The reduction in the number of starting Aspects is a Good Thing(tm). I've been head-down with Strands of Fate for a while now (particularly adapting Tribe 8) and I have found that the "Aspect Alphabet" can seem a little too much. Reducing the number, and tying a good many of them to other portions of character creation, seems like it would go a long way toward helping people who get stuck on Aspects. As usual, the advice on Aspects in general is top notch (which is what I'd expect from Evil Hat).
I still have a few reservations about "the phase trio", but I can't really put my finger on them. Since first reading about the concept in Spirit of the Century, I haven't been able to quantify exactly why either. Tying together PCs has always been a sticky point in games, and I've played in plenty where one or more PCs just have no connection to the others and it dragged the entire game down. An alternative beyond the cliche being in the same unit, or being forced to work together, or any other forced relationship between the PCs is awesome. Yet, the Phase Trio seems almost too forced. Phase one is not the problem, it's both Phases Two and Three being crossing paths. I'm thinking I might not enforce it so strictly, but allow for Phase Two (or even Three) to take a step back.
A good example of what I'm talking about is a guy I work with, who we'll call Che (because that's his name). When he started working here we quickly found out that not only were we in Marine Corps Boot Camp at nearly the exact same time (he went in a couple weeks later, so he wound up in the next company over) but we were in the same company in School of Infantry. Mind, there are 4 platoons in a company; we were in the same barracks but different squad bays. We fell out onto the same stretch of parade deck every morning, went to the chow hall at the same time, and did the much of the same training. We had to have rubbed shoulders or exchanged a few words at some point. But neither one of us remember it because I was injured and discharged, and he went on to Desert Storm. Yet we wound up sitting one cubicle away from each other, 20 years later. So I guess the tweak I'm thinking of is having at least Phase Two represent something more vague ("Served in the same company"), and even allowing the order to be mixed up a bit (maybe Phase Two happened first, then Phase One, then Phase Two). This allows for a little more flexibility in accommodating character backgrounds. More than likely the stock method implicitly supports this type of mixing things up, so it's hardly a big deal.
Tomorrow I'll dig deeper into the mechanical workings of character creation and the tweaks that they've made to Fate.