What Windows Phone 8 could've been
Windows Phone 8 was announced in June of 2012 and reintroduced late 2012 with a few new features. It was mostly disappointing as the only consumer facing experience was the new start screen and a few minor tweaks. Yes, the shared core was big news, but it has not yet shown its benefits to consumers. The following article explains what Windows Phone 8 should've been and it could've, and still could be with Windows Phone 9 or hopefully just 8.5.
New Live Lockscreen, Guest Account, and Windows Peek
When unlocking your screen, you are presented by the Live Lockscreen. The Live Lockscreen consists of all the elements of the WP8 lockscreen, but instead of a limit of app notifications, the bottom deck becomes a scrollable set of icons with notifications. To see the details of the app notifications, you just tap and drag your finger to right, revealing Peek. Peek IS notification center. Peek shows you all of your apps that have pending actions or notifications. Developers can use the Peek API to create Peek interfaces, like a glanceable CNN feed or a stock ticker. In this way, Peek not only becomes your notification center, but also becomes your daily life feed, AND it is your fast settings toggler. You do not have to drag a specific app from the Live Lockscreen to open Peek mode. Just sliding to the right on the Live Lockscreen will enable Peek. Peek is also intelligent, it learns which apps you open most and least and then organizes your app deck on the Live Lock Screen to show more important notifications first. The phone will quickly vibrate (as haptic feedback) as a cue to show that more apps with notifications are pending that you can slide the deck to see and slide on them directly to the right to view them. Guest account is basically Kids Corner but it does not require a password at all (Kids Corner requires password if phone is locked with password too). Guest Account can also double as just another account for someone. It saves info and data from the last session. Last note on Peek: Opening it without dragging an app will display your Peek Hubs that you have downloaded from the Windows Store or those that are included from live apps. Below is a shot of Peek with notifications on top deselected, but with the Stocks Hub in center. Developers can make interactive hubs as well, you can slide across the hubs to see different hubs. Below is also a shot of a Find My Friends style Peek Hub.
Location and Time Adaptive Start Screen
Microsoft loves to say that Windows Phone has a live start screen compared to iOS and Android. No, they are all static homescreens. Windows Phone 8 should have had a truly dynamic start screen that changes on user preference. Below is a shot of the settings of this feature. Work is currently clicked to be edited. Swiping the deck to the right will allow you to add a new factor-based start screen. Clicking the mini start screen thumbnail puts you in editing mode where you can change tile order and colors. For location based screens, Windows Phone will ping the network (not GPS) for rough based location. If you are near the geofence, GPS turns on to verify the accurate location and acts on the situation. Tying in with enterprise, businesses could set up start screens that could be activated on Windows Phones with the enterprise ID registered upon entrance. Users could also set up NFC Adaptive Start Screens. With these factors, users can also set up settings for these events (profiles in the old days). So at work, your phone goes to vibrate and shows all of your business-related apps.
TellMe Version 2 with AI, OS wide integration, Predictive Results
TellMe is pretty useless right now. In Windows Phone 8, Microsoft added the ability to take notes on it as well as let apps integrate with it on a very minimum level. Now, TellMe is intelligent with full integration into Microsoft Services, predictive and analytic engine, and a Siri-like AI core for when your kids just want to chat with Windows Phone. Also, Peek can be reached by telling TellMe to "open Peek" or "show notifications". Swipe to the right in TellMe to open the Google Now style tile interface that shows information about the world around you, like a more advanced Bing from WP8. Peek is notifications and hubs, and the TellMe Window is basically an info hub. Notice that TellMe is tightly integrated with all of your phones apps, and developers can integrate tighter into the TellMe Window and voice commands. For example, you can ask TellMe the scores of the game last night, and it will pull the data from ESPN. Repetition of sports questions or searching Bing for specific sports teams will put a tile on the TellMe Window that shows latest scores. TellMe Window is also intelligent in the form like Peek, as it can sort through your interests, needs, and wants using a priority algorithm. TellMe can also push data to applications just as well as it can pull information. Just tell TellMe to tweet something, post something to Facebook, write out notes to Evernote or OneNote, order a specific product from Amazon, send all the photos you took from a specific location to your Friends Group in your People Hub, or even check in to Foursquare by just telling TellMe. You can send texts to people at a specific day or time, so the birthday text gets there on time every time. If you are in a foreign country, TellMe Window will offer translators and currency converters.
Advanced Keyboard with gestures and contextual text
This is a small but important suggestion. The keyboard is already good at suggesting words in context but does notcorrect words based on context. With the new keyboard, if you type "I just bought a new for tree", it will correct for to fir. The previous keyboard would not look ahead for context after a sentence is typed. Also, shortcuts will be recognized such as "omw" and will automatically be lengthened to "on my way" and you can create shortcuts yourself. Gesture typing enables a Swype-like keyboard with the contextual and predictive power of the Windows Phone keyboard. The gesture trail is based on accent color.
Windows 8 functionalities, Act on Notifications, Color changing Tiles, etc
Firstly, the copy paste sucks. If you copy something, it will stay on your clipboard only until you lock your phone. Then your clipboard erases. Wow. Windows Phone 8 should have kept the clipboard in memory and erasable if you dragged the clipboard icon on the keyboard to the right all the way across. Windows Phone should also bring Picture Passwords, landscape mode, ability to quickly act on notifications when you get them by pulling down on them, an option for color changer for accent colors (fades slowly into different accent colors, so your tiles constantly change), interactive tiles (swiping through pictures on the double wide pictures tile) , and quick settings with a sliding deck of settings as well as the ability to swipe away apps in multitasking menu. IE now supports 10 tabs instead of 6. Finally a brightness slider as well. Just as in Windows 8, Windows Phone lets you drag a tile on the start screen to the right to select it to move it around. Multitouch is supported so you can hold a tile while scrolling, and you can pinch to zoom to change live tile size.
Closing thoughts on Microsoft
Microsoft is at a very pivotal point. They, unlike iOS and Android, are free to make major changes without people bashing at them. In my opinion, Joe Belfiore and Terry Myerson CAN be the heroes for Windows Phone that Andy Rubin and Matias Duarte were for Android. Lets be honest, it is ridiculous to suggest that Windows Phone is not already the third player in the mobile game after iOS and Android. Please, Blackberry is dead on arrival. RIM is a dead company. Microsoft is arguably the second most important company in tech right now, ahead of Google but slightly behind Apple (though Apple is slipping). Ballmer, don't screw this chance up if you value the millions of dollars you get from Microsoft that has put you on Forbes.