How to make Windows Phone 8 Amazing

Every possible thing I can think of to improve WP8, from tiny to huge

In December of last year I made the switch from iOS to Windows Phone, after having been an iPhone owner for 4+ years.  It wasn’t so much that the iPhone is bad, because it’s far from it.  I was just looking for something new and the tile interface of Windows Phone 8 (not to mention Windows 8) is visually appealing to me.

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Part of my Start screen

In the roughly 9 months I’ve own a Windows phone, the ecosystem has gotten a lot better.  There are big time developers making apps such as Gameloft, EA, and others (even some exclusives such as Disqus), and developers putting apps on Windows Phone 8 at launch along with iOS and Android in a few cases.  There are some true third-party studs such as Rudy Huyn (maker of 6sec and 6tag, respectable third-party solutions for Vine and Instagram).  The app ecosystem still has improvements to make, but not as much as you may think.

This is not going to be about the apps though.  It will include ways to improve on only the apps that come with the phone.  While I personally feel the whole “lack of apps” thing is overblown [will be discussed in future post, coming shortly], it’s been well documented all over the Internet.  What is below are ways Microsoft can make the OS itself better than it is now, from tiny improvements to huge.  In some ways WP8 is better than iOS/Android, but in a lot of ways there is room for improvement.

Tiny – these are quirks I would fix, but probably are non-issues to most users

  • Enable an option to have the status bar to always be visible at the top of the phone
  • Show lengths of calls in the call history screen
  • Group repeated calls together with the number of calls in parenthesis – right now multiple calls to the same person in a row each have their own line
  • More visually appealing Bing – when swiping amongst the different pages, how about different shades of the pic of the day instead of shades of the accent color?
  • Add the option to have the counter show unread emails on the Mail tile (I often check mail only to mark items as unread to follow up on a later time)
  • Images to act as attention getters for lists, such as the Settings app
  • Here’s one out on a limb: For the upcoming 1080p resolution phones, “animated” home screens that are subtle and not more than a few colors, such as the Dragon for Windows 8.1.

Medium – these are items that need to be updated/added to put WP on the same ground as iOS and Android

  • Option for battery percentage visibility in status bar and on lock screen
  • Orientation lock
  • Redesign of Internet Explorer layout: Swipe for forward/back, dedicated button for tabs, dedicated button for quick access to favorites.  Perhaps when in landscape view, a full toolbar suite of buttons appears (Back/Forward, Stop, Refresh, etc.)
  • Split payment option for app purchases (to split payment between two payment methods)
  • Picture password option to unlock phone
  • Improved Xbox integration (be able to send/receive audio messages) and Games notifications improvement on functionality and stability
  • Bing lock screen customization: Weather & trending topics right on the lock screen
  • Volume slider in music and video playing apps, as well as a slider in the music drop down – quicker and easier then pushing and holding down the physical volume keys
  • Separate volume controls for music/video/games playing versus the OS itself
  • The ability to close apps – a nice little “X” in the top right corner or the ability to swipe apps up to close from the multitasking screen (like Windows 8)
  • Video store on the phone (already available on Windows 8 and Xbox, why not WP8?)
  • Book store on the phone (like iOS and Android)
  • Better Windows Store search and sorting for all apps: by most used, category, etc.
  • Ability to manually refresh the live tile service.  Bury it deep in the settings.  Hopefully nobody will ever have to use it.  I’ve had one occasion of all live tiles stop updating that involved deleting and reinstalling all apps that run actively in the background.
  • More integration with DLNA.  Right now there is only the Play To app for Nokia devices, which will only play media physically stored on the device (omitting Xbox Music).

Huge – these are must haves; an average user will go another direction if these are not addressed

  • Notification center to log all toast notifications.  This one has been widely discussed.  It’s tough as the Me tile takes care of a lot of the social media notifications needed.  But for toast notifications like Words With Friends prompts to ESPN/CNN news alerts, this is necessary.  Plus it’s a huge issue for potential WP newcomers.  The notification center should also include shortcuts to Wi-Fi, airplane mode, etc.
  • Skype at the OS level – video calls built into the phone app and Skype messaging in the Messaging app (a direct competitor to FaceTime, and platform ubiquitous)
  • Calendar revamp – basically make it as full featured as Outlook.com calendar, with similar views and functionality (charms, more customized alerts, etc.).  Better week and month views.  Multiple items viewable in double wide live tile, not just the next one
  • More natural language style of TellMe.  Basically make TellMe more like Siri
  • Better email app functionality: the choice to always automatically download images, better support for email that isn’t Office 365 or Hotmail/Outlook.  Alias support for Office 365 and Hotmail/Outlook as well.

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