Microsoft has officially announced the first details of Windows Phone 8. Here is a sneak peek into its revealed features.
Windows Phone 8 apps
All Windows Phone 7 apps will run on Windows Phone 8 handsets; but in future developers will have to choose whether to make an app that only uses Windows Phone 7 features and works on both, or one that uses Windows Phone 8.
This means supporting features like Wallet, VOIP, native code or being able to run navigation in the background . There are other advantages, but with the interfaces to components like graphics, audio and sensors being far more similar to those in Windows 8, it’s a lot easier to write Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 apps that share features.
Windows Phone 8 interface
There is one feature of Windows Phone you will be able to get on current handsets (with an update of Windows Phone 7.8) and that’s the new Start screen. This now uses the whole width of the screen, without the arrow to tell you to swipe sideways for more apps.
With the extra space you can fit in a lot more tiles, which can now be three different sizes. There’s a new small size that you can pick for any app, so if you don’t need some app, you can shrink them down.
And as well as the current standard tile size, any app will be able to have an extra-large tile to fit more details onto the live tile.
Windows Phone 8 – under the hood
Windows Phone 8 is a major new version, running the kernel from Windows rather than from Windows CE.
It isn’t the same as Windows 8, or even Windows RT – even though that also runs on ARM processors – and it doesn’t have the same look to the Start screen and Metro-style WinRT apps won’t run on Windows Phone 8.
But under the hood it’s a lot more similar to develop for and Windows Phone gets several key components from ‘big’ Windows as well as some significant new features and new hardware.
Windows Phone 8 browser and security
Key features that Windows Phone 8 gets from Windows include Internet Explorer 10, complete with the phishing filter and SmartScreen application reputation service to make it harder for malicious websites to trick you into giving away personal information like credit card details or downloading malware. Windows Phone gets other Windows security features like disk encryption and secure boot.
Windows Phone 8 media and gaming
Audio, graphics and media playback all work more like their Windows equivalents, which should make for more powerful games and entertainment apps.
However, this means that current games will need to be re-tooled to take advantage of the new platform – the likes of Rovio can leave their games as Windows Phone 7 versions, but they’ll likely want to re-release a more powerful version of the game too.
There’s one place where Windows Phone is jumping ahead of Windows; VOIP calls will look just like regular phone calls with all the same features and notifications. Obviously that’s good for Skype but other VOIP apps like Tango will get the same support.
Windows Phone 8 CPU
To make all this work well Windows Phone 8 will run on new hardware; ARM processors, the Snapdragon platform from Qualcomm will run with multicore processors, with a new generation of GPUs, and with NFC support.
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.
And you’re not tied to using a Microsoft payment service; applications will be able to tap into the Wallet system to set up new payment services – which will include Paypal.
The app is a hub for digital coupons and debit or credit cards – plus you can add in loyalty cards and third party apps that will notify you when they become relevant.
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.
Microsoft has teamed up with Audible to bring speech recognition to Windows Phone 8, allowing users to speak a variety of commands at their handsets.
Windows Phone 8 upgrades
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.
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.
Windows Phone 8 release date
Windows Phone 8 release date is expected to be the last quarter of this year.