The Windows Phone Interface

When Microsoft came up with the Metro Modern UI design language, their goal was essentially to streamline and simplify the interface as much as humanly possible. For me at least, this was a huge draw towards the platform (though I benefitted from arriving to the smartphone race late.) The Modern UI was designed to run in portrait mode, and it takes tremendous advantage of the increased vertical space.

If you're unfamiliar with it, Windows Phone 8's interface involves two basic screens: the start page which features live tiles, and an application list. For WP8, Microsoft has gone from having two live tile sizes to three, and while I feel like it clutters the interface, it's ultimately much more productive. The tiles both launch applications and, depending on which applications they link to, can also provide useful information, essentially combining desktop widgets with shortcuts into a single useful "button." The tiles also tend to blend together in a much neater and more orderly fashion than widgets and icons do in iOS or Android, and they're very easy to rearrange and resize. Microsoft won't let you personalize your background (only your lock screen), but you can get a lot of mileage out of customizing the start page exactly.

Meanwhile, the application list has amusingly been the standout feature of Windows Phone every time I've shown it to anyone: it's just that sensible. If you swipe left from the start menu, the application list is exactly what it sounds like: a vertical list of the apps installed on the phone, alphabetized. Icon on the left, name on the right. Once you reach a critical mass of apps, the letters of the alphabet pop up above each set of apps that start with that letter; you can tap the letter to bring up the alphabet, then tap the first letter of the app you want to find. Or, you can scroll up or down to it. Either way, to me at least, this is a very intuitive way of keeping the phone organized.

Finally, holding your finger on anything you're interested in brings up a menu that allows you to modify it. Uninstalling apps is as easy as choosing "uninstall app." "Pin to Start Menu" does exactly what it says. On the start menu itself, all of the tiles start floating, allowing you to rearrange them. You can resize them by tapping the arrow on the bottom right corner of the tile.

When you do use applications that employ the Modern UI design language, screens remain exceptionally clean. Since you're restricted to customization between having white text on a black background or black text on a white background and can only choose which accent color you want the tiles and highlights to use, the interface remains crisp and easy to understand.

Ultimately, between Windows Phone 7.5 and Windows Phone 8, the only immediately visible major interface change is the addition of the quarter-sized live tile on the start menu. You can add additional notifications to the lock screen and choose a single application to get a full text readout, but I felt like the one notification type seriously missing from the WP7.5 lock screen was a toast notification for whatever games I was playing with friends (i.e. WordFeud). Despite being able to assign a "games" icon to the lock screen, there's still no toast notification for any of the games I play. On the flipside, pinning the games I play regularly to the start menu allows the live tiles to indicate to me whenever it's my turn, so at least there's some way to know.

The HTC Windows Phone 8X Essentials: Phone, Contacts, and Messaging


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  • ananduser - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    "Gamers for example are forced to use windows because of DirectX. MSFT refused to follow open standards."
    What a load of bull. DirectX was a tremendous effort on MS' part that had them derided by the game outfits of the 90s. Like Apple feels that it has a responsibility towards its users to create imessage, facetime and airplay so is MS responsible towards its users to create a gaming API(keep in mind OGL was built with CAD in mind not gaming).

    Office/Exchange are just the best in their market segments.

    Furthermore with Windows you're locked within software not sotfware AND hardware like with Apple. I would happily pay Apple for OSX and iWork to run on my PC but unfortunately I am forced to buy another set of redundant x86 hardware to be able to run said software. Vendor lock-in is significantly more atrocious if it's Apple's style.
  • RevLuck - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    I noticed the Lumia 920 battery info seems wrong, It's not removable.

    I've been using Lumia 920 for about two months now and love the phone, coming from Android, the tiles fit me lot better than widgets. Easy, consistent and you can fit lots of info in one view. While there are still features that I miss from Android, I don't think I could go back.

    For me, the two features that really stand over X8 are the wireless charging and super sensitive screen. Twice in few weeks I've been freezing my fingers off trying to use phone outside before realizing I can just put the gloves back. After getting used to the wireless charging its the kind of convenience I would probably find hard to go back on. I guess I'm lazy :)

    I pretty much thought both features as gimmicks when I bought the phone, but now I hope my next phone will have them too. I just wish the charging pad prices would go down, the current price point is pretty ridiculous.
  • shompa - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    I hate that people still thinks its great dragging files back and forth in explorer. That is 1970 thinking. A good OS should make it so you never have to see the filesystem.

    How should a person with a huge library do? I have had over 40K songs in my library since 2002. In "Windows" thinking I should drag and drop the stuff I want.

    The computer should do the work for me.

    Give me songs, rated 3 stars and above, that have not been played for the last week.
    Smart playlists.

    It amazes me that people still 11 years later don't use playlists, automatic syncing and so on. This is typical Windows thinking. So 30 years after the fact.
  • boozed - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    Wow. Hate's a pretty strong emotion to feel towards someone... Especially people whose only crime is that they want to be able to do things a certain way.

    If I wanted to be churlish I'd have said "...they can do things for themselves." instead, but I won't.
  • madmilk - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    You can use rsync for syncing and playlist files (duh) for playlists.

    Or you can wait for the music management software you're using to suddenly come out with a craptacular update (cough iTunes and Winamp), and then wonder what the hell you're going to switch to.
  • piroroadkill - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    I could do exactly that, with smart playlists, using my player (J River Media Center), but you know what, I don't bother.

    I prefer exposing the files and doing it manually.
  • karocage - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    "How should a person with a huge library do?"

    You should probably either continue using the Zune client with WP7.5 or the new desktop client for WP8. Using Windows Explorer would be a pain for that.
  • dragonsqrrl - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    "If you're one of the precious few people who invested in Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 like I did, Windows Phone 8 is going to feel pretty lackluster initially, if not even capable of engendering a mild feeling of resentment. Windows Phone 7 was a rough draft and a product with no real future the moment it left Microsoft, and they knew it."

    Microsoft did the exact same thing to Zune HD users, otherwise known as Windows Phone 7 beta testers. Anyone who owned or followed the news about the Zune HD a couple years ago should know what I'm talking about. And lo and behold they've done it again, although the situation with the Zune HD was far more severe. And this is why I didn't get a WP7 device, and I won't be getting a WP8 device. Microsoft has proven itself time and again to screw over its customers and early adopters in the mobile market for the sake of its grand mobile development plans.

    I'm actually a little surprised Microsoft repeated this behavior twice, but now there's no doubt in my mind that it's systemic. They essentially use their customers as nothing more then beta testers, and each revision of their mobile platform is nothing more then a brief, unsupported, unadvertised stepping stone to the next thing. I'm sure not supporting or investing in a new platform saves a lot of money, initially, but eventually this kind of behavior is going to catch up with Microsoft in a big way, if it hasn't already. They're probably losing a lot of potential and once loyal customers.
  • karocage - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    I'm still trying to figure out what I got screwed on as a WP7.5 user. All my apps I bought would still work and be useable on a new WP8 phone so....? They didn't give me a new free phone? This is asserted in the article multiple times without ever laying out what the tangible harm is. And neither did you here. Reply
  • steven75 - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    You lose out on any apps made for the WP8 APIs, obviously. Reply

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