A Special Guest Post by Scott Barnes, aka MossyBlog.
Yes this is yet another one of those “I tried the phone but don’t like it, here’s why” posts. I probably will not differ in opinions that others have had over the phone simply because after 30 days of trial I simply could not bond with it. Here is why.
Marketplace is war of the clones.
If anyone has read my blog, they will probably read a post or two about my annoyance at the applications in the market place that are basically “clones” of one another. The apps in general rarely express their own personality, are typically the remains of developers using the default “File-New-Project” templates. Having this occurrence in turn creates a problem for the phone as once consumers of the phone establish a bond with the “metro” look they will eventually grow weary of its consistency & aesthetic design(s) (it loses its wow factor).
I also find that the apps in question generally fail at providing value or depth, which is disappointing given how easy it, is to make an application for the phone and how much room you have to play with as well.
There were some stand out apps that phone had that I valued but not enough to warrant a jump from iPhone to Windows Phone 8 as apps like Facebook & Twitter looked and worked as if they were farmed out to first year grad students to develop for the said brands. I think that was also a huge mistake on Microsoft & Nokia’s part as if they want this phone to succeed beyond the technology geekdom they in turn need to focus in on apps like these two to ensure they are best of breed experiences, as these are your seeds for further adoption.
Where is spotify <editor’s note – it arrived today>? In that someone within Microsoft should have metrics around ensuring, apps on both Android/iPhone that are quite popular are also done on Windows Phone. I just do not see this happening.
I forget who told me but I heard that this phone was thrown against the wall by a MLB player to show how strong and durable it is. I wouldn’t doubt that the phone would survive and it does give you a sense of relief at knowing that it’s not as fragile as the iPhone, which in turn means you don’t have a beautifully sculptured phone housed in a “hello kitty” phone case (don’t judge me).
Its size was never a problem for me with the exception of the thumb radius, in that I find when I type the size becomes an issue given the thumb has to extend more than I normally felt comfortable doing on the iPhone. It may seem small and trivial but over time it starts to become an issue and one that I felt a bit disappointed in given the phone itself felt great to hold aside from typing.
Keyboard is broken.
In general, the whole keyboard experience on the Windows Phone is amateur hour at best. There is some smarts in the autocorrect that should make whoever that evil bastard at Apple who owns autocorrect is, take notice. That being said, the phone in general is poorly designed, inconsistent and often prone to bugs / errors in its execution. I could blame a developer of an app I guess for the bulk of the issues but I have never experienced a problem like the ones I have on the iPhone, so for me it has to be a platform / SDK issue.
The issues I faced are keyboard hiding the input that I’m typing into, the screen real estate at times going beyond 1/3 ratio, at times the keyboard I type into takes the keystrokes but nothing happens on the text input and my biggest pet hate is the key designs are badly designed & in need of a serious pixel diet.
I find the keys to narrow and the padding is way off, I think the keyboard could probably steal more from the iPhone here simply because the iPhone still has the same hit space as Windows Phone only they have made the key designs tighter in visual appearance. This in turn creates an interesting thing, given it becomes a forcing function and helps guide your accuracy on keystroke without you realizing that the actual hit surface is still quite larger than it appears (try both you’ll see what I mean)
Tiles are like one of those puzzle games.
Initially I have always found the front screen of Windows Phone to be appealing, I have often commented that this is the familiar face in a crowd that you will both recognize and enjoy seeing. Having used the phone every day for a month or so, it becomes a point of annoyance. I found myself searching at times for apps or tiles that I want to access but cannot find because I am playing a puzzle game of “where’s the symbol in these tiles”.
For instance, I caught myself one afternoon searching for the Phone icon to make a phone call, I mean I found it but it got lost in the sea of tiles for me. I just think the overall lack of icons and personality in each Tile wares on you after a while and many of the apps start to blend in with one another to the point where you probably swipe to the left to get the list view.
I have had many a debate / beers with folks who counter this remark with their own experiences or how their wife/cousin/father/friend etc. all disagree with my assertion here. I simply disagree; I think that the live tiles are missing a key ingredient that is being overlooked – personality. Technically, it is still possible to salvage this but right now, not every developer out there has a freakin clue on what this means.
Internet Explorer aint no stinkin Webkit.
Having worked in the company and been in on internal discussions around Internet Explorer’s future all I can simply ask aloud is why Microsoft continues to push this agenda is still one that I get lost on. Initially it was about controlling your own destiny combined with legacy issues around “help” etc. in existing solutions.
On a brand new phone that went from being a plugin to a UX Platform to then housing a browser within it well sort of jumped the shark a little in and around the rationale for keeping IE alive.
I personally don’t care about the browser wars or which browser has better support then the other, I do care however when my online banking website doesn’t work on Windows Phone but does on Android/iPhone/Other.
This was a deal breaker for me as sure I could sit there and blast an email off to ANZ for failing to accommodate the 0.01% market share of Windows Phone users out there, to which I would not likely get a response. I could change banks, but keep in mind ANZ is one of the largest banks in Australia & New Zealand – clue is in the name – or I could simply say “it works on a webkit browser but not IE”.
Other sites I visited were not as happy as they should be and there was nothing technically stopping them from working I guess with Internet Explorer – suffice to say that I would wager most web developers out there really have switched off the care factor on supporting Internet Explorer given its historical fail rate.
All I am saying is if you are trying to get a new phone seeded into the market place with stronger market share, why invite more negativity by keeping Internet Explorer on life support when in turn you could have smoothed over some developer and end user experiences for relatively low-cost via WebKit.
Nothing technically was stopping this from happening as I know we had WebKit prototypes inside Silverlight via the Mac installs (hence we run YouTube videos inside Silverlight that break into puzzles). That and I personally before I left the Silverlight team, was working to shim Webkit into the Silverlight runtime via Windows given it would help smooth out our Out of Browser story in a uniform / consistent way (x-platform)
Look the phone has a lot of potential to succeed, I did enjoy the phone initially and I can see why others may find it attractive. I think however Microsoft are squandering a lot of its potential with poor execution of simple experiences, to the point where it’s not just one big thing that annoys you about the phone – it’s really death by a thousand cuts.
It could very well be that my bias of using an iPhone for the past 4 years is showing through which is fair, but in reality, this is something that the phone has to contend with early. In that if you want people to jump across from Apple or Android to this phone, well, what is the pathway to do this? Will I have the same level of Apps I had on the other platform(s)? If not when?
Nokia have also got a bit to answer for in their software experiences as well, for example, the Camera application is fragmented at best but at the same time, it has really failed to do the basics of a normal camera application. An example comes to mind in that the settings you opt for (i.e. close up for example) don’t appear on the hud of the camera? WTF! – I had it on close-up one day for a photo then later that day I was outside taking a photo of one of the biggest Planes in production but the camera kept focusing on the fence in front of the plane! Scratching my head I realized after two shots that I forgot I had close-up on, so there I was navigating my way through menu settings to get it back to normal.
Point is, it simple things like this that bank hate debt with the user.
The camera itself however was quite impressive, I really did enjoy using it and as much as tired I couldn’t get the camera to adhere to the whole auto stabilization that we saw in those fake ads – but to be fair, I never am good with Cameras in the first place so I simply blamed it on user error.
As I said, it is not one big thing it’s simply lots of small things that when you add them up you are left with simple questions – “Why am I using this? Why did I give up my iPhone and is it still worth it”
With that, I am sorry to say the phone is now my developer device, which at times can also be farmed out to my kids as a gaming device as well. I find the kids’ corner and business hub ideas to be actually brilliant differentiators but right now, they are still parked in the good idea bay.
(image credits - Scott Barnes)
Note from WPDU: We would like to extend our thanks to Scott (aka @MossyBlog) for accepting our invite for a special guest contribution. If you are are looking for Developer tips on Design and UI and haven’t been reading his site Riagenic; where design and technology intersect, then you better start! As a companion piece, you can see his original thoughts in Week 1 of his Windows Phone 8 trial over at his blog here.