Windows Phone (After-) Blue

We’ve gotten some nice updates from Microsoft regarding hints of what’s to come in Windows Phone Blue, notably a notification center (even though it can reasonably be argued it’s unnecessary) and 1080p handsets.  Now that the new Android and iOS7 updates have been announced, I would like to add my 2c to the discussion as to what I would like to see added to Windows Phone, after Blue.

(Please see my past article for other updates I would like to see added to Windows Phone)

For Hardware, the changes I would make would be: make 32GB the absolute minimum amount of storage available for anyone, unless it’s a cheap phone, like the Lumia 520.  Above that 32GB should be standard, not 16GB, as well as micro-SD cards for all phones.  There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to add them to our phones nowadays.

Calendar

If you look at it portrait, you see the day; if you turn it landscape, you see the week, automatically.  I’ve heard this is going to be added in, but it can’t come soon enough.

Car Integration

Apple is doing this, because they have enough Fanboys out there to warrant it.  Microsoft already partners with Ford with Synch, and I’m sure it could try to get Honda and Toyota in there also, to introduce meaningful car integration for playing music, voice control of radio, GPS, calling, have your texts and e-mails read to you while you drive, hands-free.  This would integrate with the voice operated assistant Microsoft featured a while back on YouTube.

Lock Screen

Add a parallax tracking so the background image can appear to shift with the phone.  This is arguably trivial, but it can add depth and third dimensionality to the lock screen, especially since WP8 doesn’t have start screen wallpapers.

Weather apps for the lock screen would have motion backgrounds so you can see your weather animating in a small 10-15 second loop, with live updates (not static) of temperatures and conditions.  This would be similar to the old motion backgrounds on Vista.

If you have actual notifications, you can swipe through them on the lock screen without unlocking.  You can even pull down the notification to respond from lock.  This would be mildly similar to iOS7, wherein you can choose your lock screen style: WP8, Today, or Notifications.  WP8 is the current minimalist style; Today would replicate the old Windows Mobile today screen, which a number of users miss and find useful to have the day’s appointments that they can flip through; Notifications would show you all missed notifications, including calls, texts, and e-mails.  You would be able to swipe through from left to right to change your lock screen style, with your last chosen lock screen persistent between locks.

Music

In the app, please just add ‘picks’ from the Zune desktop software, which is infinitely better than X-Box Music to this day.  The spotlight shows me nothing I like, and I can’t tell what the next swipe over is.  It would be nice to also be able to rate spotlights using the Zune heart/broken heart so I don’t have to look at music I don’t like ever again (Sorry Megadeth).  I would like to see a “Top 20” playlist in each genre, which I can download to my phone and play, in addition to having full playlist creation, editing, resorting ability.

Since we can stream music from X-Box Music, why not allow the creation of ‘stations’ based on an artist or three, to seed it, and we can save and pin it to the start screen.  Have a few presets, like a ‘Favorites’ based on music I frequently listen to, ‘Top Genres’ for the two or three genres I listen to most, ‘top artists,’ and so on.  The Smart DJ would be great to use for this, and even share this to Facebook or with a friend over Text, so that you can use cross-advertising to bring in new users.  On these stations, if we like what’s playing, we can tap the heart icon to favorite, or tap again (broken heart) to unfavorite, so it can learn which songs/artists we like, and we can find more music that’s more our style.

Photos

Since our pictures are geotagged, it would make sense to organize those pictures based on the subject matter, as well as allowing us to tag them with people and places.  Additionally, group them based on subject matter, so if I’m in Paris again, group all my Paris pictures together, and in that group, my Eiffel Tower, Versailles Palace, etc, together.  Perhaps a swipe to one side, and it’s grouped by people, and I can see all my pictures with my brother together, and my dad in another spot.  If iOS7 can do this, there’s no reason Windows Phone 8 can’t.

Currently, if you go into albums, there are pivots for people, favorites, albums, and date.  Albums reflects our Skydrive and Facebook albums; date for date taken; people shows us all available pictures of that person.  I would propose adding places, with tiles for any particular places you’ve been, so that you can check out all your pictures from London to reminisce, or perhaps show a friend who’s going there later.  Additionally, from this ‘places’ collection, you could share that place album with one or more friends so they can all see where you’ve been.  People could be improved here as well so that you could limit to just your pictures of your friends, if you have any.

Quick Settings

Pin to the quick settings the ones you use most (airplane mode, wifi, bluetooth, mute, brightness, flashlight, etc.) with a simple pull-down from the top of the screen.  Additionally, there should be a setting page to say which individual settings you pin onto this pull down.

Search

Restore the search button to contextual searching within specific apps.  This makes more sense than always taking us to Bing.  I cannot tell you how frustrating that is to accidentally tap those touch-sensitive buttons in the middle of a game.  In a game, just disable search.  Have a long-tap activate Bing search instead, just like a long tap of Start activates the voice command.

Within search, add local files, e-mails, texts, along with web, local, media, shopping results, but also include Wikipedia as well, which can be very helpful, along with Wolfram Alpha for common simple, factual questions (What’s the atomic weight of cobalt?, for example).

Settings

This should be alphabetized.  No question about it.

The next upgrade would be in Storage to tell us how much each app takes up on the phone so we can delete apps that take up too much space (also sorting by name and size would be helpful here), and an easy way to clear the “other” storage space which is currently eating up over 6 GB of my measly 16GB of unexpandable memory.

Sharing

NFC is nice, and we all have it now on our phones.  But it would be even better if our share interface would simply show us contacts near us, and we can just tap on that person’s picture/name to share something with them.  The iOS7 AirDrop is a good example of this sharing made easy.  This kind of sharing should be across the entire OS: share websites, music, videos, coupons, playlists, apps to friends, without resorting to going to the entire contact list.  Show me explicitly “friends near me,” “contacts,” and “everyone near me” so I can share more easily.  This isn’t difficult to think up.  Apple did it.

Start Screen

Swipe from the left edge to get the notification center.  There’s no need to make another live tile that can get lost in the sea of live tiles.  If you get new notifications, a slight bright glow can emanate every time you get a new one from the left so there’s a visual indicator of a new notification.

Also, add new animations for  Live Tiles to increase visual interest.  How about a 3D-cube turn from the top/bottom/left/right?  Not terribly difficult.  Or if you’ve been to Regal Cinemas, they have a multi-tile swipe effect before movies start.  That shouldn’t be hard for a single tile.  Two of what could be many ideas for new transitions.

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