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Poll reveals that consumers desperately want a notification center in Windows Phone 8

In a poll conducted this past weekend here at Windows Phone Central, 7,640 participants voted on the top-three features (out of an optional nine choices) they wanted most in Windows Phone 8.

Although the full consumer feature list has yet to be revealed by Microsoft, due to the leaked SDK a few weeks ago a lot of the new options have been detailed already. In turn, we asked users what they thought was missing (or we saw no evidence for) in Microsoft’s next-gen mobile operating system.

The results are certainly interesting and by large margins the top three choices by users are clearly discernable...


The top-three results from community feedback

A total of 22,922 votes were collected over the three-day period on the nine features users desired the most. Since each participant could vote up to three times that reduces to a possible 7,640 individuals. That ranks as our highest poll in terms of community participation and makes the results quite significant (voting was cookie and IP logged, reducing the chances of “spam” voting).

The top three results are certainly interesting:

  1. Notification Center – 22%
  2. Close App – 17%
  3. Full system back up – 14%

Although Windows Phone 8 is confirmed in having notifications extended to the Lock screen via third party applications the ability to have a centralized area where notifications can be checked is highly desired by users. We saw this both in comments leading up to the poll and in the early voting where it quickly took the lead and never let go.

Consumers evidently want the choice of a Notification Center for a few reasons. While Windows Phone 8 allows multiple Live Tiles with counters, Toast notifications (“pop ups”) and now the ability to have visible updates on the Lock screen for 3rd party apps, users want the more traditional model of managing notifications that is found on Android and OSX ‘Mountain Lion’.

The complaint by people has some merit—after all, not everyone wants to pin every app to the Start screen and having an area where one can pull everything up in one shot does have its advantages. Still, with Toasts, Live Tiles and now the Lock screen options in Windows Phone 8, it seems as if Microsoft has tried to expand them where possible. Having said that users still clearly want another option and it will be curious to see if Microsoft obliges in the future by including some type of notification center.

Coming in second was Close App by which users can close apps running in the Multi-tasking area on Windows Phone. The model is based off what is already found in the multiple tabs of Internet Explorer where one has may “windows” of opened tabs and the user can simply close tabs by simple tapping a traditional “X” in the upper right corner.

WP Central

Multi-tasking in Windows Phone currently lacks an "X" for apps

Once again, although Windows Phone does an admirable job of “freezing” apps in the background and managing memory for them, users still want the ability to close out apps. Part of that is because the multi-tasking (“tombstoned”) apps are limited currently to just 5 slots and it will reportedly be upped to 7 in Windows Phone 8. Some feel that is not enough and one way to manage that is by closing out a game or some other recently opened app to free that slot.

We agree with Microsoft that users shouldn’t have to manage such things and adding an “X” could lead consumers to focus on memory instead of just using their phone. On the other hand we don’t really see the harm in adding it as it would seem very intuitive (Android and iOS have similar options available to users today) Other people have suggested the webOS model by which users flick the app card up to remove the app from “the deck”. Though certainly original and fun, the IP issues surrounding such a method may be prohibitive.

WP Central

The current unofficial backup method for Windows Phone users

The third top requested feature is a Full-system backup for device transfers garnering 14% of the vote. Windows Phone 8 does allow app (and presumably game) backups by saving the settings and hopefully game progress but users clearly want a simple 1-click solution to saving everything either on their computer’s hard-drive or “in the cloud”.

Currently it is not known if Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 will allow the user to backup their entire phone and although the need seems rare to restore we’re sure once a users loses a phone or upgrades to a new one the need becomes very high.

Issues that may stand in the way include OEM hardware differentiation which could effect restores to new devices in addition the amount of space required for the backup (not to mention the time). Still, iOS can do this via iTunes and it seems like something that evidently people truly want.

Odds and ends

WP Central

Our poll asked users their top three choices so that we understand the level of importance. Having said that clearly users may prefer to have all of the choices available to them in a future update.

We found it interesting that things like Universal Search (the ability to Bing search within the device, including email and Office) ranked 5th with 10.5% of the vote and that it ranked below Folders (11.78%).

Universal Search seems like one of those features that users could take advantage of nearly everyday. Indeed we’ve seen an early shot of what looked to be a universal search option back in 2011. Will that make it into Windows Phone 8 in the end? We’re not sure but we would certainly like to see it at some point.

WP Central

How homebrew 'Folders' look on Windows Phone

Folders is something that users also rank highly amongst new features they want to see in Windows Phone 8 especially since there is no evidence that it is coming with the initial release. Folders, which are currently available as homebrew option on Windows Phone 7, are a neat and intuitive way to organize apps of the same variety. For instance, we have a lot of camera and photography apps on our Titan II so having a folder name “Photo” with all our apps lumped together makes sense. Otherwise those apps are simply organized alphabetically with no sense of semantic connections. In turn we end up forgetting about those apps unless we scroll through our massive app list.

The folders model, familiar to those who use PCs has recently been extended to both iOS and Android once again making them conducive for people switching over. In that regard, we think adding them, as an option would benefit Microsoft.

Rounding out the bottom was more background colors (7.9%) landscape Start screen (7.6%), more security options for the lock screen (4.71%) and the most interesting, more keyboard options (4.5%).

WP Central

Windows Phone users love their keyboard

The fact that Windows Phone users ranked more keyboards so low is a testament to just how happy they are with the native keyboard’s performance. Currently, Windows Phone users cannot add any 3rd party keyboards to the OS and given the choice it seems most users simply don’t want nor desire Swype or Swifkey, which are extremely popular on Android. Though there is zero evidence that Microsoft will allow third party keyboards anytime soon, even if they granted permission it would seem that Swype and SwifKey would have a hard sell to end users.

WP Central

Wrapping it up

In the end, the data collected gives a good snapshot of what consumers want out of Windows Phone 8 in the future and Microsoft would best be served by trying to match these preferences.  Microsoft clearly have an interest in user feedback and we have shared the results with them and their engineers for future consideration in later OS updates.

From the data gathered though we can see where Microsoft has excelled (their keyboard, user interface, design) and where users think they are lacking (device backups, managing notifications, closing out apps).

Hopefully users will get what they want with future versions of Windows Phone 8. Thanks to the Windows Phone community for your participation!

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • Top 5 will cover 75% customer concerns.
  • Start your engines .......& let tge stupid notification hate begin !
  • really? I think the implementation in w8/wp8 is perfect. beyond live tiles, you choose exactly which apps you get lockscreen notifications for and how detailed some of them are. what more do people want? some sort if drop-down chrome to navigate through with recent notifications... that seems very un-'metro' (or whatever its called) to me personally.
  • Please no more arguing over the notifications... Half the other threads are of people insisting it's necessary while others say it's fine. Can't we all just get along? Or agree to disagree :P
  • Why not instead of just drop down, a left to right or right to left swipe, like Microsoft could do something similar to charms for windows phone 8. You could see your notifications by swiping from the top right to top left. To access quick settings like connectivity and brightness, swipe from the bottom left to the bottom right.
  • Ah, this was in a Windows Phone 8 user mockup of what they wanted it to look like.
  • The funny part is, I didn't know someone had the concept already up and pictured, but I think it would work out very well just because the only times you swipe in this areas are you get rid of notifications and to swipe the 3 dots up. However, I do really hope they do something like that, it would makes users happy and it would also stay close to the metro design statement
  • That are my words. Everybody of us had this notification center on our earlier dumbphones. Now i dont have this option and i dont miss it! Life is easier without it. Not. center are the '90. Beside that use your brain more to remember those things. And for all the people which want this option we have it. Go to a contact swipe to the right to history and you have your memo - notification center. And if you want more people add a group to the start of important people so you have all news of them, what more is needed in the time where we all are connected all the time. In a second you are on every social network. So you dont need a notification to look at later, instead you answer instant to every message - email
  • Its most important for apps. If I don't want CNN on my start screen but without firing up the app, I want to see breaking news notifications...this Is what's for...don't understand why people fight against more features. Do you think this will slow down the phone?
  • A lot of apps like Whatsapp are not visible in the contacts. And if the apps are not pinned to the home screen, you'll never see the number saying you have a message. I could pin all my apps to the home screen, but the more apps you have pinned, the faster you drain the battery. I used to have a lot of junk on the home screen, but the loading of all those icons everytime I unlocked my phone killed the battery before I got home from work. Also, I'm not the type to always have my phone in my pocket, and a lot of time when I do have my phone with me, I don't check it even if it vibrates because I don't want to bother the people I'm talking with, so I miss a lot of notifications. Maybe one thing they could to not use a notification center would be to at least add a number beside the name of apps in the big apps list when you have a message waiting, that way even if an app is not pinned you can still see the numbers.
  • ok, not trying to hate or 'argue against features'.. but the point of selecting your own lockscreen notifications covers this. so just like email and messaging now, you can add things like kik and whatsapp to the lockscreen, even if not on start screen.. maybe because I got used to it on windows 8 is why I really like it, but I feel this is a pretty great solution and prefer it to a typical notification center and see no reason to want both.
  • Ok I think you don't understand  why some people don't think Live tiles are enough. It's not to argue that Live tiles aren't great, I love them, WP8 live tiles are even better IF third party apps can do the message preview thingie. And even then it limited because it takes up to much space on the start screen.
    I use 2 linked inboxes for email, one for personal emails and another for work. If I decide to use large tile for both, thats half of my screen. Lets say I want one for messaging, there goes 3/4 of the screen, I would prbably leave to other two medium tiles for "phone" and "People". Thats all I get for my inmediate start screen. For ME that aweful, I use Whatsapp a lot and would like to use Skype when it's up to par. Maybe there will be other chat services I would like to use in the future, google talk maybe, who knows. Add to that plenty of othr apps that can/could use the live tile for important information that I would love to see in the tile. I don't know about you but I really don't like to have a very long start screen and to be scrolling a lot to get to see every thing. And worse yet, I hate to have to enter the app just to see IF the message/informacion is important. Thats where the toast notifications are "incomplete" to me. In messages/emails, if I miss it I have to enter to check what it is. Granted, WP native apps are fast enough, but third party aren't. We still have to see who would things go in WP8 but I don't see it being much faster for things like Whatsapp and Skype (we'll have to wait and see).
    What many of use would really like is a place wher you can see quickly and rich enough information about the latest notifications/events. Now that WP8 gets rid of the "white space" it makes even more sense to let you scroll to the left to a "notification center" where you can see a simple list of the latest messages/emails with a preview and sender, messages from apps, reminders and info from apps that i DON'T have pinned to to the start screen (this is very important for some people, I don't want to pinn everything to be able to get notifications!!!), etc.
    I believe this would complement perfectly the live tiles, specially the small and medium ones, even the large ones that even with the previews the present, could posibly take to long to cicle through lets say 10 messages/emails (thats where I would "prefer" to enter the email client and maybe I really don't because none are important).
    Just my 2 cents
  • Instead of/or in addition to the app closing we need a way to lock specific apps so they don't disappear from the list of apps. I think the current limit is 5, and apps can vanish even if they are still running.
  • That's what I think also. I don't care about closing apps since the memory is well managed and I don't think it would make the battery last longer. What I want it to be able to pin apps so they stay open. I would definitely do this for Facebook and Whatsapp. If it was also possible for toast notifications to verify if an app is already running before opening it again it'd also be great. Right now, everytime I click on a toast for Whatsapp or Facebook I have to wait for the app to reopen even though they are often already opened in the background.
  • That's like saying "I want my car to have only two weels. And my bike to have 4". People don't understand how their system is supposed to work and how it's supposed to be used. Close apps? Still today? THERE IS NO NEED FOR THAT. makes me totally angry. Notifications work just fine as well. If an app fails to do it properly, report to the app developer that he failed. That app would fail with a "proper" notification center, too.
  • Legitimate question: Should Microsoft just ignore what consumers want no matter how illogical? Is that a winning strategy? Listen, i think Facebook is the dumbest thing ever but it would be dangerous for me to not ever cover it here and treat it like the phenomenon that it is.
  • @danoel rubino people want thing what they are used to have. Windows phone is a new operating system so i think people want features which they had before. But look back, we had PC mouses with tracking balls inside, with cables, we had phones with cables and people said in that time to mobile phones "we dont want them" but they get used to it over time. So is with WP7 WP8 people are not familiar woth it like with iOS becauce they switched to WP7 and "missed" somw features. Which WP7 have but in another way. I personally think WP is perfect and without a backup because i dont need one. All the things people want now are usable only if a use for them exist but my windows phone works like a charm! Never had a faulty, freez or anything. So no need to restore things...
  • "Windows phone is a new operating system..."
    It's nearly 2 years old and has not excactly caught on. You can only give a "it's new!" pass for so long before you have to adapt.
  • I want a phone where I can follow EVERY THING THAT HAPPENS, Im kind of sick of the randomly missed events because of lagged Live Tiles and missed Toasts. Thats why something needs to be done with the broken notifications in WP.
    Seriously... the image MS is trying to paint... a "quick, in and out, back to life UI", "information at a glance" etc, is so wrong its kind of embarrasing. I have never browsed a phone as much as I do with my WP.
    It has nothing to do with wanting old features that "I'm used to". I want to be informed, thats it.
  • It's not about badly running apps, it's about clearing what's running so you only see what you want to switch to. The current process is a chore as you have to switch to the app and press back a million times to close apps.
  • You can say that again!
  • that's incorrect ONLY APPS that have the ability to RUN in the BACKGROUND uses resources, other than that those apps pose no threat to memory usage or performance, so why. you want the ability to close an app in WP8 wgen the phone will have the ability just like 7.5 to suspend apps and apps that are not in use will open them after learning tour"APPS" habit
  • I like the lock idea too. Go straight to what I was doing within the app and not have to start it up from scratch would be nice.
  • How can it be incorrect when I never said anything about memory usage or performance? I know exactly how the background suspension works - but it doesn't stop those apps you've left running from disappearing from the quick switch list (as there is a limit of 5). The ONLY way to stop them, is to relaunch the app from scratch, or turn off your phone
  • It's mindboggling that you don't understand why we want to be able to close apps.
  • Just bring us a notification center. And what about ONLINE play.. Was supposed to be coming with mango and now it's biting the dust
  • I wish we could have them all.
  • Why the hell do you need to close apps on windows phone?
  • I thought I explained it fairly well in the article, no?
  • I am so excited about the multi task close button because I brought that up long long time ago on Microsoft Suggestion Box. It's one of the hottest topic on the Suggestion Box.
  • Some of us don't like a bunch of apps open.
  • they're not open meaning "RUNNING" right, no? apps are in suspended states...7.5 doesn't have true multitasking, so what threat they pose...only 5 max are that your definition of "alot"
  • Read the title, we want that for wp8 :P
  • There is one valid use case for it. If you have too many open at once and go to open more you will eventually lose your state in the older apps. Whilst you could just bring any apps you want to keep saved to the front before opening another in the current system, closing less desired ones from the screen would be more elegant as a solution
  • What would be even better than having to close apps before opening new apps all the time to save the ones you want to stay opened would be to be able to pin apps so they stay open for as long as it's pinned, and only app that aren't pinned can be closed by opening an extra app. Why close 6 apps to save one app (and have to do the same thing over and over again throughout the day) when you can simply pin one app and never have to think about it again?
  • I agree. The locking of apps is far more efficient than closing them all the time.
  • As for now, the first thing we need is to be able to close the apps in the multitasking view! With a flick up/downwards or with a "close" button, it's the same. We definitely need that! It's waaaay more important than a notification center, as we already have live tiles and hone screen notifications.
  • You can close the apps buy switching to the app and pressing the back button. 
    Are you saying there isnt a way to close the app or you want it to be easier to close?  Right now, you can close the app and have no background apps running. 
  • Sometimes you have to hit the back button several times, depending on the app.
    It's archaic and by far the worst thing about the phone.  If it's not fixed in 8, I'm out.
  • While you're right about it being archaic, I wouldn't call it the WORST thing about the phone. My back button gets a LOT of use, but it hardly causes me grief.
  • Yeah, hitting the back button so many times is extremely annoying especially in IE where you might want to leave off where you were and close the app.
  • Would certainly be nice to have a notification history and they already have everything in place to show it without any overhead. Most be patents or something keeping it out. Or maybe similar to the limited color choices they just want to make us upset for no reason.
  • Anyone who thinks the current system of live tiles and toasts is sufficient should try the eBay app and tell mw where to look when the toast is missed and the rule isn't live and is way down at the bottom of the screen. Or miss a reminder from TV Show and you look at your phone and have no indication of that. The current system is good but can be improved. Stop being the WP equivalent of a blind fanboy and realize this platform is not perfect and can be improved. And that criticism can be positive if it's acted upon.
  • Well said.
  • I haven't seen anyone being a blind fanboy about not having a new feature. In any case, I agree about needing a notification center as a welcome addition... although quite frankly, eBay is as much at fault... they could just do its own notifications screen in the app.
  • The app told the OS a notification. Why should I open the app if to me the notification was worthless? Its extra steps all because I pulled my phone out of my pocket five seconds late.
  • That's the main reason I voted for a notification centre. The way windows notifications is great, but I often find myself receiving texts from a couple of people, going in and reading one, but missing the second text because once I've opened messaging it loses the counter. I don't want the behaviour to change though - sometimes its useful to leave a message unread for later and still have it easy to spot when additional messages come in, but a way to make sure you haven't forgotten an old notification is needed.
  • Just like to pint out that unless I am mistaken all photo apps go in your photo hub so the example for having folders seems kind of moot. Also closing apps is needed for the reasons mentioned I hate hitting the damn back but to get to what I want or clear apps plus it is already done with internet tabs so why not apps. Folders I can take or leave and full back up is a nice insurance policy especially with how much we have on our phones. Even without these though it's exciting and can't wait to see the new hardware.
  • I thought most apps can be closed by the back arrow.  Web browsers being one of the exception.
  • They can.   It is highly inefficient.
    Go look at a video of how WebOS did it.
  • MS couldy simply have all notifications go to Me tile in addtion to the lockscreen/live tiles, but that would create some redundancy and perhaps more battery usage?
    My #1 is full back-up restore, that is the most critical for me to be able to switch phones, buy new upgrade, or replace a lost or defective device and have everything installed in one easy step like iPhones. 
  • I'd kinda like it if you swipe left for notifications (including Me title notifications), and swipe right for apps list.
  • Meego?
  • I'm glad to see folders didn't make the top three.  I was surprised backup wasn't two though.  I don't see a lot of end users utilizing the close app function unless it was a rogue app that was hung....but I've never encountered that on WP7.
  • I forgot to mention it earlier. I want a battery % meter beside (or instead of) the inaccurate battery icon. if i want to know battery percent I Currently have a three step process. I want glance and go!
  • Agreed. I hate going into Power Saver settings to see my battery life.
  • If they do create a notification center, make it optional, and let the user turn off every type of notification. I don't want a list full of junk and advertisements like I had on Android where I had to delete apps just because they spammed the notification b