We'll be updating this Windows Phone 8 review once we've spent a lot more time testing Microsoft's new mobile operating system for smartphones. In the mean time, as well as this review, read our articles What's new in Windows Phone 8? 5 new features in Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8 launch: details.
That previously mentioned change in customisation is most visible on Windows Phone 8's home screen, but also functions such as groups and simple things such as being able to select the background colour of the mail app really are an added value. The promised better integration of VoIP services such as Skype is also very welcome, while Internet Explorer 10 is a vastly better browser than IE9. It is not just faster and more stable, HTML 5 support is also much improved.
We recently saw the introduction of Windows 8 and Windows RT for PCs, laptops and tablets. Now Microsoft has completed the overhaul of its operating systems with the introduction of Windows Phone 8, the new mobile operating system. Our colleagues at Hardware.Info had a few days to play around with the new OS by way of the HTC 8X, HTC's new top model in its Windows Phone 8 line-up and one of the first Windows Phone 8 handsets that will be available. Time to see what's new with Windows Phone 8.
Anyone who has experience with Microsoft Windows Phone 7.5 will easily find their way around Windows Phone 8. The home screen with the familiar tiles featured in Phone 7.5 and Windows 8 is once again the place where it's all at in Windows Phone 8. Another familiar relic is the list of applications that comes into view when you swipe to the right from the home screen. Besides these recognisable features however, Windows Phone 8 has been extended, further developed and improved compared to version 7.5. The total number of changes is too large to all describe in great detail, but in this article we will go over the major changes and improvements one by one.
Windows Phone 8: a sister to Windows 8
Under the hood, Windows Phone 8 is no longer based on Windows Mobile, but rather shares the same codebase as Windows RT, the 'trimmed down' version of Windows 8 developed specifically for energy efficient ARM tablets. A big advantage that comes with that change is ease of portability of apps between Windows 8 and RT to Phone and vice versa. It also means the hardware support has been greatly improved.
While Windows Phone 7.5 only supported older single core processors and 800x480 pixel displays, Windows Phone 8 theoretically can operate with 64 processor cores and support displays with 1280x720 and 1280x768 pixels. Another hardware feature that is now supported is a flash memory card reader, meaning it is finally possible to have Windows phones with a micro-SD slot, something sorely missed in Windows Phone 7.5 devices.
As mentioned, Windows Phone 8's home screen closely resembles the one found in Windows Phone 7.5, but at the same time it offers more functionality and possibilities. For example, in 7.5 tiles could be either square or rectangular, meaning you could display one or two tiles adjacent to each other. In Windows Phone 8 tiles can have three different shapes. In addition to the square and rectangle, there is a smaller square size available, which is exactly one quarter the size of the 'old' square. Thanks to the new addition, it is possible to have a lot more apps visible on the home screen without having to swipe. Not all apps can use all three sizes; many apps can only be displayed as either a small or normal sized square, but not as a rectangle.
There are more improvements to the way you can customise your phone, and the lock screen also offers new options for this. In Windows Phone 7.5 you could display the time, an upcoming appointment and information on missed calls and new messages. Windows Phone 8 gives you more freedom to customise the lock screen as well as the option to show previews of the most recently received email. You can also show messages from Xbox Live friends and game notifications, for example.
Windows Phone 8 is based on Windows 8 and therefore shares the same Start Screen with adjustable live tiles. The move means that there is effectively a single platform for all Windows smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs.
New features in Windows Phone 8 include support for multi-core processors, higher resolution screens, microSD cards and NFC sharing. Pre-installed apps will include Internet Explorer 10, Wallet and Nokia Maps.
Windows Phone 8 includes extensions to its Live Tiles interface, as well as new features including a child-safety feature called 'Kid's Corner', a tool called 'Data Sense' that will help keep down data costs, and 'People Hub' - via which groups of fellow users can communicate and share content.
To read the rest of the Windows Phone 8 review, go to Hardware.Info.