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The top five features Windows Phone needs from Android and iOS

Lumia 920 Small - for some reason we don't have an alt tag hereI’m an avid Windows Phone user and enjoy many of the features it brings to the table, including live tiles, hubs, and easy integration of Microsoft services. But while Windows Phone does have it’s own unique features, it is still missing out on capabilities that its competitors have embraced.

Let’s take a look at the top five features Windows Phone needs to integrate from Android and iOS.

Siri/Google Now

Small Siri - for some reason we don't have an alt tag hereApple released its virtual assistant Siri in 2011 and ushered in a new standard for interacting with your mobile device. While Siri was originally released as “beta software” (an odd move for Apple), it has since grown into a helpful way for users to achieve quick tasks such as searching the web, setting alarms, creating calendar appointments, and more.

One year later, Google introduced Google Now to Android 4.1, which emulated many of Siri’s current features. In addition, Google gave automatic location awareness to its virtual assistant, allowing the service to chime in with information you might need – for example, when you arrive at the airport, Google Now will automatically bring up your boarding pass or other relevant information.

Microsoft showed off the future of its TellMe service in a teaser video released last year (see the video below). The research video from Microsoft showed an extremely lifelike virtual assistant that could respond to advanced queries that currently surpass Siri and Google Now’s abilities. Microsoft also showcased tight integration between TellMe on Windows Phone, Windows Desktop, and Xbox; we had originally hoped to see this service integrated into Windows Phone 8, but it never founds its way. We can only hope that TellMe finds its way to Windows Phone Blue; until then, Windows Phone users like myself are stuck with simple voice commands to launch applications, make phone calls, and bring up web results.

Notification Center

Android Notifications - for some reason we don't have an alt tag hereGoogle designed the popular pull down notification center for its Android operating system, and Apple later followed suite by designing an almost blindly alarming copy for iOS. The notification system allows users to quickly view information from various applications at a glance.

Within the Windows Phone environment, there is no unified notification center of any type; instead, users must pin an application they would like to receive notifications from to their start screen as a live tile.

Many Windows Phone users say swiping to the left from the start screen to view a notification center would be a great implementation, while other users voice that they would like a similar method of pull down notifications as used in Android and iOS; either way, Windows Phone needs a unified notification center soon.

Unified Search

JellyBean - for some reason we don't have an alt tag hereWithin Android and iOS, the integrated system search will scan through your applications, emails, and the web for your specified query; this allows users to quickly search the entirety of their phone within seconds.

The Windows Phone operating system does not take a unified search approach and instead requires you to search within each individual hub for your desired content. For example, if you would like to look up a contact, you must do so through the people hub; if you would like to look up music, you must do so through the music hub; etc.

A hardware requirement for Windows Phone requires manufactures to include a search button, but this only links users to a Bing search screen. If you are within an existing application, you will be taken out of it and brought to Bing.

Unified Marketplace

Small iPhone - for some reason we don't have an alt tag hereAny iOS or Android user knows that most applications they download on their smartphones will then be available on their tablets if it runs the same operating system. The same implementation is not there for users who have a Windows Phone and a Windows 8/RT tablet.

Currently the Windows Phone marketplace and Windows 8/RT marketplace are separate and not linked; if you purchase Rowi for Windows Phone then you will have to purchase Rowi again for Windows 8/RT. This disjoint in marketplaces access is a stressing one; especially since Microsoft has a unified design language across Windows Phone and Windows 8/RT with the power to leverage it in a unified marketplace.

WebKit Browser

WebKit - for some reason we don't have an alt tag hereLastly, Windows Phone needs the introduction of a WebKit browser. Every web browser uses a software engine to render pages; popular options like Apple Safari and Google Chrome use the WebKit Engine.

Internet Explorer 10 chooses to use the Trident Engine developed by Microsoft. The problem is that the Trident Engine doesn’t update with new web standards as fast as the WebKit Engine. This results in a less than satisfactory rendering of some pages and the complete breakdown of others.

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Windows Phone is an exciting new platform that I continue to use everyday, but it is still growing. Hopefully we can expect to see many of the features above (except for the WebKit browser) implemented in future releases of Windows Phone. For now, I can get through the day without an advanced Microsoft TellMe or Unified search, but I hope to see those features in the upcoming release of Windows Phone Blue.

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Michael Archambault

Michael Archambault was an associate editor at Pocketables. He is a coder, a thinker, and a dreamer who lives on the "Microsoft side of life." His current gadget arsenal includes a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon with Windows 8, Nokia Lumia 900 with Windows Phone 7.8 OS, and a Microsoft Surface RT.

Avatar of Michael Archambault

12 thoughts on “The top five features Windows Phone needs from Android and iOS

  • Interesting list! It’s funny how much I take some of these for granted. ;-)

    Reply
  • Avatar of JRDemaskus

    Didn’t know there was a Windows phone 8 user here, don’t see much about it. Or it is all just blurring together.
    Been playing with my Wife’s Nokia 820 a little. Very disappointed!
    Starting with IE, I get less content. Maybe “flash content”? Not sure, don’t care. Using the phone “out of the box” (cause she won’t let me mess with it) I spend 90 % of my time with my device in the browser.
    The “notification bar” doesn’t do anything anymore. In WM 6.1 (the last version I owned) if you touched an icon it brought you to the setting page. Clock, Battery (power management) The signal icon brought you to the comm center where you could turn on and off radios. Envelopes brought you to the inbox…etc. Your totally right about the notification bar, but Android doesn’t do it exactly right either. Atleast not on GB 2.3.3 I want WM 6.1 functionality.
    Might as well just say I want WM 6.1x on modern hardware. Been playing with a smashed HD2 running 6.5x and I can see how they started moving towards tiles. I don’t like it as much, but atleast it still had the “Start Menu”
    Lastly, my phone is my only toy. WP8 is just a communication device, nothing to play with here.
    Peace

    Reply
    • Hi JR,

      I’m new to the Pocketables family, but I’ll be covering tons of Windows Phone and Microsoft content in the future! :)

      Wow, you were a Windows Mobile user! That feels like such a while ago.Windows Phone is a complete departure and nothing like Windows Mobile though (as you may have seen). The new operating system is targeted more at consumers while the previous was very enterprise focused.

      IE definitely isn’t the best browser, but I have to be honest in saying that it doesn’t cause issues for me. As far as flash not being present, it’s the same on iOS and current Android devices – it’s being phased out in favor of HTML5.

      The notification bar at the top doesn’t jump you to settings, but you can always pin the settings button to the start screen for fast access!

      It seems you do remember the old days of Windows Mobile a lot, but those days are gone. It’s definitely a new operating system, but if you approach it with that in mind it can be very fun!

      Reply
      • Avatar of JRDemaskus

        Sorry, WP8 homescreen and tiles Suck!
        Tiles do not refresh on their own. You have to remove and the reapply the tiles to refresh them.
        Look at your photo tile, edit/delete some photos. See that those photos are still running in the tile. Remove the tile. Reapply it. Now those photos are gone.
        Fail.
        Now look at my Android homescreen. Kate Moss is pole dancing in a bikini to the White Stripes “I just don’t know what to do with myself” using Video Live Wallpaper.
        I have made more people drop their iPhone for an Android with this one demonstration.
        Now that is Fun!

        Reply
        • It’s a shame you’ve had such trouble with Live Tiles, they are one of my favorite features!

          I’ll actually be writing a feature on them soon. :)

          Reply
  • For me the Unified Marketplace issue is the biggest one followed by the browser and then the notifications and then the search.
    When the sort those out and get some decent hardware – ie a better version of padfone for example then I will be tempted to leave my Galaxy Note 2.

    Reply
    • Avatar of JRDemaskus

      I am also waiting for a WP8 device to show up with a 5″+ screen, SD card, and Android flagship specs.
      But I do not see one coming soon, or at all, right now. Even if there was, it would not even come close to the SNote2 functionality, and won’t catch up to the SG4 for a very long time.
      While I still miss WM and IE, atleast Android picked up the torch and ran with it.
      Peace

      Reply
  • The last windows phone I had was the Touch Pro, I got the original Evo; rooted it, and I was hooked on android!! I was intrigued with wp8, so I got the 920 when it hit the stores…. I have to agree with this article and, like a commenter above, I also miss some windows 6.1 stuff!! Mainly, a good file explorer. And I don’t know if it’s the same on the HTC 8x, but when pulling up all the running apps, it would be nice to have an ‘X’ to tap, to quickly close them. If I use the windows fb app for 10 mins, it sucks having to keep hitting the back arrow, retracing 10 mins of use, just to close out of it. I really like the phone, though…but I’ll admit, I often wonder if I should have stayed with android and got the note 2…

    Reply
  • Avatar of William Devereux

    Great list, Michael. I agree with you on many of those points. Rumors have been circulating for some time now that most of those features are in the works. Of course, there has yet to be any sort of official announcement.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Sifon Zlobil

    Hi,
    a WP8 user here. Personally, I totally disagree with this article. What I like about WP most, is that it is being different from Android and iOS, and in my opinion, it provides “a unique” experience altogether (sorry for the marketing phrase). I am fine if if it takes a while to get a certain functionality – for example better integration of voice recognition an search, but I will be disappointed if features as they are start being ported from other OS-es.

    For one, I really don’t want a WebKit browser, thank you very much. Why do people behave as if WebKit is some kind of standard? These are the same people,who trashed the early versions of IE, for not being standard-compliant and ruining the web experience for users of browsers like Firefox and Opera.

    Please don’t try to make WP a version of Android or iOS. This will be a terrible loss of something that looks so promising and original.

    Reply
    • Hi Sifon,

      Thanks for the reply.

      I’ve been a devoted Windows Phone user since day one! I picked up a Samsung Focus and haven’t turned back since. I love the unique features Windows Phone brings like Live Tiles and Xbox integration; they really make the phone something special.

      I definitely don’t want to see Windows Phone turn into iOS or Android and my above suggestions are just features that I feel would enhance the OS. The idea of having a virtual assistant for example (Siri/Google Now) is already being worked on by Microsoft and should be integrated into the OS soon.

      Just like when you pick up a PC or Mac and you expect it to connect to the internet, the above are examples of standard features on mobile phones that most people expect to see.

      For the most part we will probably see many of the above features in future versions of Windows Phone (except for the WebKit browser).

      Keep rocking that Windows Phone; I’m really glad you enjoy it.

      Reply
  • 1. First party voice commands are acceptable. Press and hold down the Windows key, or click the microphone in various applications (e.g. Messages, Bing). Third party support (e.g. Maluuba) are very good, and are capable of filling this role. More work could be done, but you’re neglecting the fact this is fully functional and already in place throughout the OS.

    2. Agree; supposedly in the works for Windows Blue. But as you said, not directly comparable to Android/iOS as many notifications are displayed on Live tiles.

    3. Agree; supposedly in the works for Windows Blue, but honestly, hardly that big of a deal.

    4. The Windows ecosystem is much larger and more complex than the iOS and Android marketplaces. What Windows Phone and Windows RT Marketplaces lack (volume of apps), the full fledged Windows client trumps entirely. It is a much larger and harder task to make these work together. Windows Blue will probably address this.

    5. Ridiculous.

    Reply

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