The One Thing Windows Phone Phablets Really Need (Hint: Not Apps)

What could a Windows Phone phablet bring to the table? I just have one feature on my wishlist.

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Nokia / TIME Tech Illustration
Nokia / TIME Tech Illustration

Although it’s not official yet, Nokia’s six-inch Windows Phone looks like it’s happening for sure.

We’ve been hearing whispers about this Windows Phone “phablet” for months, and it’s been the subject of even more rumors lately. The Verge reports that the device — codenamed Bandit — will ship in September with a quad-core processor, a 20-megapixel (or more) camera, and support for AT&T’s network. WPCentral has published a purported photo of the device, whose final name may be the Nokia Lumia 1520.

Oversized smartphones are not a new concept, and Samsung proved long ago with its Galaxy Note line that there’s a big market for these devices. The question is what Windows Phone can bring to the table.

I just have one feature on my wishlist: Let’s see Microsoft bring Snap view to Windows Phone phablets.

Snap view is already my favorite feature of Windows 8, by far. It allows you to run any two apps side-by-side, with each app seamlessly adapting to the screen space it’s given. For instance, you can have your Twitter feed open in a sidebar while playing a game, or keep a calculator within reach while editing a spreadsheet. (Microsoft is making Snap even more useful in Windows 8.1, allowing three apps to be snapped at the same time, and letting you set them to any size.)



Snap View in Windows 8

Snap would be a killer feature on Windows Phones, especially large ones like Nokia’s upcoming phablet. Imagine being able to reference an e-mail or web page while editing a document in mobile Office, or being able to text with a friend while playing a game of Halo: Spartan Assault. It’d be the perfect way to make use of that extra screen space.

Samsung already offers a similar feature on its Android-based Galaxy phones, called Multi Window, but it’s not as refined as Snap on Windows 8. If you try to set up Gmail as a sidebar, for example, everything becomes squished to the point of uselessness, particularly in landscape mode. In Twitter, messages get cut off if you don’t give them close to half the screen. In portrait mode, menu tabs and buttons end up hogging too much of the screen. The apps don’t really adapt to their allotted screen space in a clever way like they do in Windows 8, and a lot of apps just aren’t supported at all. If Windows Phone 8 had system-wide support for Snap view, it could be a major differentiator.



Samsung Multi Window

I realize this probably isn’t going to be a feature of Nokia’s phablet. If it was, the rumors would have said so by now. (One thing we have heard about, at least, is an extra row of Live Tiles on the Start screen.)

But it’s not a pipe dream either. There’s been lots of talk about convergence between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, and both operating systems now share a common core. Even Microsoft has pitched app developers on writing for both operating systems at once, with a stated goal of converging its development tools.

Over time, the line between Microsoft’s phone and tablet operating systems will blur, and it’ll make sense for them to share more features–especially on larger phones and smaller tablets. Snap is a prime candidate, and the one thing that’ll make me seriously consider a Windows Phone phablet.