Yes, the new app that appeared yesterday, the App Folder app. Hmm. At first I was all like, ‘Yes! Folders! At last!’ But after about 15 minutes I was all like, ‘Meh. And also… meh.’
You see the thing about folders is, if they’re to be implemented into the user experience, they have to perform a more efficient function than the user would have otherwise performed if they didn’t exist. For all the time I’ve been using Windows Phone, I’ve always patted it on the back for being the OS that gives users a (totally?) unrestricted vertical chasm of a Start screen, in which you can plonk any number of different-sized tiles, and you can scroll and scroll and scroll until the cows come home. So, by giving us a newer option to organise our apps and settings and bits and bobs, I was hoping for a better implementation. At the moment it seems, dare I utter the words, a littleredundant.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited that Nokia are still shovelling coal into the furnace and are chugging along nicely with updates, new spanky phones and even new apps, all while heading straight for the edge of the cliff and into Canyon Microsoft. Alright, that’s a bit unfair, because I’m sure things will still be great under Big M, but you get my drift. For a company that sold and signed away everything except the milk in the fridge and half a bag of sugar, one can’t be blamed for expecting things to sort of grind to a halt more quickly than this. So I’m really happy that Nokia are still plugging away almost as if that agreement had never happened. I like it. Good, magical stuff is still being created.
But back to the new app. Here’s my main beef about it. Well, actually I’ve got a few, but the main one is its design. I want to wave my angry fist in the air over its slowness too, but the way it’s been designed really has me scratching my head. And no, it’s not an itchy scalp.
You see, many of us Lumia lovers come from different Nokia relationships, our old flames, Symbian and MeeGo. On the Nokia N9, folders were implemented really well (albeit copied from other *ahem* OSes out there). Tap and drag your chosen app into the folder, and a tiny miniature version of it will appear on the folder’s, er, cardboard exterior. Repeat with other apps if so desired. If you needed to open an app within this new folder, you simply tapped on the folder icon and immediately (not 59 seconds later) a menu grid opened up there and then (not on another, separate pane) and you simply tapped your chosen app. Ok, at this point it did take 59 seconds to actually open the app, but that’s 2011 hardware for ya! But joking aside, this kind of experience was quick and painless, and it just made sense. Tap, tap, open. All done swiftly and slickly.
Cheeky plug to the past: read my take on the N9’s folders that flew in with PR1.2. My piece was entitled “Are they necessary?” Huh. Maybe I really am anti-folder!
Things aren’t so buttery with the Lumias’ App Folder app (I love how it rolls off the tongue). This way of doing things seems, to put it bluntly, asinine. I know an update might solve it, but come on. Here’s how it works: First, let me drag my easily-accessible app icons away from my super-sloopy-swipey Start screen and put them somewhere else, into a Folder. OK. Then, once I’ve filled it with, say, twelve apps, I can pin the folder to the Start screen. All of this sounds okay, except when you start to use it.
When you tap on the folder, instead of it springing open a little box for you to just tap on the app inside, it slowly and laggily (new word) opens a new screen, and then lists them vertically.
Yes, the fine folk in the App Folder development office have given us humble users another screen to scroll! Woohoo! How absolutely and completely odd! Now, instead of just swiping vertically to reach, oh I don’t know, let’s say PhotoBeamer, a wonderful app that Nokia has given us for nothing, and one that works well and is extremely useful. Let’s say PhotoBeamer is way down there, under Angry Birds GO! and the Instagram and the Vine. Scroll, tap, done. Beam away, Scotty.
But with App Folder, I have to scroll to the Folder, tap the folder, wait for the list to emerge on a new screen, scroll down to find PhotoBeamer, and then finally, sweating and out-of-breath, I can…at last…tap the…icon…and open…the…app. PHEW!
I’m being quite facetious here, I know. Some people might find consolidating the 263 Nokia photo-related apps into one place as very useful, or plopping all of your games into a folder instead of (rather irritatingly) having to visit the XBOX icon first. I get that, but really? This to me does seem like we’re supposed to ignore the brilliant design of how to organise your favorite apps and settings (heck, I even use the Connectivity Tiles app to place separate wifi, airplane mode, cellular etc tiles on my Start screen) and instead do more steps to get where you want to go.
Perhaps this is just a first taste of what’s to come, a much better crack at it is coming, maybe. But Windows Phone, for all its shortcomings gets a few things really spot on. Like the aforementioned ability to place as many tiles upfront as you want, small, big or massive. And failing that, if you (like me) only want the absolutely essential stuff upfront and everything else just one more step away, a swipe to the left and your apps are all alphabetically arranged. Tap on the “a” square and then the “p” square and PhotoBeamer is right there waiting for your fingertip to kiss it.
I apologize if this seems somewhat negative and sulky, I’m only having a very lighthearted rant at this, and I shouldn’t really. It’s a bit like being given a sweater from grandma that looks a bit naff and doesn’t fit. Why can’t she just give me a $5 Starbucks giftcard?!! Well, shut up, she gave you something you ungrateful little sod. Fair enough. But guys and gals at Nokia, if you’re reading this, please try and cajole your Microsoft masters – I mean colleagues – into allowing more freedom with the OS to tweak things up a little better. Y’know, like when you were designing stuff for other Nokia OSes, like, Symbian and MeeGo. Or are those words verboten now? I hope not. Those two quarries of treasure should be mined for all their awesome assets and not forgotten so quickly.
Get the App Folder app! It’s free! It’s AMAZING! Folders on Windows Phone! 2014! Woohoo!