Windows Phone Diary: 5 things for Microsoft to fix, and 1 for Apple to steal

WindowsPhone8X_Front_BackFirst things first: Yes, I’m still using my Windows Phone.

Regular readers may remember that I gave up my iPhone and switched to Windows Phone 8 at the beginning of the year — first a Lumia 920 and then an HTC 8X — as a challenge to myself and an experiment to understand Microsoft’s mobile platform by truly living it day-to-day.

Overall, after five months, I have a love-hate relationship with Windows Phone. There are many features that I love, including the ability to pin specific contacts to the Start screen to quickly see who has sent you a message.

One of the things that has made me stick with Windows Phone is the text suggestion feature — making a row of alternative words available above the keyboard as you type. Who knows what iOS 7 will bring, but Apple definitely needs to adopt this feature from Windows Phone and Android keyboard apps. I still use my SIM-less iPhone occasionally, and I miss this feature when I do.

But lately the minor annoyances have been piling up with Windows Phone, as I’ve encountered situations that prevent me from doing things that I expect to do. So here are my top five “feature requests” for the next version of Windows Phone …

videoeditingVideo trimming: You take a perfect 30-second video clip of your kid on your phone, except for the last few seconds where she picks her nose or says the wrong grandparent’s name.

So you just edit out that last part, save the new version and send it off via email or text, right? Nope, not on Windows Phone. Not only is this feature not available in Windows Phone, but there’s no third party Windows Phone app that does it, either. Um, what? (Windows Phone power users, correct me if I’m overlooking something, but I’ve asked a bunch of people, and searched and searched with no luck.)

So the process instead involves saving the clip to SkyDrive, editing it on a computer and sending it off that way. Yes, this falls in the realm of first-world problems, but really, is it too much to ask for a simple video trimming feature? No.

Facebook messaging: One of the coolest things about Windows Phone, in theory, is the integrated Facebook messaging. In practice, this is one of the worst things about Windows Phone.

Here’s what happens in my experience: I’m having a fun messaging session with a friend in the web interface on Facebook, chatting back and forth, and suddenly the other person stops writing back, even though they’re still online. Jeez, was it something I said? No, the messages are randomly being diverted to my Windows Phone, and not showing up in the web interface. Sometimes it’s the opposite, where messages show up in the web interface and not on the phone.

I’ve tried changing settings, disconnecting and reconnecting my Facebook account. No luck. The web is littered with unresolved forum complaints about these problems. Microsoft needs to get together with Facebook on this one and figure it out.

IMG_0288Information Density: This is a matter of personal preference, but I far prefer the snug default design of the iPhone’s text and fonts to the Windows Phone airy “Modern UI” interface. See this picture for a comparison of the same inbox on the 8X and the iPhone 4S.

Apple has shown that it is possible to deliver information with a tight design while still having a clean and readable experience. Isn’t this why we have high-resolution screens on our phones?

Cut and Paste: You might be under the impression that Microsoft has enabled cut and paste when writing emails, etc., in Windows Phone. That’s technically incorrect. The company has enabled copy and paste. To actually cut and paste, you have to remember to hit delete after you copy the text.

Yes, this is a very minor complaint, compared to some of the others, but it’s one more thing that has made adjusting to Windows Phone more challenging than it should be, at least for me. (Admittedly, I spend more time editing emails on my phone than I should.)

People Tile: It’s fun to see random profile pictures of your friends flipping around in the People tile on the Windows Phone home screen, but the problem is that they are truly random — with no apparent relation to recent status updates or anything that you’ll actually see when you press the tile to go the People hub.

Hey, cool, who is that friend there in the tile with the mysterious new profile pic? Um, no idea.

I’ve played with settings extensively with no luck. (Again, Windows Phone fans, help me out here if I’m missing something.) Making the People Tile relate to actual activity seems like an easy fix and a simple way for Microsoft to upgrade the experience.

So that’s where I am. No show-stoppers, but enough to leave me with mixed feelings as I continue to adjust to Microsoft’s mobile platform. Here’s hoping Microsoft can address at least some of these things in future Windows Phone updates.

By the way, regarding my other Microsoft experiment: Yes, my family is still using our Surface RT. More on that in a future post.

  • http://twitter.com/YohimbinX Tommy Boy

    Hello from Germany!
    Well, after living with a Windows Phone 7 device, an Android device, a Windows Phone 8 device (Nokia 820) I finally switched back to Android (Nexus 4). Sorry, but “tiles” are not the answer! I’m not going to look on my phone to watch tiles in motion. I’m not interested in tiles – I’m interested in information. I want to know who send me an email, follows me on Twitter or is messaging me via Facebook Chat. Nothing else. The tiles make no sense in my opinion. Same goes for Windows 8.

    • WP + Nokia = Happiness

      Have you tried pinning some live tiles that do exactly what you just complained about? I get everything done on my WP8 very easily. Emails, twitter, fb chat etc. There is fb chat built into the os, toast notifications always keep you up to date

    • http://twitter.com/MediaCastleX Mike E. Delta

      You never took advantage of the features properly…you probably don’t make full maximum benefit of Android either. Think just because you have it you’re automatically in the Hot seat, but you just might be missing something. Oh, well…more for me! =p

    • http://twitter.com/HailMarxism fred sparrow

      android is too unstable for my liking, which is why I chose WP8 instead:

      *crashes (” this app has unexpectedly stopped working: force close/wait “)
      *lag and stutter despite the most powerful hardware (this is definitely a software issue)
      *missing calls because the bloody keypad/locking module/sensor wouldn’t work properly
      *shitty battery life – I don’t think I once made it through full day without having to recharge the phone
      *lack of software support (I received 1 single update that occurred within the first 6 months of a 2 year contract and that was it.)
      *the phone would decide to freeze or reboot itself (you have to love the pile of crap that is java)

      Things I miss

      Easy access to toggle switches (brightness/wi-fi mainly)
      A camera that doesn’t compress the shit out of photos

      I think MS will make significant changes with its next version of Windows, but I can’t see this happening for at least 6 months

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Murch/705204492 Steve Murch

    Good, balanced writeup. Agree. Amazingly, just yesterday I encountered the same “What? No video trimming app on WinPhone?” forehead slap. (I had managed to catch a bunch of crows in a dogfight with a bald eagle, and had about 2 mins of “dead air” at the end waiting for them to come back.)

  • Suz n Seattle

    You forgot to add ‘change the text preview feature to be optional’. Not everyone wants their text messages visibly featured at the top of their phone for 30 seconds.

    • http://twitter.com/MediaCastleX Mike E. Delta

      You know you can just “swish” those aside and not look at them for 30 seconds…or is that just *way* too much work? =’(

      • Link

        It’s a legitimate annoyance and privacy concern. Leave your phone on the desk, even if it’s locked your texts are pretty much available for all to read.

    • Karsten

      Is this about word suggestions popping when you’re typing? On WP7 you can disable that (tough it’s not straight forward). Go to Settings > Keyboard > Settings for typing. At the top of the screen, you’ll see “Tap here to change” (or similar – I’m not using english). Tap to remove checkmark for word suggestions. Done!

      • Karsten

        ^ delete this – just realized what your post was about

  • Guest

    TILES ARE THE PROBLEM. A “mysterious new profile pic” or a random change are more confusing than anything. Even on W8 you sometimes wonder where the desktop went because people move the tile around or change their background image. Sure, there’s always the keyboard, but when was that ever a problem to find the desktop? In theory live updates sounds good, but in practice it’s too busy. Moreover, the low information density is really frustrating – in pretty much everything Metro.

    • http://twitter.com/MediaCastleX Mike E. Delta

      Well, if you filter out the “randos” that you clearly don’t know then it shouldn’t be a problem…or you *could* just bypass ‘People’ altogether and pin Groups of just who you *want* to know about and look at *that* on your start screen. The only rules you need to follow are the ones that *YOU* set. That’s the customization options you have, not to simply use the default layout and particular apps that are just there but shake it up, move things around, to make it more *personal* more “YOU”

      Although if your Windows Phone is obnoxious, then maybe you are too? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. =D

  • http://twitter.com/Alex_Middle Alex Middleton

    Well, actually there is two false thing in this artice. First you don’t have to “To actually cut and paste, you have to remember to hit delete after you copy the text.” why would you have to press the delete? if you press copy then it copies to the cutboard, where after you can paste it anywhere you want. If you want to *cut* it out, then you have to press the delete, but that is basic stuff IMO. Other one is that you can see exactly the same amount of data as you can on the iPhone, except that you only see the first line of the mail not the first and the second line. I think it is not a big deal.
    About video cutting, absolutely right, I really miss that feature

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      Alex, I love your comment because you 1) say that what I wrote about cut and paste was false and 2) repeat exactly what I said. Classic.

      There is no single cut-and-paste command. There is a copy-and-paste command. You can replicate a cut-and-paste command by copying the text and then, separately, deleting it. It’s an extra step. As I mentioned in the piece, it is a small annoyance, but every annoyance adds up.

      The iPhone in the picture is a 4S (with a 3.5 inch screen). The Windows Phone is an HTC 8X (with a 4.3 inch screen).

      • http://twitter.com/Alex_Middle Alex Middleton

        Yeeea… now I feel a little bit stupid about the copy/cut-paste part. You are right, there is no cut and paste. Well yeah. I don’t know, it never bothered me.
        Anyway, I know the display sizes, but I also think that iPhone is too messy, not even talking about android, and if we think about that Metro UI is mostly minimalistic design, it sort of makes it up for it. My eye is not that good so sometimes I’m glad about the bigger typos, and spacing

      • Link

        It makes more sense to me IMO. I don’t want to accidentally remove text when I’m trying to copy. One button decreases clutter and there will be no accidents.

  • http://twitter.com/MediaCastleX Mike E. Delta

    Yes, the People Tile might be a little vague, but that’s the Hub…you make your phone more personal if you want to either Filter the People or make the appropriate groups of friends and Pin those directly to the Start. The key is to personalize it where you are comfortable with it…take some time, think about what you really want to see and make it so. It’s not inflexible, be aware of that even if it appears to be.
    Also, there is something to be said about the nicety of looking simple, like it was a Zen kinda thing instead of the stressful cramming of =INFORMATION DENSITY=
    Of course “diff’rent strokes fo’ diff’rent folks” maybe you want that reflection of just how busy your life is…I don’t really think it’s necessary to be reminded of the strength of technology 24/7 when it’s perfectly fine being reminded BY said technology of the strength of people, MY people…that I am connected to via Windows Phone. *Sigh* It’s just fun, and complaints are not…you just need help with a few things, the answers are there.

  • Johnathon_Fitzpatrick

    Those text suggestions come as a default on new Android phones, but I use the keyboard app SwiftKey on mine for a better experience. It has wonderful text suggestions that learn your writing patterns, even predicting the next word you’ll use before you’ve started typing. It has spoiled me so much that I feel like something’s missing when I type on a computer now. Though I know your other phone is an iPhone, I highly suggest trying it out if you can.

  • Link

    I don’t actually use facebook much, but I have had different experiences with the fb chat.

    Whenever I use it, I get messages both on web and phone. I’ve accidentally logged on from my phone a few times and friends started talking to me. I’ll respond until I’m at a computer, then seamlessly switch over to the computer chat (where the history is intact even though I was on my phone). And vice versa! It doesn’t work consistently but I’ve had history from the web chat transfer over to the phone at login.

  • Otto

    Reason why there is no video editing software is that 3rd party apps do not have access to videos stored on device. THAT is what Microsoft should fix as it also blocks any Youtube upload app from existing.
    (This is also why Youtube downloaders cannot store videos to list of videos seen in XBox music hub.)

  • Hashtag_David

    I kind of like the randomness of the people tab. Sometimes I glance at it and see picture of a friend or family member that I haven’t contacted with in a while and it prompts me to do so. If the tile only showed me active contacts, then I likely would only see the few people who keep posting pictures of their dinner!

  • Hashtag_David

    Oh, I just notice how old this article is. oops