Now that Windows Phone 7.5 is out there in the wild, and people are using the latest major update to Microsoft’s mobile operating system, there’s going to be a considerable amount of focus on Redmond’s mobile baby. And that’s understandable. People are waiting for Windows Phone to break out, to show off what it’s all about, and to find its way into more hands. With 7.5, more lovingly known as Mango, Microsoft is poised to make that happen, especially with more high-end handsets making their way onto the market. But, there’s something that may bog it down: the apps.
And, sadly, I’m not talking about the “lack” of apps available through the Marketplace. Nope, that’s something that I don’t actually think is a big deal. In truth, there are plenty of apps out there, and there are plenty of options for those looking for specific apps. No, it may not be the big name app that’s on iOS or Android, but there are options, and that has to count for something. It does in my book, anyway.
No, what I’m talking about with applications on Windows Phone is the actual speed of the app. Not opening the application from the home screen or anything like that, either. I’m actually just talking about using the application on a daily basis. Apps like Foursquare, or Facebook, or anything else that you’d use every day. The truth is it would seem that with the focus on aesthetics in Windows Phone, whether it is through the Metro UI that many applications try to mirror, or through graphics and everything else, that speed has been an afterthought.
Microsoft made a lot of improvement when it came to activating applications, or running them for the first time, back when NoDo was released, at the beginning of the year. There’s no denying that applications turn on faster now than they did when Windows Phone was first released. And now that Windows Phone 7.5 is out, it’s even better. Fast App Switching is great, especially with the way that Microsoft has included “multi-tasking” into Windows Phone. It works, and that’s great. However, again, that’s not where the focus rests.
It’s great that these apps activate quickly, but once I get into them, I want to be able to actually use it. In my personal tests with an Android-based phone, a Windows Phone, and an iPhone, activating an app like Foursquare wasn’t the issue. Each app on each platform turned on quickly enough. But, the Foursquare app for Windows Phone just took inherently longer to use. This wasn’t a GPS-based issue, either. It found locations fine, but it wouldn’t register the graphics on the “tiles” for each location as quickly as iOS or Android had loaded their own small icons. And, digging into a location to try and check in? Android and iOS were both completely finished (with Shout Outs) before I could even wrap up the Shout Out on Windows Phone.
I can admit that Windows Phone applications look great, because they do. There’s no denying that. But, I want my mobile platform to not only have great looking applications, but applications that run quick and smooth. The aesthetics of an application should never, ever hinder the way an application works, and that’s the only reason I think that this is happening. Whether it’s the landscape layout, the Metro UI overall or just the many different graphical tweaks that come along with these applications, the result is a slow experience within the app.
And, let me just say that this isn’t an issue with every app out there. (At least, not in my opinion. I do know a few people who have had this issue with every application they’ve ever tried, and it has caused them to switch platforms entirely.) But, it is an issue that I think needs to be addressed before Windows Phone can really, really go mainstream.