By Adam Z. Lein | April 30, 2012 7:03 AM
If you look at user reviews for any Windows Phone available today you will be hard pressed to find any with less than a 4 star average rating. The majority of users who buy these phones rate them very highly. Only once in a while you’ll find some one that returns a Windows Phone and rates it poorly because it doesn’t do something esoteric like Bluetooth file transfer (which may have been useful in 2005) or because they didn’t take enough time to learn how to do something. Even though sales of Windows Phones do not come close to other smartphone platforms, we still see an increase in fanaticism for those who have bought one of these new phones. So why do people like it so much?
There’s an article by Andy Ihnatko published by the Sun Times which is mainly a Nokia Lumia 900 review, but does give a lot of reasons to love Windows Phone that most current users can probably identify with.
A user interface shouldn’t stress you out. Windows Phone doesn’t try to put everything on the screen at once. Signal strength, battery level info, etc. only shows up in the status bar when you need it and it floats away to beautifully reduce clutter when you don’t. Sure you can get it back if you decide you want to see it again, and those status icons will show themselves automatically when you’re about to make a call or your battery is really getting low. Other parts of the interface don’t get up in your face about what you need to do. Panoramic hubs simply hint at more information by showing you parts of words and content on the edge of the screen that make you realize that you can slide them into view to see more. Andy says that even the progress indicator is like a peaceful Newton’s cradle.
Not becoming stressful is really the key and that’s one reason the iPhone is so popular. It’s just a program launcher with a home button really. The difference with Windows Phone is that it’s not so simple to get bored with it, yet it still maintains a strong sense of tranquility. Imagery and artwork changes throughout Windows Phone as you use it in order to keep things constantly fresh and interesting, but there aren’t any bad surprises like freeze ups or application crashes (usually).
The central interaction with a smartphone should be the simple act of waking it up and glancing at the screen. This is another thing that Windows Phone excels at without too much effort. As soon as you take the phone our of your pocket and unlock the screen, you’ve got whichever live-tiles are most important to you right there in front of your face. And the choices for what you want to be most-glance-able are very robust. You can have a group of your best friends represented by one tile at the top of your screen and whenever one of them has posted a picture or a status update, you’ll see it flipping through the little window right there. I even pin things to my start screen that are relevant to what I’m doing during the day. Maybe there’s a location I need to go to later, I can pin that for easy access. Maybe there’s a movie that I’ll be going to soon, I can pin that along with its dynamic “Rotten Tomatoes” rating. Everything’s very easy to see from the start screen’s grid of little windows.
Compare this to the iPhone OS, which is a grid of program icons no different from the old Palm Pilots of the 90′s or even the GUI computers from the 80′s (other than a few icons that change highlighted numbers based on context) or Android with its hodgepodge of complicated multi-sized randomly-designed widgets that never seem to fit properly (or take a lot of work to get right).
Even Apple’s smartest co-founder loves Windows Phone
Today, Windows Phone has almost zero ties to the PC world of the last century. However, with Windows 8 and the latest Xbox dashboard we see the PC world starting to be more like Windows Phone. If that means bringing more peaceful, glance-able, and stress-free usability across the board, then that’s probably okay.
There are still other reasons to love Windows Phone besides what Andy mentions in his article. As Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, says, “It just makes me feel like ‘oh my gosh, I’m more with a friend than I’m with a tool’” That kind of feeling probably comes about once you plug the phone into your life and start really using it to connect to the people and things that are important to you. No other mobile phone brings your stuff as close to you as Windows Phone does. Your friends pictures are always showing up in certain live tiles, their thoughts, pictures, and status updates appear automatically in your people groups tiles with no effort from you. That’s something celebrity actress Eliza Dushku loves about Windows Phone as well. Back at CES, she said, “I love the group texting, I have a big family so it’s nice to be able to send out a blast to everyone. ” Everything you like is right there up front if you put it there, and there aren’t any noisy visual distractions and skeuomorphs to interfere with the connection to your content and your friends.
If you’re a Windows Phone Fan, do you have any other reasons that we missed?