Windows Phone 8 brings improved multitasking [Update]

All Windows Phone users know that its multitasking isn't the best experience out there. The feature itself isn't well exposed, appearing only when long-pressing the back button, while the performance isn't that great. Nowadays most apps are "Mangofied" - updated in Windows Phone 7.5 to offer better multitasking support - but there are still some omissions. Then there's the fact that even if an app is already opened, tapping on its tile will simply reopen it from scratch instead of taking you to its saved state.

Well, we have some good news on this front. WPCentral are reporting that this behavior is getting fixed in the upcoming Windows Phone 8 OS. Tapping an app's tile will open the saved state of the app instead of simply restarting it. You can actually see this in action in some hands-on videos, for example where a user goes back to the photo hub, and the app shows the last picture the user was on, instead of the main hub page.

So this change, along with the increased number of apps you can have open at the same time (eight in Windows Phone 8, up from five in WP 7.5) should make multitasking more appealing for users.

If you want to see the behavior we're talking about you can check out this video. It happens about 10 minutes in, when the user opens the Photo Hub, goes back to the main page, then opens the hub again. The app shows the screen where he stopped earlier.

Update: It seems we jumped the gun a little with our enthusiasm. WPCentral got the word from a source they trust that this improved multitasking will only work for 1st party apps. To take advantage of this functionality 3rd party developers will have to use a small hack and list their apps as " GPS apps". However it's not clear if this will influence the certification process, which it might.

Will Microsoft expand this behavior to 3rd party apps? We sure hope so, because as it stands right now multitasking on Windows Phone is somewhat of a mess.

Source: WPCentral

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"...this improved multitasking will only work for 1st party apps."

It seems more likely that it will work for WP8-apps, but not for the automatically recompiled 7/7.5-apps. Anything else would be stupid.

Will Microsoft expand this behavior to 3rd party apps? We sure hope so, because as it stands right now multitasking on Windows Phone is somewhat of a mess.

This does nothing to help multitasking at all. This would be more confusing than anything. This complete lack of UX understanding is driving me nuts! LMAO

It seems multitasking is just getting worse in windows phone 8 with different behaviours for different apps.

The fundamental problem with multitasking for me however is the current back button behaviour. Why does pressing back exit an app?
Since all windows phones have capacitive back buttons, I frequently by mistake press back when in an app, and then I have to wait for the app to restart, the renavigate back to where I was. I might be in the bus and there's a bump in the road, it can happen when I flip the phone to horizontal to view a picture, or when I just press bac k without thinking insted of long-pressing. It must happen to a lot of other windows phone user's too. I find it to be the most annoying, time-waisting feature of Windows Phone at the moment.
There must be a better way to make multitasking and exiting apps work without the user having to stop and think what to press next in order not to lose the current app. Please MS listen.

YES!
YES
YES YES YES
YESSS!! FINALLY.

guys, the timecode is 11:56. Take a look. He accidentally taps the photo hub's tile on the homescreen and it doesn't re-open the hub from scratch. Instead, it picks up from where he left off previously.

HELL YES!

Edited by FalseAgent, Oct 14 2012, 8:24pm :

FalseAgent said,
YES!
YES
YES YES YES
YESSS!! FINALLY.

guys, the timecode is 11:56. Take a look. He accidentally taps the photo hub's tile on the homescreen and it doesn't re-open the hub from scratch. Instead, it picks up from where he left off previously.

HELL YES!

This is exactly the same behaviour as Mango. I just tested it. It even keeps the vertical position in some views (eg. what's new).

Apps will need to be re-coded for WP8 to do this I believe.

*pop* Ohh sorry about your bubble.

50000 said,

This is exactly the same behaviour as Mango. I just tested it. It even keeps the vertical position in some views (eg. what's new).

Apps will need to be re-coded for WP8 to do this I believe.

*pop* Ohh sorry about your bubble.


um, no, tapping the tile from the start screen re-opens the hub. In fact, tapping any tile on the start screen re-opens the corresponding app from scratch.

Apps only pick up from where they left off when you switch to them from the multitasking view in WP 7.5.

FalseAgent said,

um, no, tapping the tile from the start screen re-opens the hub. In fact, tapping any tile on the start screen re-opens the corresponding app from scratch.

Apps only pick up from where they left off when you switch to them from the multitasking view in WP 7.5.

Actually my HTC Trophy does this already, and it's running Mango, so 50000 is right.

derekaw said,
This sounds very confusing, new instance, saved state?

If it's anything like iOS, you can't tell the difference between new instance and saved state. Although if you want to force erase the app cache, you can double click the home button and force erase from there (it lists recent apps whether they are currently running or not)

if pressing an already running app will pop you right back into where you left off, then more apps will need to include a home button on them

once you are a few pages into an app, there will be no way to find the homescreen, as the back button will take you back out of the app

Can someone point out where in the video this actually happens? Unless I missed it twice, he never opens the photo hub in that video at all. Also if this is the new behavior when tapping on a tile, I am disappointed. How are we supposed to launch a new instance of an app?

xTdub said,
How are we supposed to launch a new instance of an app?

Why would you want to launch a new instance of an app? You can't have two instances running.

Anyway, to answer your question: to launch a new instance, you can always push the back button to close an app, then click on the tile to open it again. That will kill the old instance and create a new one.

rfirth said,

Why would you want to launch a new instance of an app? You can't have two instances running.

Anyway, to answer your question: to launch a new instance, you can always push the back button to close an app, then click on the tile to open it again. That will kill the old instance and create a new one.

Why would you want to ALWAYS start where you left off?

"I wonder what's going on in the news, maybe I'll open my news app and read an article from 3 weeks ago when I last ran it. That should be useful..."

"I think I'll listen to some music. Surely I'm in the same mood I was 4 days ago when I last played music..."

Not to mention the fact that when opening an app, it would be expected to show you the same content area each time... One of the biggest complaints I ever hear about Windows Phone is the fact that the People hub remembers what panel it was on when you last closed it and takes you there again... Stuff like that is not good UX and does nothing but disorient users....

JonathanMarston said,
I am disappointed by this change. Much more confusing this way...

If it's actually done the way described in the article, you're absolutely right. It would be VERY confusing. I'm hoping Avatar Roku above is correct in saying that the article is grossly inaccurate...

I always get nervous, because reading forums and suggestion sites, there's a LOT of people that comment and vote up things that would be UX disasters. They just don't know any better... It's terrifying to think that one of these companies might actually take one of these crackpot suggestions and run with it... lol

_ [ ] X <-- this is multitasking (coupled with the running tasks list somewhere, on demand for phones)

One app at a time is not multitasking. It's multiprocessing environment, but not multitasking.

Phouchg said,
_ [ ] X <-- this is multitasking (coupled with the running tasks list somewhere, on demand for phones)

One app at a time is not multitasking. It's multiprocessing environment, but not multitasking.

See this is where Neowin is nuts. WP7 does multi-tasking just fine. In fact, it is the only phone OS that will keep an HTML5 site live in the browser while you are doing other things if the content is active.

WP7 also resumes states from Apps that suspend the UI.

Test it, open http://www.pandora.com play a song from the HTML5 website, and hit the Windows button and open something else. Notice the music keeps playing. Test it with a website that you are filling out a form, partially fill out the form, flip to OneNote to look up something and flip back and continue to fill out the form, the Website is NOT RESTARTED, and the Browser has been running the background. (In contract Android will erase the form data, as the browser is suspended and restarted.)

And I repeat for specially challenged - this is still not multitasking. This is normal, expected behavior of any OS roughly after 1990.

Phouchg said,
And I repeat for specially challenged - this is still not multitasking. This is normal, expected behavior of any OS roughly after 1990.

FWIW, you've honed in on a very specific example of a multitasking system and declared that it "is" multitasking, and any other multitasking is not multitasking.

Multitasking is a very broad, extensive topic in computer design, and unless you start throwing down terminology like "cooperative" and "pre-emptive", you're just redefining things to your own end.

Indeed. I've honed in on UI representation of multitasking. I differentiate it from the underlying multitasking, which nowadays is simply of no relevance anymore because any modern OS runs hundreds of processes in background. Admittedly, I confuse between multiprocessing and multitasking, but it's not the point.

Android is no worse at true multitasking than WP8 - unless its Crapvik VM runs out of memory, one can switch between apps and continue from where he left off in any of them. For the most part, unfortunately, it does run out of memory and suspends apps left and right, because it's that kind of badly designed shyte.

Be it WP or Crapdroid, however, both are haplessly trying to invent a way to switch between apps other than Windows (as in WIMP, not in Microsoft, mind you). And are miserably failing at that, because WIMP has been working pretty good for over 30 years on hundreds of different systems of all scales, pretty much defining the modern computing.

Phouchg said,
Indeed. I've honed in on UI representation of multitasking. I differentiate it from the underlying multitasking, which nowadays is simply of no relevance anymore because any modern OS runs hundreds of processes in background. Admittedly, I confuse between multiprocessing and multitasking, but it's not the point.

Android is no worse at true multitasking than WP8 - unless its Crapvik VM runs out of memory, one can switch between apps and continue from where he left off in any of them. For the most part, unfortunately, it does run out of memory and suspends apps left and right, because it's that kind of badly designed shyte.

Be it WP or Crapdroid, however, both are haplessly trying to invent a way to switch between apps other than Windows (as in WIMP, not in Microsoft, mind you). And are miserably failing at that, because WIMP has been working pretty good for over 30 years on hundreds of different systems of all scales, pretty much defining the modern computing.


Are you saying you think the ideal multitasking would be every program staying active in memory and using processor time regardless of what's user-facing at the moment?

Joshie said,

Are you saying you think the ideal multitasking would be every program staying active in memory and using processor time regardless of what's user-facing at the moment?

Works pretty well on desktop, doesn't it? Phone these days wants to be desktop and at times to replace desktop, but still works like an old feature phone - one thing at a time. Those are artificial limitations.
I'd probably subscribe to limited battery life explanation if most programs, in fact, didn't stay active anyway. That's why task killers are one of the most popular thing on Crapdroid (pre-ICS especially). And would you look at the list of what it's always having there - I'm not using the better half of what it keeps there, but then it kills browser at its leisure!

Phouchg said,

Works pretty well on desktop, doesn't it? Phone these days wants to be desktop and at times to replace desktop, but still works like an old feature phone - one thing at a time. Those are artificial limitations.
I'd probably subscribe to limited battery life explanation if most programs, in fact, didn't stay active anyway. That's why task killers are one of the most popular thing on Crapdroid (pre-ICS especially). And would you look at the list of what it's always having there - I'm not using the better half of what it keeps there, but then it kills browser at its leisure!

I see the problem here.

The mechanism I described is:

A) Not what multitasking is.
B) Not what desktops are doing.

Multitasking is: making you think what I described is what desktops are doing.

Multitasking has always been about tricking the user.

While it may be nit-picky...it would be lovely to have a little cross on the top left of the multitask windows to close them too...if they're improving multitasking...

UseLess said,
While it may be nit-picky...it would be lovely to have a little cross on the top left of the multitask windows to close them too...if they're improving multitasking...

Yes, now that tapping the tile doesn't restart the app, there needs to be a way to close it. I'm happy that the tile no longer restarts the app, though! Finally!

mrp04 said,

Yes, now that tapping the tile doesn't restart the app, there needs to be a way to close it. I'm happy that the tile no longer restarts the app, though! Finally!

It seems that by pressing the back button the app will still exit. The only difference is WP8 will keep track of the status of the active pinned app if the user navigates to the Start screen and launches the same app again. Currently, the same process would ALWAYS trigger a new instance.

It sounds like an excellent start to give task manager function to the Start screen by making it an active apps list (automatically pin active apps to Start in the future maybe?).

Why on earth would anyone think NOT starting a new instance of an app when opening an app not from a currently running process would be preferable? It's just people that don't understand proper UX whining about what THEY want, not what's right... This is not proper UX and more confusing than anything. I hope this isn't the case.

M_Lyons10 said,
Why on earth would anyone think NOT starting a new instance of an app when opening an app not from a currently running process would be preferable? It's just people that don't understand proper UX whining about what THEY want, not what's right... This is not proper UX and more confusing than anything. I hope this isn't the case.

It's not. This story is wrong, it's neowin. And you are right. The only way this could work is if there was a way to close apps like in Windows 8.

M_Lyons10 said,
....

Considering this is how apps work in Windows 8, I don't see them keeping the original Silverlight functionality.
Better to re-use.

Avatar Roku said,

It's not. This story is wrong, it's neowin. And you are right. The only way this could work is if there was a way to close apps like in Windows 8.

I'm glad to hear this. This has to be the most bizarre story I've read in a long time. I just cannot understand how the original article writer could think this is how it "should" be... lol

This would be a disaster.

So thank you for straightening that out for me.

greenwizard88 said,
Oh gosh that'll mess with the back button like nothing else.

It wouldn't mess with the back button at all, just like a long press on the back button to open the multitasking interface and selecting an app doesn't mess with the back button functionality either.

Think of it as an extension of the current multitasking interface, just accessible now also from another part of the system. It likely doesn't even involve that much code added to WP8 since it's basically using already pre-existing behavior and just adding one check to trigger it.

greenwizard88 said,
Oh gosh that'll mess with the back button like nothing else.

Not since nothing has changed, try this with your Mango device and see what happens.