After unveiling Microsoft Surface a few days ago, the company’s first Windows-based tablet, Microsoft on Thursday introduced Windows Phone 8 during the Windows Phone 8 Summit event. Alongside the recently announced iOS 6, WP8 will the main adversary of Android Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean. That’s why we’re going to take a look at the main 8 features of WP8, as presented by Microsoft’s engineers and see what this next-gen mobile platform will have to offer.
After that, we invite you to answer our newest poll – are you impressed with Windows Phone 8?
Before we delve into the main Windows Phone 8 features, you’ll have to know that there’s a big difference between Microsoft’s mobile OS and the competition. The company has developed a Shared Windows Core comprised of certain components including the kernel, networking support, file system, multimedia, graphics support and others, which will be similar for various Windows-based devices, whether notebooks and destops, tablets or smartphones. In other words, Microsoft’s mobile and desktop operating system are a lot more intertwined than Android and Chrome or iOS 6 and OS X.
With Shared Windows Core, Microsoft hopes to offer similar experiences for end-users, developers and hardware makers alike, allowing them to make a smooth, easy transition from a Windows 8 device to a WP8 device. With that in mind, let’s take a look of what WP8 will have to offer!
Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 7.5 smartphones have been optimized to support only devices ready to abide to a strict Microsoft hardware cookbook. By imposing certain restraints on OEMs when it comes to hardware choices, Microsoft tried to make sure upcoming WP smartphones would be upgradeable to future software versions and prevent the kind of software fragmentation seen in the Android ecosystem. That meant, among other things, that OEMs were only able to use single-core processors on their WP7 or WP7.5 smartphones and offer only one kind of display resolution.
Starting with WP8, Microsoft will support dual- and multi-core chipsets, therefore future WP8 devices will probably be similar to current Android and iOS devices when it comes to hardware choices. Moreover, Microsoft will offer support for two additional resolutions, 1280 x 768 and 1280 x 720, in addition to the default 800 x 480. Old and new apps will work on any kind of display, no matter whether developers adapt their graphics to support the higher resolutions or not
Finally, WP8 will support memory upgrades via microSD cards, a feature plenty of WP users are probably looking forward to.
Microsoft says the browser is faster than similar products from competing devices including the Samsung Galaxy S3, the HTC One X and the iPhone 4S.
Windows 8 and WP8 will share a common platform which developers will be able to use in order to create various apps that would work out-of-the-box on both operating systems. The feature will be all the more important for game developers which will be able to sell their creations to both Windows 8 and WP8 device owners. The native code feature will certainly help Microsoft increase the number of applications available in its WP digital store, as well as decrease the workload for developers interested in bringing their iOS and Android products to Microsoft’s platforms.
Both Windows 8 and WP8 will support DirectX and common gaming drivers, which means, at least in theory, that graphics-rich apps and games should work flawlessly both on PCs and on phones.
WP8 will come with NFC support, but the technology will not be used only to enable mobile payments (more on that later) but to let users share stuff between their devices thanks to near field communication tech. NFC support will allow app developers to add another layer of interactivity to their apps and users will only have to tap their devices to initiate apps and games or share content with others.
Microsoft seems to believe that it can do mobile payment a lot better than everyone else in the game and the company is ready to work with carriers to support various mobile payment solutions.
WP8 will support credit and debit cards, loyalty and membership cards and it will keep a history of your saved deals in an attempt to replace your physical wallet. Moreover, the wallet will offer third-party apps integration and it will deal with WP8 apps and in-apps purchases. The Wallet Hub will be available on all WP8 device henceforward, but it’s will be up to carriers to provide secure SIMs that will enable actual NFC-based mobile payment functions. ISIS support is coming in 2013, although Microsoft is not willing to share more details at this time on the matter
Just like Apple did a few weeks ago for iOS 6, Microsoft has announced its own mapping application for its next-gen mobile OS. Unsurprisingly, the map app will be provided by Nokia. The WP8 maps app will support global NAVTEQ Map data, offline maps and turn-by-turn directions, while developers will get a “map control” feature that will let them integrate offline WP8 maps in their apps. In case you were wondering, 3D maps support will not be available at this time.
Apparently Microsoft is aware that WP handsets are not popular in the enterprise environment, and that’s why the company plans to bring several business features to WP8 including encryption and secure boot, LOB (line of business) app deployment and device management support. Its suite of Office apps should also come in handy to business users.
“The sexiest thing in Windows Phone 8” is the Start screen according to Microsoft’s WP guru Joe Belfiore, the engineer that unveiled WP8 on stage during the media event. The company decided to change the Start screen in WP8 and offer users and even better overall experience. The Start screen, that uses the live tile-based Metro UI, has been redesigned to accommodate even more tiles. How did Microsoft pull it off? Users will be able customize the size of the tiles and personalize the Start screen in order to better accommodate their needs.
Belfiore made it clear that there are plenty of other features we won’t see at this time, so in case WP8 sounds interesting, you’ll have to wait for the company to ship it. The bad news for existing WP7 and WP7.5 device owners is that they won’t be able to upgrade to WP8 when it’s finally launched. Instead they’re going to be able to upgrade to WP7.8, an OS version that will bring them only certain features from WP8.
We have no actual release date for WP8 at this time, but we do know that Nokia, Samsung, HTC, and Huawei are among the OEMs that will launch WP8 handsets this fall.