the Day After Yesterday
I'm now laying in my bed listening to Hit in the USA by Beat Crusaders attempting to reflect on the changes brought by Windows Phone 8.1 both to the OS and to the way I now use my Lumia 928.
Ironically, America is probably one of the few places this OS won't be a hit, but jokes aside, now that many of us have had a day to play around with and explore the new changes to the OS let's see your developed thoughts. Yep, this is yet another WP8.1 thoughts post, just a day later.
Well before I get into what has been added, let's first look at what they've taken away. This once hub-centric OS is practically hubless, aside from the photo app. The camera hub is gone, the game hub is gone, messaging hub is gone, the music+video hub is, you guessed it, gone. This is rather regrettable on a number of levels, and while I understand that the functionality that many of these hubs brought to the table is being replaced by other solutions in the future, the question is whether or not these solutions are better. I've seen a number of people say that getting rid of the hubs has taken away what made Windows Phone unique, while I think these claims are far too extreme, I can see where they are coming from, as these features were fairly nice. However, music+video hub aside, I don't really find myself missing the hubs all that much, not when we have a Facebook messenger app developed by Facebook, and an easy way to group apps through folders.
Something Windows Phone owners have been split on for quite a long while now is whether or not Windows Phone should have wallpapers, I've always been on the against side, traditional wallpapers would be blocked by tiles, skinnery style wallpapers could get in the way of text on the tiles, at least that's what I thought. I wasn't completely wrong either, there is a reason why Microsoft didn't go the traditional wallpaper route, and as for the style that they did go for, I'd say it is very hit or miss. You have to have your tiles set in a certain fashion with not too many opaque tiles in one area, and enough transparent tiles so you can actually see the wallpaper, and even when you can see the wallpaper there is a good chance you aren't going to want to, as it seems most don't play well with the style Windows Phone has. However, when you do get it set up right, and you do find the right wallpaper, it is glorious. I'd also like to mention that the "more tiles" setting definitely seems best for devices that are at least the size of the 930, because three rows of tiles on my L928 looks way too cramped.
Another issue people have been split on is whether or not we needed a notification center, live tiles solved most issues so long as you pinned the apps you cared about on the start screen which was only a click away. Well while that may all be true, I have to say the action center is a very welcomed addition, it is nice to have all your notifications in one place a swipe away, and for those who won't use it, it isn't all that intrusive. The biggest thing about the action center for me though, and why it has been such a convenience isn't actually the notifications, but the quick settings, I've been lusting for these on Windows Phone ever since they came to iOS and they're far more convenient than I originally imagined. In fact, one of my favorite new features is a relatively small one, Quiet Hours, which I have set as one of my quick settings. As someone with friends all over the world in multiple time zones and Facebook group chats that never seem to die down, Quiet Hours is an absolute godsend.
In the vein of smaller additions, the separate volume controls have actually been surprisingly nice. This was something I was originally against, but seeing how easily accessible the separate volumes are, I don't really have an issue with it, in fact, if anything, it has been a rather pleasant experience. The new swype style keyboard is also a nice addition, though it is something I'm still getting used to.
Of course, when talking about Windows Phone 8.1, you can't avoid mentioning Cortana, the virtual assistant that many have deemed the biggest and one of the most important changes to Windows Phone. While Cortana was one of features I anticipated most, I wasn't actually sure whether or not I'd use it all that much, well that question has been answered in the last 24 hours. Cortana really was more than hype, and it wouldn't be an understatement to say that she really has completely changed how I use and interact with my phone. I've since started using my calendar far more than I have in the past, Cortana has become my news/ RSS feed, how I accomplish mundane tasks such as turning my music on, and has even become my map, and she only seems to becoming smarter and more interesting the more I interact with her.
Even though some things are no longer baked in to the OS, it may be for the better, as we'll (hopefully) see faster updates. All in all the good far outweighs the minor inconveniences that have been brought in the developer release of Windows Phone 8.1, and I am convinced that I'll be staying on this platform for at least an upgrade longer. What do you think? What are your thoughts after a day of messing around? Tell us the good, the bad and the ugly.