It’s been a rocky road for Redmond after its release of its flavorful Mango operating system last year. After the proverbial new car smell, speed increases, more developer APIs, options seen on other platforms came and went, all anyone has really wanted to do was jump to the latest and greatest. For a long time, we knew that the latest and greatest would come in two iterations: Tango and Apollo. The former (Tango) being a Windows Phone operating system for low end devices to penetrate lower end markets while bringing a panoply of changes, and then the elusive Apollo. We’ve heard a lot of rumors about Apollo, so it’s time for a quick recap before we dive right into our personal wish list:
What we know
A kernel change! …in some fashion
This is probably the largest and broadest information regarding Microsoft’s third iteration of Windows Phone. Rumors have been circulating for an extremely long time that the kernel would change from Win CE (which is currently running on Windows Phone) to Windows NT, which is the code behind Windows 8. The switch of kernel source brings a plethora of hardware changes or software changes to the Windows Phone platform and it has a lot of users and bloggers somewhat excited. Perhaps the main reason is that the well needed hardware and software spec bump is likely looming. In some way or other
Is it Windows NT or WinRT
Of course when one connects the dots, does it make much sense that Windows Phone 8 will be powered by Windows NT versus WinRT? On a personal level, I’m trying to draw the rationalization here. Perhaps the change in kernel code to Windows NT could make it far easier for Intel to power a Windows Phone, which has shown lots of interest in powering phones for ages, but how does it compare to WinRT kernel source? If I were to make a bet and a shot in the dark, I would assume that Microsoft would not use Windows NT code, but would use WinRT code that powers its tablet. I think it would still give lots of options (Full HD display and other odds and ends), but lacks specific support for Intel based chipsets. That’s not to say Intel based Windows Phones aren’t coming, but I think they will come next year. My bet? WinRT with some CE code.
Massive hardware changes
Let’s be honest here. For two years, Windows Phone has been admirably rocking some specs that make even the spec loving individual sigh in dismay. The issue isn’t the type of screen, or the screen size, or even the storage space (hey I sit nice and pretty with 16 GB). I’m talking about the processor, the RAM, and the screen resolution. The processors that all Windows Phones rock are Qualcomm S2 single core processors, which tout a lot of gains over its predecessor and lower battery consumption. In addition, the screen resolution has sat at 800×480 for the past two years, with no changes in the RAM (still 512 MB). For the most part, the experience is bearable because of how Windows Phone is coded. But enough is enough, and its time for a change!
HD displays, dual core processors, and the return of the MicroSD card
The HD display (or 1280×780) thing is a bit of a given, with the recent crop of high end Android devices sporting such a display and Apple’s emphasis on retinal displays in their products. It’s hard not to see that technology is adopting HD displays at a pace where OEM demand is relatively high. Windows Phone is following this trend, but the question of the day is how? Will there be support for 1280×720? More than likely yes. Where some question comes in is the other resolution options. Rumors around the blogging world peg Windows Phones to support a 1280×768 screen resolution (WXGA), which is a bit strange all things considered. More than likely, we will see at least one of the two displays, while still maintaining support for 800×480, and bringing back support to 480×640. Recall that Belfiore indicated that the resolution was supported in the early days of Windows Phone 7, but was dropped in Mango. It’s very likely they will bring it back for devices less than 100 euro (to help Nokia along).
In addition to HD displays (in some form or fashion), dual core is all but a given for Windows Phone. Andy Lees has said it, several others have said it, the processors powering Windows Phone will go up to at least dual core. But, I’d prefer to use the S4 Pro with Adreno 320, but it is very likely that it is reserved for tablets. However, if Windows were to make a splash with a GPU at that scale, it would make users very happy. It represents a compromise between the dual core and quad core debacle, while giving a comparable experience to that of quad core for gaming or intensive applications. But who am I kidding? This is Microsoft and OEMs. Recall that at the release of Windows Phone, speculation was rampant to use the S2 Qualcomm chipsets. Instead, users begrudgingly had phones with S1 processors and not the more battery efficient S2. It’s anyone’s guess whether Microsoft will go with a Qualcomm processor family with Adreno 225 versus the 320. Or who knows, maybe Microsoft will openly support quad core processors as well. Would be a wonderful surprise.
Finally, the fated return of the MicroSD card is expected for Windows Phone. Now let’s recall that most first gen devices used a MicroSD slot versus NAND storage. Samsung was a unique gem in that it offered both NAND and MicroSD for storage. For the most part, it had its hiccups, but it was a very easy experience for me when I used the Samsung Focus. The current generation of Windows Phone chose to exclusively use non expandable NAND based storage, much to everyone’s chagrin. But there is more than enough evidence to support the return of the MicroSD slot, and not be connected to overall storage but maintain different partitions of storage similar to that of Windows Mobile. This makes Windows Phone extremely viable as an option for releasing devices with 8GB NAND storage expandable with MicroSD card. See how smooth that sounds when you say it? It just feels right.
Better Skype, something you will be proud to say is on your phone
Skype debuted on Windows Phone a few days ago, and compared to the competition, it sucks. It is easily one of the worst apps in the marketplace dropping support for Tango specific devices like the Lumia 610. While we have only bits and pieces of the puzzle as to why it sucks so bad, we do know that it will get better in Windows Phone 8 in the form of full Skype integration into the OS. Now what that means is that similar to facetime that pops up on a call on the iPhone, Windows Phone users will get that option.
Carrier Opposition!? Y u no want it?
While an integrated Skype experience is a dream come true for most of us, be mindful that this is something that won’t go over very well on carriers. Time and time again Elop has indicated (in some degree) the frustration Skype brings to carriers who want to do business with Windows Phone. The situation is precarious to say the least. So while we expect Skype on Windows Phone, we also suspect some carrier subsidy to go along with it. Plus fees paid by Skype. Of course, this is also an expectation, it could very well be wrong. Pragmatically, the expectation is there. What carrier would give away their bread and butter service to a direct competitor lying down? Of course, this is idle conjecture, but it wouldn’t shock us that carriers try to add such a surcharge for using Skype. Probably in voice minutes and data. I hope not, but you never know.
A beefier, better camera
It’s hard trying to find an extremely good camera on second gen Windows Phones not named HTC. Even the highly exalted Nokia Lumia 900 has its issues due to lack of BSI sensor and overexposure complaints. If it were just an isolated incident with the Lumia 900 and other cameras performing very well, then that would be okay. But I’ve found that the camera quality on Windows Phone has been pretty bad. Now granted, autofix is one of the greatest features of Windows Phone Mango, but it doesn’t help much in video quality. Luckily, there are some updates to the camera that would help the video quality. A nice bump from the somewhat dated 720P to 1080P will come with other modifications from the OEMs.
Camera Lens, more HTC refining, maybe Pureview
Camera lens is a feature for OEMs that was leaked to the internet through video for Nokia employees. Of course, it gives OEMs the ability to redesign parts of the camera experience. I would say that OEMs will probably take HTC cue and go nuts on the camera; with Nokia leading the pack with the announcement of Pureview technology. Will Samsung also come with a powerful camera punch? One can only hope…
Zune, Rest In Peace
Yep, the Zune software that we’ve been so tied to has slowly been phased out for a bit now with its ultimate demise recently announced. And despite Zune performing like a good work horse, many often long for the days of active sync to make a triumphant return. Who wouldn’t? The ability to drag and drop files without any conversion to go thhrough saves on time and makes a difficult process that much simpler. In its, place, Daphne will come and probably fulfill some of the needs that Windows Mobile active sync performed for Windows Mobile. Well, we hope. We’re not completely sure, we just know that an active sync like solution is coming.
Improved language support and local scout
While Windows Phone is available to 120 languages, language and localization is still an issue to some areas. So we almost expect language to be a cornerstone of the Windows Phone 8 experience. In addition to language, we expect local scout improvements on the level that Americans have. Which is an amazingly good thing. Especially seeing Nokia Navteq is powering the maps, it could be a very good thing to beef up that local scout.
A huge change in Android Ice Cream Sandwich (or ICS) has been the ability to visually monitor data usage to ensure that users don’t go over on their mobile plans. Microsoft must’ve paid attention to ICS and will more than likely implement their own data management feature in the form of Datasmart. I expect Microsoft to have a GUI tracking data and minutes used. In addition to that, Datasmart will automatically connect to WiFi hotspots when available and local scout can show users where WiFi is available. Not too shabby, but I’d like to see more user control in that a user can download more than 20 MB via 3g, but I suppose that’s a wish and not a requirement.
Developers developers developers may love this. Native code support in Windows Phone. While this isn’t the first time native code has been supported (with OEMs and high end games utilizing native code), but the native code will be given to developers in mass. Enough said. Native code is a very good thing.
Enhanced rich communication
Tired of sms? Getting annoyed with some forms of voice communication? Windows Phone may have a solution for you in its integration with Rich Communication, or the ability to go beyond sms and voice. It’s akin to providing instant message, chatting, live video sharing and file transfer across devices, networks or with people in the address book. Rich communication may have its footing in the Skype acquisition deal, but it sounds like a good option versus other avenues of communications. It provides a unique just works approach, and it’d be pretty silly not to have that on a modern smartphone as an option. We expect it on Windows Phone.
What we don’t know
Microsoft has yet to announce whether all Windows Phone will receive Windows Phone 8. Questions surrounding the update feasibility of current and first gen devices occurred when Eldar Murtazin indicated lack of upgrades to the full Windows Phone 8 experience. Piggybacking on cautions were Mary J. Foley and Paul Thurott, who similar indicated that current Windows Phones may not get an upgrade. The upgrade fiasco has been argued for months, and we aren’t any clearer on whether an upgrade will come to current and previous handsets. However, Microsoft does have a way with leaving relatively successful phones in the lurch from updates starting from Windows Mobile. Sadly, going against my colleague on wpsauce, I will guess that there won’t be a full Windows Phone 8 experience. But, I’v ebeen wrong before. I hope to be wrong again
…Everything else. Seriously, your guess is as good as ours. Windows Phone events have been known to wow people and integrate core features in their respective platforms. While a lot has come out in leaks and speculation, there isn’t enough evidence too say this is coming. Perhaps that is one BIG reason why Windows Phone holds events such as these, to make us eager bloggers happier.
What we want
I want more apps. There I said it. It’s the biggest elephant in the room and it needs to be said. 100,000 apps and growing is nice, but the app experience is a huge differentiator in phones that collectively perform the same tasks in a similar manner. It is the app catalog that personally makes or breaks a device going super main stream. Now granted, Android had extremely slow growth, but it also had carrier support. Windows Phone has some developer support, and very little carrier/reseller support, making it difficult to substantiate reasons to develop. Surprisingly, I am reminded of the chicken before the egg dilemma when trying to determine whether developers or carrier support is more important. Still, it’s nice to have both in hand to maximize the user experiences.
Secondly, would it kill you to add pentaband support? In this day and age, pentaband support is a shangrila that allows users to use their phone on even the weird AWS spectrum, making it far easier to use devices on AT&T bands and international. Ther has yet to be a pentaband Windows Phone and it’s a bit frustrating especially since pentaband support was a Nokia given at one point.
The biggest thing that Windows Phone has to do is provide some sort of hardware cohesion. Microsoft has touted this as the year of Windows 8 by releasing several different products under Windows 8. The strategy is similar to Android and iOS, but a major draw to Windows Phone could be the ability to seamlessly interact with other Microsoft products. Imagine using NFC as a means to connect your Windows Phone wirelessly to your computer and draft a SMS from your computer and send said SMS to your phone. Or the ability to respond to SMS, email, phone conversations through your phone? That’s not science fiction surprisingly. It’s been on several Nokia devices through the ovi suite for ages! That feature is something I haven’t seen supported natively on phones and it almost demands for that experience to come. At least, as a means of offering a unique and cohesive experience among products. Of course, it doesn’t have to be computer/tablet to phone. It can be phone to xbox (and it actually works well), tablet to xbox, computer to phone and so on. The opportunities are endless and to see Microsoft have such a disjointed experience is unnerving.
How about some folders Microsoft? I love metro ui and its guidelines. But folders are on practically every single platform. Toss us a bone Microsoft, we will love you forever.
Finally, control! Give us some control of the ux/ui! We want to change the colors to the metro start menu. Maybe even use an image as a background. Maybe we don’t want to be stuck with the guidelines you define as pretty. Give users the ability to customize.
That’s about it. What about you guys? What do you want?