Here’s what we want from Windows Phone 8.1

What we want Windows Phone 8.1 header

There’s some argument about how healthy Microsoft’s mobile platform market share actually is, but it has been growing steadily over the last year. IDC suggests a 3.2 percent share in the first quarter of 2013. Windows Phone 8 is definitely finding some fans, but there’s plenty of work still to do if Microsoft really wants to compete with Android and iOS in a serious way.

When we put our ears to the ground and listened to the rumblings of all those WP users the same things cropped up again and again. There’s no doubt that more dedicated apps would be welcomed by the majority of WP users, but that’s a separate challenge for Microsoft that revolves around attracting developers. It’s also a given that a new platform should introduce bug fixes to address common Windows Phone 8 problems, but beyond that, what are the features and tweaks that people are demanding?

Notification Center

What we want Windows Phone 8.1 Quick SettingsA Notification Center seems to be top of everyone’s wish list. Live Tiles simply aren’t cutting it. There should be a central repository where you can review all incoming notifications. The Notification shade has been a strength of Android for years now, and Google has steadily introduced more functionality into it. Apple introduced a Notification Center in iOS 5. It has become a standard feature and that makes its omission from Windows Phone all the more noticeable.

If recently leaked screenshots are genuine then Microsoft has been working on this, we may even see it at BUILD. We’ll have to wait and see precisely how it works, but if Microsoft is listening then it surely must be due to appear in the next major platform update.

Quick Settings

What we want Windows Phone 8.1 Device Center conceptFast access to toggle or tweak settings like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode, and the volume or brightness is always useful. You’ll find a Quick Settings menu in the latest version of Android, although it has been available via manufacturer overlays, like Samsung’s TouchWiz, for a long time now. Apple just added it in iOS 7 in the guise of Control Center. Windows Phone needs it too.

Better app organization: Folders and filters

What we want Windows Phone 8.1 app organization conceptIf you’re into your apps and you download a lot of them then you might get frustrated at the lack of easy organization. How about the ability to create folders for app management? Folders of apps that you’ve organized by category on the Start Screen would be handy. What about some more handy filters in your All Apps list to help you find what you want in a hurry? A long list that you have to scroll through is not user friendly.

Better multitasking menu

What-we-want-Windows-Phone-8.1-Multitasking-Menu-conceptWhy is there no option to close apps in the multitasking menu? This is another tweak that many users have been requesting. Whether you tap a cross or you can swipe them away, the ability to close running apps from this menu would be good. No one wants to have to go into the app in order to close it.

Orientation lock

What we want Windows Phone 8.1 Orientation lockThere are times when you want to override the automatic screen rotation, such as lying on your side and reading in portrait view. It is horribly frustrating when your smartphone won’t play ball. Android has it, iOS has it, people want it, put it in Windows Phone.

Better volume controls

What we want Windows Phone 8.1 Better volume controls conceptWhy isn’t there a separate interface for volume related to phone, notifications, and media? One set of volume controls for everything is just daft. If you reduce the volume for a game, then you don’t necessarily want the volume for the ringer or notifications to be reduced. There needs to be a divide between system volume and media volume, like there is in every other platform.

Unified search

What we want Windows Phone 8.1 Unified searchYou should be able to quickly search your smartphone for anything. Having to choose a specific hub is an extra step that seems unnecessary. It’s not an especially big deal, but it would improve the user experience.

Unified with Windows

What we want Windows Phone 8.1 Unified with Windows conceptYou should be able to buy an app and run it on Windows Phone 8 or Windows 8/RT. Currently you have to purchase it again because the marketplaces are separate. This cross syncing and support should extend to app data, so I can use an app on my smartphone and pick it up at the same point on my tablet. Moving towards more integration between the two platforms in general would be a good move for users, and it would make Microsoft’s ecosystem a lot more attractive than it currently is. We’ve heard rumblings about this for a while now, so there’s a good chance it is something Microsoft is working towards – the sooner it gets there, the better.

Update Tellme

What we want Windows Phone 8.1 TellmeIf there’s one area where Microsoft really seems to be falling behind it is voice controls and phone assistants. The Tellme service doesn’t seem to have been updated in a while. Meanwhile Apple has trumpeted Siri as a highly usable digital assistant, and Google has developed the predictive powers of Google Now to deliver assistance before you even look for it. A lot of users still consider these features quite gimmicky, but they are growing more useful all the time and Windows Phone could do with keeping up.

A killer feature

What we want Windows Phone 8.1 killer featureMany people choose Windows Phone because they want something genuinely different from the competition. Wish lists of features and tweaks inevitably draw the criticism that Microsoft needs to do more than just emulate the leading platforms, and that’s true, but it’s a tricky balance to achieve. Missing obvious functionality that people enjoy elsewhere is not a good idea. Android and iOS are quick to appropriate features when they’re a good idea and WP needs to do the same to an extent, but there should be some attempt to innovate and differentiate.

On that note the next version of Windows Phone needs at least one killer feature that the competition doesn’t have. Microsoft is uniquely well-placed to develop the second screen angle, maybe the tighter integration between Windows on tablets and PCs can make the difference, and maybe it has something else in mind. In order to encourage a lot of people to defect from Android or iOS, the WP platform must tick all the same boxes and offer something else to entice them in.

What do you want to see in the next big Windows Phone update? What would get you excited enough to switch from Android or iOS if you’re not currently a WP user? 

(Windows Phone 8.1 concept images courtesy of 1800PocketPC. Leaked screenshot images courtesy of The Verge)

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Product Review

Screen snags aside, the Galaxy Fold is an exciting step toward a foldable future

Samsung's Galaxy Fold is the company's first foldable phone, with two screens, six cameras, and a dual-cell battery. The phone may be delayed due to display issues, but that doesn't stop us from asking -- what's it like to use?
Computing

Microsoft reverses decision and extends lifeline to MS Paint for Windows 10

Microsoft reversed its decision to deprecate the classic MS Paint software on Windows 10. Microsoft announced on Twitter that the mainstay free image editor that comes pre-installed with Windows will live on for now.
Mobile

These are the key settings to change on the LG G8 ThinQ smartphone

The LG G8 ThinQ is finally available. There are a lot of settings turned off by default that may be useful in improving the experience of using the phone. We've rounded up 11 key settings for you to change on the G8.
Mobile

The black satin Razer Phone 2 is now available for $500

The Razer Phone 2 is finally here, and it's got upgraded specs, that super-smooth 120Hz display, and an updated design. Here's absolutely everything you need to know about the Razer Phone 2.
Deals

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for April 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for April 2018.
Mobile

Weird Galaxy View 2 is a TV-style tablet to take your mind off the Galaxy Fold

Samsung may be about to resurrect a product line that last saw an entry three years ago. Renders of the Galaxy View 2 show it's sticking to the tablet-that-thinks-it's-a-TV formula.
Deals

The latest Apple iPad Pros get steep discounts on Amazon

The iPad Pro is now in its third generation, and the 2018 refresh of this premium tablet is, hands down, Apple’s best one yet. It’s on sale right now, too, for a good discount which can let you score one for as little as $675.
Mobile

These parental control apps will help keep your kids' device habits in check

Looking for extra security and monitoring on mobile devices? Take a look at the best parental control apps for limiting time and keeping watch on your child's phone usage and behavior. We have the top options for Android and iOS here.
Mobile

The OnePlus 7 Pro will have four launch events to celebrate its release

The OnePlus 6T may still be new, but we're already looking ahead to the upcoming OnePlus 7. It will use the Snapdragon 855, and may have a new pop-up front camera, too. Here's everything we know about the OnePlus 7.
Smart Home

The Houzz app now lets you virtually tile your floor with augmented reality

Augmented reality is starting to be a real bonus to apps like Houzz's View in My Room 3D tool, which recently added the ability to measure how a tiled floor might look in your living space.
Mobile

The best Bluetooth headsets of 2019, from Sennheiser to Jabra

Quality headsets are rare. Here are our picks for the best Bluetooth headsets available, whether you need something modest, cheap, or loaded with features. We highlight the best Bluetooth headsets you can get for different situations.
Mobile

Samsung begins retrieving all the Galaxy Fold review units

The Samsung Galaxy Fold has arrived, and it goes on sale soon. Folding out from a 4.6-inch display to a tablet-sized 7.3-inch display, this unique device has six cameras, two batteries, and special software to help you use multiple apps.
Mobile

Common Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e problems and how to fix them

Samsung's new Galaxy S10 range is gorgeous and extremely powerful. But they're not perfect, and you may discover some issues with your new phone. Here are some of the most common Galaxy S10 problems and how to fix them.
Mobile

Michael Kors updates its Sofie smartwatch, but still uses a processor from 2016

Michael Kors announced an update to the Sofie smartwatch, now offering heart rate monitoring, GPS, and NFC support. There's only one problem — the device still offers the Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor.