I have been using Windows Phone virtually from launch day, and have been patient with the team about so many things that have been missing from the OS. Windows Phone 7.5, aka Mango, addressed a lot of my complaints, but now I have another, deeper set of functionality (and wishes!) I’d like to see implemented.
The following is my wish list for Windows Phone for the year 2012. Given that one of the wishes is for more frequent updates, I am hoping some of the functionality gaps are filled sooner than later.
- Market share: First and foremost, I’d like to see Windows Phone get to a decent market share. The stars have aligned nicely with RIM dying a slow death, and webOS being killed by HP for Windows Phone to be easily positioned as the #3 platform. However, it would be a pity if the 3rd-biggest platform is at 5% with iOS and Android making up 95% of the market. It would be better if Windows Phone could get to 10-15% or above to really make it relevant. Education at carrier stores, more incentives for carrier salespeople, Nokia’s Rolling Thunder campaign, expansion to new markets, etc. should help.
- More Silicon Valley startup involvement: Most startups are not going to devote time to building Windows Phone apps with its market share around 1.5%. It simply does not make financial sense. I would like to see the Microsoft developer relations/evangelism folks to embed themselves in such startups and help them build the next cool appfor Windows Phone in addition to iOS/Android. For that, this evangelist team will have to work closely in Silicon Valley (and perhaps New York) to identify the companies which are doing great things in the mobile space and help them as early as possible in their lifecycle.
- Get existing marquee apps at par with iOS/Android counterparts: Microsoft would like us to believe that 90% of the top iOS/Android apps are available for Windows Phone. That may be arguable, but even existing apps like Facebook and Twitter have not seen updates to bring features at par with iOS/Android versions. For example, Facebook app does not support updating Groups or Twitter app (still) does not provide notifications. Also, given that some of these apps have been built by Microsoft, or even worse, by a third party, it is hard to understand who is to blame for the lack of functionality updates.
- Abandon the annual minor and major update cycle: Windows Phone has settled into a cycle where they have minor releases once a year and major updates once a year, each separated by about 6 months. While this is great for larger, non-mobile programs, it is absolutely slow in the mobile industry, especially for bug fixes and security updates. Until Windows Phone is at par with iOS and Android in terms of overall functionality, I don’t think they should settle down into a 6-month update cycle. Till then, the updates should be rapid, incremental and extremely frequent.
- Enhance in-built Facebook and Twitter functionality: I am not going to argue that the native functionality should expand to the point where 3rd party apps are not needed, but some examples of functionality that ought to be there to complete the native Meexperience:
- Like-ing a comment someone makes on my Facebook update. It is related to Meso this should be part of the native experience.
- Make Facebook chat be able to send offline messages (today, you can only do Facebook chat with someone who is online), and expand it to group chats/messages. I argue this is native experience mostly because Facebook chat is already native, and the Facebook app does not support these two features. If the app did support these, I would be ok if the native experience did not do these things.
- Seeing the tweet to which someone replies. Today, I get a notification when someone replies to me or mentions me, but I cannot see what that tweet was in response to. I have to fire up one of my Twitter apps and see the original tweet. I am not saying I should be able to see the entire conversation, but I should be able to see at least the previous tweet to get context.
- Add notification when someone natively retweets my tweet. Again, I believe this is related to Meso it should be part of the native experience.
- Native screenshot capability: I love to show off what I see on my phone. Sometimes it is something unique, sometimes it is something cool. As an enthusiast, I may even want to put screenshots in my blog posts to illustrate my points. Windows Phone does not support, for no explainable reasons too, the ability to capture screens on the phone. Yes, there is a way to get it done via a homebrew app but to sideload that app, you have to have a developer-unlocked phone. Developer-unlocking is not a common task, and certainly not free ($99 to have a developer account, and $9 via the ChevronWP7 tool), so it would be nice if Windows Phone could just natively do it, like iOS has supported for the longest time, and how Android is going to support it with Android 4.0.
- Allow full-size photo auto upload: Windows Phone was the first OS to have functionality to silently upload your camera roll to SkyDrive for an automatic backup. However, it is crippled because it reduces the photo to a very low resolution before uploading. I can understand there could be concerns about data usage, but I am also certain that as a software company Microsoft could come up with clever ways to get it done. Things like settings for uploading only when connected to WiFi, or uploading a low-resolution copy immediately and then queuing up the high-resolution copy to overwrite the originally uploaded picture later, are possible elegant solutions to the problem.
- Include videos in auto-upload: Videos are not auto-uploaded to SkyDrive, period. This should change. We are increasingly taking a lot more long photoson our phones and these video clips are extremely valuable memories and should be backed up just like photos are. If space on SkyDrive is an issue, there are solutions possible like making it possible to buy more storage, or limiting the uploaded videos to the last 100 or up to 10GB or such. Again, nothing that a mighty software company like Microsoft cannot think of, to resolve the issue.
- Expand voice commands: TellMe is implemented very nicely in Windows Phone and I have been quite happy with it, even though I don’t use it too regularly. I have seen some limitations though, which I’d like to have implemented soon I cannot say punctuations, so if I am replying to a text message it becomes hard if I want to say two sentences or ask a question. More importantly, the commands do not let me play music/podcasts. One of the things I am most likely to do while driving is skip a song and it would be awesome if the Windows Phone voice commands expand to include interactions with the Music + Videos hub. I am not pushing to go the Siri route yet, because I am quite ok with the search results that bing produces for the common tasks like movie showtimes, weather, restaurant searches, etc.
- Allow and/or embrace third party for native experiences: I have started using WhatsApp a lot, because it is available across all mobile platforms, so wouldn’t it be cool if WhatsApp worked within the Messaging Hub instead of being a separate app? If Messaging Hub provided hooks for 3rd parties to integrate into, it would unify notifications and I would not need to track individual apps. Similarly, Microsoft should try to embrace companies like flickr and 500px to hook into Windows Live like how Facebook and Twitter are today. With that hooks in place, I could go to the What’s New section in Pictures Hub and see pictures from my friends off flickr and 500px (or any such photo service). Today I have to rely on corresponding apps to get the same task done.
- Add simpler DLNA: When Windows Phone launched, I distinctly remember LG stating that one of the USPs for their devices is DLNA with other LG devices like TVs. Now that a year has passed since launch, I believe DLNA, and that too in a much, much simpler form (think AirPlay) should be part of the OS. I should just be able to select a picture or a folder and send to, say, my Xbox. In fact it would be a great ecosystemselling point, where having a Windows Phone and an Xbox makes it possible to take a video and send it immediately to the TV without any cables or complications. Microsoft has had Play To for some time, but I have seen how easy it is to send pictures and videos to Apple TV from my iPad and Windows Phone absolutely must make it that simple to do something similar.
- Allow on-demand backup and restore: Today, Zune desktop software provides a way to back up the phone but it only gets triggered when there is a phone update. There is no way to run a manual backup. Hence, there is no way to restore the phone to a state other than the one that it was in when the last phone update was applied. A manual, on-demand backup command will help in restoring a phone to a more recent version in situations like getting a replacement phone or having unexplainable crashes/slowdowns.
- Auto update settings/apps: Windows Phone Mango introduced the web marketplace with a purchase history screen which made it very easy to reinstall all purchased (free or otherwise) apps directly from the web. While this is a great step forward from earlier, it is still extremely painful if you have to reset your phone or if you buy a new phone. You still have to go through the setup and configurations (wallpaper, sleep settings, lock settings, pinned tiles, etc.) and install each app manually. It would be great if Windows Phone could save apps, app settings and system configuration/settings so I could simply restore them on a new device. Game developers should also be forced to maintain game progress in the cloud, so that I don’t lose my game progress if I reset my phone or buy a new phone. Some games do it today, but it should be mandatory, in order to support a true cloud restore.
- Eliminate the Zune desktop requirement: While Windows Phone supported wireless sync from day one, I find it a bit annoying and limiting that in order to transfer pictures and videos to and from the PC, I still have to go through Zune. PCs have in-built image capture utilities which can trigger photo management program of choice where more advanced settings like rotation, folder naming, etc. can be applied. Instead, I am stuck with whatever functionality Zune desktop supports (not much) in transferring pictures and videos from the phone to the PC. I understand that Zune is needed for delivery of phone updates, and I am fine with Zune being used for music management, but for pictures and videos, I would like to avoid using Zune. This would also make it easy to offload pictures on a Zune-less PC, for example, when travelling.
- Multiple pages for Start Screen: One of the most wonderful features of Windows Phone is the Live Tile functionality. With Mango, we also saw the introduction of multiple Live Tiles for each app. As a result, it is not unusual to have a ton of tiles pinned to the Start Screen. It has got to a point that I have to scroll a lot to go through the various apps I have pinned to the Start Screen. It would be nice if there were app groups or screens, perhaps as separate pivots, so I don’t have to scroll too much vertically. This feature would also be in line with the Windows Phone’s glance and gomessage because all the information would be above the foldor just below.
Apps and functionality
- Allow multi-select of pictures and videos: One of the neatest features in Windows Phone compared to iOS and Android is how you select multiple email messages/conversations. You simply click to the left of any email or conversation and it automatically switches to a multi-select screen where you can then apply actions to multiple items. It is strange that the Pictures Hub does not have a similar multi-select option. I can only act on one picture or video at a time.
- Allow access to videos to 3rd party apps: Mango made it possible to upload videos to SkyDrive/Facebook, and made video sharing available in a limited fashion. All you could do is share the video via messaging or to Facebook and SkyDrive. 3rd party apps cannot let you select videos. In fact, even the email application cannot select videos (you have to go to the video in Pictures Hub to email it). This limitation looks like something which was left out due to time constraints, but it is something which should be possible.
- Internet Explorer: The Windows Phone browser is actually quite fantastic, but I have seen lazy web developers displaying a sad default mobile version of the site because the code only detects mobile Safari for special mobile rendering. Microsoft should work with the big-brand sites and have their web developers work on getting mobile IE9 also to display the first-class mobile web experience. Some other features I would like to see added:
- When sharing a page from IE, there is no text added in the messagebox. It would be nice if the title of the page is automatically filled in, so I could just press Send to share the page rather than have to add my own message every single time.
- I find it annoying that the address bar stays visible always. It would be nice if the address bar becomes auto-hidden and can be made visible via a swipe gesture or something. It is strange that the IE team harps about taking the chrome out of the way, but especially on a phone where real estate is at a premium, they let such a big address bar stay visible.
- I love the Safari Reader feature which is also available on mobile Safari. I wish such a thing came to IE as well.
- Show space occupied per app: Recently I noticed that my phone is taking up 10GB (yes, 10 gigabytes!) in reserved and othercategory. Naturally, part of that space is the OS itself, and the system files, but most of it I presume, is taken up by apps and app data. I wanted to reduce that and so I started looking for the apps occupying the most space, and I could not find that information anywhere. It would be great if there is a way I could see space used by each app and perhaps a system status showing how many apps are installed and how much total space is used by all apps (versus system/OS space used).
- Notification Center: This feature is arguable because Windows Phone has an excellent way to notify me, and that is via Live Tiles. However there are lot of times when I miss toast notifications. I hear the notification sound, but since I am away, I don’t actually see the toast. If I have not pinned the app to the Start Screen, or the app does not update the Live Tile, there is no way to know what created the notification. For example, when I receive a twitter mention, Rowi can send me a toast and update the Live Tile, but with so many Live Tiles, it is hard for me to know which one created the latest notification. Hence, I would prefer a webOS/iOS-style Notification Center in addition to the individual Live Tiles. The Notification Center is one place where all notifications would go, and clicking on a notification would open the corresponding app. I love Live Tiles, but I am not always in front of my phone, so I need one place to go check for all missed notifications.
- Switch to FB/Windows Live automatically: Having seen how seamlessly iMessage switches a textmessage from SMS to iMessage, I believe Windows Phone should do the same for its Facebook/Windows Live (and maybe in the future, Skype/Lync) messaging. Today, the functionality makes me switch the medium manually when composing a message, or keeps the medium the same as incoming message when replying to a message.
- Skype: Speaking of Skype, the app was expected at the end of 2011, and that has clearly not happened. The announcement of the app was made before Microsoft announced their intention to buy Skype and now that they have completed the acquisition, perhaps they are doing a re-think in terms of how to add Skype to Windows Phone. Could it become a native service like Facebook and Windows Live? Let’s hope so. Also, let’s hope it does not take all of 2012 for that service (or app) to show up.
Phew! Clearly, this is a long list of wishes I have for Windows Phone, and it goes with the earlier piece I wrote about what is missing. However, since I do believe in the platform, I think these are required so that Windows Phone does not get relegated to the othercategory in the mobile platform future.
Do you have something to add besides these wishes? Let me know in the comments!