Windows Phone 8.5 (updated)

Windows Phone 8 has just been released, and it has quite a number of changes and enhancements, a number of which answer a host of customer requests and bring feature parity with quite a few areas of the phone.  Even with the addition of NFC, micro-SD, and other changes, there are still places where this phone system can use improvement and some features can be brought back from past iterations of the phone.

Hardware

Most of the phones coming out now are well designed, with specifications that are worth the wait, but certain things, like the buttons on the 8X or the Lumia 810/820/822 are either difficult to find or difficult to press.  A few suggestions overall for the Windows Phone 8.5 Hardware:
-micro-SD should be required on ALL phones, regardless of form or built-in memory.  It is not enough to have 16GB today, and the HTC 8X is stuck at this paltry amount.  The Lumia 920 has 32GB, which is good, but imagine having a 64GB micro-SD for a 96GB phone.
-resolution: only 1280×768 should be allowed going forward.  If you wish to have an entry level phone for emerging markets only, give them the 800×480 phones.
-memory: only 32GB or 64GB with micro-SD cards required.  A 16 GB phone but only in emerging markets
-front-facing camera of at least 1 MP
-use Sony or other RGBW sensors to capture more light.
HDR movie mode to allow more light and better scene capture when filming video
-individual physical buttons in place of capacitive.
-gyroscope, compass, accelerometer, barometer
-HD Radio (feature parity with Zune HD)
-Zune-style dock connector in place of mini-USB.  This would allow 3rd party docks and accessories to flourish, like alarm docks, stereo speaker docks, TV output docks, and more.
-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.

Apps

While there are over 100,000 applications in the Windows Phone Store, there are a few, such as Instagram, which could and should be ported over, especially with integration into the Lenses feature.  The Zune HD apps Audiosurf Tilt and Music Quiz should be brought over also, both were incredibly fun on the Zune HD.

Since it’s about apps, just add the X to close an app from the task switcher so that people will stop asking for it.

Backup, Restore, and Moving from Phone to Phone

Lots of original Windows Phone users will be upgrading to the newer LTE Windows Phones, and new users coming over will need and expect this feature from a modern phone.  Users of existing Windows Phones have texts, people (linked together), groups, installed applications (free, paid), app settings, game saves and achievements, phone history, recent people list, contact history for all contacts (texts, IMs, phone calls), IE Favorites, and full-resolution photos taken on the phone.

Application re-installation should be automatic, as should all of the above, the moment you log in to your Microsoft Account on the phone.  This would really delight all users of Windows Phones.  Currently, you have to go to windowsphone.com, and manually re-install everything one-by-one.  If not automatic, one button on the website should install everything back.  Additionally, there is no backup for your start screen, so you will have to manually re-set and re-size your tiles, and if you miss the offer to restore, there’s no setting for it anywhere in Settings to try it again.

Calendar

The calendar needs a week view, as many people have requested since 2010.  Especially in landscape mode.  The month calendar should also show some indication of which appointments are on which day, perhaps with colored bits in the days, as it currently isn’t very informative, as the competition is.

Camera

Add HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode to the default camera experience.

Desktop Software

The desktop software to access the Windows Phone 8 is utterly worthless in comparison to Zune.  The absolute best thing Microsoft can do is just to add Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone Store access into Zune and be done with it.  To be quite honest, X-Box Music and X-Box Video are both atrocious pieces of software that should never have been released to the public in the state they’re in, and deserve to be removed from every single PC on which they were installed, and immediately replaced with Zune, or Windows Media Player, both of which are far more mature and usable for people with large media collections.  Windows Media Player gives us fine-control over playlist synchronization, such as “all music by the artist Carbon Leaf, rated 3 stars or better, in the rock genre up to 1 hour in duration.”  You can’t do that with the Windows Phone 8 software.  You cannot edit metadata in the X-Box Video, which you were able to do in Zune.  As it stands, I have a huge pile of ‘video files’ on my computer that I had organized in Zune into movies, TV shows, and music videos.  I was able to actually get podcasts with Zune and synchronize them to my phone.  I cannot do that with the Windows Phone 8 software, nor X-Box Music.  For the sake of everyone who bought Windows Phone 8 – please, destroy X-Box Music and X-Box Video and replace them with a rebranded Zune software.  You don’t need to re-invent what works.  And please…put back the ‘social’ tag.  I would like to see what my friends are listening to, comment, like, and share music with them, which links them back to X-Box Music.  It’s a win-win for Microsoft.  Don’t make me have to write a program myself for basic features and functionality you actually had at one point but for some odd reason removed.

Device Features

There are now around 20 colors available for themes, not including those specific to certain manufacturers or carriers.  Another option would be for users to have the ability 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), or even have color groups, so that work tiles are red, personal tiles are blue, and hobby tiles are green, for example.

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 seems to be a bug, or perhaps a “feature” that after I snooze the alarm too much, the phone’s volume will be turned off, and you have to reboot the phone to get sound back.

Facebook Integration

A few new features have come to Facebook, which should also come to the Windows Phone in the next version, including: check other people in with you, check in with a picture and caption.  Facebook is adding features quite regularly, and the Facebook integration should keep pace.

From the People Hub, we should be able to, when viewing ‘What’s New’ also choose to share any post we find there.  We can already retweet things, but there’s no ‘share’ function.

When checking in at a place from the Me Tile, we should be able to tag people we’re with, as well as take a picture and post it to Facebook without having to open the App.  Just by adding a button or two there, those features can be included on the interface.  Maybe even add a music icon to share which song, album, artist, or playlist I’m listening to.

When posting an article to Facebook, it looks somewhat bare in comparison to how you post from within Internet Explorer on the desktop or any other browser, which allows you to choose an image from the web page to use to post the article.  That’s what the ‘share to Facebook’ option should allow from within IE should allow, along with the ‘post a message’ from the Me Tile should do, is allow you to cycle through the images from the article to choose the one you wish to post, as well as tag people in that article share.  Surface lets you choose the image already.  You should also be able to tag contacts from statuses you post to Facebook like you can on the desktop browser version of Facebook.  It looks like Windows Phone 8 loses the “Share to Facebook” option, which is sad since that’s the most often used choice and should rightly be there.

I would also suggest the addition of the option to post pictures and articles directly to friends’ walls, under the ‘share’ option already present in the picture hub, the me tile, and the people hub.  This extends existing functionality and also means one less situation where I have to open the Facebook app which is much slower than the phone itself.

Internet Explorer

Taking a cue from Windows 8/RT, if Microsoft wishes to keep the interface minimalist, how about swipe-in interfaces?  On IE 10 on Surface, you can swipe left to go back, and swipe right to go forward.  Since IE on the phone doesn’t have a back or forward interface button, it would be a nice touch to add that feature into the browser.

Regarding swipe-in, similar to the charms bar, since the bottom is now the address bar and the refresh/stop button (by default), how about adding the find on page, tabs, favorites, history/recent, and settings in a swipe down menu from the top?  You still get the minimalist interface, but you can finally make use of the space taken from the top in the transition from Windows Phone 7 to 7.5 Mango. Or, if you add the swipe-down settings for airplane mode that users ask for, either make IE the exception to that, make a swipe-down settings bar an all-app option and airplane mode-menu only on the start screen, or make the app bar at the bottom of IE swipe from left to right, like the copy/paste icon does currently, but do it so that we can have additional buttons for tabs, favorites, and history.  Any of those 3 options would be helpful.

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.  If adding the back/forward swipe gestures, this would need to be fixed.  It can’t really be that difficult to maintain the back/forward history for tabs as simple links for later retrieval.  It’s done in IE when re-opening tabs as well as Firefox.

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.

Keyboards

You can now download keyboards into the system, which is very useful, and change your interface language.  Both are very helpful for international users.  One additional change would be for nostalgia purposes – allow the changing of the sound of keypresses.  Either to a manual typewriter, or the IBM PS/2 keyboard sound.  It might not be high on the list, but it would bring a smile to a segment of users’ faces to hear those sounds again.

Kid’s Corner

When selecting music, we need jumplists to navigate more quickly, and pivots for album, song, playlist, and artists.

Lock Screen

It would be great for the lock screen to include weather information on it in addition to the messages, calendar, etc. that it currently allows.  And not “Metro”-style weather, but actual, color, hi-resolution weather graphics like the HTC hub does now, and weather that animates like the HTC Hub does.  I myself would like a little Live Lock Screen wallpaper.  That would 1-up the competition.

One feature the iPhone gained is to unlock notifications to go directly into that app to that specific message, such as a Facebook notification.  This would be a good feature to bring into Windows Phone, perhaps by swipe down, instead of swipe-up, to bring down the notification by app (with their own pivots), and if I tap/swipe-up from that individual notification, it will then bring me into the app at that specific message.  Same functionality, but more in-line with the Windows Phone aesthetic.  The lock screen is preserved and remains uncluttered, perhaps with the use of a time-out that will pull the lock screen back up after 10 seconds or so of inactivity.

Mail

When sending mail, it would be great to be able to save music files sent via e-mail into the Music+Videos hub, and to edit the ID3 tag information for the file.  Additionally, sending files for use as ringtones and notification tones should include ‘save as…’ ringtone/notification tone options.

Maps

The mapping should have built-in turn-by-turn for all phones, not just Nokia.  That’s just an omission that hinders the entire platform.  Did you buy HTC? yes?  Well, you’re out of luck.  That’s not really fair.  Then we have to pay some $30-$60 for some mapping application that Nokia users get free.  Especially not fair since the flagship Lumia 920 is limited to AT&T, and won’t be showing on Sprint or T-Mobile.  The 820 just doesn’t cut it nowadays, sorry.

While using Bing Maps, the Streetside View should be updated so that for all major cities (population 1 million + at first, then others later) you can view the street level, much like Nokia’s Here is allowing now for Europe.

The Reviews and Ratings for both Nokia Maps and Bing Maps should be integrated so that Lumias and HTC phones will have no disruptive differences between them when an HTC user goes abroad, or a Lumia user goes to the United States.  It appears that Lumias have had “Maps” removed from them, making US maps underwhelming in comparison to HTC users, and vice versa.

With the GPS functionality, there should also be the ability to purchase additional GPS voices for our phones, so that we can get KITT, Mr. T, foreign language voices, and so on, much like we can now for standalone GPS units.

In concert with the camera, the Nokia City Lens ‘augmented reality’ function should be brought to additional phones through the Lenses – either bring the app or build that functionality in to the OS itself through Bing Vision perhaps.  It just makes sense, along with the complete internationalization of Local Scout so that I take my Windows Phone to Munich, it recommends the best restaurants and hotels, such that the Android and iPhone pale in comparison.

Windows Phone 8 allows you to toggle traffic on/off, but what would be helpful, and is currently present in Nokia’s HERE app (on iOS oddly enough) would be granular traffic alerts for accidents, construction, congestion, and other traffic issues.

Music + Videos

It’s sad this loses the Zune branding, but that’s no one’s fault but Microsoft’s for failing to actually market the product with any effort.  Aside from that, the software could use a few improvements in several areas.

The play button next to music should be restored.  Having it at the bottom is putting it in a place no one will ever think to see, and even then, they’ll wonder what it’s for.  It’s not obvious like it was when it was next to music.

I have used X-Box music matching, and now a lot of artists I don’t care about show up in my music hub and I can’t get rid of them.  Sometimes I would like to hide certain artists while on the phone.  Too much music can be overwhelming.  In fact, I try not to use the music app anymore because I can’t find what I want in there.

Audiobook support should be added into the software, with audiobooks a recognized genre that automatically gets set into this area of the app so that playing music doesn’t get interrupted with ‘chapter 14’ of Lord of the Rings or something else.  Users should be allowed to add their own mp3s marked with the genre ‘audiobooks’ into that menu item.  I have plenty of audiobooks I can’t correctly add to my Windows Phone or easily play in Windows 8/RT because this simple action is not supported currently.  In the PC software, my audiobooks seem to show up as a dozen albums rather than as one single audiobook.

Aside from Audiobooks, there should be a “Zune-iversity” added to the X-Box Music PC software that lets you find educational podcasts and video podcasts all in one place, mirrored in the Windows Phone.

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).

When music is playing, the artist shows up on the Live Tile with animated artist names, but when paused, it goes back to the blank Music+Videos tile.  It would look much nicer if it would preserve the prior behavior and keep the last played artist showing up there.

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.  This should be available from the button bar in Now Playing, along with an option to save Now Playing as a playlist.

The ability to delete an entire album would be greatly appreciated.  It’s tedious to delete song-by-song.  The ability to edit playlists in their entirey would be great – I would like to delete, move up/down songs on a playlist while making it on my phone.  Also, the ability to “add to new playlist” would be amazingly helpful.  I tried adding a song to a playlist, and I somehow had over 6000 songs in that playlist because it was the Now Playing list, which somehow had all the music from X-Box matching in it.  All I wanted was a new playlist, and instead I had to stop all music, find an album with only 1 song, play that, then create a playlist from that base.  That’s ridiculous in 2012 and on a Microsoft phone.  I shouldn’t have to create an entirely new playlist like that.  That’s totally backwards.  When viewing a playlist, it just has a little green ‘all’ on there – no # of songs and no runtime.

The background in Music+Videos is a very dull gray.  I enjoyed the black background that would stay the background of the last artist played.  It looked better and was much more lively.  Now…not so much.  This app is definitely a step backwards from Zune.

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.  Radio receivers were removed in WP8, but I believe that HD Radio should be added back in the next iteration of Windows Phone so that we can listen to our favorite radio stations on the go, along with using radio for song discovery.

When sharing a song via Windows Phone, I found no way to share it from the Music+Video hub.  I would refer to the Zune HD Facebook App, which showed the album art, artist, album name, and song name, and it looked great.  I would highly recommend replicating this look for the Music+Videos sharing function to allow sharing to Facebook and Twitter, then on the People Hub when you click “Write on Wall,” and also on the Me Tile when you click on “Post an Update.”  This would be a great way to share the song, album, artist, or playlist you’re listening to with friends.

Regarding sharing, this was a great feature of Zune that never really got much promotion or prominence and I believe Microsoft should fix that with Windows Phone 8.  The ‘Social’ pivot should be brought over from Zune HD so that I can see what friends are listening to, either the artist, album, song, or playlist, and I could see my friends’ individual play histories, comment/like those songs, share songs directly to a friend’s X-Box account which could then show up in Music+Videos, or even better, as a pivot on the contact card.  That would be great exposure for the X-Box Music+Videos marketplace.  I should be able to share an entire playlist, album, or just send an artist recommendation to friends and have that show as a feed in my Me Tile.  Perhaps a better way to do this, would be to add a pivot in my Music+Videos hub to show me, like Pictures or People, the social feed of my friends, what they’re listening to, so that I can much more easily comment on, like, or even try out, those very same songs, publish playlists publicly, and share music, tv, and movies with friends.

Additionally, a media pivot should be added to contact cards so that I can see what music, TV, and movies a person’s been listening to through X-Box, and where I can comment/like and also tap to try out a song from X-Box, or a movie/TV show.  That would be great cross-promotion and discovery of music.

For feature parity with the former Zune HD, the Music+Videos software needs to have some additional features brought over.  On the artist page, there should be a play, plus (add to now playing), and Smart DJ button above the artist album list.  The Bio should include hyperlinks as on the Zune HD (great feature for music discovery), and a pictures pivot for artist artwork should be included also – I was able to download that and use it as wallpaper on the Zune HD, but that functionality is lost on Windows Phone 8.  Since music videos are also streamable for free, there should be a ‘videos’ pivot for the artist to see any music videos available right from our phones.  No one else would have this feature.

Additionally, the phone itself should support chapters in TV/Movies, along with subtitles and multiple language tracks, and let me see the TV and movies I’ve purchased but not downloaded in my TV/Movies pivots, for streaming to my device.  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.  No other phones would have this feature either, and this is currently possible with Music, so why not videos also?

On the genre pivot, it’s cosmetic, but I liked seeing mini-album-art under the genre, as it gave me a visual clue what was in that genre.  Similarly, under artists, the same mini-album-art should also be present to see visually how many albums you have, and which ones.  This add visual appeal to the Music+Videos app on Windows Phone, carried over from Zune.

On the album page, it would be nice to see an “add to now playing” plus icon and a “send to” mail icon so I can share an album with my friends on Windows Phones with Zune tags.  On the Video page, it would be nice to tap the icon to play all videos of a TV show, or tap the text to see a list of TV shows therein.

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.  Since moving to Windows Phone 8, being forced to use the Windows Phone 8 synchronization software, all those videos I spent long hours tagging with metadata in Zune were wasted, and I have no TV Shows, according to my new Windows Phone 8 device.

In the Store, 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.

Gapless playback should be added to the device when playing audio, and when a user clicks on ‘store’ in Music+Videos, it should take the user to the music store, not the general store.  This would save the user several taps, making the navigation more intuitive for the user.

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.  All I can do now is “Add to Now Playing.”  Perhaps an option after tapping “music” should be a button bar to ‘create new playlist.’  A button bar shows up in Songs, so why not in the pivot for playlists?

Apps like Spotify and Pandora are nice, but Music+Videos can do much better with Smart DJ.  Since we have channels on the Zune PC software, I would also like to see ‘channels’ on the phone based on an artist, set of songs, or set of albums, and have Music+Videos Smart DJ pick similar artists for me to create a channel that auto-updates with content as its released.  For example, if I seed a channel with REM, then it would pull in the B-52’s, Talking Heads, etc.  If I seed a channel with three Christian songs, the channel will pull in songs similar to those, continually updating so that as new albums are released, the channel updates.

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.

Auto Playlists, like Windows Media Player can do, would be an amazing addition (such as ‘new songs added within last 6 months in genres Rock, Pop’) so that I can have always fresh playlists on my phone and synchronized with the cloud.

In the Music+Videos Marketplace, it’s nice, but I would like to see “picks” like I see on the Zune PC software, so I can see artists, channels, songs, albums recommended for me based on my listening habits, and also see like-minded users I can ‘friend,’ see his/her Music+Videos history, friend list, and send messages through X-Box like I was able to do with Zune Social. I would also like to have the tap+hold option for marketplace albums to ‘add to now playing’ or ‘download.’  Currently, I have to open the album to download.

Searching the Music Store can be improved.  When I search for Johnny Cash, for example, it’s a jumble of artists, albums, playlists, and songs.  There should be separate pivots for each so I can narrow down what I’m looking for, be it the artist, or a song with his name in it, or whatever else.

Notification Center

Since everyone is clamoring for its inclusion, beyond what is currently available for notifications in Windows Phone 8, I have a suggestion for its implementation which would be simple and intuitive: instead of pull up to unlock, have pull down on the lock screen open the notifications, where a swipe right dismisses, and either swipe left or tap/swipe up to enter the app at that specific notification (such as a specific Facebook comment, or Twitter notice, etc.).  This would implement a feature the iPhone currently has, whereby users can unlock the entire phone, or unlock at a notification to automatically enter that app at that specific notification.  Currently, only toast notifications seem to do this in WP8, but if you miss a notification, there’s no getting it back.

When the screen is unlocked, utilize a similar motif from Windows 8/RT: swipe in from a side, or even the top to get the notification center.  For the sake of variety on WP8, I would tend for swiping left to see all notifications, perhaps include a five-day weather forecast from my chosen weather provider, and all my apps’ notifications in one place, so that if I missed the toast notification 5 hours ago, I can still see it here.  Swiping from the top in this case, could then be reserved for settings you need most commonly, such as airplane mode, brightness, etc.

Perhaps similarly arranged to the Blackberry Hub from Blackberry 10:

BlackBerry-Hub[1]

That requires a swipe gesture from the left-hand screen edge, recalling Windows 8’s edge gestures.  My idea of a notification center would be more like Nokia’s concept, but using the already available account logos for a little bit of graphical spicing up the page:

ncscreenshot concept 1  ncscreenshot concept 2 ncscreenshot concept 2

My second and third concepts borrow the pivots from the Zune HD/X-Box Music hub, showing the number of notices in 3 categories: social, texts, and mail.  Social holds all social network messages, texts all messaging (Facebook, Skype, text) apps, and mail all mail apps.  It would also be slightly graphical with the network logos, and contact pictures to avoid being a bare text-only screen.  If you tap on any social network notification, it will go directly to that app, to that specific message, just like the lock screen notification center would do for you.  I believe this would satisfy those wanting a notification center while keeping in the Windows Phone aesthetic.

People

Bringing over a feature from Zune HD, the Social pivot, should here be called “Media” so that I can see what friends are listening to through X-Box, be it an artist, album, song, or playlists, or even a TV Show, Series, Movie, or music video.  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 Music+Videos 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 Music+Videos 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 Music+Videos.  More discovery this way can mean more profit for Microsoft.  Nothing wrong with that.

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 Music or Video Store 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 X-Box Store 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.

A feature added to the iPhone in the last hardware revision was the “Find My Friends” feature and app, so that you could see where your friends are and share your location with them.  For my parents, brothers, and sisters, I should have the option to always share my location with them in case they need to contact me or find me, perhaps as a button on the app bar “find friend.”

Another feature that would be useful for this app would be a spouse field, children fields, sibling fields, and parent fields, so that if I tap my wife’s contact card, and I remember “I need to call my mother-in-law” I don’t have to back out, go to People, then search for her, I could just tap the “mother” field and see my wife’s mother’s contact info to call her.  It would save time and make it easier to see the relationships between people.  This feature should also carry over into the desktop app People.

One last thing for People would be the inclusion of setting individual notification tones for people as well as groups, so that if I wanted to, I could tell my family is texting me because the Family group notification tone is set to a foghorn or something, or that my brother is texting because that notification tone is set to ‘manah manah’ from the Muppets, and so forth.  The iPhone can do this now, so why can’t we have custom notification tones for texts, e-mails, etc.?

Personalized Updates

Google has released its service called “Google Now” which has some interesting features too it.  You can get movie recommendations and buy movie tickets, have the phone tell you when you need to leave to catch the movie and automatically pull up the tickets on your phone when you get there; it can display the traffic on the way to work; gives you the weather on your way and at your destination; sports scores for your favorite teams, live; package alerts for things you ordered; suggest places to visit when traveling; flight alerts; auto currency, time zone, and translations while traveling in a foreign country; and more is promised.

This is a feature that will help Android leap past the iPhone and entrench its own users, and it unfortunately makes Windows Phone look a bit less advanced in how it handles data on your phone, with which it does little to nothing predictive.  This is the promise of live tiles, and what it’s supposed to do for us without us having to dive into apps all over the place – glance and go.

I have two alternative proposals for Windows Phone, which could make it easy to add exactly the same feature set.  Let’s say you set your work address and time.  Your phone shows on the lock screen a live map with traffic updates without you needing to tell it to do so, with estimated travel time and a voice alert “you should leave within the next 10 minutes to get to work on time.  It will take 25 minutes to get there.”  If the phone is locked, a long press of the start button could initiate this mode.  You could also swipe the locked screen like Blackberry 10 can do, but that might be a bit derivative.

On the lock screen, with a swipe-animation or fade-animation, show me a quick little blurb about my favorite sports teams, say the Jaguars or the Patriots, and if they’re playing today, show me something like:

sports updates movie updatesflight information update

You could swipe left/right to cycle through the cards.  Go to your Microsoft account, and enter a few bits of information such as work address, favorite books, tv shows, and movies, and it can start recommending to you based on those, including stuff you bought from Zune or X-Box Music/Video:

upcoming movie updates upcoming tv updates upcoming tv updates 2

The phone would recommend Iron Man 3 because you bought Iron Man 1 and 2 on X-Box video (or rented them), or because you bought tickets to the others using Fandango or Movietickets.com, or because you posted on Facebook about the movie recently, or even because you put it on your Microsoft Account that you like Marvel movies.  Big Bang Theory would show up if you bought it, liked its Facebook page, or explicitly said on your Microsoft Account it was one of your favorite shows.  Likewise, Doctor Who.  If you like the Facebook page, bought or rented the show on X-Box Video, or even watched it on Netflix, the phone would aggregate that and put it here for you to let you know it’s coming up.  It would even show you the channel and time it airs if you tell the phone which TV provider you use.

When you show up at the movie theater, the phone knows which theater you meant to go to, and using GPS, when you get there, auto displays a QR code the theater can scan as your ticket:

I would propose a Bing app for movies and TV shows that lets you favorite shows you have watched and do watch now, and would be interested in seeing later on.  For example, I tell this app I watched the original Star Trek, then it would later recommend to me Star Trek: Into Darkness and provide links to purchase tickets, view the trailer, and see news stories about the movie.  I could mark the movie “interested” at which time the app would remind me the week of release, and give me a live tile link to purchase tickets.  I could mark that I liked He-Man when I was a kid, then an update would notify me when the DVD is coming out and give me the opportunity to purchase it.  If I mark down that I like Doctor Who, it would show me updates to purchase officially licensed merchandise like mugs, toys, and replicas (merchandise offers would be separately enabled, disabled by default).  Knowing which movies, tv shows, and music a person likes would be great for advertisers, and for media companies so that BBC knows there are 5 million Windows Phone users who watch Doctor Who, and that could encourage them to write an app for Windows Phone about Doctor Who; having Paramount know that 4.5 million Windows Phone users in the US, Canada, and Germany would let them know to write an app in French, Spanish, German, and English about Star Trek, and that they should put Star Trek in all its forms onto X-Box Music and Video for purchase, so they can make more money.  It works for everyone.

weather updates

If there’s a random weather event, like a thunderstorm, the screen will update and let you know you should leave early to get to work if there’s traffic congestion.

When travelling and you arrived at the airport, the phone could then show you your rental car info if you rented a car, and once you get the car, update to show you where your hotel is and the ETA.  If you created a ‘vacation plan’ in Bing Travel, then that would be completely available on the phone and show you the sites you selected , distance, ETA, and price, if any.  All that from the lock screen, if you choose, or from the Live Tile for Bing Travel (this would need to be ported to Windows Phone, of course).  Do this, and your Windows Phone becomes an indispensable travel companion.

When you’re near a place that’s a photo hotspot, say the Eiffel Tower, or Broadway, or the Capitol, or the Alamo, the phone would let you know X number of people took pictures here based on geotagged pictures uploaded to Skydrive.  If you walk into a restaurant it offers to display the menu card in Local Scout, using the GPS to know you’re in Luigi’s Pizzeria, and not Sakura Japanese Steakhouse next door.  If you have set a few stocks that you own in Bing Finance, that will show up on your phone in the update rotation every 15 minutes or so.  If you’re in the subway, the phone’s lock screen will show you ETA till the train comes, which lines are near you, and if you’re in the train, ETA to destination (if you set one using Bing Travel, for example, or are looking for directions and asked the phone to show you where to go).  If there’s breaking news, like a State of the Union or something international happened, and you selected for news alerts to show, then the phone would put that into the update rotation.  If you have Nike+ as an app, it would be integrated so that even on the lockscreen you see distance, time, calories burned.

Outlook.com already has a folder for “shipping updates” so the ability Google Now enjoys with showing your shipping updates would be incredibly easy to add to Windows Phone’s lock screen.

If I purchased tickets to the Nutcracker for me and my girlfriend last year, it should remember that and suggest other musical events, perhaps Carmina Burana, Handel’s Messiah, or Mary Poppins perhaps.

From James Kendrick’s article on ZDNet:

“If I receive a communication of any kind (email, TXT, Facebook message, Twitter DM, etc.) from my buddy Matt Miller stating he’s “coming to Houston next Thursday. We should have dinner”, my phone should interpret this and offer to set up an event in my calendar for this. Better, it should also remind me that Matt likes a certain restaurant in Houston (from past visits), and offer to make a reservation. It could even fire up a reply in the proper app notifying Matt that we’re on. This sort of stuff can help me out a great deal, and without any effort on my part.”

How much sense does this make?  Let’s say you get a communication for a meeting across town, Mr. Kendrick explains:

“My phone always knows where I am due to geolocation, and that can be leveraged to help me. If I get a phone call asking for a meeting across town at a certain time, when I enter it into my schedule on the phone it should warn me if the distance between the existing meeting before or after this one makes it unlikely I can make it. This could save me embarrassment by suggesting I offer a slightly adjusted meeting time for the new event.”

A businessman’s dream phone would do this for them.

The second alternative would be a live tile that opens to a hub, with pivots for each update type you activated in settings.  There would be a weather pivot, movies, TV, stocks, shipping updates, travel, hotspots, and so on.  The tile itself would update frequently to show you your updates without intervention, with every other card flip being the date/time and weather, since the time always disappears if we don’t tap the top of the screen.  This would be less an obvious change, and might be a bit more work for the user to discover.  Perhaps adding the hub by default as the top tile would be helpful.

Each of these update types would show in the settings panel for “Personalized Updates” so you can opt in or out of them at your choice, so you aren’t inundated with information, and you can keep your lockscreen as clean, or as personalized, as you want it to be.  The competition is obviously not standing still with their phones.  Microsoft needs to pick up the pace.  Just view James Kendrick’s article from ZDNet and

Phone

Windows Mobile had a smart dialing feature.  Start typing 326, and it would bring up all phone numbers containing 326 as well as all possible names you could form from that, so any Daniels or Dans would show up in that list, making it quick and easy to tap out friends’ names on your phone.  Today, Windows Phone 8 cannot do that, and is forced to tap the phonebook to go to people, then tap a letter, then find your contact or search and type a few extra letters.  Extra work that would be unnecessary with Smart Dialing.

Another feature that would be useful is to pin the dialer to the start menu.  A lot of the time I just want to dial the number, not see my call history, then tap the numberpad button.  That’s two taps that could be made into one tap.  Or, you could make the phone app always open to the dialer, and add a button for history to go to the old history page.

Speaking of history, the current history melds together incoming, outgoing, and missed calls.  It would be much easier to separate those all out into separate pivots so that I can see all incoming calls and search for that call that came in two days ago that I need to find the number for.  Much better.  In addition, call duration should be added, as it was a feature in Windows Mobile, and currently a feature in Android/iPhone.  How hard would that be?

Finally, the ability to block certain numbers from calling or texting you would be great for the spam texts and telemarketers that sometimes come in on your phone, or just blocking certain people from contacting you period.

Phone.Live.Com

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.  With Windows Live dying down and being moved into other places, the name might change, but the features available through the web page should not.

Photosynth

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’s camera 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.  For some reason, Photosynth is currently unavailable on WP8.  It would be a great showcase app or better, integrated function of the phone.

Screenshare

Blackberry 10 has been released with several new features, one of which is screen sharing while you are on a video call.  This can be simply added via a button on Skype, and could be a useful idea.

SD Cards

The microSD cards should be required on all phones, even unibody like the Lumia 920 or the HTC 8X.  Especially if OEMs insist upon limiting us to 16GB on the phone, which is ridiculous in this day and age.

Search

When performing a product search, there should be deeper integration with the Amazon app so that if you tap on the Amazon price listing, it will take you to that product page within the Amazon app instead of to that page within Internet Explorer.

Continuing on search, when I’m in the mail app, I want to search, my first instinct is to use the search button, but I can’t.  It goes to Bing.  When in Internet Explorer, I want to find on page, which is buried in the page.  When in messaging, I want to search my messages, but I can’t since the search button goes to Bing, and so on.  I would propose making the search button default to searching the currently active app if it supports it, otherwise give a message saying “there is no searchable content in this app, or it has no search feature.  Please contact the app developer to request this,” and have a long-press of the search button take you to Bing as today.

Bing search should be the default on the start screen though, and should also search locally on the phone for texts, e-mails, and contacts like Android/iPhone can currently do.

Settings

It would be great to have the option to pin individual settings to the start menu for quicker access, such as brightness, NFC, Airplane Mode, etc.  Better still would be the option to swipe down from the top while in the Start screen to have airplane mode, wi-fi, and NFC there for easy on/off.

For music, there should be a setting available in Settings as well as within the Music+Videos app for a music equalizer with multiple presets as well as customizable presets to emphasize bass, treble, and balance.  Even better would be if the phones could simulate 5.1 sound when users have headphones on.

Settings as a phone should be alphabetized.  It’s too difficult to find things in the haphazard arrangement they currently have.

SkyDrive

There should be a much more accurate way to geotag pictures uploaded to SkyDrive.  We can currently tag, but that’s about it.  There is utterly no way to geotag in Skydrive, and the Pro Phototools is a nightmare to figure out to use.  I have dozens of photos in Skydrive taken with a camera without GPS, and at the moment, there’s no ability to geotag them with the precise location (Friendly’s on International Drive in Orlando, for example.  The best I can do is “Orlando, FL” in the current Live Photo Gallery App.  That’s pitiful in 2012).

Skype

This is worthless as a video chat service.  I cannot connect to my girlfriend through Skype on her iPhone with my Windows Phone 8.  Every single time, it’s refused.  The same on Surface RT.  The only way is for her to do some ‘jiggery pokery’ on her end and somehow it works.  This is an utter failure for Skype.  It should ‘just work’ like my girlfriend says Facetime does.  How can I convince her to switch to Windows Phone 8 when parts like Skype seem so broken?

Additionally, Skype needs to support all the features we use from Windows Live Messenger: Remote desktop to view a friend’s desktop and control it, file sharing for collaboration purposes, simultaneous video viewing (I share Youtube videos with friends a lot and this is a big feature for us), custom fonts (size, color, formatting, font), custom emoticons and importing emoticons, and exporting chat history to a local file.  Without these I will not be using the Desktop / Metro app of Skype at all.

Synchronization

All my favorites from my Windows 8 PC should synchronize to the phone.  I have Surface, and those favorites are not carried over to the Windows Phone 8.

If I download a song from X-Box Music on my phone, how simple would it be that that song is downloaded for me automatically to my Windows 8 PC?  Or if I take lots of pictures with my phone, once I’m on my home wireless network, upload those automatically to my home PC.  Skydrive is nice, but people like storing files locally too.  If I create a playlist on my PC, why not have the option to automatically synchronize that to my phone so if I change the playlist on the PC, that same playlist is auto-updated on the phone, or how about the ability to create an Auto-Playlist like in Windows Media Player (such as: all songs in the last 2 months, less than 4 minutes, in the genre Oldies, with a playlist length of 90 minutes) that will always refresh itself so I never grow tired of that playlist?

Another nice way to synchronize content would be by adding a “Send to My PC” when you’re browsing the web and want to read an article later, send it to your home computer to read later, and it will be there ready to read in a tab on IE.

TellMe / Voice Control

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, and fast.

Video Calling

Video calling should be as easy as using Facetime for iPhone.  Currently, that solution seems to be Skype.  But Windows Live Messenger, even though it’s being retired in 2013, made this incredibly easy, much more so than Skype, and with far more reliability.  There should be a simple button to video call someone on Windows Phone, no fuss, from within the contact card.  Just a button to initate a video call.

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One Response to Windows Phone 8.5 (updated)

  1. Indiana says:

    Hello there! This post couldn’t be written
    much better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept talking about this. I most certainly will send
    this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a great
    read. Thank you for sharing!

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