By Adam Z. Lein | May 20, 2012 8:04 PM
Those who know my work know that I’ve been a big fan of Windows Phones since I first got my hands on a Samsung Taylor developer prototype. There are a lot of reasons to love Windows Phone, but as you might expect with any technology there can also be some frustrations. In this article we’ll talk about a few annoyances about Windows Phone that I personally have been frustrated with, however if you’re also a Windows Phone user, we’d love to hear about a few of your frustrations in the comments at the bottom of the page.
The first big thing about Windows Phone that frustrates me every day is the inability to compose and send text messages from a Windows PC. Back in the days of Windows Mobile 6 I could plug my phone into my computer, load up Jeyo Mobile Companion and have a full PC-based interface with a full keyboard and full access to all of my SMS messages. I could type SMS messages to all of my friends without even touching my phone. It was extremely convenient. If I received an SMS, I would see it right away on the computer screen and I could reply to it right there. No need to even look at my phone sitting on the desk. None of the latest smartphones are capable of this either… including Windows Phone (unless maybe you primarily use Google Voice or Skype). What’s worse is there’s still no way to archive text messages like we could with Windows Mobile.
Next is another frustration with messaging. Draft emails. Back around the turn of the century Microsoft had this great add-on for Outlook 98/2000 that allowed you to manage email on your Windows CE or Pocket PC based mobile device from a PC. This was important because at the time, there was no wireless internet so if you wanted to access email from a PDA, you need to sync it. I used the Windows CE Inbox Companion add-on for draft emails all the time. I could start writing an email on my desktop computer, copy it to my PDA, continue editing the message on the train, then put it in the outbox and send it automatically the next time I synced with something that had an internet connection (or plugged in a modem). The problem with Windows Phone 7 and all versions of Windows Mobile since 2002 is that there is no way to sync draft emails between any type of email account. If you save a draft email on your phone, it doesn’t show up on your PC no matter if you’re using an IMAP account, Exchange, Windows Live or anything else. It’s embarrassing that something so useful has been omitted for so long. What’s worse is that other smartphones actually do handle syncing draft emails with Exchange/IMAP servers just fine. Then there’s the lack of support for something else that should be standard on any email client; reply/forward status syncing. That’s right, Windows Phone 7 does not sync the reply/forward status of email messages with servers other than Exchange 2010… even though this is something any IMAP, Exchange 2003, Hotmail, and Gmail server can do. Again, something so obviously useful omitted from Windows Phone’s email program for no apparent reason. Many people may not notice some of these things, but I kind of think that being able to tell which emails have been replied to is important.
One of the big things that was special about Windows Phone when it first came out was the speed at which you could access the camera. Just hold down the camera button for a few seconds and it would start up the camera software right away. A few seconds?? That is way too long! Sure, when this feature was announced it was the fastest camera-access for any smartphone, but when I want to take a picture, it needs to be ready instantly. A few seconds is way too slow. Camera quality for the latest Nokia Windows phones has been a bit disappointing as well considering Nokia’s other cameras have been so spectacular and technologically advanced. Nokia’s Windows Phones seem to have a linear tonal curve that’s tuned more for highlight preservation which clearly sacrifices exposure values in the shadow areas. Nokia can do much better than this. Some of you might be frustrated with the lack of 1080p video recording as well, but personally if I’m using a phone to record a video, it’s going to be something short to instantly post to Facebook and who cares about 1080p on there?
Next up is GPS Navigation integration. This type of functionality has not changed much at all since 2003. GPS navigation software has actually gotten worse in some respects on all platforms, not just Windows Phone. With Windows Phone, the integrated GPS navigation support as part of Bing maps only gives you audible turn instructions when you tap the screen. This can be hugely annoying. Sure it’s kind of nice not being interrupted all the time if you’re in the car with some one else, but if you’re actually trying to make the correct turns, not having advanced audible warnings is hugely frustrating. That’s where you’ll want a third party GPS navigation program on your Windows Phone. There are a few decent ones available in the $30 range (depending on which offline maps you want), but they all have a different problem; they don’t run in the background. That means if you answer a phone call on your bluetooth device while driving, or try to change your music selection then your GPS navigation instructions will stop working. This can be very annoying and you’re very likely to miss a turn because of this limitation. Then there’s the fact that most of these GPS navigation programs don’t integrate with Bing Maps, Bing Search, or pinned locations. That means you’ll have to copy/paste destination addresses from your calendar appointments into the GPS Navigation program of your choice. Really, it should just have a “Navigate” button in the location’s details window, but unfortunately that’s not there yet.
Another frustration for me is the lack of features supported in the Speech interface. Back in 2003, I could use Microsoft Voice Command in the car to create playlists of music just by using my voice. I could play specific albums, genres, or artists without touching the phone. Furthermore I miss many of the other features, like calendar appointment announcements. Sure, Windows Phone now announces and reads text messages, Windows Live instant messages, and Facebook chat messages as well as Caller ID names for incoming calls… but it doesn’t read my calendar appointments anymore! It doesn’t tell me where I have to be in 15 minutes, it just makes a noise and then I have to look at the phone to see what’s up. Super annoying. I’m kind of disappointed that none of my other push notifications are read aloud with text to speech either.
Lastly, of course, there’s the app quantity problem where many developers only make their new mobile applications for other platforms like iOS and Android. Once in a while a friend will ask if I have such and such an app that might only be available on iOS. I’ll be frustrated a bit at first when I don’t find it in the Windows Phone marketplace, but then I’ll install it on my iPod Touch at home and realize that whatever app they recommended (Words with Friends, Draw Something, Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber, etc.) was actually a total waste of time and bandwidth anyway.
So those are my big frustrations with Windows Phone, but it’s important to remember that your satisfaction of an operating system is affected by both the good and the bad. Sure there are some annoyances in Windows Phone and if I went back to Windows Mobile 6.1, I’d have more of the great features I miss in Windows Phone 7… However, there are many other excellent aspects of Windows Phone 7.5 that I would be hugely frustrated to be without.
Anyway, now it’s your turn. Feel free to let us know about your biggest frustrations with Windows Phone in its current form.