The Nokia Windows Phones have learned from the failures of the competitors in several areas. The combination of software and the hardware is pretty sleek, integrated package – promising to free normal users from the clutters and overall mess of the user interfaces in the old PC era. Removing all that cruft of button gradients, background graphics and shadow effects also helps in making the Metro experience fast and responsive. Visual delight is focused on the few transitions and animations, used consistently across the whole platform.
Beyond the basic functionality, the social integration on the phone is done well, including the automatic merging of contacts for various services like Facebook and Twitter. The Messages app supports sending Facebook instant messages in addition to SMS. Messages to single person gets all merged in just one conversation. Pretty handy and simple.
Embracing the gestures
Nokia has so far focused on providing Nokia-only apps and content to its Lumia devices. Nevertheless, there are possibilities to improve the Windows Phone experience with design heritage that Nokia has collected over time, particularly in Nokia N9. The Nokia N9 was the first Nokia phone to truly take advantage of gestures in the core navigation of the device, which was further emphasized in the physical form of the device. The form was eventually inherited by Lumia 800 as well, but not the gestures, except for the swipe-navigation between the home screens (tiles and application listing).
Without breaking the existing user interface, Windows phones could easily introduce gestures as shortcuts, like in N9, to go around the device. This is would be very logical, considering Windows 8 on tablets and desktop already rely heavily on gestures. Why not be able to go back to home screen(s) from an app by swiping down from the top, on a Windows phone? (1) Additionally, switching between apps by swiping from the side, would be nicely consistent with the upcoming desktop world.
Nokia could also introduce it’s own take on the homescreen, while not creating it’s own “skin”. Of the three home screens, two would be almost the same as currently – the tiles view and the app launcher. The third home screen would be the task switcher view, like N9. Although the 3rd is somewhat optional. If the horizontal edge swipe would allow good access to recently used apps, then separate task switcher view is just unnecessarily duplicating that functionality. However, thanks to metro style, the “thumbnails” of the apps in task switcher view are much more identifiable and attractive than on “full chrome” UIs such as N9.
This home screen approach would allow removing the awkward and disjointed forward/backward arrows from the home views, which also have forced the tiles and the launcher list to be in-explanainably de-centered. Simple horizontal swipes would allow balanced aesthetics to the most used views of the device, as well as enabling to use the standard alignments with the status bar across all views of the devices.
N9 Home screens (events, app grid, task switcher)
Windows Phone 7 with N9-like home screens (tiles, app launcher, task switcher)
Read more Windows Phone 7 thoughts on my blog.
(1) No, it does not make sense to close or exit an app when swiping down. Device should handle multitasking (& closing of apps) automatically (like iPhone does). Apps should just hide themselves and users should be able to return to the state they were in last time they used the app, via application launcher or task switcher.