It has been a big week for Microsoft, with the introduction of its Windows Surface tablets on Monday, and now a sneak peek at Windows Phone 8. While the Surface tablets look great, Windows Phone 8 is something very exciting indeed.
Taking a similar approach to Apple and Google, Microsoft looked at a number of key aspects of the next version of Windows Phone, to help us understand what changes it will bring.
New Homescreen, New Look
Windows Phone’s look is changing. The two columns of Live Tiles will become four, but each Tile can be resized to your liking, meaning you can have one massive tile all across the screen, two mid-size ones, four little ones or a mixture of your choice.
This gives the user the chance to completely customise the look, based on which apps and services they use the most. Microsoft has released a brilliant video showing the changes in detail, and its flexibility should win it a lot of new fans. If you like the old look you can have it, but if you want a mass of information on screen at the same time, you can have that too.
Microsoft’s outdated hardware restrictions have been lifted and new Windows Phone 8 devices will have dual-core processors, higher definition screens, NFC and the chance to add more memory with a microSD card.
The new screen resolutions include the standard 480 x 800, plus 1280 x 768 and 1280 x 720, both of which qualify as 720p, and vary only in screen ratio. This should make those ever-changing Live Tiles look fantastic.
New Software Means New Apps
Windows Phone 8 has a lot in common with the desktop iteration of Windows 8, and apps which work on one platform will be a breeze to convert over to the other, so we can expect the Windows Marketplace to grow at an even faster rate as the year comes to a close.
NFC and Mobile Payments
Windows Phone 8 will have a new NFC Hub, where credit cards and store cards can be kept in a new Wallet app, ready to make real-life purchases (eventually), and interestingly, virtual ones inside the Marketplace too. Microsoft’s Wallet app even supports a new in-app purchase system.
NFC will make it easy to share files too, with a tap between compatible devices being all that’s needed.
Skype and Multitasking
Microsoft has integrated Skype into Windows Phone 8, making incoming calls through the VoIP service look just like regular calls, plus both it and location services now run in the background.
Nokia Maps will replace Bing Maps, which is great news for non-Nokia Windows Phone users, plus the virtual assistant has been improved and opened up to developers, allowing them to build voice control into their apps. Finally, Microsoft has pledged to continue supporting Windows Phone 8 hardware with updates for at least 18 months.
Even after this brief look, Windows Phone 8 appears to be a big step forward over the previous version, and the hardware changes are positive too, allowing phones to at least keep pace with the competition. Sadly, Microsoft still hasn’t provided an exact release date, so we’re working on a rumoured autumnal launch. It really can’t come soon enough.