After months of tinkering, trying to cram data points, charts and other visualizations produced by Power BI into iPhone and Android handset screens, Microsoft has finally announced the general availability of phone-optimized Power BI reports.
Enabling users to accesses the company's cloud-based business intelligence (BI) software and analytics service on the go is a priority for Microsoft. Last summer, the company launched customizable phone dashboards, followed by the fall release of a Power BI mobile report experience that renders well on the small screens of Apple iPhones, various Android phones and Windows 10 mobile devices.
Now, with a new update to the Power BI Desktop authoring software, users can craft reports that look at home smartphone displays.
"With Phone reports you can specifically tailor a portrait view of your existing report on Power BI Desktop for mobile viewers," said Romi Koifman, a Microsoft Power BI program manager, in a Jan. 10 announcement. "With this update, everyone can create report views optimized for phones, to enhance the experience of viewing Power BI reports on phones."
A new layout option allows users to drag and drop Power BI visualizations onto a canvas that represents a phone. Users can then resize and reorder the visualizations to suit their needs before a report is published. In the official release of the feature, Microsoft has added the ability to scroll, allowing users to create reports containing up to 20 rows of information.
To help mobile users spot the phone-optimized reports faster, Microsoft has added a new icon that appears in the mobile app's report index as well as in search results. It resembles the regular icon depicting a bar chart, but adds an image of a smartphone to help users distinguish between desktop and mobile reports.
Report headers and footers containing menu items and other tools now collapse, sliding out of view while users scroll through their reports. According to Koifman, this allows Power BI to dedicate more of the screen to the contents of a report, helping users focus on their data. A simple tap of the screen or scrolling in an upward direction restores the all the user interface (UI) elements.
Another tweak to the UI enables iOS and Android users to refresh their reports—Power BI can be used to create static visualizations as well as ones that update on a real-time or on-demand basis—by simply tugging or scrolling down on the screen. (Windows 10 mobile users must hit the refresh icon.) Also on the iOS and Android versions of the app, users can now directly annotate phone reports or specific visualizations and share them.
Finally, Microsoft has included some improvements aimed at helping users spend less time hunting for visualizations as they craft phone reports.
Power BI Desktop's visualization pane is now scrollable, allowing users to view all available visualizations while working in the phone layout mode. Additionally, the visualization previews in the authoring pane appear zoomed-in, reducing eye strain and helping users find the content they're looking for faster.