Microsoft unveils Windows Phone 8 operating system features and devices


By Scott Reyburn Comment

Microsoft announced today the operating system details and hardware options for the upcoming Windows Phone 8.

Microsoft manager of the Windows Phone program Joe Belfiore today revealed the new operating features coming to Windows Phone 8 including a new lock screen powered by Live Apps, Data Sense, Kid’s Corner and Rooms.

During the Microsoft event in San Francisco Belifore revealed that the Windows Store now has more than 120,000 apps. He added that 46 of the top 50 most popular apps on other platforms will now be on the Windows Phone. Some of those top 50 apps include Temple Run, Urban Spoon, Angry Birds Star Wars and Where’s My Water? Pandora, in particular will hit the Windows Store in 2013 with a whole year of free music and no advertisements. Other new apps coming to Windows Phone 8 include Words with Friends, Chase, PayPal, Draw Something and more. Belifore also revealed that Microsoft has doubled the language support for the Windows Phone to 50 languages and Windows Phone apps are now available in 191 countries.Windows Phone 8 Lock Screen

In an effort to put people at the center of the mobile experience Microsoft revamped its Live Tiles and Live Apps so users can see the things they care about from other people including their latest photos, tweets and more. Users can now rearrange and resize Live Tiles however they see fit. A new lock screen powered by Live Apps allows users to see content, pictures and notifications from apps at a glance. Microsoft has also partnered with Facebook to bolster this feature by allowing Facebook photos to show up in the lock screen.

Windows Phone 8’s new Data Sense feature aims to help users get the most out of their data plan. Users can surf the web more and use less data through Data Sense’s software that compresses every web page. Microsoft says users can increase mobile browsing by 45 percent on the same data plan versus another handset without Data Sense. This new feature also helps users find nearby Wi-Fi hotspots on a map and helps users manage their data usage. Additionally, Data Sense can adjust appropriately as users approach the limit of their data plans.Windows Phone 8 Data Sense

Kid’s Corner allows parents to create a separate environment for kids using a Windows Phone 8. Parents can grant access to apps, music, games and more by simply checking boxes next to a list of apps.

Rooms, a new addition to Windows Phone’s People hub, lets users create particular sets of people from the main contact list with which they can share messages, photos and notes. The feature is similar concept to Google’s Circles feature. For example, a grocery list can be shared between a standard Family Room. Users of other phone devices like iPhones and Anroids can get part of the Rooms experience such as shared calendars.

Users can access documents and photos from a Windows 8 PC, tablet, phone and even Xbox with Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud service. SkyDrive is the first cloud service that fully intergrates Office documents from any Windows 8 device. SkyDrive offers 7GB of free storage, with the option to add more storage. Music can now be synced from a Mac, Windows Phone 7 or Windows Windows Phone 8 via a companion app. So users can now have their entire iTunes music library on their Windows Phone 8.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer ended the conference by showing off multiple upcoming Windows Phone 8 handsets including the Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung ATIV S and HTC 8X. Nokia, who’s exclusively focused on Windows Phone development and is selling the most Windows Phones on the market, will be releasing its new Lumia 920 which features optical image stabilization and wireless charging capablilty. Samsung’s ATIV S features a 4.8 inch screen and long batter life. Lastly, the HTC 8X sports a built-in amp, Beats Audio and a wide-angle lens on the back-facing camera. All three devices from Nokia, HTC and Samsung feature Qualcomm Snapdragon processors that are made to optimize the Windows Phone 8 experience.

Developers can get their hands on the Windows Phone 8 SDK for free starting tomorrow.

Microsoft first took the wraps off its Windows Phone 8 operating system back in June, revealing a mobile operating system that will share the same file system and drivers as the Windows 8 desktop operating system.

Windows Phone 8 devices will begin going on sale in Europe this weekend and the rest of the world in November, with such devices including the Nokia Lumia 920, HTC 8X and Samsung ATIV S. AT&T will be getting the HTC 8X, Nokia Lumia 820 and exclusive Lumia 920 on November 14. Verizon will be carrying the HTC 8X and exclusive Nokia Lumia 822 by Thanksgiving. T-Mobile will be receiving the Nokia Lumia 810 and HTC 8X on November 14. Lastly, Canadian mobile network Rogers will have the Nokia Lumia 920 on sale beginning tomorrow.