Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 8 in June this year. Windows Phone 8 is essentially a new generation of the operating system that will be made available in later half of 2012. All previous version of Windows Phone operating systems had Windows CE based architecture at the core, but with Windows Phone 8, Microsoft will be moving on to Windows NT kernel and will have many of its components taken from Windows 8, thus allowing applications to be easily ported between the two platforms.
With Windows Phone 8, the operating system will start supporting larger resolution screens, together with 1280×720 and 1280×768 resolutions. Currently, with Windows Phone 7, Microsoft requires the phone to be having a screen resolution of 800×480. Windows Phone 8 will also support multi core processors, something which is missing in Windows Phone 7 and the competition already has it, so it is a welcome move. Most of the newer smartphones are opting for a new technology called NFC, which can mainly be used for sharing content and make payments.
While Windows Phone 8 does have a completely new architecture, it is backward compatible, meaning all the Windows Phone 7 apps will run just fine on Windows Phone 8. Support for removable storage will be improved to a great extent and will function in a way similar to how Android does. Interface wise, the home screen has been redesigned to include resizable tiles throughout the screen. There will be Nokia Maps integration for Nokia phones of course, a new Wallet hub that will incorporate NFC payments, coupon websites such as Groupon, and loyalty cards. The core feature of the OS will be its close integration with VoIP applications. Few new features aimed at the enterprise market include BitLocker encryption, device management and the ability to create a private marketplace using which users can dispense apps to their personnel. These enterprise features are anticipated to meet or surpass the enterprise abilities of the earlier Windows Mobile platform. Over the air updates are turning into a norm in the smartphone market these days, and all Windows Phone 8 devices are slated to receive OTA updates at least 18 months after their release, which should help to prevent the phone from being obsolete.
Recently, a website called WP7.hu laid its hand on a huge number of screen captures that were shot from a leaked Windows Phone 8 SDK emulator. These screenshots reveal a lot of new Windows Phone 8 features, some of which are very interesting.
Some of the features that caught our attention were “Backup” settings. The new backup setting lets you synchronize your stuff with Microsoft’s cloud service automatically. It will sync with Microsoft ID that is attached with the device. As seen in the screenshot above, you can select what should be included and excluded from the backup. First option shows “app list + settings”. This option will basically let you reinstall your apps on a new Windows Mobile 8 phone. Apart from installing the app itself, it will also restore settings related to it. We assume it will also allow you to resume games and progress from where you had stopped on another phone. Second option is for backing up text messages. Older Windows Mobile had a range of options to backup text messages, and it will be present on Windows Phone 8 too. Perhaps there may also be cloud service or desktop app using which you can send texts via your smartphone.
The third option is “photos + videos”, selecting which the phone will synchronize all the photos and videos in the phone with your cloud service account. There was an auto upload option available in Windows Phone 7 as well, however, there were few limitations, including it down sampling the images while also using a lot of battery power and cellular data. We hope all that has been addressed with this version of Windows Phone. Microsoft can perhaps allow full resolution images to be uploaded and do so only when the phone is hooked up with a wifi connection so that battery isn’t drained in the process, however, we are not sure how Microsoft has done things this time.
Next thing which caught our attention was the newly designed lock screen customization options. The new lock screen allows you to select which 5 app notification numbers you want the phone to show at the bottom of the lock screen so that you can have a quick status of those 5 apps. Apart from this, you can also select one app from which you want the phone to display detailed information on the lock screen. These options are very similar to what we say on Beta version of Windows 8. With the new wallpaper background image option, you can select an image that will be used as wallpaper. You can select the background image from your library, Skydrive, and Facebook photo albums. Apart from these options, you can also select “bing” to get your background image. Selecting bing option will automatically change the background image with that supplied by bing daily. Final version may also have background images changing at periodic intervals, just like what we have seen on Windows 7.
With all manufacturers moving towards speech based features, Windows Phone 8 also wants to stay in the competition. We already know that Microsoft has added options which will enable 3rd party apps to add voice commands using the central speech UI in Windows Phone 8, which is, with no doubt, an awesome feature, but the sad part is that we didn’t see many new native voice command features. From the screenshot, we can definitely make out that the user can compile an OneNote note using speech, but apart from that, the feature hasn’t been used extensively. We couldn’t find any way in which music player could be controlled using speech, which would be a great feature to have while driving so that things don’t turn killer. Speech hasn’t be used for creating appointments, built-in navigation features or setting alarms either. May be those features will be added in the final version.
Looking at these screen shots, the future of Windows Phone 8 looks promising. It is worth nothing that the screen shots were from Windows Phone SDK which includes only developer oriented features and APIs so that developers can test their applications to be compatible with final release. Besides this, the leaked image of emulator is mostly an old build and the final one will have lot of additional features and may look completely different. I’m sure this is just a trailer and there’s more coming our way.
It should be noted that phones running Windows Phone 7 won’t be upgraded to Windows Phone 8, hence current Windows phones won’t be able to take advantage of newly designed features, however, Microsoft will back port few features from Windows Phone 8 to Windows Phone 7, including the redesigned home screen. The update will come in the form of Windows Phone 7.8.
Windows Phone currently enjoys less than 3% of the market shares while Apple enjoys the highest at 34% with the iPhone. With the launch of Windows Phone 8, things are slated to change. Let us know using comment form below if you are waiting for Windows Phone 8 and will it be part of your shopping bag when launched?