Mango is released, and Windows Phone users have heard rumors of Tango 1/2 and Apollo upgrades coming in the future. New hardware is coming out soon, including the HTC Titan and Radar, Nokia Lumia, amongst other handsets, so I wanted to share a few ideas of what I thought would make Windows Phone even more appealing.
Good hardware makes any OS work more smoothly and results in a better experience for the user. Given where hardware is going these days, I would propose the following minimum specifications for any given Windows Phone released after 2011:
-8 MP rear-facing camera, Carl Zeiss optics, f 2.4, backside illuminated CMOS sensor, along with at least a 1 MP front-facing camera for video calls
-800×480 screen at 3.5″ or even better, 1280×768 at 3.7″ or better
-AMOLED screen or IGZO screen at 330 dpi or better
-physical buttons in place of capacitive
-dual-core CPU at at least 1.2GHz
-16GB, 32GB, and 64GB sizes. Sixteen Gigabytes should be the ‘budget’ option, not 8 GB. 32/64GB should be the mid and high end sizes for phones. This brings parity with the competition.
-user-replaceable micro-SD cards
-NFC, bluetooth 4.0
-gyroscope, compass, accelerometer, barometer
-HD Radio (feature parity with Zune HD)
-LTE, 4G, 3G, CDMA, GSM
-MS provided “Windows Phone Originals” to allow custom graphics and text to be etched onto the phone, along with custom colors, much like Zune Originals did.
Mango has brought a number of new features into the operating system which have increased its usability, but there are still many areas that users have requested enhancements to the feature set which could help even more.
Alerts, Notifications, and Ringtones
All Windows Phones have a green and amber light to indicate battery status, yet these lights currently do not tell you if you have a missed text.
Location based alerts, which, based on where you are, will remind you to pick up your laundry, or that you have a dentist appointment, would be a great feature in Windows Phone.
Ringtones are great, but it’s too difficult to add new ones into the system. There should be a way to save audio files sent via MMS to your phone, and use those as ringtones or notification tones. In addition, the user should be able to set custom ringtones and notification tones based on the contact sending the message / making the call, or the contact group as a whole. That way, if my family is calling, I will know about it, or if my girlfriend calls, versus a random number. If receiving a text, I would know by the vibration alert I assign it, or the notification tone, who is sending the text. Many ‘feature phones’ already have this feature, for years now, along with my much older Nokia phones from 5-10 years ago. There is no reason this cannot be included in Windows Phones.
A nice addition to the applications would be a ‘share’ option in the tap+hold menu, so we can send the app to a friend, and they can choose to install the trial or paid version. This would be received on a person’s Zune ID, taking more users into the Zune software and making it more useful for them.
Bing has a number of enhancements with Mango, and I believe there are even more enhancements that could be made, starting with Local Scout. After I go to a restaurant or elsewhere, if I rate that restaurant, or ‘check in’ there, it would be nice if the phone had some form of “My Places” so that I can get recommendations for restaurants, tourist stops, sights to see, and so on.
Bing search should also have a local phone search to search our texts, e-mails, documents, music, podcasts, and videos. This makes perfect sense, and yet, is currently not available on a Windows Phone.
Books, Newspapers, and Magazines
Similar to Newsstand and Kindle and MS Reader, I believe that Windows Phone should include a Book-Stand Hub so that you can view, purchase, and subscribe to newspapers, magazines, books, and audiobooks from around the world. It makes sense, since we have our phones with us all day to be able to get our newspapers delivered to us wirelessly, and have a Live Tile showing us how many new issues we have currently, and with Mango, have separate Live Tiles for separate newspapers and magazines. Users could search back issues, and bookmark favorite articles to read later. This would also synchronize with our Windows Live accounts so if we read part of an article on the phone, later, we go to the computer, and it remembers our place from the phone, and opens there.
The biggest complaint on the calendar is a lack of a week view. This is one item that should be addressed in the next update to Windows Phone. Also, the ability to view multiple calendars from one source would be a welcome upgrade for many users.
Birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries have been added in Mango, but if you have those stored in Google, Windows Live, and in Facebook, you will be faced with three or more entries for everyone’s birthdays, etc. I would like to see the next revision of Windows Phone consolidate this and place this on your Windows Live Calendar so that you get one notification for these type of events instead of 3 or more.
The Windows Phone, in business settings, should also support ICS and VCS calendar attachments so that users can send appointments to other users, which they can then put on their calendars.
After upgrading the minimum hardware specifications, Windows Phone software should also include additional ‘scenes’ as do many modern point-and-shoot cameras, to adjust the settings for foliage, snow, beach, aquarium, etc. The Windows Phone should be all anyone needs to take pictures, and its pictures should rival a standalone point-and-shoot in image quality.
In addition to more advanced controls for those who wish to have finer control, the camera should also include some method to edit pictures a bit more than the ‘auto-fix’ included in Mango, and also a method to trim and edit videos on the phone, like the competition has currently.
A nice feature would be to support viewing my pictures, which the camera geotags, on a map showing where I took each picture from my camera roll. This may be better for phone.live.com, where our pictures get auto-uploaded (though in a lower resolution – this should also be change to full-resolution uploads), and allow us to see the pictures live, on a map, in street view, on the proper orientation where we took them.
If Microsoft wants to go the extra mile, they can even integrate photosynths and image composite editor into the phone so I can create my own panoramas and 3D scenes on the phone, and upload those to photosynth.net and Facebook for my friends to see. That would be a killer feature for Windows Phone.
A feature recently added to iPhone was a ‘find my friends’ app, which lets you find your friends wherever they might be, given that they chose to share their location with you. This kind of functionality should be integrated into the Windows Phone as well, so that if I’m out and about, I can have my phone send my location to my brother or my girlfriend, and have it navigate them to my location. This would be great again in places like theme parks, where it’s easy to get lost. Along with this, parental controls, and temporary vs. permanent location sharing options should be included so that you can still feel safe giving your location to a friend.
Given the integration with Zune on the phone, each contact should also have a Zune pivot so that I can see what they’ve been listening to on Zune from the phone. This would work just like the Social on the Zune HD, so I can see new artists and open them up in Zune. This would include top artists, recent plays, and favorites. From within Zune, I could then choose ‘send to’ and send artists to my contacts for them to view in Zune either on the desktop or the phone.
Another feature which should be included on contacts would be a spouse field, children, siblings, and parents fields, so that I can link my contacts together so that if I’m viewing my mother, I can tap and go to my father’s contact card, then see his parents’ cards as well. This would simplify the task of seeing family connections amongst my contacts, and just makes good sense. This information, along with groups, and the linked contact information, should be saved to Windows Live so if I need to reset my phone, that information will feed back in without me having to do that myself.
An advanced feature that has been discussed would be the option to know if a person’s phone is off, or if they are in a low-signal area, which would allow me to decide to send a text or call a different number for that contact than his cell phone.
The device itself should include screenshot functionality as well. There’s no reason not to do this. Also, given the limited number of color themes available, there should be more colors added in to the phone, and the ability for users to create their own colors, send that theme to a friend, and have colors fade across the entire screen (so that top left starts red, and fades to blue by the time it gets down to the bottom of the screen).
The phone should have time and location awareness so that when I’m at work or at church, it will set itself to silent until I get out.
There is also a bug with the alarms and muting the phone, that if you snooze your alarm to much, the phone’s volume will, even when set to 30, be turned off, and you have to reset to get it back. The same thing if you mute your phone for too long – if you turn the volume up, no sound will come up.
Given the wider availability of the phone itself, there should be the user ability to change the device language without the carrier forcing me to stay in only English. If my first language is German, I should be able to switch to German without the carrier stopping me. For other languages, there should also be a method for users to add additional custom keyboards (including characters such as ð, þ, æ, œ, and ȝ).
Internet Explorer Mobile
The change to IE in Mango removed the ‘find on page’ feature, which needs to be brought back. Additionally, the removal of the tabs and favorites buttons from the toolbar mean we have to dig into the menus to get those features back. We should have an option to swipe over the toolbar, like we do for copy/paste, so that we can access those buttons easily again.
We should have the option to tap+hold any image, including hyperlinked images, and save them to the phone, as well as the option to save the target of a hyperlink.
When going in and out of the browser, the ‘back stack’ is eliminated so that your ‘back’ history on the browser is no longer there. It would be nice to have back and forward buttons or some method to go back to a prior page or forward to the next page from within the browser like we can on the desktop.
For those who enjoy reading articles later, it may be useful to add a ‘reader’ view so that we can bookmark articles to view later, minus all adds and images, similar to the iOS5 Reader feature. Even better would be a built-in RSS reader application so that any RSS feeds I subscribe to that are viewable in Outlook or on my desktop will also show up on my phone as well.
Languages and Keyboards
Users should be able to change the phone language without the carrier locking this ability out from the end user. A nice little feature would be also to be able to change the keypress sound to that of a typewriter, or to that of the old PS/2 keyboard, for nostalgia sake.
It would be nice if the lock screen could include weather information on it in addition to messages like it currently does.
Users would like to have the ability to forward e-mails inline, rather than as attachments, and the ability to view e-mails using the ‘dark’ theme used on the rest of the phone. Additionally, the option to use bold, italic, and underline formatting would be welcome when creating e-mails.
Another great feature would be to save music files sent via e-mail into the Zune hub, and use those saved files as ringtones / notification tones for individual contacts or contact groups.
Users would appreciate true turn-by-turn directions instead of the tap to hear the next direction as currently available. Additionally, the ability to submit map corrections would be a nice addition, along with the option to view 3D buildings on the map view, as well as street view and an augmented reality map view as well.
In addition to an augmented reality map view, pictures we take and share should show up on the augmented reality live camera feed (Google Maps already does this), and I should also be able to ‘pin’ locations and see the last few places I visited so that I can get directions back to where I was.
In the Maps, I should also have integrated Bing Streetside views so that I can move my phone around to move the image, or just swipe the image to look around on the streetside view.
With the GPS, we should also have the option to purchase new GPS voices, like Mr T, KITT, Homer Simpson, and so on.
The addition of Local Scout must be made completely international, so that the Windows Phone becomes an indispensable travel companion.
When you search from Zune, the search results are jumbled into music and podcasts. This should have pivots for artist, album, song, playlist, and podcasts. This way I can find an artist I’m looking for rather than wading through a sea of songs that aren’t related to what I was looking for.
The Video marketplace should be available on the phone so that I can purchase and rent TV Shows, music videos, and Movies directly from my phone. For international users, the entire marketplace, including Zune Pass, should be made available.
The ability to send video and audio MMS would be a great feature for Windows Phone, along with the ability to save those files to the phone when received.
Another feature which should be included would be similar to Blackberry Messenger and iMessage, which would allow you to send messages to other Windows Phone users directly without using your texts, which, if more friends have Windows Phones, will reduce your text bill every month.
This site should be more useful for Windows Phone users. All texts sent/received from my device should be backed up here, along with sent mails, saved pictures, and all apps (free and purchased). In the event I need to do a full restoration of my phone, this would let me do so without losing anything at all. Adding the Kin Studio timeline view would be another nice way to spruce up the page.
Full-sized pictures should be backed up to the SkyDrive, not low-res versions. The competition already does this, so for simple feature parity, this is necessary.
There is currently a great Photosynth app available for iOS, but there has been none as of yet for Windows Phone. Rather than a separate app, this functionality should be completely be built into the phone so I can switch between a photo, panorama, and a photosynth, and upload those to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, or wherever else I have a linked account.
There should be a much more accurate way to geotag pictures uploaded to SkyDrive. We can currently tag, but that’s about it.
Based on the TellMe video posted a while back on Youtube, created by Microsoft, work to get this into Windows Phone, X-Box, and Windows as quickly as possible. This would eliminate the competition’s current advantage in this area – context-aware voice search.
If I ask “What’s the weather like in Georgia?” the phone should be just as able to decipher what I meant as well as “Georgia Weather” (which actually turns up a 5-day and current forecast) – that is what the competition can do currently with ‘beta’ software. Windows Phone should step up its game here.
For the Zune software on the phone, it gives most of the functionality of the Zune HD, but there is still room for more improvement. It does need to add audiobooks, with a separate audiobook section in the Zune software for integrated purchasing and sorting of your books. This needs to be an easily discoverable and loadable audio file(s). If I mark a few audiobooks that I ripped from CD as audiobooks, they should also load and be marked as audiobooks in the Zune Hub.
Aside from Audiobooks, there should be a “Zune-iversity” added to the Zune PC software that lets you find educational podcasts and video podcasts all in one place.
The play button, moved to the bottom in recent Mango builds, should be put back to the original location next to Music. This makes it more obvious and discoverable that if I press Play, it will play my music. Where it is now, I’m not sure at first glance what the note button does at the bottom of the screen – does it show me all my music? Oh, wait, it plays all my music. A play button makes more sense, and positioned next to Music, even more sense.
Zune Social should carry over into Windows Phone, including a menu item to see Zune-specific messages of artists, songs, and playlists from Friends, and letting us see friends’ profiles and songs, artists, playlists they’ve created / listened to, enabling more Music Discovery on the phone, within the Zune hub. It was a great concept on Zune HD, and should absolutely carry over to Windows Phone. This would enable more friends to discover music, trade songs, and possibly even share music videos, tv, and movies. I would say on each Zune card, carry over Recent, Favorites, Top Artists, and add TV, Music, and Movies. This would let friends see and recommend TV shows and movies to their friends, with links to download that show/movie from within Zune.
More for the PC software, but we should also have the option to favorite TV shows and Movies, and when viewing a trailer, tag it to be notified when it’s available in the Zune Marketplace for purchase. I would like to favorite TV shows so that, for a show such as Get Smart, or Star Trek, if the people who run the Marketplace see a demand for a show, they can then know which shows to add to the marketplace sooner rather than later and drive more purchases.
Gapless playback should be supported for all music tracks.
A feature found on the Zune HD version of Facebook, but not yet on the Windows Phone is the ability to press the Zune button and share what song you’re playing to FB instantly, with a link to the Zune Marketplace to share / play that song. This should absolutely be carried over into Zune, or more preferably, in the Windows Phone Facebook app. It’s great advertising on the largest social network for Zune.
On the genres pivot, I would like to see mini-album art like on the Zune HD version of that list. Similarly, that should show also under Artists so I can visually see about how many albums I have under an artist. When viewing the song list, it should show the album name next to the artist as on the Zune HD. This adds to the visual appeal of the Zune app in Windows Phone.
On the artist page, there should be a play, add to now playing, and Smart DJ button above the album list. Next to Songs, the artist pictures should be shown also so I can check that out, and possibly use those as my lock screen wallpaper. Bio should include hyperlinks as it does on Zune HD, so that we can get more information on the artists, albums, and people listed in the bios, and possibly buy/stream their music too. After bio, we should also see ‘related’ so we can discover new artists similar to the one we’re looking at, enabling music discovery by Windows Phone users. To go the extra mile, also list music videos by the band in the artist pivots so we can stream/purchase/download them to the phone.
On the album page, it would be great to also see the ‘add to now playing’ and ‘send to’ icons from Zune HD to I can share the album with Zune friends. Including the review of the album is a great addition, and I would say another addition would be alternative album art or additional album art so we can check that out while listening to the album. The album list, full of large album art, is great, but the option for the more Zune-HD-like 3-wide list would be a nice alternative. Even if not, the screen does look really nice.
On the video page, it would be nice to have a play icon on the tv series grouping to play all episodes of a TV show.
In the Marketplace, it would be nice to have a pivot for ‘recommended’ for those albums and artists recommended to me based on what I’m listening to or have listened to, and my favorite artists.
Since Windows Phone knows how to stream music through Zune, and video through Netflix, it seems obvious to include audio and video streaming (via the *.asx and other streaming file formats), as it would be a great help for a multitude of internet sites that currently stream in that format, as well as allowing app developers access to this functionality for streaming in-app. Apart from this, if I have purchased movies and TV shows on the Zune software, why not allow it to be viewable in my Zune library on the phone? Tap, and it starts to stream to the phone so I can watch my shows and movies any time. That would be a great feature, made even better if it were to include chapter support, multiple audio tracks, and subtitles. A good guide for this would be Paramount’s ‘enhanced movie apps’ with the addition of multiple audio, subtitles, and chapters. If MS would release movies in this format for the Zune / Windows Phone, that would give them a leg up on the competition.
While on the subject of video, video playlists should also be allowed on the device so we can watch a TV season back-to-back or several music videos at once. Windows Media Player can do this, so why not Zune?
Also, adding a TV Dock like the Zune Dock (preferably with the Zune connector in future hardware versions) would make this even more useful to watch with friends on the big screen.
When playing music on the Zune HD and the Zune Software, there is a screensaver while playing that is visually appealing, and should be moved over to Windows Phone, possibly to play when the phone is plugged in, instead of a screen lock.
Searching the Zune Marketplace should be improved by allowing pivots for albums, artist, song, and playlist. If I search for “Johnny Cash” for example, I currently get a jumble of albums, the artist, and songs. It should be sorted out by song, album, and artist so I can narrow down what I’m looking for, and not have to dig down to the 20th or 30th thing in a list. Marketplace search for music should also include the auto-complete found on the Zune HD to help make it easier to discover new music.
Aside from this, there should be a tap+hold option to “add to playlist” so I can add any song, on phone or in the marketplace, to a given playlist on the phone, and if it’s not already on my phone, download it and put it on the playlist. Building playlists should be an option on the phone, with a simple tap+hold option.
The option of wider codec support would be appreciated, such as avi files, or at least the option to convert then synch those files to the phone, as well as mkv files, with support for multiple audio tracks and captions embedded in the files (to turn on or off).
The addition of an audio equalizer, similar to DFX on PC, with multiple environment presets would be great for audiophiles and those who would like to tweak their audio settings, adding in a bit more bass on some songs, or treble on others, giving that extra control for power users, while giving the presets for most other users.
Building on this, music apps like Audiosurf Tilt and Music Quiz would be great additions to the in-zune app listing, making the experience richer for the end-users.
Radio song recognition, HD Radio, and the option to ‘add to cart’ for whichever song is currently playing is another great feature for music discovery when a user doesn’t want to listen to the loaded mp3s on his phone.
Zune channels, along with the ability to create my own channels based on favorite (and related) artists, based on the music I listen to, would be a great feature for the Zune on Windows Phone to attract music lovers and listeners to the platform as a great music discovery feature. This could act as an enhanced Smart DJ playlist, where you can pull in more artists as you play dynamically. Perhaps some kind of graphic panels of the albums on your channel could show up as a large 2-D pane, that you scroll up, down, left, and right in, discovering new artists and albums in the view.
Zune Software on the PC
Along with the above-mentioned updates to the Zune software on the Windows Phone, I would also like to mention some updates that would make the PC software a much better experience for the end user.
In the music section, I have a number of artists I enjoy listening to. I would like to have the option to ‘favorite’ my top artists, and have the Zune alert me when they have a new album or single or video out. This would be displayed in Collection > Summary, a new page to show you collection highlights. This summary page would also show you upcoming concert dates for your artists, with links to purchase tickets. Zune allows us currently to have 3 ‘favorite’ artists, but it doesn’t seem to do anything with them as I’ve seen. From this summary page, it would be nice to be able to choose a random music video playlist from your favorite artists to have playing in the background, or see a feed of upcoming concerts for your favorite artists, or see new FB/Twitter posts by the bands, or get notified when new albums/singles come out.
With the favorited artists as well, when anything on their profile updates, it would be great to utilize the currently blank space on the right-hand side of the music marketplace to show updates in a twitter-like stream, such as “Third Day added a new album, Follow Me” or “Carbon Leaf posted new concert tour dates for 11-28-2011.” Any time a concert near the user appears, the Zune software should notify the user and have embedded links to purchase tickets on the artists’ profile pages. When a new album posts, you can click on it to go to that album’s page from the artist.
When playing music from Spotify, it seems to post it to Facebook quite frequently. Adding a similar feature to the PC software, and possibly the phone as well, would be a good idea, if only for the fact that it would get the Zune name out there, and give friends the opportunity to discover the music you like, comment, and interact socially through your music on Facebook.
Considering the proliferation of video files on hard drives nowadays, it would be nice if Zune would include a function to recognize video files as TV Shows and get the metadata for it automatically, like it currently does for music files themselves. In addition, in the Video library, it would be much more organized if the main view would be a list of series as DVD covers, much like movies are currently. Rather than see 1000 episodes of a number of TV shows, users could then see the 20 or 30 TV series they own, and then drill down into that series to see its episodes. This would be much cleaner and more organized to the end user, and better reflect the organization of the marketplace itself. When viewing TV Shows also, we should be able to right click a season and have the option to “add to now playing” and add individual episodes to video playlists. We can do this already in Windows Media Player, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.
Music Videos should sort by the release date within an artist. Currently if all your music videos have release dates, they aren’t sorted by them. It doesn’t really make sense. The same goes for movies – those should also be sortable by release date as well, moreso than ‘date added.’
Also, if Windows Media Player can play the file, Zune should play the file also. If the codec doesn’t exist, then Zune should automatically find and download the codec. VLC media player already does this, so it’s not impossible. Zune should support video files with multiple audio tracks, imbedded subtitles, and separate subtitle files for videos, with the ability to switch audio and turn on/off subtitles for any TV show or movie, and chapter support for TV shows and movies. This would be a big help for usability and to help deaf or hard of hearing users enjoy videos along with others.
In the video collection, in addition to viewing by Series Title, viewing by Date Aired and Year would be great as well. If you see what aired today, you might be able to discover an old episode of a show you watched a long time ago, so it doesn’t become ‘lost’ in your collection. Additionally, if you have a large number of files, it would be helpful to searching through to simply start typing and have the video collection start searching for videos matching what you search. So, if I type S, then T, it will narrow down what’s on screen to those videos containing the letter S, followed by the letter T.
A number of TV Shows are missing from the Zune Marketplace, such as Star Trek (Remastered), Get Smart, and any other number of shows. When searching for such ‘missing’ TV Shows, or movies that aren’t in the Marketplace, the software should give us the option to ‘sign up’ to be notified when it’s released. This way, Microsoft can use this data to gauge how many people want certain shows, and then go get those shows.