We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

13 new features in Windows Phone 8

What's new in Windows Phone 8?

Windows Phone 8 will launch on Monday October 29, and PC Advisor will of course be there to capture all the details. Microsoft has not officially published full details of its new mobile OS, but in two 'sneak peek' events in June and September Microsoft has presented Windows Phone 8 to journalists. Based on that information, here's what's new in Windows Phone 8. See also: What's new in Windows Phone 8? 5 new features in Windows Phone 8

1. Windows Phone 8: It's Windows 8's sister, not Windows Phone 7 +1

Windows Phone 8 is a close relative of Windows 8. It's not a development of Windows Phone 7.

Technically, Windows Phone 8 will be based on the same kernel as Windows 8: it's not a development of Windows Phone 7 (or even the stunted offspring Windows Phone 7.8). Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 share a lot: a common file system and drivers, as well as security components and media and graphics support. It's as close to Windows 8 Pro as is Windows RT - they are three separate operating systems with a common interface based on the same code. See Windows Phone 8 review.

What that means to Windows Phone users is that their smartphone will be able to work with their PC in an unprecedented manner. You'll be able to run some of the same programs - Internet Explorer 10 being the poster child for this. Microsoft claims that IE 10 will be the fastest and most secure mobile browswer around - and you'll be able to share it across multiple Windows devices.

2. Windows Phone 8: Multi-core processing

Nokia Lumia 820Windows Phone 8 offers support for processors with up to 64 cores, although you shouldn't expect to be running a 64-core phone any time soon - Microsoft says there may be some quad-core Windows Phones out this year, but it mostly expects dual-core. It should be enough to see the join: for all the criticism lobbed Microsoft's way over its mobile offerings, Windows Phone has always been light on hardware. So Windows Phone 8 should be zippy, with the right processors.

The principal benefit of multi-core processing from a user point of view is that background multi-tasking should become a cinch, and general speed when using your phone for multiple tasks should increase. Windows Phone developers face the challenge of living up to this promise, however.

3. Windows Phone 8: New display resolutions up to 1280x768

For which, read: more screen for gaming and watching movies. Windows Phone 8 allows support for two new resolutions, 1280x768 at 15:9 ratio, and 1280x720 at 16:9. It's important to understand that this represents the maximum that the software will allow, and is in no way a minimum you should expect from Windows phones: the calibre of screen is largely dictated by the hardware.

But the fact is that with a 4in screen using one of these resolutions a putative Windows Phone 8 device would have a Retina quality display. This capability puts Windows Phone 8 in with the big boys such as the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3.

4. Windows Phone 8: MicroSD storage expansion

Windows Phone users of the world: rejoice. You are no longer limited to the amount of onboard storage with which your handset's manufacturer deigned to bless you. Windows Phone 8 supports MicroSD cards, meaning that it will be relatively inexpensive and straightforward to boost the storage in your phone.

5. Windows Phone 8: NFC support

Take that, iPhone 5. Windows Phone 8 will include NFC support. What do you mean you don't know what that means?

In essence, NFC is just another way for phone to communicate with other devices that are physically close by. In practice this means you can use your phone as a digital wallet, simply tapping an in-store payment pad in order to debit your account and make a purchase. It may sound far fetched, but so did the idea of mobile TV just a few years ago.

Microsoft has added to Windows Phone 8 what it is calling the Wallet Hub. Through this banks, stores and loyalty schemes will be able to create a simple way for you to log in and pay for things with a simple tap.

Again, this is potential that requires both third-party developers and mobile carriers to step up and do their part. But expect NFC to be a big win for Windows Phone 8 in the medium term.

Windows Phone 8

6. Windows Phone 8: It's easy for app makers

Windows Phone 8 offers Native code support for C and C++, as well as simplified porting from platforms such as Android, Symbian, and iOS, and simplified porting of Windows 8 apps to Windows Phone 8. The bottom line: Windows Phone desperately needs apps, and Microsoft is bending over backwards to make it easy for developers to get them into the Windows Store.

Importantly, Windows Phone 8 also supports in-app purchases. App makers tend to be a lot more focussed when there is money to be made.

Subsequent to writing this, I've been informed by many, many developers that I may have been naive in my view of Microsoft's efforts to make it easy to develop Windows Phone apps. Microsoft thinks it is making things easy, but I'm told there is a lack of information, and no SDK, which is making it near impossible to code apps in time for the launch. Apologies! Perhaps this section should have been headed: Microsoft needs to make it easy for app makers.

7. Windows Phone 8: Nokia maps

Good news: no Apple Maps. Bad news: no native Google Maps. But fear not, Windows Phone 8 includes Nokia's mapping technology. This supports offline maps and turn-by-turn directions using global NAVTEQ mapping data. It's high quality, in essence.

8. Windows Phone 8: Onboard security, remote management

Pay attention at the back. Windows Phone 8 comes with native 128-bit Bitlocker encryption, and a Secure Boot mode. Given the importance of protecting our personal data, this may or may not excite you. But it will get your workplace's network admin all fired up.

Expect to see Windows Phones in plenty of offices not least because, like BlackBerrys, Windows Phones will make remote management easy, letting sys admins roll out updates to a whole fleet of phones (you can't do that with iPhones, and Android phones are a business and security nightmare). And when you can run Windows on all devices, life gets a lot easier and more secure for IT support.

Indeed, throw in over the air support for Windows Phone updates, plus a promised 18 month support for those updates, and you can see that Microsoft is going out of its way to make Windows Phone 8 devices attractive to business. Now all they have to do is get Nokia and the other manufacturers to make the handsets sufficiently desirable to entice the MD to listen to the CIO about phone-purchasing decisions.

9. Windows Phone 8: VoIP (mostly meaning Skype)

Nokia Windows PhoneMicrosoft is baking in VoIP and video chat integration into any voice- or video-calling app. In essence this means that VoIP (in most cases the Skype service) will work just like any other kind of call, only without the costs. You won't need to boot a specific app in order to utilise internet calling.

10. Windows Phone 8: 'Lenses', your aperture to a better camera

Windows Phone 8 offers access a bunch of different filters, known as Lenses. You can grab these from the Windows Store, and then get creative in the native camera app (or, indeed, an third-party camera apps). Developer support allowing, this should allow hobbyist photographers to get creative with their smartphone in a way not previously seen.

The native camera app is changing, too. There's now pinch to zoom, and additional flash options.

11. Windows Phone 8: Native screen capture

It's possible this is something of more importance to tech journalists than to actual humans, but Windows Phone 8 puts a simple means of capturing screenshots on to every device. Hold down the power and home buttons at the same time and you can capture a picture of what is on your screen. Simple, but useful.

12. Windows Phone 8: A fresh Start Screen, with more options

One of the big moans about existing Windows Phones is the lack of customisation with regard to the (admittedly good looking) home screens. Windows Phone 8 rectifies this, to an extent. The Start Screen still features the familiar Moder UI live tiles, but there is the option to change the tiles' size, move them around and change the colour scheme.

In fact you can now choose from up to 20 colour schemes. Which is nice.

13.Windows Phone 8: Lock screen notifications

It's expected now, but a welcome upgrade nonetheless. When your phone is locked, apps can push notifications on to the lock screen. If you like what you see you can dive straight in and respond.

IDG UK Sites

iPad mini 3 vs iPad mini 2 comparison: New iPad mini 3 isn't worth £80 more

IDG UK Sites

Why you shouldn't buy the iPad mini 3: No wonder Apple gave it 10 seconds of stage time

IDG UK Sites

Halloween Photoshop tutorials: 13 masterclasses for horrifying art, designs and type

IDG UK Sites

Should I upgrade from Mavericks to OS X 10.10 Yosemite? What you need to know before updating to...