We got a sneak preview of what Telstra's planned Windows Phone 7 hub would look like earlier this week. That product won't be available to users until phones using the platform go on sale, but Telstra is already talking about how it plans to enhance the product.
David Powell, Telstra's device user interface guru, gave a presentation at Microsoft's Tech Ed conference looking at Telstra's development process for the Windows Phone 7 hub so far, and features which might appear in future iterations of the product. Here's the key points:
- While the hub will be installed by default on any Windows Phone 7 device that gets sold, it won't replace the main interface and users will be able to remove it if they don't find it useful. And Powell says that attitude will be reflected on other devices: "It's still about providing fast and easy access to what matters to me, but we have much more respect for providing the user with the ability to customise the experience. That's something you're going to see a lot more of going forward with the devices that we're doing."
- The Hub software will also be offered via the Windows Phone Marketplace, though downloads might initially be limited to Telstra customers (for whom it's a more appealing option anyway, given that it doesn't count against data usage limits).
- Planned future enhancements include the ability for users to resort the current news categories, add their own and pin individual story items to the start screen in Windows Phone 7 if they want to.
- The weather app was placed to the left of the main interface screen so that users on the heavily-populated east coast could quickly see their part of the country. That's a sensible approach, but didn't prove popular with Perth developers at the session. Powell said that Telstra will consider allowing users to customise where the weather app appears, or alter that automatically based on detected location, in a future release.
- Adding pictures to news stories makes people read more of them in Telstra's testing. "We've seen news usage increase because people look through and see an image and get interested. It's quite an immersive experience."
- This particular model of app won't be seen on other devices. "We haven't really looked at it from an iPhone perspective," Powell said. "We're very much focused on taking each individual platform and working to its strengths."
- Future releases will also work in landscape mode (which the current version doesn't).
A non-Windows Phone 7 related insight: Powell noted that many current generation mobile apps don't cope well when users travel: "One of the biggest complaints we get is when people go overseas and their app hasn't been able to support roaming."