Windows Phone 8 had a lot of speculation even prior to the release of Windows Phone Mango. Eager bloggers and enthusiasts alike salivated at every single new tip or detail that came across the net that would give a piece to the proverbial Windows Phone puzzle. Unlike Mango, which was leaked ahead of schedule, Apollo had us grasping for straws. So much like the Surface event, many were eager to see if the leaks corroborated to what Microsoft had in mind. And to our surprise, they did. But, in typical Microsoft fashion, several new curveballs were added that leaves us stunned. If you missed out on any of it, why not take a read of some of the most important changes to Windows Phone. Save from lack of upgrades for current devices that is.
Updated Hardware requirement
The leaks were right on the money here. We have some hardware to boast about! A new change in kernel (from Windows Embed Compact to Windows NT), which brings a panoply of changes. Dual core support (and beyond), two new resolutions (1280×720 and 1280×768) with continued support for 800×480, and the return of MicroSD slots as a form of storage. All good things for us spec happy folks. While we’d love to know the RAM, camera capabilities, the GPU of Windows Phone 8 (praying for Adreno 320) and base NAND storage options, this is more than enough for now isn’t it?
YES ADRENO 305 AND QUALCOM S4 PLUS IS ON BOARD! THANK YOU MICROSOFT
Internet Explorer 10
Not much to be said here because it was a given that Internet Explorer (IE) 10 would be bundled on all Windows Phones, just as it has been bundled on all Microsoft Windows Mobile operating systems. However, continuing the cue from Windows Phone 7, it is more closely like the desktop Windows 8 experience. SmartScreen, antiphishing, and html 5 are the key improvements over Windows Phone Mango and Tango.
The current SunSpider benchmark is ranked at 1,200ms in comparison to the Ice Cream Sandwich Samsung GS III which only touts about 1,460ms. Interesting developments.
Developers Developers DEVELOPERS will be happy with this. Windows Phone programs have been sandboxed since it’s platform revival in 2010, missing out on some crucial gaming and applications that are on other platforms. Now, native makes a triumphant return to Windows Phone and Windows (they do share a common platform) based on DirectX. The take away message is if you make games for Windows 8, you can make the same game or app on Windows Phone 8. Microsoft also touts a lot of new partners, and HAVOC engine which will bring a new breed of games to the Windows Phone and Windows platform. Now, with all of that said, does this mean Sonic CD and possibly the Chaos Rings series is coming to a Windows Phone near you? Let’s hope.
NFC and wallet experience
Okay, it’s a lock. Android has it. Apple will probably have it as well. And now so does Windows. However the way NFC is done is through a special sim card (some tech that we’ve seen last year) to power NFC. Now whether OEMs will also bundle NFC on board is anyone’s guess, but it’s a good thing. Now how that plays with Windows 8 hardware or the rest of Microsoft’s ecosystem is a good guess. We’ll let you know. Probably.
One huge aspect that Microsoft has been very open arms with is the wallet experience. In sum, it’s similar to both Android and Apple solutions while appearing to have some more basic control versus the other platforms by taking the best of both worlds approach.
Offline mapping solution? Check. 3D views? Check. Turn by Turn directions (which actually work)? check. Global mapping data? Super huge check! This is what Nokia’s marriage to Windows Phone brings to the end user. Let’s just say better maps is something all Windows Phones users have been praying for ages. Even down to using the most insane solutions to get a good mapping system. Kudos to that!
Business essentials that don’t suck
The largest hangup for business users is the lack of encryption, lack of viable options, and generally a poorer business experience than established platforms. Being frank, this is something Joe Belfiore went at length to explain the changes for our favorite platform. Secure boot and encryption, local application development and signing to customers (no more Microsoft seal of approval) and of course the same Windows Core we have come to know and love. How can you not like that? Unless you hate metro…
A new beginning – a new metro start menu
Okay, it’s not THAT new. We still get the metro live tiles that we know and love. But unlike our handsets we have now, we also get the ability to resize live tiles in three sizes. The normal square appearance, the normal appearance we are accustomed to, and now a double sided live tile. There are also some new color schemes that will be provided to the end user. But not a lot of mention of folders sadly. But is it needed now you can resize live tiles? Also gone is the arrow that alerts you to swipe across to the list view. Sadly there is no new notification system (it makes us sad too) but we can hope some developers can help with that one.
The hold back button that brings up the task switcher actually has a purpose now, in terms of multitasking. It could be the final demise of living on a pause system where you still have momentary loading. The new change of course brings us to Android level (or Windows Mobile) level of multitasking which we hope is done right and has a lot of room for multitasking in Windows Phone. But hey, we can only hope right?
Well, there’s quite a bit more to be veyr happy with Windows Phone 8. To begin with, Windows Phone 8 will not come to legacy hardware (something that’s been said ad nauseum), but users will have a new start menu experience at the very least. This brings some interesting news for a variety of reasons. First, any apps developed for Windows Phone 8 are not backward compatible; meaning you can’t run them on Windows Phone 7.x. Secondly, as far as updates, Windows Phone can deliver updates over the air, cutting the carrier middleman out of the entire equation (we hope). Now for that shiny new device, users will get the updates for at least 18 months (same time scale as the current update scheme). For “registered enthusiasts”, they get early access to such updates before the consumer. So again, a lot of similarities but a few key differences.
Speaking of those new devices, who are the OEMs? Well, Microsoft did have a lot of OEMs on board as of Mango (with ZTE and others coming to the rescue), but sadly the OEM pool is down to a paltry four. You can guess at least three with HTC, Samsung, and Nokia. But the new player is Huawei! Could be going for a Chinese and low end strategy for that move. But that can also be fulfilled through Samsung, so we will have to see.
A big change is in app purchases. That says it all.
In sum, a lot of what we are seeing for Windows Phone was verified by the leaks indicated by pocketnow.com by and large. And why shouldn’t it? Joe Belfiore stated most of the information that would be coming down for new devices. It’s a lot to take in, but tell us what you think. Excited or lukewarm?