10 Things Apollo+ Needs To Fix in Windows Phone 8
Windows Phone 8 (codenamed Apollo) was just let loose this month, but we’re already hearing rumors of an update for a possible release early next year codenamed Apollo Plus. Personally I think it should be called Apollo II, but anyway, we talked a lot about what’s new and what’s been broken in our full Windows Phone 8 review, so let’s take a minute to think about what we’re hoping to see fixed or added in this rumored Apollo Plus upgrade.
I’ll start, but don’t forget to add your own wish list in the comments at the bottom.
1. Fix Buggy 3rd Party App APIs
With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft was very secretive about the features and didn’t release the SDK until recently. That means that app developers have had very little time to get new apps in the Windows Phone Store that aren’t super buggy. Even Skype, which is owned by Microsoft, hasn’t been able to release a stable version yet. There could certainly be bugs in the API’s that are preventing developers from integrating their software properly, and those need to be addressed pretty quickly.
Even Bing’s live lock screen support isn’t terribly reliable. That feature is supposed to load a Bing image of the day on your lock screen, but sometimes it doesn’t update as quickly as the Bing app itself.
2. Xbox Video
Managing a music/video collection on Windows Phone 8 has become a bit of a nightmare since Microsoft has dropped the Zune desktop client support and has created a series of minimalist content transfer apps which are extremely lacking. You can get around some of those frustrations by using SkyDrive for photos, and the new Xbox Music Cloud Collection for music, but it’s still impossible to get DRM protected movies and videos onto Windows Phone 8… something that worked quite nicely with Windows Phone 7 and the Zune desktop software. That’s a pretty glaring omission. My wish is for cloud collection support of Xbox Videos in Apollo Plus as well as a “Videos” section in the store. Also, this must have the option to download videos to the storage card since so many Windows Phones have only 8Gb of internal storage these days. Of course, better desktop apps would be nice too, but syncing through the cloud is the future, and not having the new Xbox Video store on Windows Phone 8 is embarrassing.
3. Better Offline Support for the Cloud Collection
Speaking of the Cloud Collection, it’s pretty awesome now that I have 20,000 songs listed in my Windows Phone 8 music library (after I installed Windows 8 & Xbox Music on my Media Center PC my cloud collection suddenly grew significantly.) There are a couple problems with this though. First off, downloading songs for offline listening isn’t as easy as it should be. You have to navigate to a song listing view or album listing and then press the select button at the bottom in order to check off each of the songs you want to download, and then press the download button to initiate. I would much rather be able to tap & hold on anything in the library and if it’s in my cloud collection, there should be a “download” choice. What’s really bad is if you’re in the Playlists section, there is no way at all to download music from there. The selection option and download buttons are not there at all. So while it’s awesome that I have 100 playlists (it only supports syncing 100 of them) listed in my cloud collection (which syncs with Xbox 360 and all of my Windows 8 PCs), there’s no way to download any of those playlists for offline listening.
4. Cloud Collection Search Capabilities
I kind of wish there was a search for the Windows Phone 8 music & videos library now too. Sure, the alphabetical jump list worked great when I could only fit 8 gigs of songs on the device, but now that I have 20,000 songs listed, I could have a couple thousand entries in each letter. That’s not fun to scroll through.
5. Deeper SmartGlass Integration
Xbox SmartGlass is one of the coolest features to come to the 2012 software update on the Xbox 360. There’s all sorts of things you can do with it right now, but a number of things are still missing. For example, web pages transfer between phone and Xbox 360 both ways pretty easily. I can share a web page to the Xbox from the phone, but if I want to get a different web page shared back to the phone, you have to launch the SmartGlass app and find the proper “Play Here” button. I also wish it was possible to transfer and play different types of content between the phone and Windows 8 devices as easily as it is with the Xbox 360. Of course, this also goes back to the problem of no Xbox Video support on Windows Phone 8. I really wish I could press a “Play here” button on the phone while watching that “Marvel’s The Avengers” movie I bought in order to continue watching it on my phone.
6. Make Better Use of the Storage Card
Currently a few of the new Windows Phone 8 devices include support for external MicroSD storage card upgrades. However, they can’t be used to store apps, app data, caching data, file attachments, or documents. What’s strange is that the built in storage memory can be used to store documents via mass transfer protocol. In other words, if you copy office documents and PDFs to your phone’s documents folder using File Explorer while it’s connected to USB as if it were an external disk, then those documents show up just fine in the Windows Phone Office Hub. If you copy them to a similarly named documents folder on the storage card… they do not show up and are not accessible.
7. Back Up App Data!
Remember back before Windows Phone 7 was first released in 2010 and we saw a demo of an Xbox game where you could resume game progress on a Windows Phone and it would sync progress to a PC or Xbox version of the game? What happened to that? Even today, if you get a new phone or have to hard reset or broke a phone and need it replaced, guess what happened to all of those hours and days you spent trying to get to the final levels of your Xbox Live games. It’s all gone! I don’t really care so much about application save data, most of that syncs with cloud services already, but game progress data really really needs to get backed up somewhere. Please sync it to the cloud periodically just like the Xbox 360!
8. WiFi Sync While Charging
This was a really smart feature from Windows Phone 7 that was removed in Windows Phone 8. With 7, the phone was smart enough to reserve syncing of media such as photos, videos, and music over WiFi only when your phone was connected to a charger. That meant you didn’t have to worry about these processor-intensive tasks killing your battery on the road. There are still options to only sync full res photos/videos to SkyDrive over WiFi and to only download podcasts over WiFi, but there is no longer anything that will tell the phone to do that only while it’s charging. I don’t need to be killing battery life uploading full resolution videos or downloading giant podcasts while I’m connected to a WiFi access point while waiting for a train.
9. SkyDrive Remote Fetch
This is something I was kind of expecting to show up in Windows Phone 8 since it works so nicely on Windows 8. On Windows 8, the Photos app lists all of the other PCs that I have SkyDrive installed on and I can very easily browse through photos remotely. Why isn’t this awesome feature part of Windows Phone 8 Photos hub?
SkyDrive’s remote fetching capabilities work pretty nicely from the web browser too, but instead of just photos, you can browse all sorts of files on your remote PCs (if they have SkyDrive installed and are turned on). From the web browser, it’s easy to select a file that you want to work with and download it to whatever computer you’re currently using. Why in the world is this not built into Windows Phone 8’s Office Hub or at least the optional SkyDrive app that you can download separately?
10. Facebook Integration
Back when Windows Phone 7.5 was released, the Facebook integration was pretty close to top-notch. Facebook has evolved a bit and what was absolutely great in the past years has seen some broken areas. I’m guessing something changed with the Facebook API’s because these days on Windows Phone, you can only see the first 100 photos in a photo album that you’ve uploaded. A couple weeks ago, I posted about 400 in one album and had constant “likes” notifications and comments for a week. Every time one of those notifications was related to a picture that was not within the first 100, tapping it would only bring me to the 100th photo, not the actual one the comments were related to.
Then there’s the uploading to Facebook options which are now much more difficult to access. With Windows Phone 7.x, there was a very easy two-touch upload to Facebook option in the menus. Now you have to hit the menu, Share, scroll, and THEN select Facebook. On the plus side, you’re now able to select multiple photos in and upload them all at once, but they go into the “Mobile Photos” photo album on Facebook… You don’t have any way to choose the album you want to post them to, nor can you create a new album, nor can you set permissions. I’m still missing the ability to “like” comments and the inability to display more than 250 people in the Facebook events in the Windows Phone 8 calendar app.
Now it’s your turn. What would you like to see added or fixed in the Windows Phone Apollo Plus upgrade we’ve been hearing is rumored for early 2013?