• Windows Phone 8′s new, even more personal Start screen

    I’m skeptical of the conventional wisdom that Windows Metro is well designed. It’s certainly different from the standard grid-of-apps layout started by the iPhone and copied by Android. It is hard to take a risk and do something different, so for that Microsoft is genuinely due some credit. But in terms of actual day-to-day use, I remain skeptical. In my limited personal interaction with a Windows phone, I found the animations nice but borderline gratuitous. I wondered how I would feel after using one full time for a week. Apple makes heavy use of animation, but it’s almost always done in a way that’s utilitarian: it shows you where something has moved to, or gives you a sense of place in your app. Parts of Metro just seemed like animation for animation’s sake.

    Further, the grid of “tiles” on the home screen strike me as a mixed bag. It’s nice how some show live content, but if every tile showed live content it seems that it would quickly get overwhelming. And some of the live content seems more about making a product that demos well than about providing value to the user. Why do I need to see a constant slideshow of the photos on my phone every time I’m standing in line and want to check Twitter? The rest of the tiles, those without live content, seem even worse. They’re all the same color with the same text, so it’s hard to scan quickly for what you want. Unless you’ve memorized the physical location of the tile you’re looking for, you’re stuck reading the title of each one. Nothing could be slower, and this on a device you primarily use for quick in-and-out tasks.