My first Windows Phone was a Samsung Omnia 7. Coming from a Nokia N86, Windows Phone was fresh, arty and so much easier to use. At the time it was still running WP7, and Whatsapp hadn’t even arrived on the platform!
The Mango, or 7.5, update was a pretty big leap – bringing an interesting take on multi-tasking and… Whatsapp! (albeit a buggy one) That change was tiny compared to the leap that is WP8. On the external, everything seems pretty much the same… yet so many things are different. What I like about WP8:
Speed. I was still expecting to experiencing the slower boot up of third-party apps despite the dual-core, but boy was I surprised. Everything was pretty smooth, if not fast – I’m quite happy to say that WP7 and even SGS2 users can feel the boost.
Resizeable Live Apps/Tiles. I think this was a pretty neat way of solving two problems – seeing more on your start screen, and letting owners personalise their phones even more. I used to bemoan the fact that I had to keep my mail, messaging and Whatsapp tiles on the top so I could refer to them at a glance, even though all they did was display a number. Many cried for folders, but I personally think resizeable tiles was a more unique and useful solution.
Downloading Apps from Other Regions (?). I have an official Kindle app! This is a rather isolated advantage I guess, but in WP7 and 7.5 you could only shop from the marketplace designated on login. I’ll still have to check this, but I think you can buy apps from other regions (the pricing changes to reflect the currency) by changing the language and region settings.
There are, of course, other things I like about the platform in general – but since this is a comparison between 7.5 and 8, I left that out. Other changes like more multi-tasking “cards”, live lockscreen, Kid’s Corner, better Nokia apps (Drive and Music deserve a huge thumbs-up) are cool, but haven’t left as great an impression on me.
There are a few things I do miss about 7.5:
Tile Sizes. This is more of a familiarity issue I guess, but when I first booted my Lumia 820 it felt disconcerting looking at the medium-sized tiles. In WP7, the smaller medium-sized tiles meant you could display about 4 rows of tiles; in WP8 because of the larger tiles sizes, you can only see slightly more than 3 rows… Although they can display more information, and the smaller tiles are a good size because of this, it was uncomfortable for the first week or so. I did like that “gutter” too.
Zune. I liked that logo. And I liked the aesthetics of the software. And that black background and multi-coloured logo. Xbox, I think you’re fun, but white, grey and green just weren’t as cool. That said, the live tile on WP8 is cool. I think Windows 8 could learn a lot from that auto-scroll interface on the desktop program as well, and the beautiful album art collages are missing from the desktop music app replacement.
There are also a few things that I think can be improved further… but maybe I’ll save that for another post. In the next few posts, I’ll delve into some of my go-to apps that made it possible to live on WP8.