Only two days after the announcement of Microsoft’s Surface tablet range (RT and Pro versions), they have at last formally announced Windows Phone 8, the successor to Windows Phone 7, a brilliant and underused smartphone OS. The ‘Apollo’ name has apparently been dropped, it’s just Windows Phone 8. I’m going to give you guys a run down on what’s been announced today.
With this main announcement, come many more exciting ones to do with the new OS. The most important of which being that WP8 and Windows 8 will have a shared Windows core, meaning many aspects of one OS will be easily transferable to another. I cannot stress enough how important this is for the OS… Windows 8 will be in most people’s homes in a few years’ time, so having Windows Phone so easy to make apps and design for… the number of apps is going to skyrocket. From the images I’ve seen, it looks like there will be no changes to the basic appearance of Windows Phones – they will all still have the standard 3 keys at the bottom, and a full capacitive touchscreen. The Windows key has been updated to the new look though, while the back and search buttons have also been changed to fit the theme.
There will also be, at last, multi-core support, although it could be argued that Windows Phones are optimised to run on single cores and so don’t need the extra one (or more). They claim to be focusing on battery life, so only dual core for now. I’m glad they’re focusing on battery life, it’s very important to me.
Two new high resolution screens were announced - 1280×768 and 1280×720 (on top of 800×480). There will also be MicroSD support, so for all of us wishing we had more storage space, we can upgrade if we want. IE10 will be built into the OS too, providing (presumably) a similar experience to that in Windows 8, which is certainly a good thing.
Furthermore, porting games is to be made much easier with native code support, meaning big name games such as Angry Birds Space and Draw Something are more likely to make their way over to WP8 in the future, and apparently, the best games will run better than ever before. Here’s hoping a little bit of Xbox mechanics is built in to the phones then. I suspect there may also be greater differences between what a top end WP8 phone can do and what a low end one can.
Near Field Communications (NFC) will also be built in, which is a nifty little feature that allows things to be done simply by holding your phone near something – such as a reader at a cafe – to pay for goods, or open a webpage, etc. Their goal is ‘to effectively replace the whole wallet’. Apparently, magazines can (after pressing the phone against them) offer the chance to push the content to the phone. Not sure why you’d want to do this, but it’s pretty cool. There is seemingly heavy ‘Wallet’ integration, with many applications, notably PayPal, only a tap away. I don’t think it’s available in the UK, but they mentioned that a Chase app is in the works, suggesting that there are many other big names already developing WP8 apps. Expect a big influx in apps (I believe they will work for WP7 too, touchwood). In app purchases is another related addition in WP8, and it’ll make buying on Amazon and eBay a lot simpler, while in other apps, upgrading to the ‘full’ version will be accessible via a PIN input.
Offline map support will be another nice touch, allowing users to download maps and use them even when they don’t have signal. Nokia’s mapping technology will be built in to support this. This doesn’t bode well for other OEMs – Nokia are clear Microsoft favourites. There is a hint that Office has changed considerably from the Mango version, which is something I was really hoping for. Office is one of the main attractions of Windows Phones for many people.
The start screen is also due a change! After going on about live tiles for quite a while, Microsoft explained that the new start screen is going to have large, medium and small tiles. Customisable to fit people’s tastes via a resize arrow on the usual customisation mode of the start screen. A great plan; I always needed to see more than the initial 8 apps! Below is the new start screen in action, looks good, no? They can be either standard size, a quarter of that size, or double as wide (same height). It now looks a lot more like Windows 8, with just as many tiles visible at once, and it looks a little less empty. I love it. Will the number of tile theme colours be increased? That is a the next BIG question to answer…
It’s nice to see that at last Microsoft are allowing for more customisability of the OS. This will make cheaper phones cheaper, and more expensive phones better, and OEMs will better be able to differentiate theirs, hopefully. This is a massive step in the mobile wars, and Microsoft’s rivals should take note, and some of the less determined OEMs of theirs (i.e. everyone but Nokia) should sit up too. LG may be regretting sitting out of the Windows Phone game if this is what it’s going to be like. I am certainly very excited, this looks like a fantastic future is coming for Windows Phone. But will people at last listen to reason, to the amazing UI experience and all the integrated Microsoft features and apps? We shall see.
On a final note, there is news on the Windows Phone 8 Update topic, and it’s that there is an update – Windows Phone 7.8 – which appears to make the most of the new start screen features, but obviously lacks other Windows Phone 8 functionality. This was to be expected, but it could be worse. Anyway, I’ll be looking at getting a Windows Phone 8 phone pretty sharpish anyway!
Any thoughts? Let me know below.