The announcement of the Windows Phone 7 series yesterday was surprisingly exciting. I’m quite happy about how Microsoft decided to nuke their old Windows Mobile OS, and there were quite a few times I’d see new WP7 features and mutter “holy crap I want that on my iPhone”. Windows Phone 7 will ultimately create its […]
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Three things the iPhone could learn from Windows Phone 7


The announcement of the Windows Phone 7 series yesterday was surprisingly exciting. I’m quite happy about how Microsoft decided to nuke their old Windows Mobile OS, and there were quite a few times I’d see new WP7 features and mutter “holy crap I want that on my iPhone”. Windows Phone 7 will ultimately create its own user experience, so even though its new UI has been said to have “Out-Appled Apple” (Gizmodo), I don’t mean to sit here and wishy washily point at all the shiny new Microsoft ideas and simply pin them onto my iPhone.

That said, there are a few core concepts that I think the iPhone could do well to adapt in a future version of the OS, namely: a more ‘connected’ experience, a more data-centric home screen, and the simple concept of keeping the music player and music store in the same app.

A Connected Experience
Our iPhones are already connected, and we’ve already got push notifications, so why does everything on the device still feel so segregated? I’m a relatively new Mac user, but I think I’ve caught onto how Apple likes to think of their computing: one function per app. I doubt we’ll ever go to a “People” hub to manage Facebook updates and a contact list like WP7 users will, but I do wish that the iPhone was a bit smarter about pulling relevant information into apps. The iPhone Calendar app doesn’t need to be melded with anything else, but it would be fantastic if it could data from other services, like Events in Facebook. I’d like to see similar connectivity in other apps like Photos and Contacts (although I guess there is the somewhat buggy contacts sync available through the Facebook app).

A more data-centric home screen

I stole that term from Jesus Diaz on the pages of Gizmodo (the article is referenced in the intro paragraph), but the wish isn’t really anything new. iPhone users have been clamoring for a better notification system for quite a while now, because even though Push Notifications can work for some applications like instant messengers, they can be a real pain in the ass when you see too many of them. There’s also the problem of only being able to see one notification window at a time — which is just so ridiculously silly that it really should be a priority for iPhone 4.0.

The Springboard is decent enough for launching apps once you’ve modified it a bit with jailbreak apps like OverBoard, Stacks, or InfiniDock, but what could really help take the load off of Push Notifications is a smarter Springboard, not just a more organized one. Instead of fitting the standard 16 icons on-screen, what if certain apps with push capability could take up double or quadruple the icon space on the home screen and display a little bit of their information on the Springboard instead of pop-ups. This would make tremendous sense for things like weather (instead of using WeatherIcon), stocks, calendar, or Facebook without rocking the Springboard boat. What I think we need is an in-between system for information that is relevant, but not urgent.

That’s just one scenario, though, and all I mean to point out is that WP7 has shown that there are other great ways to display notifications than Palm Pre or Android style trays, or iPhone style pop-ups.

Music Player and Music Store in one app
Windows Phone 7 could really just be called a Zune Phone, and that’s a good thing. Aside from the mainly text-based UI, WP7 also copied the extended music interface within the main Zune music app. The Zune melds your music library seamlessly with the Zune’s online catalogue, which makes a lot of sense for Zune users with an all-you-can-eat music subscription, but it also makes for a cleaner music browsing experience. If you’re already listening to some music and are wondering about the particular artist that’s playing, it makes a lot of sense to only have to tap on one button and find out more about their other songs and albums.
The iPod app would likely need a bit of re-vamping to support this, but throwing the iPod and iTunes apps together just seems smarter. iTunes on the Mac and PC can both play and purchase music, and I don’t think mobile user’s minds will be too blown if this idea were to make its way to the iPhone. After all, the iBooks and iBookstore are one and the same on the iPad, and all you do to toggle between them is tap on a button.


iFinished now

What I think it comes down to is this: Apple doesn’t have to sacrifice its one-function-per-app values to improve the iPhone OS, and Windows Phone 7 has shown that there are other ways to provide a rich, connected experience without troubling users with a clumsy task manager or the mobile equivalent of alt-tab. The iPhone doesn’t need to copy WP7’s hubs to make me happy, but I certainly wouldn’t be upset if they made the Calendar app a little smarter, and turned Springboard into something more than just a really pretty launch screen.

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