The Blog

Nine Reasons Why Windows Phone 8 Leaves Me Cold

Recently I branched out to Windows Phone 8 after a Nokia Lumia 928 came my way. Was it going to be a chance to relive the days of working with Windows mobile? In a word "no". I am in disbelief. I am staggered that this operating system exists in 2013.

As is the case for many people, Android is my mobile operating system of choice. I was once a diehard iOS user -- my old iPhone 3GS is still one of my favorite phones of all time -- but I've also been known to experiment with other mobile platforms.

Back in the days before smartphones, I had handsets from Nokia, Sony, Samsung, LG and numerous others that have been lost in the mists of time. My first smartphone was a rebranded HTC handset going under the guise of an Orange SPV M3100. It ran Windows Mobile, had a slideout keyboard and was amazing.

This was my first experience of a mobile phone operating system from Microsoft (I'd previously owned some device or other running Windows CE and also had an iPaq handheld at some point), and I loved it. One of the most enjoyable things about it was the fact that it was so customizable.

Don't like the look of the default skin? Sure, you could download another one -- often at a cost -- but there was great fun to be had in rolling your own. It was glorified webpage design, but it meant that I could transform my homescreen into whatever I wanted. I then had a brief blip. Something I'm not proud of. I bought a BlackBerry. I actually quite liked it. But... moving on.

Then I switched to my beloved iPhone. I loved it. iOS was unlike anything I'd ever used before and it was special enough for me to overlook the rather restrictive nature of the OS. iOS is an impressive piece of software, but after two years I was ready to try something new -- although I still keep my hand in with my iPad.

Jumping ship to Android is probably the best move I ever made. I'll freely admit to being something of an Android fanboy. I realize it's not a perfect operating system, but for me it comes pretty damn close. Sure, there are still restrictions I'm not overly happy with -- the need to root to perform certain tasks is irritating (although I do appreciate the reasoning behind it) and extreme customization is more difficult than it should be.

But Android is still the mobile OS for me. I use it on an HTC Sensation, HTC One mini, Sony Tablet S and a Nexus 7. I love it, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Recently I branched out to Windows Phone 8 after a Nokia Lumia 928 came my way. Was it going to be a chance to relive the days of working with Windows mobile? In a word "no". I am in disbelief. I am staggered that this operating system exists in 2013.

What's wrong with it? Where shall I begin?

  1. Why is the notification bar not visible at all times? I don't just want to see the time, I want to be able to see my battery level and signal strength, as well as checking whether I'm in silent mode without the need to swipe down.
  2. Outrageously awkward method of toggling wifi/data/GPS etc on and off. If I want to toggle a setting like this, I want to be able to do it in a couple of taps, not by navigating to Settings and hunting down what I need.
  3. App switching. In stock Android switching to a recently used app is simple. Press the button, swipe down, tap app. Job done. In Windows Phone 8 it's a case of tap and hold the back button, only to be presented with an "icon" for each recent app that takes up virtually the entire screen -- which means too much scrolling if the app I'm looking for is not the last one I used. I realize this is not too dissimilar to switching on other devices, it's the size of app icon that grates.
  4. No Google-made apps. OK, none might be putting it a bit strongly (there is one, but it only acts as a link to Google Search), but the lack of Google apps is a serious drawback. I realize that this is not Microsoft's fault, but it irritates me anyway.
  5. Apps in general. It's almost too easy a target, but the selection of apps in the Store is nothing short of pitiful. Any app store is populated by a massive majority which are, put simply, utter crap -- it's to be expected. But the low overall number of apps available for Windows Phone means that the small number of halfway decent ones that there are just get lost.
  6. No keyboard cutsomization and not Swype-like typing. I have a stock keyboard and no further choice? Which century are we living in here? Seriously!
  7. Notification system. Live tiles are not a good way to let me know that I have a new direct message on Twitter, 57 emails to read, and various interactions on Facebook. If I'm reading a website and want to see how many new notifications there have been since I last checked, I don't want to leave what I'm doing and head to the home screen to find out -- that's just insane.
  8. Why are games treated differently to apps? I install an app and it appears, obviously, in the apps list that appears with a left swipe. Great. If I want to access games, they are locked away in their own section. I'm not much of a gamer, but I do like the occasional puzzler to pass the time. Yes, games shortcuts can be pinned in place, but why should I have to go through this extra step? Games are meant to be fun, not hard work! Playing games may be fun, but intuitive it ain't!
  9. Screen rotation. Why is this not a system wide setting? If I want to browse the web with Internet Explorer whilst lying on my side, the page 'helpfully' rotates for me, and there's no way to override it -- short of using a different browser or jumping back to my Android phone.

How is an operating system this bad allowed to exist in this day and age?

It's a great shame. The Lumia 928 is a lovely piece of hardware; the screen is nothing short of gorgeous. I'm a fan of the slightly retro, cubist look of the handset, and the camera is fantastic. But the software is just dire, dire, dire.

Microsoft produces operating systems. Admittedly some are worse than others (Windows Me?), but Windows Phone really has taken me aback. What the hell is Microsoft thinking?

A version of this article first appeared on BetaNews.