There are several indications that Windows Phone 8 will have a trick or two up its sleeve. For one, at all recent Windows 8 product launches (whether for the Nokia Lumia 920 or the Windows Phone 8X and 8S), the OEMs were being particularly shy about letting members of the press have hands-on time with the actual software of the device. In fact, the company rep had to hold the device if you wanted to see past the lock screen. This either means that there is something to hide, or that Windows 8 is missing key features, and Microsoft (and its partner OEMs) don’t want people to pass judgement on the operating system until all features have been announced.
It’s very possible that Microsoft has been working on some killer features for the OS; features that would further differentiate Windows Phone from Android and iOS (the truth is that Windows Phone 8 could use all the help it can get), and features that would further unify Windows Phone 8 with Windows 8.
Our best guess is that Windows Phone 8 could inherit gestures from Windows 8, and that gets us really excited. More than any other operating system (mobile or desktop), Windows 8 takes advantage of a bevy of gestures to make multitasking and navigation much easier. Why not bring that to mobile? Here’s a breakdown of some gestures that we think make a ton of sense to bring to the phone.
Swipe right to switch apps
Windows Phone currently has a somewhat cumbersome way of switching between apps: you tap and hold the back button, which brings up a card-interface, allowing you to see just three apps at once. In Windows 8, to switch between apps, you drag your finger from the left side of the screen over to the right, and in comes a previously-used app. You can continue to swipe to toggle between many different apps. If you’ve ever used the Windows 8 beta on a touchscreen, you know that this gesture is incredibly well done: it’s fast! Adding this into Windows Phone 8 would make it a breeze to get between email, web, New York Times, and so forth.
Swipe right and then left to see open apps
This is another Windows 8 gesture that makes multitasking much easier. By swiping to the right as if you want to go to a previous app, then swiping back left, you get a quick look at all of your open apps, allowing you to quickly jump between apps with just your thumb.
Swipe slowly to the right to enable split-screen view
This particular gesture is less likely to work on a mobile device, but given Windows Phone 8’s support of screens that are 768 pixels wide, it’s conceivable that running two apps at a time might be a reasonably good experience, especially if the user had the option to run two apps stacks vertically instead of side-by-side.
It’s different on mobile
Of course, what works on a tablet or laptop doesn’t always translate well onto mobile. The above three Windows 8 gestures, if brought to mobile, would indeed make the Windows Phone experience better and more productive. The question is whether Microsoft thinks consumers want to learn a handful of gestures. It’s pretty clear that with nearly a dozen gestures integrated into Windows 8, Microsoft has bet big on gestures. Will gestures be the killer feature of Windows Phone 8? We hope so. It could give the platform a new spurt of media attention, and more importantly, give it a leg up over the other mobile platforms.