Have you used a Windows Phone lately? I have, and the Windows Phone 8.1 software update has made the experience so much better.
Between Cortana, new Live Folders in the latest release and the improved keyboard, to name a few features, I find Windows Phone is actually enjoyable to use. But there’s still an annoyance when it comes to apps. No, it’s not that some of the apps I’d like to use are missing — the Google ones in particular — it’s the time-wasting refresh screen when switching between many apps.
Wait, didn’t Microsoft add a feature called “fast resume” or Fast App Switching (FAS) to rid us of those pesky little dots traveling from side to side under the “Resuming” message? Yes, Microsoft did. The issue appears to be that developers haven’t yet enabled it.
Steve Litchfield, one of the most knowledgable Windows Phone enthusiasts I know, performed a small unscientific test to see how widespread the problem is. He loaded up 20 apps on his Windows Phone to see which of them resumed quickly compared to the pokey, old way. Seven of the 20 were on the fast train, meaning that in this small test sample, 65 percent of the apps are still using the old method.
Litchfield suggests that developers really don’t have to do too much to fix this and speed up app resuming: They simply need to enable FAS in the app’s manifest file and recompile it for Windows Phone 8.1. Interestingly, of the 20 apps Litchfield tested, a dozen are from Microsoft or Nokia. Of this dozen, six aren’t yet compiled for Windows Phone 8.1, he reports.
Aside from Microsoft’s own apps that really should be optimized for all versions of Windows Phone, this situation illustrates a core challenge Microsoft has with its mobile platform: developer support. Time and time again we see apps for Apple iOS or Google Android that are the most recent version or have the latest features while their Windows Phone counterparts — if they even exist — are left languishing for some programming love.