Windows Phone 8 — Microsoft’s latest in mobile OS technology - comes in as a direct competition to rivals Apple and Google. While iOS and Android have been amassing market share exponentially, Microsoft has got a lot of ground to cover. The Windows Phone 8 platform seeks to become the bedrock of business phones to come, and a possible replacement for the dwindling BlackBerry. With an intuitive integration of its OS across a multitude of devices, Microsoft promises a lot.
Research firm Gartner indicates that by 2016 the increase in Windows Phone users will slightly fall below Apple`s iOS users. While the two will lock horns for spot No 2, Google Android will be way ahead of the curve with at least 70 percent share of the mobile operating system market.
But will Microsoft pull it off and maintain its new found momentum? We take a look at some of the new features that make the Windows Phone 8 experience better and more lucid than its predecessors — Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 7.5.
The new platform can now support quad-core processors; an argument that will be welcomed by Windows Phone users whose earlier complaints with the hardware were its limitations concerning Microsoft’s decision to stick with dual-core processors. When it comes to the screen resolution WP8 devices can now support one of the three options: WXGA (1,280 x 768), 720p (1,280 x 720) and the older WVGA or 800 x 480.
Storage was one point where users were thrown off but Windows Phone 8 has a complete external storage up to SDXC. Now you can add as much as 64GB in additional memory.
The Metro UI, or the Modern UI, has got a facelift with additional space for Live Tiles, something the earlier versions of the OS did without. Now you can change tile sizes to fit your needs and make the phone more personal. The Start Screen isn’t left out either. Third-party apps are now featured and notifications get a space at the bottom. There’s even space to show the current weather conditions in your area along with an option to spice up your screen with Bing ‘Photo of the Day’.
The new mobile OS bears roots in its desktop and tablet counterparts. Microsoft has given users a big taste of its Windows OS across all platforms, a move that seeks to attract users from all platforms to come together and for developers to use the same code for the WP8. The company has pinned its hope on the commonality of the features that will integrate users across all platforms to strengthen its OS ecosystem.
Microsoft Office, the company’s business productive software, thanks to SkyDrive, can give users a consolidated view of all their documents on one platform; a big help to those more familiar with working with Office and its applications.
Microsoft released its first major upgrade to its operating system since Windows 95, the Windows 8, and with the WP8 hitting the stores, the folks at Redmond expect users to get a well-rounded Windows experience across its various platforms.
Camera and Photos
With the addition of Lens, developers can make apps to enhance your overall camera experience and users can customise the apps to suit their taste. Photostrip is a burst mode; CamWow makes you use choose from a selection of filters and Photosynth can give you the option of taking panoramic shots. There’s a lot to choose from if you select the “find more lenses” option. The selection takes you straight into the said category in the Windows Store. There’s a lot more going on for the camera department in WP8, and with a few UI tweaks it might stack up well against the camera options available on the iOS and Android.
Xbox Music Store
Gone are the Zune days, now it’s Xbox Music Store that’s on the roll. The Zune Pass has been replaced with the Xbox Music Pass and the Zune marketplace has a new name — Xbox Music Store. The new music store has a deeper integration with the Microsoft’s cloud, SkyDrive, and songs bought from the store can be stored there and can be accessed from all the platforms (Xbox 360, Windows 8 and WP8). Along with your choice of songs, the playlists you create also meet the same treatment.
Windows phones have struggled to keep pace with the gaming experience offered by iOS and Android. Microsoft’s momentum to keep its Games Hub in connection with Xbox Live hasn’t met well with developers and game enthusiasts. With the onset of WP8, the people at Redmond feel that a Windows 8 integration, and use of a native code, will attract developers to introduce more titles.
WP8 will also give developers a chance to go for in-game purchases. The move will take mobile gaming experience on the WP8 up a notch and could also give room to third parties to cash in on their offerings.
Windows Phone Marketplace
Windows Phone Store is now Windows Phone Marketplace. The rebranded store is now powered by Bing search. Microsoft believes that the Bing integration will give users more relevant results. What users will get to see is the Marketplace offering in-app purchases and in many ways for making payment.
Credit or Debit card, PayPal and Microsoft gift card are a few options to choose from while purchasing online.
The Windows Phone Marketplace has 120,000 apps, including new Facebook, Twitter and Skype apps. Microsoft says 46 of the 50 most popular apps from other platforms are available on Windows Phone 8.
Microsoft has introduced its own take on the Wallet app, a combination of Apple Passbook and Google Wallet. The Wallet is a hub for storing credit card information which enables WP8 devices to make payments in the Windows Phone Marketplace. Although the app is not available, yet users can purchase from the store via Near-Field Communication (NFC). This is particularly useful for business purposes involving travel.
Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology is pretty handy, which means that users can share business information, music, videos, contacts and web links between NFC-based devices.
Initially, only a few smartphones will be running on the Windows Phone 8, placing Microsoft in a crowded market led by Apple and Google.
According to the folks at Gartner, by 2016 Android will gather 1.08 billion users, iOS 266.3 million and Windows Phone 207.1 million. The firm goes on to say that forecast research puts BlackBerry users to just over 23 million by that time — against more than 51 million users at the end of last year.
The WP8 is a refined product, a sincere improvement over its predecessors. It sails into fluency and has improved features while offering something fresh, especially to those who are willing to look away from iOS and Android. But with both Google and Apple hogging most of the market share, Microsoft has a lot of work cut out for itself. And the Windows Phone 8 can bridge some if not most of that enormous gulf Google and Apple have so very well created and maintained.