What Win8 Should Learn from Windows Phone

  • Nov 14, 2011 at 5:56 PM
  • Shawn Wildermuth

windows8As many of my readers know, I’ve been neck deep in the Windows Phone. More recently, I’ve been digging into Windows 8 development as well. On my most recent trip, I spent quite a bit of time with the BUILD tablet. Good news is that it’s a pretty good piece of hardware. Even though it’s not ARM, I am still getting a good four hours of battery life. This version of Windows 8 is early but I do think there are some things that Windows 8 should learn from what they’ve done with the Windows Phone. Here is a short list of what I think the team should look at on the phone:

In-App Back Button

On the phone, the back button represents a major way to navigate in an application. In Windows 8, you can swipe back but that doesn’t take you back to the last page in an application, it takes you to the last Metro-style app. I know you can swipe up to show the ‘ApplicationBar’ and it can have a back button, but I think this is a mistake. The phone learned that users want a single back button that works everywhere…it’s more intuitive.

Hold Back Button

In Mango (7.5), you can hold the back button to get a list of the recently run apps. We need something similar on Windows 8. When looking for an app I am (was) running, just using the back swipe is not good enough. It’s too hard to tell what I was doing. I find myself going through the swipe-back list twice to find what I wanted (I find the app, but I just passed it so I slow down the 2nd time).

Simple Live Tile Management

The way that Live Tiles can be dragged and ordered on the phone works really well. People can pick it up fast. On Windows 8, I find myself confused about where the tile is going to end up. Is it in a list where it’s last? Can I drag it between two?  I don’t get it. I love the grouping and the different sized tiles, but the management of it isn’t intuitive to me.

Input Scopes

04_win8_onscreen_keyboardAnyone who knows me knows that a Windows Phone app that doesn’t use good InputScopes makes me crazy. The same is true for Win8. My problem is that there don’t seem to be any contextual keyboards (so far) on Windows 8. The layout of the default keyboard hides too many keys I want. And if they would embrace InputScope so that keys would appear that are contextually important – I’d be a lot happier with text input.


Related to the Input Scope issue is that fact that auto-correct seems to be missing completely. If it’s going to be a touch interface, you have to have integrated autocorrect (with a single dictionary). It needs to be integrated across the OS, not tacked on to WinRT (e.g. should work everywhere, not just in Metro Apps). Period. End of story!


While not everyone loves the copy/paste gestures on the phone, they work. We need another solution than the Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V solution I am using currently. Again, it needs to be integrated across the OS, not tacked on to WinRT (e.g. should work everywhere, not just in Metro Apps).

What Should WinPhone 8 Learn from Win8?

I am not letting Windows Phone off the hook either. One of the things that I think Win8 gets right are “Contracts”. Contracts are the ability for system-wide verbs to be implemented by producers and consumers. A good example of this is Search. You can implement the “You can search my app’s data” contract so that the search bar in Win8 includes your application in the list of apps to search. You can also implement the “You can search from my app” contract (the other side of that contract). There are a handful of these: Search, Share, Picker are three well known ones.  There are apt to be more.

On Windows Phone we get some of this through Tasks and Choosers, but that really means that our applications can consume OS-level verbs (e.g. take a picture, get me an address). But contracts are what we really should have. I should be able to say “Share this from my app” as well as “Share through my app”. When an app wants to share a link, we should present them with a set of apps that can share information so I don’t have to have Twitter integration at the OS level. I could say, “Share This Link” and the user could pick to share it via Rowi instead of the Twitter integration.

What do you think the two could learn from each other?




Fadzai Chamba Friday, November 11, 2011

Agreed. Especially about contracts in Windows Phone. I think the search contract would be nice so that the user can press the search button and search the current app if the contract is implemented, and a second press will go to bing. I know that it can make the user experience a little messy, but they could find a way; perhaps one press to bing, long press search the current app.


Cristian Saturday, November 12, 2011

Great post

More stuff Windows Phone could learn from Windows 8

That navigtion keys "somewhere" on a soft keyboard could be real useful.. I realy love the speed you get with the left and right arrow on the w8 sip instead on trying to touch the exact right spot you want to type on.

That you can have a solution for authentication on different providers like facebook auth and so on.

Event based Background tasks...

So.. almost everything good ;) I hope the platforms will learn a lot in the future and bring the best from both worlds..


Ciaran Murphy Monday, November 14, 2011

Hmmm... I agree with you about the taskswitcher, but unsure about the "one back button to rule them all".

Apps targeting WinRT are likely to be a bit more complex than WP7. At the moment the navigation options are still very simple but over time their will be a clamour for more 'capable' applications rather than simple 'apps'.
What might be apt model for an app that has linear, treelike navigation might not be apt for applications that are more involved or could break completely if older desktop applications are installed.

I know WinRT doesn't really target full fat applications but it's difficult for two ecosystems to coexist. Users will either demand full fat apps in WinRT or avoid it.

I chuckled when I saw Sinofsky presenting Win8 at AllThingsD. One of the ladies asked when Office or other real applications would be ported. Sinofsky didn't do very well at explaining that WinRT is meant primarily for data consumption and light interaction.

Consumers WILL ask for potentially inappropriate apps and that could push & pull the two separate ecosystems in unintended directions.


Dave Monday, November 14, 2011

Type-o on first sentence:

As many of my readers now,
should be:
As many of my readers know,


contextfree Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I disagree that the tile manipulation interface on WP is intuitive - I've always found it very frustrating due to:

1. Having to press-and-hold to go into a different "manipulation mode" (this is especially frustrating because if you're trying to rearrange multiple tiles, it's easy to accidentally exit manipulation mode, then have to press-and-hold again to get back in)

2. Scrolling: having to drag a tile across multiple screens is frustrating to begin with, but what's even more frustrating is when you're trying to position the tile somewhere near the bottom of the screen, but the screen keeps scrolling too much instead when you don't want it to. Then you have to take it back up to the top of the screen but it scrolls on you again ... etc.

3. Tiles feel too floaty and it's not very clear where the tile will go and where the surrounding tiles will go when you drop it. (this is made more annoying by problem #1).

It looks like Win8 is at least addressing problem #1 (by allowing the swipe-to-select/drag gesture at all times instead of having a separate mode) and #2 (by allowing you to scroll with another finger at the same time you're dragging a tile). However, I still haven't gotten the chance to try it so I don't know if it actually works (yet?), but at least they're addressing the right problems.


contextfree Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I agree though that the navigation model (back button / app switching) in WP is nice, and Win8 to me (again without having tried it) seems to be a step back.


Shawn Wildermuth Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Really, try it. I think you'll be surprised.


Andy Stumpp Friday, November 18, 2011

this is exactly my point of view. You've have really summarized the most important aspects for a more intuitive working with Windows 8. I am really curious about the next pre-release edition of this OS. Maybe some of these aspects are already integrated, I hope so :)

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