8 Ways to Fix Windows Phone 8

  • MORE

When we reviewed Windows Phone 8, we gave it high marks for innovative features such as its customizable Live Tile interface and the way it integrates social networks and connects you to friends and family. Overall, Microsoft has done a very good job with its new mobile OS. Yet after using Windows Phone 8 extensively on a few different phones, in some ways the software feels incomplete compared to competing platforms--and we don't mean the app gap. Here's what Microsoft needs to do to fix its OS.

Reviews Editor Michael Prospero oversees every product reviewed by LAPTOP Magazine. Read his regular column at www.laptopmag.com/labrat, and follow @mikeprospero on Twitter.

Make It Simpler to Change Settings

As I was flying from San Francisco to New York, the flight attendant gave that familiar speech to turn off all electronic devices. If I was on an Android phone like the Galaxy S III, I’d just need to swipe down from the top of the screen to enter Airplane mode (or change any number of often-used settings). In Windows Phone 8, I had to open the settings menu, then scroll halfway down the page until I found Airplane Mode. Even then, I almost missed it.

Keep Connection Status and Battery Life Showing

At the top of the Windows Phone 8 Start screen are little icons that let you know if you’re connected to a network, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, as well as the phone’s battery life. Unfortunately, these icons disappear after a few seconds (they can be brought back with a tap) and don’t appear at all when you’re using a non-Microsoft app. This makes no sense, as your connection and battery life are perhaps the two most critical pieces of information for any phone. They barely take up any space, so why not leave them showing permanently? At least give us the option.

Add Public Transit to Maps

When I tested the Nokia Lumia 920, I was pleasantly surprised to see that within Nokia Maps there was a layer showing public transit lines. So why wasn’t this feature available on the HTC 8X? I can understand Nokia wanting to keep some premium features for its phones, but considering that its Maps power all Windows Phone 8 devices, this isn’t a feature that should be limited to an exclusive number of phones.

Let Me Close Apps with a Swipe

Microsoft made a big deal out of the fact that apps running in the background take up very little in the way of resources. Great. Well, what if you want to actually quit an app? It’s not so easy. First, you have to press and hold the back button; all the open apps are shown as small panels, and you can scroll to the left or right to choose one. But where Android — and even WebOS — let you close out of an app from this thumbnail view, in Windows Phone 8 you have to open the app, then press the back button again. It’s another extra step we could do without.

Don’t Make Me Sign Into Social Networks Twice

It’s really cool that, if you enter your Facebook and Twitter login info into a Windows Phone 8 device, it automatically pulls in your contacts and shows you at a glance what they’re up to. So why, when you actually download the Facebook or Twitter app, do you have to re-enter the same credentials? If you’re going to connect to those social networks, it stands to reason that you’re probably going to download those apps, too. Why not make it a one-step process?

I Want More Landscape Mode

In some ways, it’s quaint that Microsoft thinks most people hold their phones in one hand. Have you seen the size of the Lumia 920? What happens when phablets enter the Windows Phone 8 market? While most of the third-party apps we downloaded would rotate when we turned the phone on its side, we think all apps, as well as the Start screen and Settings menus, should do the same.

Don't Let Wi-Fi Notifications Linger

One thing we like about Windows Phone 8 is that it notifies you when you’re in range of a Wi-Fi signal. What we don’t like is that the notification — a small bar that appears at the top of the screen — stays around a bit too long. On more than one occasion, it blocked part of the website we were viewing or the email we were typing. If we don’t want to connect to Wi-Fi, there should be a way to make this tab vanish more quickly.

Give Me My Google!

I get the fact that Google probably isn’t in the greatest rush to help a competing operating system. However, Windows 8 needs better integration with Google’s apps beyond email. For instance, you should be able to upload video directly to YouTube, as you can on iOS. I’d also like to see Gchat and Google Drive as options. Not everyone’s going to jump on the SkyDrive bandwagon.

Recommended by Outbrain
Add a comment
  • dg Says:

    This is awful.

    1. Install an app such as Toggle. Not that difficult
    2. The do appear in non Microsoft apps. A developer can choose to hide these if they want, but saying they don't show up in all no Microsoft apps is incorrect.
    3. Don't know - have Nokia. That's one of the reasons I bought a Nokia.
    4. Why do you need to close them? They don't take up resources when they're not in the foreground and they only run certain tasks in the background every 30 minutes (regardless of whether they're open or not). They also don't stay in memory indefinitely like in iOS, only 8 apps can remain at any one time. So again, why are you closing them?
    5. Ever thought social networks require you to sign in? After all, you are using different apps with different functionality and different developers. The usage agreements won't let MS share logins with third party apps.
    6. Not all apps make sense in Landscape, regardless of size (unless you want a square phone). I'll grant there could be some tweaking, but wholesale landscape support is silly.
    7. Notifications - swipe the notification to the right. Fixed.
    8. So Microsoft should support other competing products such as Google Drive? C'mon, who gives a crap about drive. Where's Google's support for SkyDrive?

  • Frankie Says:

    About google, thats not Microsoft fault. Thats Google's not making their apps for WP8. As for any notification, swipe to the right and it disappears. As for the maps & transit, nokia provides the nokia transport app as a premium for Lumia users. Guess HTC should either: A) pay nokia for that, B) invest some R&D to make apps like that.

    In my opinion, Nokia has been the only one pushing Windows Phone. HTC was too busy fighting a war with Samsung (One X vs Galaxy S3). Nokia has been the only commited to its users investing tons in R&D to bring apps like Nokia Maps, Nokia Transport, Nokia Music. Why would they release such apps for the competition? talking about morning jokes.....

  • Ian Says:

    First off, I'm not a fanboy of any of the companies compared. I am a fan of techology, we have the iPhone4s, an android and a windows phone in the house not to mention iPad3, HP laptop, home server, roku etc. I'm not locked into any single company but I will say that there are entirely too many things about Apple that I absolutely despise. Give me Google or MS any day over Apple. Back to this article, this is the most nit-picking article I have ever read and I read a lot of articles daily. I can poke more holes in iOS and Android than this article did about Windows Phone 8... way more. All in all I like it better than the iPhone4s and the Droid. The biggest drawback is the lack of apps, plain and simple. The writer of this article must be a fanboy of Google or Apple. Had the article been titled "tweaks", I would respect it much more. I do agree with a couple of the "tweaks" pointed out that are needed. I only hope this site did the same for the latest iOS and droid releases.

  • Chris Says:

    1. Uninstall Windows 8
    2. Uninstall Windows 8
    3. Uninstall Windows 8
    4. Uninstall Windows 8
    5. Uninstall Windows 8
    6. Uninstall Windows 8
    7. Uninstall Windows 8
    8. Uninstall Windows 8

  • Mike Prospero Says:

    Thanks @angrywarrior. I would say that these are tweaks more than anything else. I agree with @Samir, the main issue is apps.

  • steve Says:

    How about your next article be "100 ways to fix Android"

  • angrywarrior Says:

    To ppv: Wow! Did you actually read this article before commenting on it, or did you just glance at a few sentences and form your opinions from that. I don't usually comment on other people's comments but you say Microsoft is making these "unforgivable" mistakes and then misquoting what those mistakes are. I have a windows phone and I fully agree with points this article makes about certain things needing to be fixed, but let's be clear about how serious those issues really are, particularly the ones commented on by ppv. Regarding battery life and signal status, the article never said the phones don't give you this information, they just don't display it constantly. It can be a pain in the butt sometimes but other times, like when watching videos or looking at pictures, I don't miss those icons at all. Plus, it takes less than second to pull those icons up by pulling up your lock screen. Definitely not ideal, but it's there. Second, about not being able to shut down apps easily, where did that come from? The article said that apps weren't AS easy to close as on other platforms. So how much harder is it? It takes exactly one extra finger tap. UNFORGIVABLE!! I definitely agree it could be easier, but I don't think most people would consider it a deal breaker. Finally, as for the Google issue, it's stated that WP8 could use some better integration with Google apps, not that it completely ignored Google. I personally don't use those feature much but I know plenty of people who do, and it would be nice to see more useful Google available. It's been my experience with windows phone, so far, that they respond fairly well to feedback and there are plenty of third party developers constantly working to bring better features and ease of use to the platform. No phone or operating system is perfect or without it's problems but, for someone who claims to be pro-MS, you sure are quick to exaggerate some of their problems. Great article!! I really hope it get gets read by the right people at Microsoft, and they take it to heart and make some improvements to the OS. Only time will tell.

  • Samir Shah Says:

    This goes into details which are secondary, the main problem is Apps.

  • ppv Says:

    I have always been pro-MS - but this article goes to show why MS has no hope of winning the phone or tablet OS battle. Half of the things in this articls are UNFORGIVABLE and and could only have come about because of complete incompetnance and contempt from MS. How can they not show battery life or signal status on a phone ? How can you create an OS that doesnt allow you to shut down apps easily ? How can they be so out of touch to not know almost EVERYONE uses google - even crApple, who have complete contempt for their users, understand this. If MS dont fix these things ASAP, then there is no hope for WP8

  • 12345142 Says:

    You can make notifications disappear by swiping them to the right.

  • Italiano Says:

    -"Don’t Make Me Sign Into Social Networks Twice"

    Why would you want to use social apps if everything is integrated into WP? I don't use any apps so I signed in only once. Try it for a couple of weeks without apps. You will find the experience much more cleaner and straightforward.