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Windows Phone 8 Features

The first details of Windows Phone 8 (a.k.a. Apollo) have been confirmed by Microsoft and many of the rumors that sprang from the Windows Phone Summit have been confirmed. There’s still a lot of unknowns, but what we do know is pretty exciting.

Apps

Windows Phones are up to 100,000 Apps and more are being added every day. Top Apps include PayPal support for Wallet, Words with Friends, and Draw Something.

Windows 7 Apps will work on new Windows 8 Phones, but it won’t work the other way around. Future App developers can either create an app with only Windows 7 features and have it work on both platforms or create one with Windows 8 features and have it limited to that OS.

Interface

The new Start screen that uses the whole width of the screen will be available on new and current handsets. More tiles will fit on this new screen, and they can be 3 different sizes. Tiles that don’t have a lot of useful information can be shrunk down to take up less space while still being accessible from the home screen.

On the other hand, some tiles might not be able to display enough information at the standard size. These can now be enlarged to fit more details.

Color schemes have also been updated, but the overall look hasn’t changed too drastically.

The Tech-y Stuff

Windows Phone 8 is a major new version, running from Windows rather than from Windows CE.

Although Windows RT also runs on ARM processors, Windows Phone 8 is not the same as RT. Metro-style WinRT apps won’t be able to run on Windows Phone 8. There are also differences between Windows Phone 8 and the big Windows 8, but developing is similar. Several key components are taken from Windows 8 but there are significant new features and hardware.

User experience and battery life are still top priorities for Windows phone and all apps (even native ones) run in a sandbox.

Games/Media

Audio, graphics and media playback all work more like their Windows equivalents, which should make for more powerful games and entertainment apps.

Current games should (and most likely will) be redone to use all the features available on the new platform. 3D Angry Birds, anyone?

Video calling

Windows Phone 8 takes the cake when it comes to Video Calling. VOIP calls will have all the same notifications and features as regular phone calls.

Skype integration should run pretty deep since it’s already available as an app. That isn’t to say other VOIP apps won’t get the same support , Skype is just the front-runner in most opinions.

Then there’s the rumor that Xbox will be next to support video calling. Could be a big year for Microsoft video calling…

Microsoft Wallet

The new Microsoft Wallet app will allow you to make payments by tapping your phone on a credit card reader the way Google Wallet does, and store credit card and membership details securely and tap your phone to send them the way iOS 6 will.

This app will also allow for using PayPal which means users aren’t limited to Microsoft payment services. It can hold digital coupons, debit cards, credit cards, loyalty cards, and third party apps.

NFC support

NFC is there for Microsoft’s Wallet payment system, but has other options as well. The OS supports secure SIM, which means users’ can swap from handset to handset and take their payment method with them physically.

There are other applications that Nokia is keen to utilise as well, such as being able to pair with its Bluetooth accessories with a simple tap of the phone – it’s a trick we’ve seen on the old Symbian phones and one we expect to feature heavily here too.

Speech Commands

Thanks to a team effort with Audible, Microsoft has speech recognition that allows users to command new handsets with their voice. Some key options are starting movies, browsing audiobooks, and of course, performing searches.

This is available for Mango devices in the Marketplace. Might be worth checking out!

Windows Phone 8 upgrades

That’s the reason that you won’t be able to upgrade any existing Windows Phone handsets to 8, because they don’t have the hardware to support the new features or deliver the multitasking performance that the Windows kernel and the improved VOIP support needs.

Only two of the rumoured new resolutions are being announced, both widescreen formats: 1280 by 768 and 1280 by 720 as well as the current 800 by 480, which should give phone makers more flexibility when it comes to choosing parts they can use in multiple devices.

And Windows Phone finally sorts out its SD card support; you’ll be able to store media files on a micro SD card or install applications onto it.

Release Date

While “Autumn” is the only official release date being given by Microsoft, Windows Phone 8 will probably be released at the beginning of the season rather than around December. Although a Holiday-present-buying-time release could be a smart move…

The good news is that you won’t have to wait for updates. The bad news is that you must accept all responsibility if something goes wrong. Microsoft is still agreeing details with the operators and handset makers for Windows Phone 7.8, but there’s going to be a way to get updates directly from Microsoft.

All in all, the updates look good and the phone functionality has greatly improved. Now all they need to do is sell the handsets… Minor details, right?

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