So now that Windows Phone 7.5 is out and in the wild, for most of you, if you’ve got yourself a Windows Phone device there’s a chance that you’ve been using the latest huge update to Microsoft’s mobile OS for a little while now, and probably have buried yourself deep into the new features. All of that is great news, and I’m sure there are probably a few new features in there that you just absolutely love. One of those may be multitasking. But, after my own time spent with Mango, I’m not exactly sure if waiting for multitasking was really worth it.
When Apple launched the iPhone, people kind of forgot about doing multiple things at once on their phone. No, I’m not talking about the people who really need to do more than one thing on their phone at any given moment – but the average consumer. They were so enveloped by all things iPhone that it wasn’t until reviewers and other folks out in the wild started pointing it out that people started questioning why, oh why, the iPhone didn’t have the functionality. This was only made worse when Android launched, and then punched in the face repeatedly when Palm’s webOS landed on the scene. But now Apple’s got their own version of multitasking on the iPhone, and the world is happy.
If you’ve seen the videos of Mango, or have used it yourself, then you know that multitasking on a Windows Phone is somewhat similar to that of the iPhone. Instead of just having the multitasking ability right there in front of you, you actually need to do something to, more or less, “activate it.” Meaning, if you want to do more than one thing on your phone, run more than one app, then you need to make sure that you don’t hit the ‘Back’ button out of it, but instead hit the ‘Windows’ button. Once you do that, the app will keep on ticking in the background, and you can reach it by holding that ‘Back’ button, which brings up a nice little “windowed” view of all the apps you’ve got up and running.
Unfortunately, while this does seem pretty intuitive and easy to use, there aren’t many applications out there that actually use the new feature. In fact, on the HTC Trophy I’ve got readily available and out of the 12 applications I’ve got loaded up onto it, two are able to use the background ability. Two! That’s just not okay, by any means. And, let me just say right now, that I know there are more applications out there that have the background ability, I just don’t have them on my phone. I’m simply pointing out that developers haven’t caught up with Microsoft this time around, and while it’s great that Microsoft was able to push out the update quickly, it doesn’t look like the applications out there are ready for the Mango goodness.
And then it hit me. Out of nowhere, I was suddenly thinking that Windows Phone doesn’t really need multitasking. Actually, I really don’t think it needs it in the way that they’ve implemented it. I think Microsoft’s focus on the Live Tiles and Hubs is fantastic, and that’s one of the best parts of Windows Phone. They want you to be able to glance at your phone and get the information you need so you can get back to doing whatever it was you were doing. These Live Tiles and Hubs make that happen. So, instead of running an application and having it save its state in the background, you’ve just got a Live Tile that tells you everything you need, right there. If you want to open it, you can, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.
Honestly, the way that Microsoft has brought Windows Phone to the public, makes it seem that multitasking wasn’t just an afterthought, but something that many folks in Redmond just didn’t feel was necessary. And while I’ve asked in the past if waiting for multitasking would be worth it, I’ve realized now that, no, not really. But not because it isn’t implemented well, or because other platforms have out-done Microsoft. No. I think it’s simply because Windows Phone does a great job of multitasking right on the home screen with those Hubs and Live Tiles, and the implementation there is just as good as any other version of multitasking out there.
I wish I could really say that the Live Tiles and Hubs are really “multitasking,” but they aren’t. They’re just notifying you of changes. But, to be honest, I think this may work better than simply throwing in multitasking, in any capacity. It works for Windows Phone.