Dont be a clone, be different.

It’s been roughly a week or so now since I got my Windows Phone 8 iPhone clone – I mean, Nokia Lumia 920 (it was a joke, relax).

The phone itself is quite large, and that for me isn’t an issue except I find my thumbs don’t get as much surface coverage on either side of the phone. The battery life on the phone is nice but the overall user experience within the phone drives me mad.

The camera for instance was annoying because when it came to take a photo I had forgotten I had the setting on close up, so when I took my shot of choice it came out blurry.  It took a while for me to remember that the setting was changed as there was no visual indication that the said phone was in a particular setting – as if having an icon on display all the time was a failure Nokia wouldn’t tolerate (you failed me Nokia)

There are a lot of other settings that also drive me crazy and I could list the postives & negatives all day (Still trying to sort through my emotions on whether this phone will last or go).  However, the one and most crucial thing of all that I dislike about the experience is the App Store clones.

What I mean to say is, despite the various ups & downs that come with having the actual phone – which I can live with – the one piece to this equation is just how immature and terrible the applications that you have on offer are within the Microsoft store. It’s like all the other kids (iPhone/Android) are riding dirtbikes but your parents give you  a new bmx bike (Windows Phone 8) with a fake muffler attached.

I’m struggling even as I type this to come up with some examples of great apps, the ones you cannot live without. The only application that I find actually useful and fairly well designed was Skype. I found Twitter apps to be half-done, broken, prone to “an error has occurred” status messages or the worse offender of all – the official Facebook app (which feels like it was written by a first year programming intern). These are really two applications that a smartphone today must own in terms of unique experience, as these i’d argue are probably the most frequently used outside email (would it kill the design team to use “bold” font to indicate unread emails btw?? and text messaging + threads… really.. threads? what is this a texting forum?).

There is much I’d tolerate about owning this phone but looking at my iPhone apps that are sitting idle and then staring at my Windows Phone I can’t but help develop buyer’s remorse at the moment. I miss my instagram, twitter, flipboard, facebook (yes even iPhone Facebook app), games,  XBMC remote, ANZ Bank and the list goes on and on.

There are really only two applications within the Windows Phone 8 market place that stand out for me – Qantas and ZARA.  The Qantas app is still a bit flat but it looks different enough to give it a pass whilst the ZARA app (Fashion) looks quality elegant / tastefully done – even though I have zero use for it but can appreciate its design.

My underlying point is this. I want to keep using this phone, I want to get off the iPhone crack and try new things but if you keep rinse & repeating the same stupid template driven applications whilst touting “I’m being authentically digital” then you in turn are killing yourselves more than my experience.

If this phone has a chance of success it’s going to come down to development teams engaging a designer and throwing out the Windows Phone 8 “Design Guidelines” by Microsoft.

Microsoft have not a consistent coherent clue as to what good design is and have consistently shown they themselves can’t even lock onto the concept of what good design is. They rely heavily on design agencies, contractors and partners to do the majority of the actual design for solutions they “make”.

There are currently 90+ designers on the Windows Phone 8 “team” and I ask a simple question – What the f**K are you all doing? You’re not helping the community & marketplace that’s for sure.

So please hire a designer today.

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Microsoft needs reimagine Live to be alive.

Today, I thought I might spend a lunch time getting my brain wrapped around the idea of how Single Sign-On works within the Microsoft Live ethos.

Assuming you manage to get past the quagmire of deprecated documentation, installation, association loop holes & hurdles one can finally settle on getting a basic Authentication happening.

Once that was complete It’s now back to reality where you have to also decode the Privacy Guidelines / Settings used for applications that make use of this great ball of angry code.

Throughout this journey one thing has stood out the most. It’s as if someone within the Live “Team” (If there are any people left to call it a team) have not only given up but raised the standards of bad development & audience seeding to all time new high.

It’s easy to just throw Live under a bus, many have been doing it for years but it doesn’t really solely fall in their lap either. I look at you the Windows 8 team, as you clearly aren’t giving this entire scenario much attention – especially when you have devoted so much energy & time convincing us to use our “Live Id” to sign into Windows.

As far back as 2007, Live Id’s were an important metric in the Microsoft camp where the company would even pay large Enterprises kick backs to use Live ID instead of a Gmail/Google account (early stages of User Id meets cloud land grabs). It’s always in many ways held an area of importancebut despite all the fluff around “Windows reimagined” the basic(s) are still a tyre fire and clearly not as well thought out.

For instance, you log into Facebook and you agree to allow some random application access to your details. If later on you wish to retract that offer (not that it would matter) you’d in turn go to a specific area of the site and remove. The same goes with Apple, Twitter and countless other brands to name.

Not Microsoft.

Nope, you say yes to the Application but in from there on out you have to either ask someone or remember that buried deep within your Live ID account management online (via the web only) there’s an obscure link which lets you manage your privacy settings).

As a developer if you want to make use of the Live Id well, you have to abide by the guidelines within Microsoft and ensure you firstly build a “Settings” menu into your application, which then has preferably Permissions, About, Privacy & Account options (I did mention this was opt-in). That to me is a lot of extra work that is in reality not required per app, it should be something in which each developer has no control over. It’s not as if the developer is telling the AppStore what kind of access he/she needs from the said app upfront (oh wait..it is…via scopes).

Instead Microsoft plays the lazy route, makes the developer put together a URL of some sort which outlines their privacy statement(s) out loud (which is really just mother hood statements like “I won’t be evil with your data – said the Nigerian Prince”.

Sadly, this is a huge amount of unnecessary heavy lifiting to get something done which is basic and it’s likely due to yet again Microsoft internal culture spilling over into the various developer relation(s) that’s NOT going on right now. What I mean to say is Live has pretty much lost the bulk of its energy via staff leaving, fired, retrenched or simply given up.

If Live is a toxic cloud of developer stupidity then why would you as a developer target Windows 8 Application Development given the front door is broken.

Now to figure out how I can reset the “Allow this app to access your” permissions – despite removing the said App from my “online profile” it still seems to work. Yes….it’s potentially a bug in their privacy (Oh I wish I could say I made this up).

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