Of all the changes and enhancements that Microsoft announced at the Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco, there was only 1 that was a consumer feature. Most everything focused on developers and underlying changes to the mobile platform. The one big consumer feature was the revamping of the Start Screen. The live tiles are still there, but gone is the sizing restriction. With Windows Phone 8, you can pick between 3 different sizes for a live tile – the traditional square and rectangle, and now a new thumbnail. The thumbnail is about 1/4 the size of the traditional square. Users will be able to customize each tile and pick the size that they want.
With Windows Phone 8, you will be able to truly customize your phone to your likings. Each layout will be unique to the users likes and desires. If you don’t want a that large rectangle tile for appointments, you can size it down to a square or maybe even a thumbnail. Perhaps, you’re a big TXT’er, you could enlarge the Messaging tile from a square to a rectangle and it will add in a preview of the new unread text messages. The tiles are still live, and still display the information that matters most to the user, just now they can be sized the way you want.
For some, it may create a very busy and cluttered Start Screen, and that was my initial concern. However, if that’s what they want then why not let them have it? After looking these over and then going back to my current Samsung Focus S, I really wanted to be able start using this today. Currently, there are a few tiles that I use everyday but don’t really need to have them taking up a full square. With Windows Phone 8, I would be able to shrink them down and line them up along the top. Freeing up space for the stuff that really matters, while still having them present for quick access.
There’s one other change on this new Start Screen. Microsoft has removed the arrow that used to be along the right side at the top of the Start Screen. Swiping to the side still pulls out the list of applications, there just isn’t an indicator for this anymore. That means the tiles are a little larger, and everything is now centered on the screen of the device. The only concern is if new users will be able to find the application list without the arrow to direct them. Time will tell on that, I guess.
The Start Screen changes are the one feature that Microsoft has indicated will be ported back to current Windows Phone users. All 1st and 2nd generation devices will be getting a smaller update after Windows Phone 8 ships that will give them the new interface. This update is being called Windows Phone 7.8.