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Microsoft Unveils Windows Phone 8

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Microsoft has revealed a host of details about its upcoming mobile phone operating system, Windows Phone 8. There's plenty of new stuff so the easiest way to look at it is to split it up into hardware and software.

Hardware
The list of new hardware features that will be supported is as follows:

  • Multi-core processors
  • NFC
  • MicroSD
  • Up to 720p HD Screens
  • Secure payment system embedded on SIM card
  • No upgrades for existing hardware.

Windows Phone 8

The first four of these upgrades are hugely significant as they address the key areas that have meant that, at least for enthusiasts, Windows Phone simply hasn't been worth a look because of its behind-the-times hardware, despite handsets like the Nokia Lumia 800 being beautifully made. Now the handsets can compete on screen quality, processor speed and there's even an element of upgradeability there with the microSD support. It's not clear yet whether the microSD will be hot swappable but simply having the option to cheaply add extra storage to your phone is a huge boon, and significant a fillip in the fight against Apple as the iPhone lacks this feature.

The flip side to all these upgrades is the sad news that no existing hardware will be compatible with the new software. While there will be a degree of continuation down to the interface still looking and feeling familiar, current users may be put off by this lack of continued support.

Windows Phone 8 6

As for the secure payment system, with the new software supporting NFC hardware, the phone will be able to use the phone-based payment systems that are starting to gain traction. And, somewhat ingeniously Microsoft has made it so your payment details can be hot swapped from phone to phone along with your SIM.

Software
  • Customisable Live Tiles
  • Move to new Windows Core kernel
  • Existing apps supported
  • Windows Phone 7.8 update for existing users
  • Skype and VOIP integration
  • Nokia Maps to replace Bing Maps
  • IE 10
  • On-device encryption
  • Private marketplace

Windows Phone 8 5 Windows Phone 8 4

The big visible change to Windows Phone 8 is a new homescreen with customisable Live Tiles. The new style screen will allow for three different tile sizes (up from two previously) and allows the user to pick which to go for. The gap on the right edge that used to have the indicator for bringing up the main app menu has now disappeared, providing more onscreen space for tiles. Developers will also be allowed to create custom large tiles, something which was previously only available to OEMs.

Next on the visibility list is that Nokia Maps will now be at the core of the Windows Phone mapping experience, replacing Bing Maps. The advantages here are that Nokia Maps already has a much better world coverage and supports offline usage

Windows Phone 8

Microsoft has confirmed all existing apps will be supported despite a complete change of the kernel upon which the software is built. Because the new kernel is based on the Windows NT kernel it will also support many more desktop-style systems, making for much easier integration of enterprise software, as well as adding multi-core processor support and encryption. Enterprises will also be able to create their own private marketplace for quickly and easily distributing software within a company.

Windows Phone 8 1 Windows Phone 8 3

Another underlying tweak is that Skype and other VOIP services will now be integrated into the core workings of the phone, allowing users to use these services as though they were just making a normal call or sending a regular text message.

All told, it sounds like this update will finally put Windows Phone on the map, giving it true parity in terms of features with iOS and Android. And with support hardware features like Nokia's 808 PureView 41MP camera also expected to feature on upcoming Windows Phone hardware, the future likes rosy indeed.

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