Things I wanted in Windows Phone 8.1 that never happened

The WP8.1 Unveiling - photo by Wired

The WP8.1 Unveiling – photo by Wired

Sifting through the Windows Phone 8.1 announcements at Build, I felt like a little fanboy again.

Did you see THAT lock screen? And swiping keyboard? Man, I really wanna try the parallax background. Oh, they really called her Cortana!

Overall, it felt like a huge leap, more a Windows Phone 9 than 8.1 (my guess is to line up with the less impressive Windows 8.1 naming convention). So much so, I started looking at Lumia 1520 prices again. You know, because a 930 is basically a 1520 without the big screen, glance and microSD slot – and it will be cheaper when the 930 does launch.

And yet at the same time, there were a few things I wish I would be announced, but didn’t seem to materialise:

  1. Persistent apps for quick multitasking. The thing I like about the multitasking implementation on iOS and Android (except HTC) is that you can open as many apps in the background as you want. Of course, they’re tombstoned, but it means they boot up that much faster. With WP8, I found this sometimes a drag, as booting up apps from scratch was patchy at best – and since you could only have 8 instances (not apps, which I still can’t understand) open, most of my apps would close and have to be booted from scratch. This is painful especially for messaging apps, since you open them a few times a day. I would like to have seen some “pinning” function for this at the very least, to prevent the app from closing regardless of what other apps were opened. Ok phew, I had my say, the rest will be shorter.
  2. Extended share functionality. One huge thing about Android for me is it’s very open implementation of sharing. You can share almost anything to any app – save a website to Pocket or Evernote, share my location from Waze to Whatsapp etc. In Windows Phone 8, you could do similarly with pictures, but it seems this functionality has not been extended. (Developers with the SDK or pre-launch devices, prove me wrong please!)
  3. More frequent, reliable notifications. Maybe this is under the hood, but I haven’t heard of it so far. So there is a notification center now, but how about improving the frequency of live tile and toast updates? Overall I felt live tile updates and notifications on WP8 were a little unreliable. To a certain extent this depends on whether the developer is willing to pay for a better push server (as the Facebook Messenger app demonstrates), but I was hoping at least the live tiles would update more frequently. Yes, battery life is a valid reason… but I can still wish, can’t I?
  4. Multi-select and moving of Tiles. I love the Start Screen, and miss it incredibly on my Note 3. Customising it is a fun activity in itself (with Android I sometimes find it a drag), but it can be tiring to move tiles from the bottom of the screen to the top. Windows 8 actually the pretty cool ability to select multiple tiles in one finger, and move the screen with another. Unfortunately, no mention.
  5. Centralised file management. Being able to browse through files from some sort of centralised file picker would be helpful, especially to upload files on a web form, or as a picker for the e-mail app.
  6. Better Photo management. Why can’t I create albums? Although with Nokia Storyteller perhaps this is less an issue.
  7. More keyboard options. Especially on a device like the 1520, the keyboard takes up way too much space. Maybe a split keyboard? Or the option to have something like Minuum?
  8. Stylus support. This is wishful thinking on my part given the niche, but after using the Note 3 as my daily driver I really, really appreciate the option of pen input.

So that’s my short list of disappointments, but they’re kinda buried beneath the geek-citement (ZOMGOSH I can’t believe they really called it Cortana – WP8 is officially more geek than Android now. At least culturally). Will be watching prices…

Of course, do feel free to correct me (and cheer me up) if anything I’ve mentioned above isn’t right – drop a comment below, or tweet me @wasabigeek.

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