Windows Phone 8 has been unveiled to widespread acclaim, bringing significant changes to hardware specifications and also the use experience. A new Start screen gives users more options for customization, and uses all available screen real estate to maximum effect; now any tile’s appearance can be configured to suit your particular taste.
Tiles can now be re-sized using a resize arrow in each distinct zone once in Customization Mode. That gives users a choice of small, medium or double-wide tiles that extend right across the display. Current apps will have to be designed to accommodate small and medium tiles as the default setting, but devs will be able to offer the increased functionality without too much trouble. Until now the super-sixe option was a provilege granted only to Microsoft and its carrier partners.
We’ve run through the changes to the hardware Windows 8 will be able to run on, chief amongst them probably the upsized display resolutions. Now the Windows Phone 8 platform will support 1280 x 720 pixels and even an unusual 1280 x 768 res. The inclusion of Nokia Drive functionality – offline map support, turn-by-turn navigation, third-party manipulation of maps – mean the new WP 8 platform will receive a notable boost to its location and mapping credentials, even if Apple’s recent iOS 6 update and its Map app steal the limelight, courtesy of integration with Siri.
Another important change is Windows Phone 8′s emphasis on Microsoft Wallet, which lets users make payments just by tapping their handset against a credit card reader, a la Google Wallet. Microsoft is now guaranteeing WP 8 owners credit card details and membership details and so on will be held securley on WP8 phones, and can be sent just be tapping the phone against compatible devices. Third-party devs will have access to the Wallet API so they can integrate its tools with their own apps. Other important changes to the platform is the long-sought inclusion of SDcard support. Storage expansion on WP devices just got a whole lot easier.
The new Windows Phone 8 OS update will hard-code VOIP calls into Windows Phone ecosystem, and Skype support – Microsoft now owns Skype, remember – means VOIP calls will be handled exactly the same as normal telephony calls – same faetures, same tools, same notifications. And not just Skype calls – other VOIP software such as Tango will benefit from the change. And gone is the fusty old Windows CE kernel code; the new WP8 ‘Apollo’ (apparently Microsoft is dropping the nickname) shares a large proportion of its code base with the new Windows 8 OS. That means the Windows Phone 8 won’t be getting left behind in future – far from it. Instead the jazzed-up mobile operating system should benefit from the ease of porting apps from the full=blown OS to its little brother. Only question is, when? Nothing but a vague ‘Fall 2012′ murmur from the chaps at Vermont. Released in tandem with the full-sized Windows 8 and RT platforms? Why not? Microsoft is certainly integrating its key products more closely.
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