I love Windows Phone 7′s start screen: neatly organised square tiles that clearly show information in real time — from emails to photos to weather to travel progress — without having to click on applications. With Windows Phone 8 Microsoft has solved my only criticism: not enough information density. And they have done it without destroying its simplicity and elegance.
As WP8 chief Joe Belfiore said on stage, this is going to be the feature that users will love the most.
The new Windows Phone 8 Start screen allows for the same level of customisation than the tablet and desktop versions of Windows 8. It would let you move tiles around in any way you want and resize the tiles to small, medium and large sizes:
• The medium size is the square one that Windows Phone 7 has now.
• The small size is one quarter of that size.
• The large size takes over two of the square tiles.
The tiles’ content is highly customisable too. Apart from specific apps’ live tiles, the system would allow you to create specific contact or group tiles, with all the information associated — emails, Facebook updates, new images, etc. — showing in real time within the tile.
It will also let you add as many apps as you want to the home screen as icons. By keeping these at the small size, you can create a grid of apps as dense as the one in the iPhone. Except that here you can combine the apps with live tiles of any size too.
The new sizes are also compatible with current Windows Phone 7 apps’ live tiles, so no change on the part of the developer is needed.
Microsoft is also adding more colors and now you can assign individual colours to tiles, which is something that users were demanding.
Resizable custom tiles is precisely what the Windows Phone’s start screen needed to be pretty much perfect from a user experience point of view. Much better and elegant than the static grid of badge-peppered tiny icons of iOS. Or the painful and ugly clusterf*ck of widgets that you can see in most user-customised Android screens.
Unlike the competition, resizable tiles user the ability to increase information density to the maximum allowed on a phone screen but keeping it clean and comprehensive. The start screen will provide with as much data as they want, no matter if you are a beginner who likes thing simple or an advanced user who wants an information overload.
By maintaining a permanent organisational grid, it’s avoiding user-induced information mayhem. No matter what the user does, there’s no way that the start screen would look ugly or confusing.
Users whose life revolve around sports would be able to create a screen in which their favourite teams and athletes’ Twitter accounts or Facebook pages combined with real time scoring apps. Those who love social networks would be able to have their favourite friends always on screen. It’s really up to the user to decide what they want their phone to be without making it look horrible.