What I Want to See In Windows Phone 8.1 (Blue)
So I’ve been out of the game for a while now, mainly due to my busy uni schedule (excuses, excuses), but while I should be working on an essay, I figured I’d lay out a list of things I want to see in Microsoft’s next major iteration of Windows Phone. Update 3 was just released to developers (and while I barely qualify, I still got it), bringing a number of small but noteworthy features like 1080p support for larger phones, improved multitasking, and custom text/notification tones. This marks the final update that we’re to expect from Microsoft this year before unveiling the next major update to Windows Phone in early 2014. And while Update 3 is nice and all, I’m still hungry for more, and with all these rumours swirling it seems I’m not the only one! I’m definitely excited to see if Microsoft has really been listening good and hard to its customers. Here’s some improvements I’d like to see:
The main reason Windows Phone is so unique is its use of tiles. We all know ’em. We all love ’em. We’re even gonna get more in a row with the just-released Update 3 and upcoming phablets from Nokia! But there are some things that I think would make them even more functional:
- Actionable Tiles. So basically a widget in tile form. This makes sense to me because one of the original selling point that Microsoft tried to make was that people should be able to look down at their phone less. Getting notifications on tiles is one thing, but why not rid a step by making these tiles more function to the tiles themselves, so that we don’t have to open an app completely if we need to perform quick functions.
- Folders. Need I say more? Or at least give us the same sectioning that we see on Windows 8. It would make sense it the company wants to
Better Social networking integration
One of the things I liked when I jumped onto Windows Phone is that the OS just seemed very integrated. Facebook and twitter were pretty much baked into the OS, and it almost seemed like apps talked to other apps. But the more I used it, the more I began to realize that there are many Facebook features still missing from the functions that Windows Phone currently has. Here are some off the top of my head:
- Tagging people in statuses, or when checking in
- Can’t add a photo when checking in
- Photo sharing was always defaulted to Friends Only
- Notifications are limited; no group notifications, IMs tend to get lost or lag
Then there’s Twitter:
- Notifications limited to one mention, doesn’t include any other mentions besides the one who is tweeting directly to you
- No favorite function
And I’m sure people want Instagram integration built into the OS (though I couldn’t personally care less about that one)
Settings App revamp
Let’s be honest. The settings app is ugly and makes little sense to me. It’s like someone threw up on it and ran with it. And both Microsoft and Nokia aren’t making it any better by continuously adding settings into the mix (though welcome, they are). There just doesn’t seem to be a logical flow to it. At least in iOS, the settings are given in logical chunks: Connectivity, notifications, General/privacy, native functional apps, native media apps, social media apps, other apps. When I flick through my Lumia’s settings I nearly never know where to look for something. Here’s a few suggestions:
- Reorder everything in settings, and maybe include small headers for sections as you scroll.
- Let’s try removing all the layers and just make toggles/expanded/dropdown menus for the apps without having to open a different page. Nokia learned with Symbian that less is more, so take note.
- Better brightness control, instead of the 3 for low, medium, and high. Sometimes low isn’t low enough, and medium just isn’t where I’d like it to be.
- Volume control. ’nuff said.
We all want that notification center. We’ve all seen the leaks. But we still don’t really know what Microsoft is gonna make out of the final version. This is what I think:
- Drop down is the way to go. iOS and Android have it. Maemo5 had it. Sailfish has something like it. So it would make sense for Microsoft to play it safe and make something that users are already familiar with from the two bigger and more popular OSes. No need to get over creative. Just give us something functional, but still give us that Windows Phone flair that we know and love (aka keep it simple).
- Notifications on the lock screen should be able to give us direct access to that app, instead of having to unlock then go to the app.
- Actionable Notifications would be nice. And we just might get them as it’s been leaked in screenshots.
Recent reports suggest that Microsoft is riding the back button and other physical capacitive keys. Some people cried out at this, but I personally hope they do. Firstly, they just add unnecessary bezel space. Secondly, Android has plenty of popular devices that use onscreen keys, and we all know how popular Android is! And lastly, Microsoft is trying to merge Windows Phone and Windows 8, and since the latter has its Charms, it would make sense for Windows Phone to adopt the same function.
- No need for physical buttons
- Make Search more integrated
- Make multitasking/app switching the same as on Windows 8. SWIPE!
Text & Messaging
Microsoft’s text messaging, to me, is one of the finer points of Windows Phone. The ability to switch from a text to Facebook chat in a single thread (albeit a few quirks there) is totally awesome! I’m not aware of any other OSes that have that same function. Yet as cool as it is, there are a few things I would add to the experience:
- Ability to use Swype. I know Microsoft and Apple like their own keyboard functions on their closed OSes, but one thing I LOVED having on my Nokia N8 (and even my Nuron) was Swype. I could text blazingly fast and with a surprising mount of accuracy. I’m not saying Windows Phone’s predictive texting isn’t awesome, because it is, but I like having options.
- Give us a smarter situational keyboard. For example, give me the “.com” whenever and wherever I may need it. etc etc
- iOS-like receipts. None of this about sending a whole text to let me know my recipient received my text. Let me know via a little text at the bottom saying “delivered” or “read”. That leads into my next point of:
- Texting/picture messaging over wifi (and not just in rooms). T-Mobile has WiFi calling on the Lumia 925 and 521, but my 810 is left out of the mix, so I can’t text in areas where I get no reception (like campus) but where WiFi is rampant. And even with the WiFi calling feature, picture messaging over WiFi is still impossible unless you’re in Rooms. Just make it happen, Microsoft! Give us an iMessage equivalent!
- This is kinda off topic, but when making a call in the phone app, and one starts to type a number, one thing I could count on in Symbian (the 3 year-old, dead OS), is that names would start to pop up from the contact list that included the dialed number(s) in their contact page (number or name). Because sometimes I’m just too lazy to go through my People Tile (first world problems, eh?).
- Another off topic, App titles. Sometimes they’re just unnecessarily big. Go to your People Tile now. Go ahead Look at how much space that sucker takes up! It’s unconscionable! And on that note, there’s a bunch of dead space above the first set of tiles, between them and the notification area up top. C’mon, Microsoft, get it together!
Cortana better be big! And smarter than Siri!
- Contact entry needs to be less redundant or something. It need not take a separate page to add the name, then go back to add the number, which then takes you to another separate page.
- More integration please! One thing I would love to see is native video calling that’s powered by Skype. Just my way of moving towards universal video calling standards for smartphones!
- Oh and make the app a lot better. Sooner than later, please.
- I don’t think I have many complaints here. Just more album management would be nice. Let me lock albums, for example.
- Unified mail app, like on Windows 8
- FULL OFFICE PLEASE! I wanna make PowerPoints and show them off to my friends.
- OneNote should have some sort of increased relevancy with phablets and tablets, especially with styluses involved.
- Let’s get around to making actual use of it, eh? ISIS integration?
- Make it better. Give me forward button.
- Oh, I forgot there is no Grindr. GIVE ME GRINDR! As a bisexual male, it’s kinda a must. I’ve come across many gay friends who got Windows Phones, and were disappointed to learn later that Grindr is non-existent on the platform. A gay man without Grindr is like… Windows without Word! There’s just this void…
- Um, what’s up with needing to turn on Bluetooth whenever I wanted to use NFC? Symbian never had this, it would just automatically turn on! NFC is supposed to be easy and effortless, so why make it a pain, Microsoft?
So there you have it. All the things I would like to see (improved) in Windows Phone 8.1 (aka Blue). These are just the things I could come up with now, I’m sure there are many more that I forgot. For more, you can check out this post here from Chris Wright, on Windows 8 bugs and what can be improved (there’s some overlap). Windows Phone users are used to complaining, so tell me what new/improved features you would like to see Microsoft stuff into their OS?