Microsoft held an event to introduce the Windows Phone 8 mobile OS right after the introduction of Windows 8. We can say that it is a huge improvement from the previous Windows Phone versions and finally, yes, finally qualified to be in the new player in the mobile OS race dominated by Android and iOS. It is far from perfect yet but it is certainly on the right track, catching up on many functionality on it’s competitors but at the same time differ from them in a good way. We found a very simple yet thorough review of the newly introduced Windows Phone 8 and we would like you to know more about it and be as excited as we are.
The new Start Screen is customizable. Choose from three different sizes of Live Tiles.
When Microsoft launched its totally new Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system two years ago, it signaled Redmond’s first real step into the smartphone market.
The 2-D, tile-based platform was visually stunning, and it showed Microsoft was intent on taking the smartphone operating system into new conceptual territory. It was different, and different looked good.
Windows Phone devices got good reviews for being speedy and intuitive when they rolled out, but people didn’t actually buy them. Windows Phone now commands a meager 3.5 percent of the global smartphone market share today, while iOS and Android dominate the field at around 17 percent and 68 percent respectively, according to IDC (though iOS is significantly higher in the U.S.).
With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft is trying to give its smartphone business another shot in the arm. It’s stacked with new features, as well as enhancements to all the things that made previous versions enjoyable to use. This is still Windows Phone, but more grown up, and now truly ready to challenge the big kids on the playground.
First off, using Windows Phone 8 is as refreshing and fun as using Windows Phone 7.5. It maintains the same colorful, tile-based interface that’s now also shared with Windows 8, yet it still feels new. The new Windows Phone is more slick. Navigation is fast, the apps and the interface are more customizable.
Hardware support that was missing in previous versions is now here: support for multi-core processors, higher screen resolutions, microSD card expansion controls, and built-in NFC. Whether these features show up in the WP8 devices depends on Microsoft’s hardware partners, but the company has tried to make sure nobody will end up choosing another platform purely based on specs.
As for the actual software, the most noticeable improvement is the new Start Screen. The tiles now take up the entire screen — no more empty black right rail — and you can choose between three tile sizes. While this might seem like a small tweak, it makes a big difference for a customized experience. I love being able to now change the size and placement of each app’s tile on my Start Screen to find a configuration that works best for me.
The Live apps, or Live Tiles, still work beautifully in this OS, and now each of the three sizes can support information snippets of different depths. For example, if you make the Calendar app large so it takes up a whole row on the screen, it can show specific information like the length and location of each calendar event. Set the Calendar app to the medium size, and it shows a more condensed version. The smallest size shows just the date.
An event from Calendar, Kid’s Corner, and the Windows Phone Store
The Windows Phone 8 Lock Screen also becomes its own useful Live Tile. You can choose a few apps that will show quick status updates on the screen, and one that will show detailed notifications. This is similar to Notification Center in iOS, though you can only choose five apps for this Lock Screen experience. I did appreciate having one constant app that showed more information. I used Calendar, and it was great to see what I had coming up at a glance.
The web browser is now Internet Explorer 10, and it’s a big improvement. It’s incredibly quick; not once did I grow irritated with sluggish performance. If I had decent Wi-Fi — or at least a couple bars of service — IE10 worked great. It was stunningly fast when I had full bars on HSPA+, and I can’t imagine anybody will have complaints on a 4G LTE network.
The IE10 address bar button can now be customized with one of three functions: Stop/Refresh (the default), Favorites, and Tabs. This little gimmick is not intuitive. It took me a minute to figure out how to open a new tab: by tapping the “More” menu, and then tapping “Tabs.” Swapping tabs shouldn’t be a multi-tap process, so I ended up setting the Tabs function as the default on my address bar button. A better solution would be a quick gesture for switching through tabs so I can keep the refresh button on the address bar.
Sure, that’s nitpicking. But that’s the great thing about Windows Phone 8: All of my complaints are pretty minor and quirky. I’ve grown to really prefer Windows Phone to Android, and can imagine people switching from there. I didn’t experience any crashes or stuttering during the several days I used a new HTC 8X loaded with WP8 as my sole phone. Usually, I depend on an iPhone 4 running iOS 6. The only things I missed were iMessage, since so many of my friends and family use iPhones, and my favorite day-to-day apps like Instagram, Path, and public-transportation apps.
I’ll talk more about the lack of apps later, but first: Maps. All eyes are on Windows Phone’s mapping capability since Apple fumbled the maps in iOS 6. And alas, WP8′s built-in Maps app is suspiciously missing public transportation directions on non-Nokia devices. Windows Phone’s maps app is built on Nokia’s maps platform, and for the most part, it’s accurate and useful. But on non-Nokia phones like the HTC 8X, it looks like public transit directions didn’t make the cut, which is incredibly unfortunate. It does, however, make sense for Nokia, which wants its phones to have unique software offerings, and when you buy a Nokia Lumia phone, you’ll get an “enhanced” map app. Bare Windows Phone 8 Maps still gets the job done. It has turn-by-turn directions, downloadable offline maps, traffic updates, and aerial views. I didn’t get lost once while using the app to navigate Brooklyn on foot. In short: It works, even if you have to figure out which bus to catch and where.
I tested the other new features like Kids Corner, Xbox Music and Videos, Skype integration, the improved Camera app (for which you can collect third-party Lenses), Office, and OneNote. Each worked without problems. The updated SkyDrive makes it easy to access and save files, and every Windows Phone 8 user gets 7GB of free storage. (If Microsoft’s trying to be cute with a weird number, why not 8GB?) I imagine business-oriented people who depend on Office will love the built-in Office hub, which supports Word, Excel and PowerPoint. By saving to SkyDrive, you can start a Word Doc on your phone and pick up where you left off on a computer, or vice versa. Kids Corner is also a good tool for parents with young children; it sequesters your kids — who cannot be trusted — to their own child-proof area of the phone.
The multitasking capabilities in Windows Phone 8 have been updated, and for the most part, it’s smoother. Apps can run in the background, and Windows Phone 8 will remember where you left off in a previously used app. For example, if you’re in the middle of tapping out a text, you can leave, go do something else, and then tap the back button to return where you left off with the text intact. One glitch: If I left the Messaging app in the middle of a text, and then went back by tapping the Messaging tile from the Start Screen, it wouldn’t remember where I left off. I had to tap the built-in back button, or tap and hold the back button for the “Task-switcher display,” which shows thumbnails of most recently used apps.
Beyond a few such quirks — and to be fair, every OS has its share — Windows Phone 8′s biggest problem is its lack of volume.
Just like Windows 8, Microsoft’s smartphone OS doesn’t have enough app-makers on board yet. It’s lame to admit, but the main reason I don’t want to switch to Windows Phone 8 is because I don’t want to give up Instagram, and I’ve heard the same sentiment from Android and iPhone users alike. Instagram is a true “killer app,” and there are likely countless potential switchers with a similar complaint. The platform’s also missing the latest app fads that all your friends are addicted to. Take Letterpress, for example, the breakout word game released last week that currently has iPhone users staying up until 3 a.m. Windows Phone doesn’t have it — it only just now got Draw Something, months after it peaked.
Nonetheless, Microsoft continues to assure us it’s getting developers to create Windows Phone apps. Maybe we’ll even see Instagram in the near future. Windows Phone does core basics like Kindle, Facebook, Twitter, Zite and (just announced) Pandora. And it’s not like the store is empty — there are more than 120,000 apps available. They just aren’t the apps you want.
The other volume problem is the tiny user base. It’s most noticeable in the new “Rooms” feature in the People hub, where you can have group chats, or share albums, calendars and notes. Since I don’t know anybody who uses a Windows Phone, this feature was totally useless. I’d love to tell you it works great, but I have no way of knowing.
GOOD Slick, intuitive interface with nice animations that just works. Customizable Live Tiles and Lock Screen. People hub, which centralizes your social activity, is incredibly handy. IE10 is fast and smooth. Support for better handset hardware. Improved camera software is easy to use. Comes with wireless data tracking tool Data Sense. Built-in Office is a boon for business users. More room for developers to take advantage of. Hopefully to build a better ecosystem.
BAD Key apps are missing. Windows Store is cluttered, with reviews appearing in different languages. Rooms is useless unless you know a lot of Microsoft employees. Multitasking has some strange bugs. Same annoyance from WP7 persist. There is not one big improvement, just many small improvements. Incompatible with any of the current devices.
Our Verdict: Windows Phone 8 can do everything you expect a mobile operating system to do. If you just need a simple and basic functionality of a smartphone and doing every task without any interference, the Windows Phone 8 is certainly the mobile OS for you. But the downside is that you probably will not be the first to get certain apps or will never get them anytime soon or ever since developers wont be developing for Windows platform as the first OS or will ever considering to develop for it. This all will heavily rely on the user base of Windows Phone 8 in the upcoming months. The ecosystem is not matured yet in our opinion but apart from that Windows Phone 8 is a great OS which offers a new experience for everyone who are looking for something different and unconventional out there. You be the judge.