In my third and final post about Windows Phone 8.1, I’m looking back on the past four months of running the beta release and hitting the highs and lows. To be honest, there are far more things to celebrate in the latest phone OS than there are things to complain about but when you use your phone as much as I do, there are certainly a few things that could be improved.
Joining the list of things that are done great is the new and improved web browsing experience using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 11. I notice that sites that aren’t optimized for mobile browsing work just as well as they do on my PC with no loss of functionality and that is great when it comes to sites I need to use while on the go. Sites like my online banking website for a bank that doesn’t have an app yet for Windows phone, only iOS and Android.
Apparently, Microsoft has “dumbed down” some of the functionality in IE11 for Windows Phone so that it looks similar to the browsing experience on iOS and Android devices because most web developers only test their sites against those two mobile browsers. Microsoft has exceeded the current state of web standards compliance with IE 11 for Windows Phone, hopefully mobile web developers will accept the fact that a mobile browser can do more and start supporting that in their mobile sites.
The more I use Cortana (and Bing on my PC) the more efficient it has become. Cortana now has four months of data from me and it has been keeping me informed on topics that interest me better than ever. Cortana is also becoming more fun. Some of the things that my kids liked about Siri were missing from Cortana at launch. You couldn’t joke much with Cortana early on, it seemed to be strictly business but now I’ve found you can have a little more fun with it. Asking Cortana what noises different animals make results in Cortana attempting to make the appropriate sound. One of my favorites is asking Cortana “What does the fox say?” Based on the new commercial that compares Cortana to Siri, Microsoft is ready to have a little more fun it too. If you haven’t seen it, watch the commercial here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0pjD4qpIpg) and see what I mean.
The last update to the developers preview that I’m running (Version 8.10.14147.180) adds a few small tweaks like the ability to create folders on the start screen to better organize apps and includes the ability to forward multiple text messages as a single text message. These types of continual small improvements are the things that take a phone OS from good to great and it appears that Microsoft is implementing this strategy of constant small improvements across its entire product and service offerings. No longer will users have to wait for monumental Service Pack releases to see functionality improvements or bug fixes and that gives me further hope that the Windows Phone market share is going to continue growing.
The only complaints I’ve had over the past four months while running the developers preview relates to power. I haven’t measured it but it appears that my battery doesn’t last as long on Windows Phone 8.1 as it did on Windows Phone 8.0. I’m hoping that Microsoft continues to look for ways to give users all the powerful tools while finding a way to conserve battery. I’ve also experienced the “heat” issue with my Nokia Lumia Icon. When using the GPS app or sharing my internet, my phone gets very hot. In reading through the Windows Phone forums and blogs this appears to be a problem for a few different handsets running Windows 8.1. No word on a resolution yet but each time Microsoft releases an update, I’m hopeful that this bug will be addressed. Battery life is an important consideration for every mobile phone user, not just the hyper mobile set that seldom find themselves in front of their desk.
I am eager to see what the final build of Windows Phone 8.1 looks like and what improvements Microsoft will make to the product in that final release. It appears that other manufacturers are getting behind Windows Phone and the new OS with the latest phone to be (unofficially) announced being HTC’s flagship handset the HTC One M8 on Verizon. Hopefully this trend continues for those of us who are heavily invested in the Microsoft ecosystem giving us more choices and helping us get more from our investment. For those readers that missed our presentation at the last NAVUG meeting, be sure to look us up at Directions to see how combining Microsoft Dynamics, Office 365 and Windows Phone gives you the ultimate in productivity and connectivity wherever you need to get work done.