Microsoft’s Windows 8 platform has been one of the highlights of this year and we got a peek into the Windows 8 operating system for PC, tablet, hybrid and phone. The software giant made its entry into the mobile world a little late and earlier versions of its Windows Phone OS didn’t impress much. There were several reasons why the earlier versions including Windows Phone 7 failed. While Android and iOS dished out massive improvements, Windows Phone 7 had a poor hardware and software support that was limited to single core processor, screen resolution that expanded only up to 480 x 800 and limited SD card support. But, Windows Phone 8 is back with a vengeance as Microsoft has left no stone unturned to impress the masses and critics. If you plan to switch to WP8 phone, then here’s what you need to know about it.
- The Windows Phone 8 device will greet you with an all-new homescreen that is more personal and customisable. The highly acclaimed tile-style UI gets livelier and the tiles can be controlled to display only those things that matter the most, while other content can take a backseat.
- You don’t just control what to display but also how your tile looks. Live tiles get more flexible with three different sizes (small, medium and large), themes and multiple colours. The medium tile is the same size of the square in WP7, the small tile is one quarter of that size and the large one is two times the medium tile. So you can adjust the tile as per your need.
- Microsoft also adds new, higher resolution screen support – 1280 x 768 and 1280 x 720 – to spruce up your viewing experience.
Live, resizable, colourful tile-style UI
- Windows Phone 8 supports new hardware, which brings in support for multiple cores and higher screen resolution. Talking about smartphones, dual cores are almost becoming a norm while quad core smartphones have been on a rise. The lack of such support was one of the major reasons why WP7 didn’t take off that well. Unlike WP7, Windows Phone 8 won't just support multi-core processors; Microsoft has left no stone unturned by making it future ready to support 64 cores.
- Microsoft partnered with Qualcomm to provide SoCs for initial Windows Phone handsets from harware partners. It used Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Plus SoCs, the actual chipset is said to be MSM8960, which packs in two Krait-based CPU cores running anywhere between 1.5GHz and 1.7GHz. However, Microsoft doesn’t restrict it to only Qualcomm anymore.
- The new hardware supports NFC for mobile payments. Moreover, there’s a feature called Tap + Send especially crafted to take advantage of Windows Phone 8's NFC hardware support; it is similar to the Android bean, which allows transfers by simply holding both the devices against each other.
- The new Windows 8 kernel fends off the SD card limitations too. It brings full SD card support, which means you can remove the card to load and share data with others/other devices.
- Windows marketplace isn’t as large as iOS and Android app markets, but Microsoft is trying really hard to improve its users’ app-ing experience. During the Windows Phone 8 announcement in June, Microsoft had revealed the official Audible app for audiobooks, official Chase and PayPal in works and had spoken about a list of popular apps that are in preps for Windows Phone 8 such as Asphalt 7: Heat, Zynga’s Words with Friends and Draw Something.
- Microsoft has renamed its marketplace to Windows Phone Store. The company has also overhauled search and now it comes with smarter recommendations.
- The kernel of the Windows Phone 8 is similar to Windows 8 that runs on desktops, laptops, hybrids or tablets. This will make app development simpler. However, this doesn’t mean that the same apps work “cross platform”, and there is no common app store.
- Windows Phone 8 users will be able to stream, purchase and subscribe to Xbox music. This new competitor to iTunes, Amazon, Pandora, Spotify and likewise will let users access and stream their music anywhere and anytime for $10, which is approximately Rs. 52 per month. Though there is no Indian announcement yet, considering Zune Pass had been launched for India, it could be launched for Indian users later.
- Microsoft has taken care to keep critics at bay by ditching its own maps for Windows Phone 8 and opting for Nokia Maps. Nokia Maps offers better experience and Nokia Lumia users can obviously reap some more benefits with some exclusive features added just for them. A recent leaked Nokia video shows Instagram icon for Windows Phone and reportedly Instagram for Windows Phone will be made available by the end of the year.
For your IT needs
- With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft plans for a workplace experience with more features that companies and IT departments require. For businesses and enterprises, it will come with built-in on-device encryption technology. It will encrypt the entire device, including the operating system and the data files, so that your documents and passwords are kept safe.
- Microsoft will also add support for device management, internal line-of-business software and apparently a private marketplace for application distribution in the enterprise.
- Windows Phone 8 provides additional support for security features to help prevent unauthorised firmware, operating systems or UEFI drivers from running at boot time. It provides improved app “sandboxing,” so the phone is better protected from malware with multiple layers of security.
Upgrading to Windows Phone 8
As we have seen, Windows Phone 8 works on new hardware support and is a complete generation shift, so obviously if you are using earlier versions of Windows Phone, you cannot upgrade to Windows Phone 8. The only way out is to buy a brand new Windows Phone 8 device, which is a major drawback for existing users. To keep its existing Windows Phone users happy, Microsoft has tweaked in a new version that will give them the Windows Phone 8 start screen; it’s called Windows Phone 7.8.
If you love hoarding data, then SkyDrive will come to the rescue. You can store all those photos, videos and essential data online with Microsoft's SkyDrive integrated right into Windows Phone 8
- Microsoft will be including a lens app that will give your photos Instagram-like style with various filters. You can use the panoramic lens to stitch together lots of single images into one large image.
- The new Bing Vision included is programmed to function a lot like Google Goggles. Users just have to photograph an object and Bing will search and identify it.
- Windows Phone 8 will also bring the ability to capture screenshots.
- Google has NFC and Apple has Passbook, Microsoft adds both. Along with NFC, it will feature a new digital Wallet feature to store your debit and credit cards, coupons, boarding passes and other important info right at your fingertips.
- Windows Phone 8 is said to support around 50 languages and up to 180 countries.
- Windows Phone 8 users will get OTA updates and won’t have to update their phone by connecting it to the PC.
Windows Phone 8 handsets
Firstly, Nokia is not Microsoft’s premium launch partner for Windows Phone 8. We will be seeing Windows Phone 8 devices from several manufacturers. Samsung showed off its Ativ-S WP8-enabled phone at IFA whereas HTC’s 8X and 8S can be called devices offering “purest experience” of Windows Phone 8, almost like equivalents of Android-based Nexus. The HTC 8X is already available for pre-order on Best Buy. Microsoft is also said to officially launch the Windows Phone 8 experience for users across the world on October 29 in a press conference in San Francisco. Slowly, several manufacturers will start unveiling their WP8 devices. A lot is at stake for Microsoft as it attempts to bounce back into the mobile world; let's see if Windows Phone 8 helps it take off.