Does Windows Phone need a refreshed UI?
I like Windows Phone. No, really. I do.
Most of you jump to conclusions and call me a hater because I can see flaws in products and tell it like it is. At the end of the day, I love all mobile platforms – maybe not as equally as I should sometimes. But I definitely love mobile software, and I’m a sucker for an underdog.
So, yes, I like Windows Phone. I tried the first few Windows Phone 7 handsets, I owned the Lumia 900 on launch day, and I drooled over the 920 at the press event. However, I haven’t been able to take the platform for more than a few days at a time since the beginning … for several reason.
Back in the day, it was pretty obvious. Windows Phone was an infant, and developers really didn’t trust the platform. There were hardly any useful apps and, as a result, the platform was boring and lacked many of the features and services I needed and used on a daily basis. Not to mention, the application resume time in Windows Phone 7 was atrocious; in several different cases, I would put the phone in standby, come back just a few minutes later, and whatever app I was last in would take upwards of 10 seconds to resume. Horrid.
Second, I’ve had no legitimate reason to switch over to the platform, even with a secondary device. Currently, my secondary device is the iPhone 5, and I really only use it for a camera. The Lumia 900 appealed to me because it promised to have a fantastic camera. That, well … didn’t work out so great for Nokia. It turned out to be one of their least memorable camera phones in recent history, and it was plagued by a white balance camera bug on day one that ultimately led me to return it. The Lumia 920 takes great night shots, but it’s mostly par for the course everywhere else.
And I’ve never really managed to be able to use the platform full-time is because I’m enveloped by the Google ecosystem. Work and personal emails and calendars are handled through Gmail and Google Calendar, my books are in Google Play Books, I’m a Google Play Music All Access subscriber, I watch television shows from Google Play Movies, I regularly use Hangouts to communicate with friends, and I’m an avid Google+ user. About half of those are accessible from Windows Phone, but I would be succumbing to a terrible Web app and sacrificing a great deal of functionality and fluidity. And that’s not something I’m totally willing to do just yet.
But once I look past those things, I actually enjoy the platform, what it stands for, how different it is, and how smooth everything is. It’s sleek, minimal, unique, and … dare I say sexy.
However, the interface begins to get boring rather quickly. Maybe it’s because I’ve been an Android user for going on four years now. The Android interface isn’t always the prettiest out of the box, and it’s certainly not the most simple. But it’s extremely flexible, and you can do practically anything you want with it – new ROMs, themes, icons, wallpapers, widgets, folders, replace the launcher, keyboard, etc.
With Windows Phone, there are three customization options: change the tile/accent color, toggle either a black or white background, and rearrange and resize the tiles. There’s not a whole lot you can do to personalize your device. And the lack of a decent missed notification system – live tiles simply don’t cut it – is unacceptable.
Despite all this, I plan on picking up a Lumia 1020. Yes, I mainly want it for the camera (who doesn’t?), but also because I wouldn’t mind giving Windows Phone another go. I’ve seriously lost touch with the platform, and I’d like to become more familiar with it prior to the next Windows Phone update.
It still doesn’t change my stance on the Windows Phone interface, though. It’s in need of a makeover, if not a more drastic face-lift.
On Monday, a rumor piqued my interests. Mobile-Review’s Eldar Murtazin claims Microsoft is rethinking Windows Phone 9 and will implement an interface refresh, built entirely new from the ground up. Murtazin also alleges Microsoft is shooting for a single platform to run on both tablets and smartphones.
I certainly won’t take the rumor as gospel – it sounds pretty far-fetched, and there’s not the slightest bit of proof. But I wouldn’t be terribly upset if it were true, and, if you connect a few distant dots, it might make some sense.
Windows tablets, once again, have failed to catch on. And after nearly three years of heavy marketing campaigns and enticing developers to jump on board, Windows Phone has only managed around 3.2 percent of the global smartphone market share as of May. That’s not … bad, but it’s certainly not great either. And more recent reports point towards a brighter future.
Obviously, something is keeping people from making the jump to Windows Phone. While the majority of the problem lies on the retail floor and getting representatives to offer Windows Phones, I can’t help but feel a solid portion of the hesitation around Windows Phone stems from the poor reception of Windows 8.
A new UI would certainly spruce things up a bit, and it could help alleviate the ultimate stigma surrounding Windows Phone: since Windows 8 isn’t all that great, Windows Phone must be awful, too.
Obviously, it isn’t. And it’s not in need of an entirely new interface that’s built from scratch. But it is in need of some serious personalization options – a background color, if not a full-fledged wallpaper, a color wheel for more color options, more tile sizes, maybe even multiple pages of vertical scrolling walls of tiles, and possibly a larger grid size that can be scrolled in two dimensons.
Maybe something drastic is exactly what Windows Phone needs. Maybe not. But Windows Phone is approaching three-years-old on the consumer side, and the interface hasn’t really changed all that much. Just as iOS needed an interface refresh and Android needed a serious face-light prior to Ice Cream Sandwich, Windows Phone’s interface could use some fine tuning and new personalization options – a larger grid, multiple tile colors … anything.
Since when has first version software been immaculate?
I’m not convinced the next Windows Phone will look entirely different or be built from the ground up, or even that it needs to be. But I’m looking forward to seeing what changes Microsoft has finally made to the interface this time around, if any.
What would you like to see changed or updated on the Windows Phone interface?