Top Twenty Missing Features of Windows Phone 7

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Thanks to the Mango update, Windows Phone 7 was transformed from a glorified feature phone platform to a fully featured 'smartphone' operating system. I say that in inverted commas because, for me, a true smartphone has to be able to be used independently of a desktop or laptop computer, which in theory disqualifies Windows Phone 7. I digress though, because however you define a smartphone, Windows Phone 7 has come on in leaps and bounds.

I was very hard on Windows Phone 7 in its 'NoDo' era, and I was still the resident All About Windows Phone sceptic after Mango was released. Even so, I have happily been using Windows Phone 7 as my primary smartphone OS for nearly six months. Therefore, despite all the deficiencies I'm about to detail, I'm getting by on a day to day basis. That's fine, it means Windows Phone 7 is maturing and it is 'good enough' for most people, but the likes of you and me are not happy with 'good enough' – we see the potential for being even better and it hurts to see it not happening.

Here are my top twenty (yes, twenty!) wishes for future features in Windows Phone.


People Hub

1. Adding and removing people from social network accounts.
When viewing Twitter updates that mention the username of someone you'd like to 'follow', tapping the name links you to their profile page in Internet Explorer. From there you can 'follow', but you have to wait for Microsoft's servers to catch up with the change. Also, when someone is being particularly noisy on Twitter, it's justifiable to unfollow them; except you can't on Windows Phone 7, without going out into the browser again. Falling back to the browser totally breaks the otherwise holistic user experience of the People Hub.

Also, there's no way to search for users on LinkedIn or Facebook, so again you have to fall back to the web or a third party application. As I've said before, what is the point of the People Hub if we have to break out into other applications to plug the gaps in its functionality?

2. Old style retweets or quoting tweets.
The People Hub supports Twitter's native retweet method, which is great. However, sometimes there is a justifiable need to quote a tweet with an added comment – even if Twitter itself has seemingly declared some sort of holy war on the good old "RT".

3. See what people are replying to.
While the People Hub lets you see replies to your tweets, via tapping on your updates in the "What's New" section, it doesn't work in reverse. That is, there's no People Hub equivalent of the "In Reply To" link.  This makes conversation tracking much more of a drawn out process than it should be.

4. Mark tweets as spam.
The other annoyance when going through your Twitter replies in the People Hub is finding Twitter spam. Every other Twitter client lets you flag it as spam, but the People Hub doesn't.

5. Mark tweets as favourites.
Yes, this is probably a less important function, but it is also very versatile. The Favourites function is used for all sorts of reasons, because it's Twitter's generic flagging system. Some people use it as a built-in answer to Read-It-Later or to send tweets to Google Reader, and some even use it for sentimental reasons.

6. Read from the bottom up.
If you're someone who wants to read everything on Twitter, rather than just dipping in and out, People Hub may not work for you, as it shows everything in reverse chronological order (though to be fair, most other clients and itself does the same).

7. Twitter Lists.
This is another feature not included with People Hub. Lists provide a great way to filter users and to focus on a particular category of content. Twitter lists could be integrated by listing them alongside the People Hub groups.

8. Integration
I admit this is a niche use. However, the link shortening service provides excellent analytics on how many clicks your links are getting. However, we're unlikely to see this happen given that Twitter has its domain, and Microsoft has just introduced its domain. After all, it would make far too much sense to use a single independent service instead of having multiple proprietary systems (Ed: sarcasm alert!)

9. Flickr Integration.
This might be better put in a Picture Hub category, but.... Flickr is a social network too – it's a popular widely used photo sharing service, and the People Hub would benefit from photographic updates from Flickr just as it does from Facebook. Then again, Microsoft owns shares in Facebook and not Yahoo! (Flickr's owners), and Facebook actually handles more photos than Flickr, so we can see why Microsoft chose as it did.

People Hub Groups
People Hub Groups

Core Applications

10. A black theme for Email.
One of the changes Mango introduced was themes. As well as changing the colour of tiles, you can have a black or white background. All of the core applications respect your chosen theme except for Email (and Web, for obvious rendering reasons!), which burns battery power away with bright white pixels on the AMOLED screens of the Lumia 800 and 900.

11. Pinch to zoom on Calendar's month view.
The Calendar application has an elegant design and neat looking month view. However, form has gone before function, as you can't actually read any text on the month view. We need pinch to zoom so we can close in on specific days.

12. Multiple lines on the Calendar tile.
Calendar has a massive full-width 'Live Tile'. However, it is neither very live, nor does it display much content. In fact, it only shows one appointment at a time. An utter waste of space, in the all of the literal and vitriolic ways this can be said.

13. Word count in Word.
The built-in copy of Word for Windows Phone 7 compares favourably with third party word processors on other platforms. However, if writing is important enough to your job that you're prepared to do it on a mobile phone, chances are that you will need to know how many words you've written. For an unfathomable reason, Microsoft has seen fit to omit this function from both Windows Phone 7 Word and Office Live Word on SkyDrive.

14. Pasting formulae in Excel.
Spreadsheets have one primary role – to repeatedly calculate tabulated data. Doing this effectively requires the ability to copy and paste formulae while maintaining relative cell references. Windows Phone 7's version of Excel can't do this.  I was doing it more than a decade ago on Psion palmtops and on every smartphone I've had since!

15. Bookmark Sync.
Even though many of us have long since moved on from Internet Explorer on the desktop, it's actually now a great (desktop and mobile) browser – which is just as well, because it's the only browser for Windows Phone 7. I would have expected some sort of cloud synchronisation for bookmarks via SkyDrive given the emphasis of cloud integration on Windows Phone 7, if for no other reason than to encourage the use of Internet Explorer on the desktop.

All white email
All white email 

General Functionality

16. Select multiple images.
When using third party applications to transfer images via the built-in gallery view, it's infuriating and tiresome to go through the selection and upload process for each photo. Multiple selections shouldn't be too difficult to implement.

17. Video sharing with third party applications.
We all know Windows Phone 7 denies you the freedom to browse files on your device. Browsing images and videos in the Picture Hub is as close as we can get to a file manager. However, there is a seemingly arbitrary limitation for third party apps which excludes videos when browsing for images to upload.

18. Deep linking into core applications.
One of the best aspects of live tiles is the ability to link into specific parts of an application. However, applications can only deep link to themselves. This is a particular problem for developers who are trying to make a better calendar tile (see above) – they are hamstrung by being unable to link into the built-in Calendar application.

19. Separate ringer and music volume levels.
This is a subtle one – if you reduce your volume while playing music, that volume level applies to the ringer volume too, which can lead to missed calls. While it's good to have the simplicity of just one volume level, I think some intelligence needs to be applied.

20. Inconsistent Multitasking.
Saving the best 'till last, we have Mango's implementation of 'multitasking'. This feature alone transformed Windows Phone 7 into a usable operating system, though it still has some quirks. For instance, as mentioned vociferously by Steve in his recent rant, you can return to the state you left an application in by using the 'Back' task switcher, but if you use the application's live tile, its state is lost and it restarts. Furthermore, some applications show up multiple times in the task switcher, reflecting when you left them for another application.

Mango Multitasking
Mango 'Multitasking'

David Gilson, 23rd April 2012.