Windows Phone 8: What Would Make It More Awesome?
By on January 22nd, 2013

I know what you are probably thinking: Ah, yet another wish list piece. Or maybe: Didn’t this person write about how Windows Phone Sucks? How can he also write about making it more awesome?

Well, let me explain. Yes, I have written wish lists for Windows Phone before, and that is because I do care about the platform and want to see some of the nagging issues (or lack of features) addressed. Also, yes, I did write about how there are gaping holes in Windows Phone, which to me make it seem like it sucks. Neither of these truly come in the way of my desire to see Windows Phone 8 add a few things to make it more awesome.

This is not truly a wish list, though. I have been using a Windows Phone 8 device for some time now and realized that with some (so to speak) small additions/enhancements, my phone would be even more useful.

Lock Screen Live Apps: Windows Phone 8 introduced a nice way for developers to show pertinent information to the customer on the phone’s lock screen. For example, a weather app can show current weather and forecast right on the lock screen, updated periodically throughout the day. A news app could show the latest image and current top trending news on the lock screen, periodically updated. This makes for a great user experience where, in keeping with the OS philosophy, information is available to “glance and go”.

However, the lock screen updates are limited to a single app at any time. So if I want the latest news and the weather, I am out of luck. My proposal is allow customers to be able to cycle through a finite number of these lock screen apps. If customers are given a choice of up to 5 apps they can allow, the phone’s lock screen suddenly becomes even more vibrant, and even more useful than it is today.

WP8 Lock Screen Live App

 

Messaging: With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft introduced the ability for VoIP apps to hook into the core OS and make them work like the built-in caller and dialer. So now, when there is an incoming Skype call, the interface is much like an incoming telephone call. This is not limited to just Skype because it is a Microsoft company. It can be utilized by any VoIP provider. Natively. That is very neat.

However, within the Messaging hub, there is no 3rd party integration possible today. As of today, the “hub” consists of SMS/MMS, Microsoft’s own Live Messenger service and Facebook Chat. What if WhatsApp, Kik and others were allowed to hook into the hub like VoIP providers are allowed to hook into the system? Then, I could start a conversation with someone with a text message, continue on Facebook and share location via WhatsApp, and see it all under a single thread in the Messaging Hub. That would be fantastic.

First party beta apps and limitations: It has been a few months since Windows Phone 8 was officially made available. Yet, some key first party apps like Skype and Nokia Drive are still in beta. I don’t understand how Microsoft and Nokia get a free pass for this. Let’s not forget that being first parties, they had access to the pre-release code so they could have started testing way before devices were actually made available to the public, and then they could have had a real beta for a few months. At this point though, it is appalling that these apps are not out of beta and fully functional yet.

Update: Just remembered, Nokia Play To, their DLNA app for sharing photos, music and video from phone to DLNA-compatible devices, is not available for WP8 yet. It is there for WP7, so it is shocking that they have not moved it to WP8 yet.

I also ran into a strange issue with Excel where if there was a “table” defined in Excel, that entire table would be un-editable on the phone. Given that most Excel files have some sort of tabular data, and given that most experienced users of Excel would end up formatting that tabular data as an Excel Table, it implies that most Excel files can’t be edited from the phone. This is a severe limitation, IMO, and should be addressed quickly. Again, no excuses for this, since it is a first party app!

Apps, apps, apps: Despite the increase in the adoption of Windows Phone by developers, many marquee apps are still not available on Windows Phone. The aforementioned VoIP feature has not been adopted by a single VoIP provider, although popular services like Voxer and Viber are available. Instagram is a popular app deemed to be missing from Windows Phone, but there are also many others like UStream or TV networks like NBC or abc or financial institutions like TD Ameritrade or Wells Fargo. Curiously, some of the apps that are missing from the phone are actually in the Windows Store so there is hope that they may be porting those down to the phone but until they actually make an appearance, we can’t say for sure.

OS Updates: We have seen one update (“Portico”) roll out post-launch, but that has been limited to customers of AT&T and Rogers only. We need to see this update roll out globally and quickly, and more importantly, followed by more updates that are rolled out more globally at once. Also, the enthusiast program for receiving updates earlier than general availability needs to be started soon, but the program itself would be useless if there are no updates coming out of Microsoft.

Do you see any small things that can go a long way with Windows Phone 8? Any other feature big enough to be listed here? Sound off in the comments, I would love to hear from you.

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Product Reviewed: Windows Phone 8

Review By: Romit Mehta
Some additions/enhancements to Windows Phone 8 to make it even more useful and appealing.
Rated: 4/5
Author: Romit Mehta Google Profile for Romit Mehta
Romit writes about mobile news and gadgets, and is currently a Windows Phone owner (Nokia Lumia 920). Find him on twitter @TheRomit. Personal site is http://romitmehta.com.

Romit Mehta has written and can be contacted at romit@techie-buzz.com.
 
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