What can/should be changed in Windows Phone 8
I personally love my Windows Phone. I followed the platform since way before the announcement, and bought my Verizon HTC trophy on day one of availability. But as a programmer, I always find myself looking towards the future. I want to see the platform catch on, which means there needs to be a few changes and additions. This is what I've thought up for the platform.
1) Multitasking/Fast App Switching Interface___________________________
So I've seen a lot of people who get mad/confused with Windows Phone's fast-app switching. It looks like multitasking, therefore when it doesn't act like it people get a bad taste of the platform. So the question is how to change the interface, and yet not change the underlying system, which is very powerful for low-cost devices, and for the simple user works just fine?
First off, we need a quick kill method. Even though many of us know that leaving an app open doesn't do that much for you as far as battery life/CPU/Memory requirements, the power users among us (myself included) can't stand having "open apps." The solution is simple: implement the swipe from the top gesture used in Windows 8. By swiping from the top and getting to approximately 3/4 of the way down the screen brings you into the app-switching menu (any less and you aren't able to make a little swipe to bring up battery life, signal, etc.). Continuing the gesture can kill the app, problem solved.
Another issue, is that people want some apps to be always there, or they only need part of the app to be there, not really to launch, just to see what an app is doing. My solution is twofold. First, for apps that you want to stay open and interact with no matter what, have a small pin icon under apps to leave them there, they won't get killed and if the phone can only keep 5 apps in the app switching menu, allow 4 pins. This is so you can always run one more app than you have pins before sleeping all your apps.
The second solution is for apps that you only want open because you need one simple thing on them, toggling wifi/bluetooth, checking a download, simple text updates. My implementation of this actually tackles crosses into another problem of the platform.
Everybody has missed a notification, either a game, a call, a message, or something and its a hassle to go after it and find wherever it was. Android had it first, iOS copied it, but is a swipe down menu the best solution? I think metro can do better... The easiest way to integrate notifications, is through the app-switching menu. In the menu, if you have swiped (or as an option dismissed) toasts, all the way to the right of the apps will be a list similar to the app list on the start screen. Except that this list will be made up of your missed(and dismissed) toasts/updates!
Another important part that can be included here is allow apps to use scripts on this menu, in other words allow an app to show the current status of your bluetooth radio, tapping that will run a script, not the app, to toggle the radio position. This allows apps to do simple things when the user wants them without launching the entire app. Other options could be unread count for facebook or twitter, reminders for meetings, etc. A simple 'x' button would remove the item from the list.
3) User customization_________________________________
The one most often voiced opinion for Windows Phones is the lack of options, no custom accents, themes, wallpapers, etc. Here I make a few suggestions some, based on the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, are probably on their way.
First is obviously customizable accents. There are several problems with just giving the user a color wheel and saying have at it, correct contrast with text and background are important for visibility. Therefore, in addition to adding more color options, I suggest a simple wizard should be run for custom colors. First allow the user to pick out their color, then ask if white or dark text is more visible on the color (as in messaging) this would have the two options as examples. Changing text would only change text colors on accent colored backgrounds, not in apps that simply display, white on black, or black on white. The final page would display some example page showing accent font colors used in a paragraph, a messaging bubble, and anywhere else the color would be used. Prompting the user to make sure their choice is readable. This way the user can have their colors and readability is not sacrificed.
For accent colors/backgrounds. My suggestion is not only to allow background wallpaper(with scrolling as an option: ie the pic scrolls with the tiles) but to also have simply a few more colors, as well as designs as is done for the start screen of the Windows 8 consumer preview. Each color would have a text color best picked for contrast and readability, and the design could fade away when an app with default color backgrounds is used. Apps/users could add more to the default options.
Complete Landscape support for all of the main OS is a given. And folders with live tile support should be added to the main screen. I also like the idea of profiles (as in the Droid Pro) for different situations/times... this could be done automatically based on time/location as well as manually in settings or through a script in the notification center.
Apps should be able to post simple additions/icons to the lock screen.(control this by having "zones" which an app can post to, one app per zone. Settings should also be added to the calendar for when/if/how long an appointment should be put on the lock screen.
Hitting search should open the same bing page, but have pivots for files, contacts, settings, and then apps. For apps you would go to the app pivot, pick the app and then search for what you want. Programatically this should work similar to Windows 8 search contracts. Sharing contracts should be implemented allowing a universal mechanism to work from any app, to any app which asks for it.
There should be a public API so that any network can integrate into the people hub. Also, there should be a pivot in contacts that is the messaging history with the person (in other words, the same UI for the conversation I was/am having with Bob should be under a messaging tab in Bob's contact, this should be the same for groups) the better to make use of pinned contacts and groups.
This is my first time posting, so please be gentle!! But I would love to know what you guys think of these ideas. Post with comments, likes, suggestions, etc. Hope you enjoy it.