Most of you are well aware by now that I have been using the Lumia 900 as my primary device since Monday. It's a fantastic phone and I love the hardware. (My only complaint with the hardware is that the camera isn't as great as I was hoping, but that may be due to a defect in the sensor on my unit. Every picture has discoloration toward the center of the picture.)
Software, though, is a different story. It's great and I'm enjoying it, for once. It's a nice step back from Android and iOS. But it is just over one-year-old and is still lacking some of the deeper features, third-party applications and integration that I need in a smartphone. There are some updates on the horizon (Tango and Apollo) and I can only hope that they solve some of my biggest gripes with the software. As I promised, here are the few complaints I have:
Of all the different little quirks that I've come across on Windows Phone, there is only one that I'm having a hard time ignoring or coping with: applications resuming.
On Android, when you open an application, it is kept in system memory, running in the background. On iOS, the application is frozen in the background. In other words, unless the you (or the Android system) kill the Android app or exit the iOS app, they will resume as soon as you open them again. You can pick up exactly where you left off, without having to wait through a splash screen or for the app to load again.
Oh, how I wish this was the case on Windows Phone. By pressing the home button (Windows key) in Windows Phone, you can keep the current application running in the background. You can access it again, or switch tasks from within an application, by long pressing the back button. Usually, an application loaded from the running apps list will load instantly, without a hitch. But accidentally close out of the app by hitting the back button instead and you may have to wait several seconds for it to load again.
I'll probably get used to that in time. But the part that kills me is when I'm using an application and the screen times out. After several minutes, if you unlock the display, the application will have to "resume", which has taken up to 15 seconds for me. In contrast, this is something that never happens on iOS or Android. When you unlock the device, the application is there, ready to go. For someone who is as impatient with software as I am, it's really grinding my gears.
I already touched on this one yesterday, saying that I'm a bit hesitant to buy applications for Windows Phone. I am. And I know I'm contributing to the overall skepticism around Windows Phone and the perpetual waiting game that everyone is playing. But that's not really the problem. And it's not really that there are only 70,000 applications versus the half-million applications on iOS or 450,000 or so in the Google Play Store. It's a fairly safe bet that the big titles will eventually make their way over.
My complaint and fear, however, is that there will not be official support for applications and services on Windows Phone for some time. For instance, I use Google Voice religiously. For now, I am stuck using a third-party app that is just getting me by. And I'm using MetroPaper instead of an official Read it Later app for the foreseeable future.
And why is there no file explorer? There aren't even any applications to download to allow me to access the internal storage. This means that I cannot side-load my own eBooks into the Kindle app like I can on Android. How am I supposed to read The Hunger Games? Okay, you caught me. I don't really read from my phones. But I do need a file explorer quite often.
The three typical physical buttons on the face of a Windows Phone device are Back, Home and Search. After using countless Android devices with dedicated search buttons, I have become accustomed to tapping that button any time I want to search something from within the app itself. For example, if I'm in the Google Play Store on my Galaxy Note, pressing the Search button will immediately place a cursor in the search bar and parse the store.
Pressing the dedicated Search button on a Windows Phone device yields an entirely different result. If you are in Marketplace, you will notice a soft Search button that appears above the physical Home button. Pressing this will take you to Marketplace search. Pressing the physical Search button will take you to Bing (blegh!).
I understand why this happens. And I can't blame Microsoft for wanting to promote their search engine. But it just isn't intuitive. If they want it to be a Bing button, that's a different story. But it is just a search button. It should do just that, search. Not just any search, though. It should be relative to whatever application you are in. It should not take the user outside the application and to Bing ... of all things.
This is a big one. On the iPhone, my MacBook and on all of my Android devices, I take screenshots like they're going out of style. On my Galaxy Note, particularly, I take screen shots to annotate and add to notes in the S Memo application. But, I am constantly capturing my screens to either share or remember something.
This is not a feature of Windows Phone, at least not natively on the device. And, unfortunately, there are no third-party applications that do this in Marketplace. The only way to capture the screen of your Windows Phone device is with a computer, through various different wonky methods.
This might not seem like much to complain about for many of you, but it definitely is for me. Not having the ability to screen capture my Windows Phone is really working on my nerves.
I used to hate Metro UI. I thought it was ugly and so simple it was boring. It's no more complex or interesting than it used to be. But I am finally starting to see the beauty in the tiled interface.
That said, it could still use some work. And it definitely needs more customization options. Withing the Theme sub-menu in Settings on the Lumia 900, there are only 11 color choices for your tile and system-wide accent color: Nokia blue, magenta, purple, teal, lime, brown, pink, mango, blue, red and green. And there are only two background colors: dark (black) or light (white). Needless to say, this is very simple. Too simple.
After seeing several Windows 8 previews and catching a glimpse of all the different colors, I want that on my phone – various background colors, a color wheel for tile colors, etc. It would be a fairly simple thing for Microsoft to add some more color options in the settings menu and to allow wallpapers or different background colors.
I guess we can only hope for this in Apollo.
To add to the few frustrations I've had of late, scrolling is one that continually gets worse for me. It's not that scrolling isn't smooth; it's that it isn't fast enough. I know the system can handle faster scrolling, yet it's as if flick scrolling has a governor on it. If I flick a list as fast as possible, the list scrolls hardly any faster than if I had just gently flicked.
This is especially a problem since the home and application interfaces are portrait lists. I have 14 vertical tiles on my Start page and it takes two hard scrolls to quickly get to the bottom of the list. One hard scroll will take me to the bottom, it just takes longer. The list of applications is even worse, though. It's much longer than the tile view and has letter indicator icons between all of the applications that mark the beginning of a new letter of the alphabet. No matter how hard you flick the list, it only scrolls so fast.
This aggravates me more than Sense UI's vertical paginated list of applications, which is saying something.
A lot of these things may seem petty. And I'm sure most of you are thinking, "If you have these problems, why don't you just use Android or iOS, Taylor?" I can't blame you for thinking it, but I want something new and different. I get burned-out pretty easily these days and Windows Phone is ... refreshing. I'm finally beginning to like Windows Phone. But for these few reasons, I cannot love Windows Phone.