4 ways I’d change Windows Phone 8

This is a follow-up post to a comparison between the Lumia 920 and the iPhone 5s and you can also find a similar list of opinions about the iPhone 5s and the iOS ecosystem here.

Windows Phone 8 is a great product, there is no doubt; unfortunately, there are several issues that might drive people like me to try other mobile environments. The following list is a compilation of personal opinions about what things I’d change from the Windows Phone 8 ecosystem.

1. Ship a Windows Phone device with the best specs and a small form factor

I shouldn’t have to buy a low-end device just because a I want a smartphone with a 4-inch screen. Similarly, I shouldn’t have to buy a 4.5-inch or even 5-inch phone just because that’s the only way of getting the best hardware out there. I understand that some parts need more space, like the humongous camera sensor in the Lumia 1020, but let’s be clear… this is not about “all or nothing”, it’s about having a device for everyone.

Why most of the iPhone 5s reviews called it “the best smartphone in the market”? The form factor is definitely a big part of it.

2. Improve TellMe to work like Siri or Google Now

Natural language recognition systems are the new trend in mobile operating systems; Siri is a great tool to discover information by simply asking normal questions and it’s even more helpful when we’re trying to complete simple tasks on the phone. Google Now is as good as Siri at answering questions (or better if we consider that it can link questions and understand certain amount of context) and helps the user with whatever they’re going to do in the near future.

Windows Phone’s TellMe needs to be updated to be able to compete with these services; integrating Wolfram Alpha and Wikipedia results inline already would make a huge difference given that most times those are the sources of information used by Siri. TellMe also needs to be more flexible with users’ input: saying “I want to write a message for John Smith” should work as well as saying “send a text to John Smith” does.

3. Enable more theme personalization options

Truth be told, Windows Phone is one of the mobile operating systems with more personalization capabilities, all thanks to its Live Tiles, which allow the user to decide the size and positioning of each tile, virtually enabling an infinite variety of Start screen combinations.

That said, I think there is work to do for those people who end up using mostly inbox apps; the problem? most of the inbox apps use the theme color on their tiles and the background can only be black or white… this can become boring over time (I ended up changing the theme color every two days, just because I wanted to see more color variations every time I’d unlock my phone).

These are some personalization options I’d add to address this:

  • Allow personalized backgrounds: Windows 8.1 learned from users’ feedback and added this option, but even before that, Windows 8 already allowed to change the background color on the Start screen and even provided several pre-designed backgrounds for the user to choose. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to do exactly the same on the phone? This is how it looks today:

  • Enable gradient-colored tiles for inbox apps: in the Messages app, the texts written by me and the recipient are colored in a different tone, but still using the theme color. It’d be cool to be able to enable a similar gradient in the inbox apps’ tiles or even in the background. For those who would say that the gradient option would frontally collide with the Windows Store design principles, then you can substitute this option with simply different fixed colors for each inbox app tile (like Windows 8 does with the Mail, Calendar or People apps).

4. Get third parties to make their own apps

This point is specially difficult to accomplish on a platform with a small user base. That was definitely the case in 2010, when no-one had a Windows Phone device; it was practically the same in early 2012, but things are a little different now. Windows Phone is officially the third platform in the market, and it’s just not right that companies like Facebook still don’t own the official app.

Sure, they don’t want to spend time on an app that few people will use, but that statement is getting less valid every day. Fortunately, Windows Phone is getting more and more users (who buy mostly low-end devices… could this be somehow related to the first point in this list?), so soon not having an official Windows Phone app will mean missing out. Also, that’d mean Windows Phone users wouldn’t have to wait months until the Facebook app receives an update with features that already exist in the iOS or Android apps.

This point also means: don’t screw existing users! And I’d love to send this message directly to Google: the drama with the YouTube app is simply embarrassing, please stop it.

Most of the points exposed here probably won’t apply to the average user, specially those who only use their phone to make calls, text, email, use Whatsapp and check Facebook from time to time. But for some other people, the combination of these issues can be a deal breaker in the long run.

Image via Microsoft and Apple

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2 thoughts on “4 ways I’d change Windows Phone 8

  1. I can agree more or less with some of the suggestions listed here, but definitely not with the gradient-colored tiles. That’s exactly a thing I don’t like about iOS7, too many gradient with very bright colors.

    Thanks for the suggestions though 😉

    • Ok, then let’s focus on the last part: simply different fixed colors for each inbox app tile (like Windows 8 does with the Mail, Calendar or People apps).

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