Windows Phone 8’s Start Screen: Opinions

We are, if rumors are to be believed, less than two short months away from an updated take on Windows Phone. With new improvements and additions like Wallet and the capability of native screen shots from devices, one of the biggest and obvious redesigns is the new start screen. The new options and overall aesthetic changes are an evolution of what we started out with in 2010. This new change in what most would consider the OS’s signature visual queue, is something that begs to ask: Is it a good look, or is it not?

Zunited staff members sound off. What’s your opinion?

Josh Martin (@JoshMartin7)

I believe that the new Windows Phone 8 is a brave move towards Microsoft’s vision of your phone being quintessentially “yours.” Rewind back before Windows Phone was released and we were all clinging to Joe Belfiore’s short videos for snippets of data about this new mobile OS. One main marketing and design point was that they wanted the home screen to be recognizably “yours.” I can’t think of any better way to express your own individual wants and needs from your phone than being able to prioritize in what is quite simply another dimension. Not only can you reorganize from up to down, but left to right, smaller and larger.

Cristian Reyes (@Cris178)

The new Windows Phone 8 and 7.8 update coming out later this year has little changes to the start screen. The main change that we have seen as of now is the added option to change the live tiles to a smaller size. I think it looks good. If you have not seen the video showing off the added tile size; it seems to show live updates and reminds me of a PDA. It has the functionality of a normal live tile but in a smaller package, but is it enough?

With the added size users will have more information at a glance, which actually beats its big brother Windows 8. The Windows Phone team has been doing this Metro/Windows UI thing a lot longer than the Windows team. With that they have the knowledge and expertise to know what works and what doesn’t. The Metro/Windows UI design is supposed to be simple and modern–the Windows Phone team can’t make any drastic changes out side of their design guidelines. It can not be easy to pull the design off, especially for Microsoft the company who has been previously ridiculed for their lack of design and innovation. The whole world will be introduced to Metro/Windows UI with Windows 8. Windows Phone can not afford to have many changes to it’s Start screen when that occurs. With Windows 8 Microsoft can make Windows Phone more attractive and easier to spot from their similarities.

I don’t know if any other changes or improvements will be added but as of now the Windows Phone home screen hardly seems different. You have tiles and you still have the jump list when scrolling to the right. Even though the changes are small there were still people on my Twitter stream complaining about it when it was first introduced. If Microsoft were to make drastic changes it would cause further frustration in the Windows Phone community. Remember that most people hate change and you can see that every time there is a new Xbox dash board or when the Facebook timelines were first announced. Has Microsoft made big enough improvements to the home screen? In my opinion no, but there is no way that they can please everyone. At least if they stick to the middle ground they can please both sides. Considering the market share Windows Phone has right now; Microsoft can not afford to upset their fans.

Dario Camacho (@DarCam7)

When I first saw the images that came out of the Windows Phone Summit it was jarring. I didn’t like it at all.

I still don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I get why they did it, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to the artistic side that Windows Phone 7 set up so well in 2010. You see, when I first saw Windows Phone 7, it was a complete departure from the norm that iOS, and then Android, set up as what the default start screen a smartphone should have. In fact, it was bold. It was design that fed into utility. It was functionality nestled within a romantic approach to a visual UI direction. You had boxes, yes, but boxes surrounded in purposeful negative space. Your eye was supposed to wander within that negativity to get you to someplace else. It was neat. It was tidy. It was manicured rows and pointy corners, an electric zen garden.

It was code written in brush strokes.

Forgive the grand sweeping description, but if you look at the alternatives, Microsoft did something that was totally unique and, above all, intriguing.

With Windows Phone 8 the change of the start screen disrupts that flow. In trying to please those that want more control over their start screen, the Windows Phone team lost a little of that flair. It’s now about cramming as much info as the user wants, never mind aesthetics.

I don’t want to be overly negative of the change. I can see the point in changing it towards a uber-user friendly, customizable start screen. Above else, a smartphone should be functional, but I believe that Windows Phone 7(.5) had a nice balance between functionality and visual appeal.

Here’s hoping Microsoft includes an option to keep the legacy start screen in some form for those of us that value artistic integrity.