows phone can be found here.