You forgot that you belong to me

A year of being punched in the face (metaphorically) by the Windows journalist intelligencia for using Windows Phone 10 longer than I should finally took its toll on me. When my almost two year old 950XL started having problems and behaving bizarrely, I thought, “now’s the time” to move on. Microsoft had given up, why shouldn’t I?

I had owned various iPhones long ago, but I wanted more control. All the ‘Windows people’ had moved to Android.

“You can make it just like a Windows/Microsoft device!” they shouted. “It’s so customizable!”, they squeed. “Gadzooks! So many apps!” they proclaimed. These are people I read, generally trust and respect. Plus every one of them were busy bashing Windows Phone and calling anyone who dared stay on that platform hopeless wishful thinkers. It was fun sport making fun of anyone who even hoped for a Surface Phone, “folks, it ain’t gonna happen! (even though we were huge proponents of it previously).”

So I did it. I went all in. Samsung Galaxy S8+, the S3 Watch, even the VR Headset. I installed ALL the Microsoft apps, changed the assistant to Cortana, changed the launcher, I was SET!

Or so I thought. Things that were once simple on my Windows Phone were now a chore. I had access to every app possible, but found I really didn’t use anything that useful (except Starbuck’s, I love that app). Here’s a comparison of what the old versus new is like:

Then: Wake up with WP alarm, push dismiss button
Now: Wale up with Android alarm, but have to now slide to stop. If I accidentally unlock, the alarm continues with no obvious way to silence.

Then: type my PIN to unlock. Stays locked when not in use.
Now: fumble to get my finger just right on the fingerprint sensor. Pulling phone out of my pocket some how turns it on, but locked. Phone turns on in pocket. Phone does not turn on when I actually want it to. Lock screen is noisy array of notifications cheerfully telling me what apps it updated. I. Don’t. Care. But never actually tells me I have an appointment in 10 minutes.

Then: Notifications are big ‘toasts’ for things like calendar, reminders, Cortana, etc. They actually tell me to leave to make an appointment. They remind me (in large, noticeable ways) of things when alarms or geolocations are set off. Cortana pops up when I’m near the store to remind me of things, large clear toasts pop up to show relevant alerts. Somehow it produced the right alerts in the right way for me.
Now: Notifications appear in a scrolling list on the lock screen, important things muddled in between garbage alerts of unimportance and total crap (and advertisements by the annoying and ever present Samsung Pay that I can use it HERE! at Target should my car drive too close to a shopping center).
Once in a great while, a ‘real’ Cortana notification will pop up in a large box with a Complete or Snooze, but this only serves to remind me of how it should work and never is consistent. I just makes me sad.

Then: I get a text message in the car. My playing podcast pauses, then Cortana asks (over the car’s audio system) if I’d like to read it or ignore. After reading, she let’s me reply or finish. All via voice. I never even look at the device as it’s in my bag. Safe. Sane. I even have a Cortana button that let’s me initiate contact over the audio system.
Now: I get a mystery tone. My watch buzzes. Nothing big, just one of the bazillion Samsung Pay ads. Then I hear the unmistakable weird new message sound. I see a tiny scrap of it on my phone. It’s from my boss, but I can’t see it because I’m driving. I can’t tell anything to read it to me. I panic and pull over, get out my phone, open to messages and read/reply to it. No voice read, no reply hands free, all manual.

Then: Calendar alarms work.
Now: Silence.

Then: I push the camera button and take an incredibly beautiful photo (and I suck at photography). Photos are in OneDrive almost instantly.
Now: I finally figure out that double tapping power will act as a camera button and I get a mediocre photo. I have OneDrive set up to auto backup to cloud. But I have to open Photos and go into the ‘uploads’ section for it to actually start uploading.

Then: Used Huerto to control my home lighting. I have a lot of Philips Hue lights I’ve accumulated over the years and this third party app is fantastic. I have scenes, individual light control, disco effects, auto/motion sensing, timers, geolocation. All in a clean easy to use interface.
Now: The nightmare that is the first party Philips app. It’s terrible. Awful. They should be ashamed of themselves. Luckily I have Windows tablets in the house I can use instead of the phone.

I could go on and on. And the phone itself is beautiful, a wonder of engineering. But Android is nothing but frustration. And this may be entirely me set in my ways and expecting things to work conveniently for my workflow. I know that there are Android people that will now point me to a giant list of apps that probably solve each and every one of these things, some special tweak or setting, or the best one: ‘just move everything into Google’. But that’s not how I work. That’s not where my stuff is. And I don’t want to be more grist for the Google Ad mill. And after using this for four months I’ve come to a few conclusions:

  1. I no longer care what the Windows pundits say about what’s useful. They can use what’s good for them. They can dump all over Windows Phone all they want but I don’t give a crap.
  2. Android is a mess.
  3. Google services aren’t that great.
  4. The Starbuck’s app rocks.
  5. The Galaxy S8+ is a beautiful piece of hardware but utterly unusable for me (a very expensive mistake).
  6. My app needs are actually modest. Email, messaging, phone, corporate apps, podcasts, music, digital assistant, banking, Twitter, to-do’s, payment, photo/camera, and home automation. I have all of these.

So I packed up and went to the AT&T store, talked with a very nice person who helped me add a second line to my account and I stuck the new SIM in the Galaxy and returned my main SIM to its rightful place in my 950XL.

I have two phones now, one that’s useful (a properly reset 950XL) and one that’s basically a 6″ Android tablet that can run apps with LTE. Or actually one app–Starbuck’s. I don’t know what I will do when my 950XL finally gives up the ghost, maybe there will be some futuristic Andromeda device. Or maybe not. I live in the Microsoft ecosystem, and I found leaving it on the phone to be a huge problem–a thousand little paper cuts all during the day that really impacted my ability to get things done. And at the end of the day, that’s what my phone is, a tool to get things done…not use the latest fad app. Except Startbuck’s. That one stays.

So next time…

SATISFIED (Never). Yeah I have 3 Invokes.

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Wow, I dropped the ball

So what’d I miss?

I absolutely dropped the ball in posting. It had been my wish to post regularly and write on a number of topics in the tech field. Life’s been busy, but sometimes a nice long form article is just what one needs to clear the mind and get thoughts out even if only for my own needs. A lot has changed in two years, and sometimes reading tweets almost drove me to post again but then I just said, meh, and dropped it.

So time to start again! More to come…first up, my (mis)adventure with Android, or “How I stopped complaining and learned to love the crapplets, but then wised up.”

Windows 10 on Tablets Musings

So now that my venting is properly done on Windows 10 running in ‘tablet mode’, I was thinking now’s the time to be more constructive. Windows 10 on desktops is great–perfectly (or at least nearly) meshed with those needs, what should it look like when you pop off the tablet from the keyboard? Surprisingly, not all that much. So here are some ideas/suggestions for the undocked range free tablet mode:

  1. Get rid of the taskbar in tablet mode. It’s ugly in full screen mode, too small to be useful, and a constant reminder of the desktop, which has no place in the modern UX. So have that just turn off when in TM (tablet mode). We’ll get to the other functions other, more tablet-y ways.
  2. Make Action Center more action. We need to add back some of the features from the Charms bar/settings slide out menus. Maybe a toggle at the bottom to switch the space from Notifications (less useful) to Controls (more useful). Eliminate the things that were questionable in charms (Devices, Search) and leave a way to Share, Go To Start, and in-context Settings. Let that slide out menu be a kind of control panel/notify combo.
  3. Revamp Task Switch for swiping through apps. Just lift the swipe to switch right out of Windows 8.1 and put it back in. Multiple desktops and the Task Switch ‘picker’ view is great and useful for desktops, hopeless kludgy in TM. Anything to do with the desktop(s) should be minimized/removed in TM. Flipping quickly through apps is something so much better than any other tablet OS Microsoft should not abandon it. Keep the innovations that work in touch!
  4. Figure out Snap mode. This I got nothin’. It’s hard to snap modern UI apps in Win 8.1, but almost impossibly cryptic and non-discoverable in Windows 10. Better minds than mine can probably figure this out. But Snap Mode of modern apps is really useful to have. Don’t just hide it.
  5. Swiping from Top/Bottom can bring in the app specific controls. But just the system level ones (close, share, search. I can give on this one. App bars, which I actually liked because it made for a clean interface, was hard to discover and use–even to this day, sometimes I forget the controls are there.
  6. And finally, Make the Start Screen a beautiful showcase of the OS. Not the cluttered mess it is in this build. Really just display it like it was in Windows 8.1, swipe up for all apps, pinning, multi-select, transparent background, etc. Or better yet, make it even cooler, add animations, more live tile functionality, more size/color options. Make the Start Screen a truly interactive dashboard–a showcase of cool. Right now it’s ugly and ‘noisy’ in Windows 10. Truly switch into a tablet look and feel, get rid of the micro icons and most used (that’s for the desktop, lose it).

Mostly that’s it. Much of the other things are good or at least good enough. But tablet mode needs to really shine when it’s on, and show just how good the Windows experience can be, even for new users. Tablets have to have a cool factor. Otherwise it’s Tablet PC days all over again. Who knows, some of these things may already be in the works for later builds–but Microsoft needs to have a real competitor in the tablet space on all sizes, not just under 7 inches. It’s not a giant, impossible list of things to do either–to truly weave these two environments together should be the goal.