Windows Phone 7.8 has been released and most of us with first and second generation Windows Phone 7 devices are able to upgrade. If you didn’t receive the upgrade automatically, there are ways to install it manually. Some have been waiting for this for a long time since it brings a few new features including the new start screen with resizable live tiles. Of course Windows Phone 8 has been available for a bit longer, and it offers many dozens more improvements over the 7.8 update for older devices, but it turns out there are a few areas where Windows Phone 7.8 is still a little better than Windows Phone 8.
Zune Desktop Sync
One of the worst things about Windows Phone 8 is that it no longer syncs with the fantastic Zune Desktop software. That means no more auto-playlists, sync groups, wireless syncing, simple media management, etc. Windows Phone 7.8 still works with Zune and allows for flawless media syncing. You can guarantee when your music and videos sync through Zune that they’ll play on Windows Phone 7.8.
Xbox Video Support
Windows Phone 8 does not support playback of rights protected TV shows, movies, or other videos that you may have bought from Xbox Video or Zune at all. With Windows Phone 7.8, you can still sync video content that you’ve bought through Xbox Music to your Windows Phone for mobile viewing. If you stop watching on your Zune Desktop, it can pick up from that spot on your phone too.
Bing Lock Screen Images Work Better
Windows Phone 8 introduced the ability for developers to create their own apps that generate dynamic lock screen imagery. This is a great idea with a lot of potential. Microsoft made the Bing image of the day an option in this interface, however it doesn’t always work. On more than one occasion, the lock screen would not update for me or it would be stuck at the default. On Windows Phone 7.8 however, Microsoft did also add the Bing image of the day as a lock screen option (without all of the nice 3rd party developer APIs), and it works much more reliably than Windows Phone 8.
The Music + Videos Live Tile
Windows Phone 8 introduced a new Music + Videos live tile with an absolutely horrid bright green background and headphones icon. It was a huge step back from the gorgeous musical artist imagery and Ken Burns effects from Windows Phone 7.0. Sure the new Windows Phone 8 tile is resizable and will show some cool animations ONLY when you are listening to music, but when you’re not listening to music, it’s an absolute eye sore. Windows Phone 7.8 on the other hand, actually upgrades the Music+Videos live tile to something very very attractive. Instead of constantly displaying a boring ugly green box with headphones, Windows Phone 7.8 still displays the gorgeous artist artwork but also includes some nice text animations and of course the resizable tiles.
Older Apps and OEM Customizations Still Work
I was pretty disappointed when I saw that the Windows Phone 8X from HTC had very few of the customizations that HTC had included on their older Windows Phones. There weren’t any camera extras and even HTC’s GPS navigation program was missing. With Windows Phone 7.8, you can still use all of your manufacturer’s cool customizations including HTC’s very nicely done panorama camera extra. There are many games that are buggy on Windows Phone 8 as well, but work fine in Windows Phone 7.8. Of course, if you’re a Spotify user, you’ll still be able to use Spotify for Windows Phone 7.
That’s right, Windows Phone 8 does not support FM Radio. Even if the hardware exists, the operating system doesn’t support it. However, Windows Phone 7.8 still does so you’ll be able to listen to the radio with your headphones on.
Listening to WAV email file attachments
Windows Phone 8 somehow lost the ability to play WAV audio files and there are a lot of voicemail systems out there that nicely email voicemail messages to you as WAV files that you can normally listen to on any smartphone or PC. Any smartphone besides Windows Phone 8 that is. Luckily Windows Phone 7.8 still supports WAV files.
Downloading Music Over the Air
Windows Phone users have been accustomed to instant response times and great performance in the native programs. Windows Phone 8 mostly retains that and significantly improves the performance in 3rd party applications as well. One exception is in things like the Xbox Music app and Windows Store. Accessing the music store in Windows Phone 8 can be an annoying chore. Where Windows Phone 7.x could instantly allow you to download full albums with your Xbox Music Pass, Windows Phone 8 doesn’t respond to the “Download” button for many seconds. Seriously, it’s a long wait although this could be due to the SD card and account permissions checks… but that’s no excuse. Furthermore, there’s a bug in the Xbox Music Store where it thinks certain songs are “in your collection” because you may have bought or downloaded them on a different device. If you have the cloud collection enabled, that’s not such a big deal since you can access them from there. If you have the cloud collection turned off in order to make your mobile music library easier to manage, then re-downloading music that you’ve downloaded elsewhere becomes very difficult.
Did you get the Windows Phone 7.8 upgrade yet? Will that tie you over until you’re ready to upgrade your phone again or are you still craving Windows Phone 8?