Friday, June 22, 2012

The Android'isation of the Windows Phone 8 start screen

Now that the dusts has settled and I have had a chance to study closely the screenshots of the new Windows Phone 8, it has finally come to my attention how much Microsoft has compromised with Windows Phone 8 in their chase for bigger marketshare.

I present to you the new start screen that will soon grace your Windows Phone devices:
Cluttered. Generic. Ugly
That's some ugly mess up there, don't you agree?

The move towards a symmetrical design and introduction of tiny live tiles has resulted in Windows Phone 8 now looking like a cluttered mess resembling the typical grid layout employed by many bog standard mobile OSes, just with live tiles instead of icons. Where is the neutral space? It actually looks like a poor imitation, a third party launcher made by a third party developer who was attempting to mimic the original Windows Phone 7 homescreen, but has somehow forgotten the core Metro principal that made Windows Phone 7 so aesthetically pleasing, elegant and classy to see and use.

I appreciate the ability to resize tiles (it's an option after all, one that I would choose not to use). But to those who weren't planning on resizing tiles (like me), well the new symmetrical home screen will actually shows less medium size tiles compared to Windows Phone 7 (six versus eight). Think about that. The whole point about the original Windows Phone homescreen and live tiles was about information at a glance. Now tell me how you can glance at that cluttered mess up there with all those stupid tiny tiles? It is amazing how, with one fell swoop, Microsoft has managed to turn Windows Phone from a beautiful OS to an ugly one. I know small tiles will be optional, but it won't be for us who wanted eight medium tiles to show at any one time.
Information at a glance
As someone who has long championed the unique interface of Windows Phone 7, I am more disappointed than angry with the decision makers at Microsoft Windows Phone division, who has caved in and allowed one of the most beautiful asset and aspect of Windows Phone Metro user interface to be lobotomised and ravaged. Have the designers at Microsoft's Windows Phone division not have the will to follow through what they once believed in?

You know, I can deal with old devices being left behind. It is the violation of Metro UI that I can't stand. Microsoft has made a big deal about core aesthetic values of Metro UI, and and how important the whole 'less is more' concept is. It seems that with Windows Phone 8, Microsoft developers and designers are stamping on that very belief and philosophy. In fact, the one thing that scares me more about the future of Windows Phone, is that if something as sacred as the Windows Phone 7 start screen is considered expendable by their creators, so are the rest of Metro! I can already see the reintroduction of scroll bars and even Apple'esque skins (oh, the horrors!) in future iterations.

I hope the people who has whinged about the start screen on Windows Phone 7 are happy. You have just made Windows Phone 8 look like yet another generic, ugly and cluttered mobile OS. Urgh. I live in hope that the final version of Windows Phone 8 will have options to revert to the old style asymmetrical off-center start screen - I really want that negative space back dammit!

When will you stop breaking my heart, Microsoft?


Anonymous said...

Long time reader here. I bought a Lumia based on your review and has been enjoying it despite its obvious flaws.

I agree with you that the new homescreen on WP8 looks horrible. But what alternatives are there for us? A terrible looking WP8 still looks better than Android and iPhone.

Anonymous said...

Clutter was the first word I thought when I saw the new WP8 home screen. I can't believe MS has threw out the Metro philosophy just to look like Android.

Euronetwork UK said...

It is a terrible shame that the Windows Phone 8 looks like a horrible clutter. Let us just hope they will do better on their next model.

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Anonymous said...

You are so right. I watched the presentation and when I saw the new start screen I wanted to scream in pain. It is ugly, cluttered and far away from the beautiful elegance that was originally built in.
I wanted a new WP so much but after this I need to rethink.

Anonymous said...

Good read!

couldn't agree more with your point. I really miss the old start screen -- and my old HTC Radar with Windows Phone 7.5 (which I regretted upgrading to 7.8).

After spending a good three months now with Windows Phone 8 the only benefit I can see from the new start screen is it being a better application launcher, but the costs outweigh the benefits to me too.

the arrow on the right having moved to the bottom drives me insane sometimes -- where's the asymmetry between panoramas swipes? Microsoft seem to have tried to get us to see the list by showing it upon returning to start, but it just isn't the same for me.

but yes, your point about glanceable information is the biggest one for me too. The new Start screen favours pinning of tiles as launchers over those which give us information, and it just looks too busy if we use the new tile sizes. A move away from the 'keep moving' ethos of WP7.0 indeed...

...I'm also a bit disappointed Microsoft didn't launch the OS in Japan (is this due to Nokia Maps having no mapping info there?), goodbye app and game support from that country! :-(