Almost 5 years ago Microsoft announced the original Windows Phone 7, the revolutionary new software that brought unique live tiles to solve everything in our lives, and keep everything a glance away. Windows Phone 7 was certainly mediocre in terms of features, but it had a solid UI going for it. After several major updates (Mango and Tango) that brought some glaring omissions such as Copy/Paste, and more importantly multitasking; Windows Phone was starting to shape up.
Then almost exactly two years later, in October of 2012 Microsoft started anew with Windows Phone 8, slowly more and more features were being added, OEMs and developers were given more access to APIs and things were looking up. With Portico (GDR1) users were finally able to keep the WiFi connected in the background, at this point Nokia jumped on board the software train and started rolling out their own software releases, starting with Lumia Amber. When Microsoft finally gave us Windows Phone 8.1 it seemed all our problems were solved, we finally had a notification center (which Microsoft were so adamant users didn’t need in the past), Cortana came out to play, and a slew of new hardware features were made available to OEMs.
In a few months time we’ll probably see a final build of Microsoft’s latest mobile OS, Windows Mobile 10; and yet the catch up game still continues; five years into the Windows Phone saga here are five things Windows Phone still sucks at.
There’s no beating around the bush for this one, Push notification support in Windows Phone has always sucked (and will most likely continue to). Since the early WP7 and WP8 days when you had to physically unlock your phone to check for updates (and in case you didn’t have a data plan, to connect to the WiFI), or in some cases even load up your app to check for notifications, I’ve found myself frustrated with the in-ability to stay connected without putting a conscious effort into staying updated. And even today, in 2015 I often find my apps failing to sound off notifications if neglected or forgotten about long enough; Windows Phone’s woes are most apparent when it comes to events that happen when your phone isn’t connected to the internet, even when connectivity is restored it often fails to stay updated. Although the push notification issue has certainly improved from the early Windows Phone days, it’s certainly still a problem.
2- Background Messaging and App Management:
Once again, from the start another weakness of Widows Phone’s has always been with allowing apps to communicate from the background, although Windows Phone offers some amazing opportunities for 3rd party apps such as updating your lock-screen with weather information, or just updating your live tiles in general. However more often than not every few weeks or so these apps will forget to update, leaving me with a stagnant live tile or an outdated lock screen. Other apps can’t do much once you minimize them, downloads won’t run unless the app remains in the foreground, messages won’t send unless you stay in the app until they’re delivered and even uploading to native apps such as OneDrive require that you stay within the app. Which also leads us to our next point.
This is something that will probably never be fixed, since it’s the essence of how Windows Phone works (then again so was the “Metro” design for apps), but essence or not, it still sucks bad. Even on the latest of phones, or the newest of flagships you’re still bound to see the dreaded “resuming…” because Windows Phone’s management of background tasks is just horrendous.
4- Landscape Keyboards:
Windows Phone’s Landscape keyboard support has always been the worst, the keyboard to screen size ratio has always been off, leaving users with only a single line of text in some scenarios, and something about the layout just makes it horribly uncomfortable to type in landscape mode. Not to mention that in the latest version, with Windows 10 the spacing of the keyboard just looks asymmetric enough to drive any sane person mad; the landscape keyboard is so bad I’ve grown used to keeping rotation lock on at all times to avoid having to accidentally deal with it, even for a moment. On the plus side however the new anywhere voice dictation in Windows 10 is amazing.
Finally, the big one, we all knew it was coming, but it has to be said; along with every new software version of Windows Phone Microsoft added new developer tools and some fancy new revolutionary way to make building apps easier, and every year we said that was the feature that would make developers love the platform. It’s undeniable that there are some amazing Windows Phone apps out there, but if major platforms don’t love the OS what chance does it have? The official Instagram “beta” hasn’t been updated in over a year, the Microsoft built Facebook app (and Beta) haven’t had a significant feature change in months, Facebook messenger still can’t make phone calls while other OSes are making video calls, Snapchat still doesn’t exist, as with all of Google’s services; regardless of who’s at fault for the weak apps, it’s still Microsoft’s and Windows Phone’s problem.
But then again, maybe this will be Windows Phone’s year, right?