A couple of days ago I’ve updated my phone to the preview version of Windows Phone 8.1 and after intensively using it, I made a list of things I love and things I hate about it. Here it goes:
Things I love about WP8.1
- UPDATE: I’ve just realized that WP8.1 has Speed Dial! Honestly, I feel that this is a hidden gem. Love it! Just open up the Phone tile and swipe left or right and you get access to your speed dial. No more ridiculous tiles to your contacts on the home screen!
- UPDATE: Another cool thing about WP8.1 is that you can open up an unlimited number of tabs (ok, I didn’t really try to open up ridiculously many tabs, but I’ve realized that after opening up abou 9 tabs, I still have access to all of them. Man I love this WP update!
- Universal Apps framework: that’s right, this is a developer specific feature that basically gives me the opportunity to develop a single code-base (views included) for both Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1, which is incredible. Of course that for a highly performing and snappy app some tweaking will be required, yet it’s a cool feature to have, given that your customer audience grows exponentially every day. Sweet!
- Customizable background: yes, you can finally have your own custom background in the home screen. This means that the image you select become part of your apps’ tiles background. There’s also a cool effect when you slide up and down, meaning that the background isn’t completely static, yet it doesn’t move along with the slider either. You therefore get an effect where the background seems to stay far back whilst the tiles are closer to you: just like you’d be watching out on the window. Sweet!
- Action Center: never loose you your notifications again! Simply slide from the upper side of the screen and get quick access to the Notification Center. Also available from the lockscreen, even if you’ve activated your PIN lock. Finally, guys!
- Pin-able Data Sense, Storage Sense and Settings shortcuts in the App list.
- Battery percentage and date (shown in the Notification Center; good enough).
- Two-way authentication with your Microsoft Account (seriously, was about time – I had enough of creating app secret keys for WP)
- IE11 with goodies:
- all your videos are rendered directly in IE using the HTML5 player, meaning that you no longer navigate to the Video app to watch your YouTube clips. Sweet!
- improved tab functionality: you no longer have to pop out the app bar in order to get access to tabs
- reading view in IE11: get read of the annoying menus and ads when you read an article online
- IE High DPI fix! Your mobile browser no longer wrongly specifies it’s screen resolution to .CSS. Finally, right?
- Pin-able FM Radio (it’s in the App list)
- New volume configuration pop-up: you now have the ability of specifying the Ringer + Notification volume and Media + App volume separately! And you can even de-activate vibrations and leave the ringer on directly from the volume pop-up! I’ve been waiting for this Nokia-touch
- Improved Store: way better content-presentation, quick access to categories, improved suggestions (at least, for me!).
- New logos: my Exchange account finally get’s a proper Exchange-like icon on its tile!
- Cortana: what cool about it is that it can asynchronously search your inbox for e-mails that contain plane tickets and it will (theoretically) automatically remind you that it’s time to leave to the airport, given the traffic conditions, flight schedule, distance to departure airport etc. However, it’s still in a beta and most of your searches will end up in a bing-query.
- Screen projections: just connect your phone via USB to a PC and get a projection on your PC of what your phone shows without installing any additional apps on the phone. As a developer, I love this! No more Hyper-V based emulators during presentations.
- Improved Photos: there’s a new home screen in photos that only shown you the photos you’ve taken, in a day based grouping. You can still access your Facebook or OneDrive photos, but you no get thumbnails on all your albums from these, meaning that curious eyes won’t see what your albums might contain. I love this feature! Moreover, you can select photos as favorites which will make your tile display those images only. Sweet!
- tap + send is finally renamed to NFC. I never understood the idea of marketing this feature as tap+send…
- Quick access to screen rotation lock from the Notification Center
- Quiet hours: I loved this on my iPhone, I love it on my Windows Phone.
- Quick keyboard: just slide your finger and it’s done. You don’t have to worry about double letter in a word and whenever you start a new word (by releasing the keyboard = taking your finger up), a new space is added.
- THE BEST OF ALL FEATURES: tight integration with your Microsoft Account. Want to change your theme color? That gets automatically synced to your other Windows (or Windows Phone) devices and vice-versa. Your favorites in IE are also synced (roamed, as they call it)
What I have about the Windows Phone 8.1:
- The sliding keyboard thing only works in English.
- Cortana is configured to work only in US (or if you configure your region as US). Why would they do that? I can speak English elsewhere too. Is this Bing related?
- Apparently, it’s easier to move the caret around. As an ex-WP7, WP8 user, I hate that they removed the way you move the caret around: even though it’s similar to the Windows experience, the caret-mover is almost impossible to use as soon as you place your thumb on the screen simply because you no longer see the caret. Actually, that’s what I love about the way I’d move the caret before: it was about 0.5 cm away from my thumb, meaning that I could always see where I was placing the caret. (note: caret = cursor ).
- Because Cortana is accessible via the Search button (both tap and long-tap), you no longer get access to the old Search place. This means that if you’ve been using Local Scouts, you have to use Cortana. That’s ok, but, if you were using the Search functionality to scan barcodes or QR-codes, you now have to open the Camera app (which I normally don’t use, simply because I find Nokia camera better and because on my old 1020, Nokia Camera was to only app to shoot high-resolution – 39MP – photos), open up the Lenses menu and select Bing Vision. From my point of view, that’s a horrible user experience and I might end up in installing crappy QR-code scanner apps. Yuck.
- I got super-excited about the lock screen themes at Build 2014, yet there are no lock screen themes. :-((
I think that’s it for now. As soon as I’ll find something cool/ uncool about WP8.1, I’ll update this page.