Well everyone’s waiting for Microsoft’s big unveiling of WP8.1 during their //build/ conference on April 2, their latest overhaul of the operating system, which will bring the long-awaited notification (“action”) centre, as well as personal voice assistant Cortana.
But even before WP8.1 is released, WP8.5 is reportedly in the works, and information has leaked that the API for Live Tiles may be altered or completely rewritten to allow new functionality (pic below). In any case, Microsoft plans to change the start screen in Windows Phone 8.5.
What exactly does this mean? We’ve touched on this matter in our article on the features that WP8.1 should have, and it seems that while Microsoft is not bringing the Live Tile overhaul to WP8.1, they might be doing just that for WP8.5. Live Tiles will be given added functionality, completely overhauling the Start screen. But how exactly?
Our iOS editor lamented that WP8‘s live tiles are pretty to look at, and display more information than mere icons, but beyond that they have limited functionality. He suggested that Live Tiles should serve a purpose on top of looking nice and displaying some extra information. And that’s probably what Microsoft is planning for WP8.5.
Our hunch is that in WP8.5, Live Tiles will have the ability to carry out actions even without opening the app. Think of BlackBerry’s BB10, or Jolla’s Sailfish OS. Their minimized “windows” have small icons to carry out specific actions, such as refreshing a webpage, or creating a new message. So Microsoft’s Live Tile redesign will probably be along those lines.
But Live Tiles have much bigger potential than that. In a perfect world, Microsoft can even include proper HTML5 coding for Live Tiles, allowing you to not only see say, the top news story on the news app, but also allowing you to see a scrolling list of news stories. A scrolling wall of stock exchange rates. Of your unread emails. Plus, with the added functionality, you can respond to them immediately by hitting the tile, without having to “launch” the app first.
Now does all this sound too familiar? Wait a minute… They’re widgets! Well yes kind off. This type of functionality has been on Android since time immemorial. But still, it’ll be different from Google’s take on widgets, mainly because the entire start screen will be filled with widgets. The entire operating system will be running on widgets. Now that’s an overhaul.
But of course Microsoft has to be careful when implementing such an overhaul, lest the start screen becomes overly cluttered. Small tiles should remain icons with tile counts, whereas medium and large tiles can be given the additional functionality.
Anyway we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves over here. WP8.1 may have been thoroughly leaked, but we’re sure that Microsoft still has some surprises up its sleeve. One of those is the 1 minute refresh rate for live tiles, down from 30 minutes (though it was unfortunately, leaked. Oops).
Let’s just hope that the Build conference will bring us something good. Only 25 more days to go.