Microsoft’s reboot in mobile – Windows Phone 7 was all about the ability to ‘glance & go’ and making things more seamless than what other platforms had to offer. The Metro design language is all about making things more personal and relevant to your digital life. The minimal nature of Metro, live tiles, built-in social integration, bringing all of Microsoft’s assets together were some of the key features that would differentiate Windows Phone from the rest of the mobile landscape. The Start screen in Windows Phone 7 with live tiles were one of the biggest differentiators for Windows Phone 7 from a ‘sea of sameness’ that was a grid of icons that were just application launchers. The Windows Phone Start experience has always been about making things feel more personal with no decoration, no ornamentation but ‘your’ content & the ability to ‘glance & go’ information without having to dig into apps to find out what’s going on. The overall experience is unlike anything else on the market. Metro is all about elimination of unnecessary faux elements and puts content & people first over skeuomorphism. It’s digitally authentic.
Users can pin all sorts of stuff on the Start screen. You can pin people, groups of people, apps, stuff from inside of apps (in Windows Phone 7.5), map locations, artists, albums, photo albums, documents, shortcuts, email inboxes, folders from email inboxes, websites. It’s like a digital bulletin board where you can pin pretty much anything. With Windows Phone 8, this experience has gotten even better. Microsoft says live tiles are the face of Windows Phone and with Windows Phone 8, this pretty face has become drop dead gorgeous.
As you can see, now you can decide whether a live tile is small, medium or large. Small tiles make it possible to have awful lot of live tiles on the home screen and getting quick acess to content without much scrolling. Medium tiles are pretty much like they have been on Windows Phone and the large tiles are a huge addition. You can not only see if you have new texts but even who the senders are and previews of the texts in the live tile itself; same for Email. Third party app developers should leverage this feature addition incredibly well. The negative space and the arrow depicting the app list have been removed in favour of a more center aligned Start screen with slightly larger tiles. This new Start screen is also going to be available to current Windows Phone 7.5 users in an upcoming update to Windows Phone 7.8.
So, the Start screen, the most apparent feature that sets Windows Phone apart, is getting a pretty big evolutionary update. This not only enhances the glance & go experience but also makes the phone more personal than ever before. It’s the perfect representation of who you are, who are important to you and what you care about. Simply, it’s ‘your life – digitized’.
The evolution of the Windows Phone Start screen is clearly in alignment with what Microsoft showed off in it’s Productivity Future Vision video. Good times ahead.