|What's new in Windows Phone 8?
Posted on 14 November 2012
Microsoft has spent months creating its latest smartphone operating system, and there are a whole bunch of upgrades in Windows Phone 8. Here's Carphone Warehouse's guide to what's changed in the newly released Windows Phone 8.
Windows Phone 7.5 had quite specific hardware. In Windows Phone 8, all that changes, with devices becoming bigger and better with more complex hardware supported. Here's the lowdown.
Out with single core, and in with multi-core processors. The initial Windows Phone 8 smartphones will use the Snapdragon S4 dual core processor. It's such a powerful chip it out performs larger processors with more cores that, really, we'd expect to beat it!
With a gigabyte of RAM or more, the new breed of Windows Phone devices will have more memory to handle apps and tasks. Combined with those faster processors, this means they'll be able to deal with more complex apps and games, and run more apps at the same time.
Downloads in the background, apps running when they're off screen, Live Tiles updating automatically, Skype running even when you're web browsing – Windows Phone 8 has all the multitasking power of its predecessor but now with more power, more applications and more flexibility.
Larger resolutions and displays.
Microsoft has decided to give you a sharper screen with resolutions of 1280 by 768 and 1280 by 720 – that's 720p HD. This means photos and websites, and anything else you want to view on the displays, will look much better. It also allows for larger screens to be made, as they'll no longer lose quality when made larger, say around the 5" mark.
Need more room? Many Windows Phone 8 smartphones now have support for microSD cards, so you're free to boost your storage space by a sizeable 32GB.
Tap + Send: NFC (Near Field Communications).
NFC is slowly working its way into our lives, and the uses for it are growing daily. You can send images and other files from one device to another just by touching them together using the Tap + Send Windows Phone feature. You can also pair your smartphone to work with a wireless speaker and even pay for things in shops.
Inside, Windows Phone 8 has plenty that's new too, from the changes behind the scenes that help everything run smoothly, to big app and feature updates.
Bigger (and smaller!) Live Tiles.
Before, Live Tiles were generally only one size, with the exception of a couple of preinstalled apps. Now you can have small tiles, medium tiles and large tiles that stretch the length of the screen. Size and space are not the only benefits; you'll get different information from different sized tiles, so for the maximum info for calendar items, for example, go for the full sized tile. Just want to see how many texts you've got? Go for the mini option. Third parties can also use Live Tiles now, so your Start screen will have never looked better.
Skype is no longer just a standalone app; it's now a built-in, living, breathing part of Windows Phone. It's always on, but is integrated in such a way that battery life is unaffected. You can ring contacts straight from the People Hub, it runs in the background so you'll never miss a call, you can ring Groups at the press of a button, and when you receive a call it'll pop up like a normal phone call, but with the Skype ring tone so you know the difference. And, of course, Skype has its own Live Tile, available in small, medium and large, that'll update with your latest messages.
No, not the bit of glass you see light through, these are special effects and filters for the camera, new to Windows Phone 8. They'll be a new panoramic mode, colour tweakers, themes, an HDR option and more.
Now you can send a text, call a number, take a note, open an app and search the web using just your voice. All you'll need to do is hold the home button at the bottom of the phone, and the voice interface will pop up. Say what you want, and Windows Phone will do the rest.
Along with NFC, Microsoft Wallet is another way of paying for items using information on your smartphone. You'll be able to store debit and credit card details, discount cards, and even deals you've spotted, all in the tidy Wallet app, ready to take advantage of when you need them.
OTAs (Over the air updates).
Now, whenever Microsoft releases a tweak to Windows Phone with system improvements or new features, you won't have to plug your smartphone into your computer. Just search for new updates in the settings, and if there's one available, you can download it right then and there and have it installed in no time. We recommend you use your Wi-Fi connection though and save your data allowance!
This is a feature designed to let your children play around with your phone without any risk to your sensitive data, and without letting young eyes fall on unsuitable materials. Kid's Corner creates a whole new Start screen for you, which you can populate with apps of your choice. Maybe your kids just want to play games, or they love snapping with the camera – Kid's Corner need only include these two tiles and apps. Just put a password on your smartphone, and then tell your kids to swipe to the left; they'll find Kid's Corner and hours of entertainment.
Currently there are around 100,000 apps in the Windows Store, but with the introduction of Windows Phone 8, they'll be an app creation explosion, giving you thousands more to choose from. With the improved hardware of the new breed of smartphones, apps will also become more advanced.
Ease of use (text size, contrast adjustments and screen magnifier).
The previous Windows Phone had neat, consistent fonts and screen designs, and now you can alter them for readability. Larger text? No problem, choose from a range, from small to large and bold. Find the contrast is a bit sharp? Just move the slider along. Fancy even more magnification? The screen magnifier will do the trick.
Internet Explorer 10.
Faster, more secure and with an even more modern look, Internet Explorer 10 is pre-installed in Windows Phone 8, letting you cruise the net as you see fit.
So there you go. Windows Phone 8 comes with a lot more, and there's some great phones too. Check out our latest phones in our Phone finder.