Windows Phone 8: Areas for Improvement

As you may know, I have already taken the plunge into the world of Windows Phone 8 with a recent purchase of a new Nokia Lumia 920.  After a few solid weeks of use, I have made a small list of gripes areas for improvement regarding the Windows Phone 8 OS (and none of them are related to app availability).

I should preface the next section by saying that I am still quite happy with my Nokia Lumia 920.  Some items below are due to a learning curve and some are small UI issues that can be easily tweaked.  None of them should prevent you from exploring Windows Phone 8 as an alternative to your current smartphone platform.

The list below is a result of three weeks of solid WP8 usage.  I’m going to try to sort these in the order of annoyance, starting with the most glaring:

  • There is no punctuation when authoring a text of email using speech recognition.  When I am dictating a message, I end up with a massive run-on sentence with little or no punctuation.  This requires a good bit of clean-up after composing the message which pretty much defeats the purpose.  The only work around I have found is to write the message one sentence at a time and to use the “Add more” command to tack on additional sentences.
  • Group text messaging does not maintain the group thread.  It took Apple a while to figure this out too.  I frequently send groups of people a text message and would like to receive their responses as a discussion thread.  Similarly, I have no way of knowing whether I am a recipient of a group message and my reply will only go to the original sender.  These features worked fine on my iPhone with the later versions of the OS, but is missed on my WP8 device.
  • The phone does not remember or reset volume settings when plugging it into headphones or other auxiliary speaker inputs.  My iphone seemed to have two different “states” when considering volume — with headphones plugged in, and without headphones plugged in — and would seamlessly switch back and forth between them.  My Nokia doesn’t seem to retain this.  So, after I unplug my phone from my car where I am listening to music at a high volume, I have to remember to reduce the volume before using my speakerphone or gaming.  I would love it if the Lumia would remember this for me.
  • I do not have quick access to the 10 or so phone numbers I call most frequently.  On my iphone, it was a simple matter of touching the Phone icon, touching the ‘Favorites’ and then touching the number I want to dial.  3 touches max.  On WP8, I touch the “Favorites” group, scroll to find the contact I wish to call, touch the contact, then decide whether I want to call home or work or cell.  3 touches, one scroll, and one decision as to which number I want to call.  Not ideal.  This is probably one example of how the contact-centric approach can slow you down.  But this is easily fixable with a small UI enhancement.  One work around is to use the voice dial capability to access an individual number.  But sometimes you just don’t want to talk to you phone.  You know?
  • Syncing music and files to my phone is confusing.  This should be a fairly simple rule:  If you need a wizard to determine the correct method for syncing stuff to your phone, it’s too complex.  This is a real thing:  Microsoft has a website where you answer different questions regarding what you want to sync and how.  Depending on those answers it recommends one of several tools.  I am 100% in favor of options and flexibility, but this needs to be simplified.
  • The monthly calendar view is fairly useless.  Like many people, I have several different calendars that I juggle:  a work calendar with meetings and appointments, a personal calendar and a shared calendar with my wife.  In the monthly Calendar view, I see little more than a small scribble wherever I have an appointment.  It’s completely illegible.  I must drill down to see if that is an important work appointment or an automatic Facebook birthday reminder.  Replacing that nonsensical scribble with a color coding would quickly tell me what type of activities I have going on that day.  Simple.
  • Filling out web forms is tedious with no auto-complete on the phone’s web browser.  On the iPhone, I recall identifying a particular contact record (myself) as the default for auto-completing web forms in Safari.  I do not see that capability in WP8 making filling out name, address and email information a tedious, recurring activity.
  • The on-screen keyboard takes up a LOT of screen real estate when typing in Internet Explorer.  It has to be over 50% of the screen.  This is fine in most cases, but can be irritating when filling out forms on web pages not optimized for mobile browsing.  Also, there is no shortcut to go to the next field in a form as I had on my iPhone.
  • In Internet Explorer, access to browser tabs is slow.  This may be a perception issue, but I feel like I could more quickly jump to a different browser tab in my iPhone than I can on my Lumia.
  • I find the on-screen keyboard to be less than intuitive.  For the most part, it’s fine.  But hand your phone to a newbie and ask them to find the “+” or “=” characters.  It will take longer than it should.  I had to google how to do it — no joke.  Both iPhone and WP8 devices require you to first select the numeric keyboard — “123” on the iPhone and “&123” on my Lumia.  And both require you to hit ANOTHER key to access the numerical operators.  Only, Apple’s keyboard has a button labeled “#+=” and Microsoft decided on a big right-pointing arrow — not too different from the ‘Enter’ key.  Is a right-pointing arrow supposed to indicate numerical operators?  I guess so.

So there you have it.  These are the most glaring issues that I have found in WP8 over the past three weeks.  In my opinion, they’re not too bad and are far outweighed by the other aspects of the WP8 OS.  I have hopes and, to a certain degree, expectations that most of these issues will be addressed in coming updates.  With GDR2 and GDR3 both due by the end of the year, it may not be long before I find out.

Windows Phone 8: Areas for Improvement was last modified: April 9th, 2014 by michael

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