Windows Phone 8's New Start Screen Is The Most Elegant We've Seen

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 it does it without destroying its simplicity and elegance.

As Windows Phone 8 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 that you get on the tablet and desktop versions of Windows 8. It lets 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 content of the tiles is customisable too. Apart from specific apps' live tiles, the system will allow you to create specific contact or group tiles, with all the information associated — emails, Facebook updates, new images and more — showing in real time within the tile.

It will also let you add as many apps as you want on the home screen, even if they don't have live tiles. By keeping these at the small size, you can create a grid of apps as dense as the one on the iPhone, except on Windows Phone 8 you can combine it 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 colours, and you can now assign individual colours to tiles, which is something that users were demanding.

Customisation and information density without the mess

Resizable custom tiles are precisely what the Windows Phone's start screen needed from a user experience point of view. Much better and more elegant than the static grid of badge-peppered tiny icons of iOS, or the painful and ugly widgets that you see on most user-customised Android screens.

Unlike the competition's start screen solutions, resizable tiles give users the ability to increase information density to the maximum allowed on a phone screen while keeping it clean, comprehensive and pretty. The start screen will provide as much data as users want, whether they're beginners who like just a few important tiles or advanced users who want information overload.

Microsoft says that this new start screen can be tailored to fit each user's lifestyle. For example, sports fans can create a screen for their favourite teams and athletes' Twitter accounts or Facebook pages, combined with real-time scoring apps. Those who love social networks will be able to have their favourite friends always on screen.

It's really up to users to decide what they want their phone to be. Microsoft is just making sure that happens in as pretty and functional a manner as we've ever seen.



    Windows Phone was awesome before....looks like it just gets better with Apollo

    I'm not totally sold on this. Looks like it'd work well on larger screens, but I can't see this being comfortable on older ones.

      I get the feeling you won't need to worry about that :P

      Well think about it this way: each of those small tiles would be around the same size as an iOS icon. Has anyone complained before about them being too small?

        iOS icons don't give you any information, Live Tiles do.

          The small icons are just shortcuts to apps, they're not intending to be Live Tiles, which the medium and larger ones are.

          "It will also let you add as many apps as you want on the home screen, even if they don’t have live tiles. By keeping these at the small size, you can create a grid of apps as dense as the one on the iPhone, except on Windows Phone 8 you can combine it with live tiles of any size too."

      If it isn't working for you on a smaller screen, then you just don't use small tiles. The whole point is that its CUSTOMISABLE to suit YOUR NEEDS, unlike iOS and Android.

        Let's be fair here. I agree iOS is not customisable but Android is customisable in all aspects of the OS. Even though I hate using Android it is extremely customisable.

    There are plenty of words that describe what that homescreen looks like - but pretty and elegant are not among them. Looks like a close-up of a badly built Lego model, IMO.

    Whatever floats your boat.

      But you can build your logo model however you want. Small, medium or large blocks in whatever combination you like.

      I agree, theres something about it that makes me throw up. Might be the two tones colours, I dunno

      It's not the size of the blocks that bothers me - it's the garish, childish colours. It looks like kindergarten building blocks, not cutting-edge technology.

      A lot of the blocks seem to blend together, so it's hard to know what each tile is showing at a glance . Others have truncated text labels, so you can't read it properly. I'd hate to try and read those screens with a migraine.

      Oh well, I guess I'll get used to it with Windows 8 eventually.....but I can't see too many people jumping to WP8 for this mess of a homescreen.

        So what is the colour of cutting edge technology? Apple Aluminium silver? Thinkpad matte black?

          Greyscale. Like Gameboy greyscale.

    Windows Phone 7 was elegant and simple. This looks cluttered like Windows 8 Metro. I wish Metro was like Windows Phone 7 and not the other way around.

    As a winpho7.5 user I think I will enjoy the update when it comes out with 7.8 (don't ask me where 7.6 and 7.7 went...)

    I know there's quite a few apps that I want to access that don't need the real estate because they're not displaying relevant information like maps, local scout, settings and marketplace and I'd like to increase the size of the mail icon so I can see more information.

    My initial reaction was one of "ew... I don't think I like this" but now that I've had time to think about the changes I think it really will be a change for the better.

      Think about it. . .
      Windows 7, Windows 8
      7 to 8
      *ding* there you go.

    looks fantastic to me. now just hoping app developers get on board!

      Yes, because 100,000 apps is just nothing. I downloaded them all the first day I had my phone and now I NEED more.

    Wow, they've taken WP7 and made it uglier... Welcome to WP8 I guess.

    This looks terrible for anything under 4".

      There isn't anything stopping you from keeping the screen the same way it has always been. If you like the way it looks in WP7, don't use the smaller tile sizes. If you want your start screen to look like a tile monster vomited all over it, that's up to you as well. It's all about choice.

      Microsoft just can't win with some people. First, they were criticized for not being customisable. Now that they've added that in, they're still criticized.

    I dont see the problem. I'm confident you would be able to make all the tiles medium size and keep things the way they are. At least this gives you the option of putting more tiles on the top page so you dont have to scroll down.

      Sometimes having too many options takes away from the experience and takes away from what you are actually using the technology to achieve.

        But Android users always crap on about how Windows phones cant be customised and Android phones are hugely customisable.
        But when Windows phones make their phones a little more customisable theres an uproar.
        Cant please everyone.

          What do you expect? Windows Phone users don't want what Android users want. Otherwise they'd have an android.

          WP users would be closer to iPhone users.

    Very much looking forward to trying this out on WP7.8 - have been wanting more information density from the get-go. Don't need a huge tile to inform me of a couple new e-mails; nor a big square for what is effectively just an app shortcut.

    I get the feeling, though, that it will look a LOT better on an HD screen!

    I won't be able to get use to the no wallpaper front screen. I love my wallpapers...

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