8 Inconspicuous Windows Phone 8 UX/UI Improvements
By on November 26th, 2012

I picked my Black Lumia 920 at AT&T the day the devices launched, and so far I am enjoying the phone. My initial thoughts of the device aside, Windows Phone 8 has a few missing pieces over the iPhone, geofencing for one & Passbook for second. (If you haven’t used Passbook & aren’t in the US, you won’t understand why Passbook is great.) Windows Phone 8 has several new OS refinements over Windows Phone 7 that have been talked at length by Microsoft and those who cover Microsoft. Over the past few weeks I came across some not so obvious additions that I believe need to be highlighted and those at Microsoft who worked on them should be appreciated.

Dictionary:

A pet peeve of mine in Windows Phone 7 was the dictionary’s word alternatives placement. If you selected a word in Windows Phone 7 and spelled it differently, the first option in the dictionary would be to add the spelling. The problem with this was that auto-correct showed the right spellings as the first option while typing. As a result I always ended up adding the wrong spelling to the dictionary not realizing I wasn’t typing but highlighted the word after typing.

I think that explanation was confusing, pictures can explain this better.

Windows Phone 7.5:

In Windows Phone 8, the first option is the dictionary’s suggested word which makes it results in a better user experience. Whoever thought of this, thank you.

Multi-pic select

Doesn’t need a lot of explanation but was quite absurd not to have it in Windows Phone 7.

Better Hotmail integration

Hotmail is a Microsoft product. Hotmail/Outlook.com is a Microsoft product. One would assume these two to work well with each other. Unfortunately in Windows Phone 7, they didn’t. Somehow the folks at Microsoft offered better Gmail sync options than Hotmail. In Windows Phone 7, you could not flag a Hotmail email that would sync with Hotmail/Outlook.com. This has been thankfully fixed in Windows Phone 8.

We can now search on Hotmail.com for emails too, something that was not possible in WP7.x but doable with Gmail.

Lock Screen Notifications

In Windows Phone 8, Microsoft has turned the lock screen into real estate gold for app developers. While the ability to replace the wallpaper with live updates from apps like GroupOn, Facebook, CNN is great, the ability to simply replace the Calendar notification with live updates from CNN, GroupOn, Facebook, Email makes so much more sense! It’s one of those ingenius implementations that takes a novelty concept and turns into something useful. It’s active desktop, only better.

(This lets me have a Bing wallpaper with CNN headline on my lockscreen.)

Backup Best Quality Pictures Only over WiFi

The one reason I did not turn on auto-uploading of pictures to SkyDrive was that I didn’t want to waste my measly AT&T 200MB data on uploading picture. It resulted in me losing all my pictures when my Samsung Focus died, so you can well imagine my happiness to find the option to turn best quality picture backup only over WiFi. Whoever fought for this, thank you.

Facebook Privacy Settings for updates

Using Facebook is a privacy nightmare. So far Windows Phone 7 chose the default sharing settings as set on Facebook but with Windows Phone 8, one can select which groups see an update; two words–life changing.

IE Address bar button

In Windows Phone 8, Microsoft has added an option to configure what the button next to the address should be. The options make a lot of sense based on how one uses mobile IE.

Bing

This is probably the most undersold feature in Windows Phone since WP7.5. The last major release of Windows Phone, brought features like Local Scout (fun activities happening around your location) and Shazam-like music tagging. Microsoft’s Bing and Facebook have their own partnership that brings Facebook’s social to Bing. In Windows Phone 8, this partnership is strengthened with Suggestions. If you’ve connected your Facebook account & turned Suggestions ON, Bing & Facebook will offer you suggestions on Apps, Deals and Places.
(For some reason this option is under music+video as well as Search settings.)

And that’s not all, in Windows Phone 8, the Bing team has added a lot more. The Bing “app” is now a hub with:

  1. Bing News
  2. Local Deals
  3. In Theaters
  4. Top Videos
  5. Local Events

Bing background copyright

This is something that I really really appreciate. If you have your wallpaper set to automatically change with Bing’s images, under lock screen settings, Microsoft has a copyright message about the image being displayed.

PS: Thank you for adding the ability to take screenshots! It really made doing this post easy and more fun.

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Author: Manan Kakkar Google Profile for Manan Kakkar
Manan is a technology enthusiast keenly following the consumer products from Microsoft, Google & Apple.

Manan Kakkar has written and can be contacted at manan@techie-buzz.com.

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