Windows Phone 8: What to expect, but is it what we want?
Microsoft is expected to announce details of the next iteration of its mobile phone operating system Windows Phone 8 at a preview event held in San Francisco on Wednesday 20 June, but is it what the users of Windows Phone 7 want and will it be enough to lure Android and iPhone users across?
What to expect
There are plenty of rumours floating around the internet as to what we can expect Microsoft to announce at the Apollo preview event, and while none have been confirmed by Microsoft, there has been a bevy of leaks to help us work some things out.
Nokia maps to expected to fully replace Bing maps in all Windows Phone smartphones in the new version of the OS, with the company opting to make the most of Nokia’s own mapping system that is vastly superior to the Bing offering. The new maps offering is also expected to feature 3D navigation and hardware acceleration.
Following the buyout by Microsoft earlier in the year and the rather basic Windows Phone 7 Skype app, Skype is expected to be heavily featured in Windows Phone 8, tapping into the contacts book and other areas of the phone and allowing users to opt between voice or video calls quickly and easily. Think of it as Microsoft’s version of Apple’s FaceTime and you’ll get the idea.
HTC, Samsung, LG, and Nokia have all offered takes on the camera settings in Windows Phone 8 in various degrees and we can expect Microsoft to take some of those features and make them standard. Whether it is adding more colour filters, panorama mode, multi-burst features or just improved image handling, Windows Phone 8 is likely to get a boost in the photographic department.
Confirmed by Microsoft at its E3 press conference, Windows Phone 8 will be getting Xbox Music, and losing the Zune Marketplace at the same time. Expect the same kind of features as Windows Phone 7 users already enjoy but better cohesion with the Xbox 360 console and messaging from Microsoft.
Another that’s also been confirmed at E3 by Microsoft at its press conference, Xbox Video will be coming to Windows Phone 8 allowing you to buy and watch movies on the go. Details are shy, however, on whether this will be a streaming service like Netflix or a download-only service.
Expect it to tie in with purchases made on your PC and your Xbox 360 console.
With the announcement of SmartGlass at E3 we can also expect Xbox SmartGlass to be “baked in” to Windows Phone 8, allowing you to control and share additional content with the Xbox 360 console. You can read more about SmartGlass here.
SkyDrive Cloud Storage system
Leaked photos earlier in the month suggest that SkyDrive will get an even stronger push in Windows Phone 8 with the ability to expand the storage beyond the built-in storage of your phone to the hard drive you have sitting in the cloud. This would allow Microsoft to get past the limitation of the current MicroSD card support.
Data monitoring system
As more of us become conscious of using data on the go, leaked photos suggest that a new feature of Windows Phone 8 will be a data monitor that allows you to see how much data you’ve used and how long you have left before you get your next data allocation from your operator.
Faster processor support
Windows Phone 7 doesn’t currently support quad-core processors, nor anything else other than Qualcomm chips. It is expected that Windows Phone 8 will support different processor specs and ARM chips allowing companies like Intel, Nvidia and others to get in on the action.
Better graphics resolutions
While the smaller handsets handle the resolution perfectly, larger smartphones like the Nokia Lumia 900 and the HTC Titan II struggle with the limiting screen resolution of Windows Phone 7. As the lines blur between Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 RT we are expecting better resolution support.
Windows Phone 7 doesn’t currently support NFC, but with Nokia a big fan of the technology, Research in Motion already pushing it with its BlackBerry devices, and the iPhone 5 expected to have it too, we would expect Microsoft to add support for the wireless tech at the operating system so phone manufacturers can add it if they want it.
It wouldn’t be too far stretched to imagine that alongside NFC Microsoft will add some kind of Wallet application similar to what Apple has just announced at WWDC with its Passbook app.
What we want
At the moment Microsoft keeps a record of the apps you have purchased, but doesnt offer any way of letting you re-install them quickly or sync them to a new Windows Phone device if you upgrade your phone.
We would like greater cloud backup and syncing capabilities for not only apps, but also for contacts cards you’ve merged and created, groups, and bookmarks.
Greater connectivity with Xbox 360 and Windows 8 RT
Windows Phone’s biggest problem is that there aren’t as many headline apps out there compared to Android and iOS 6. Giving developers even greater cross-platform support across Microsoft’s entire eco-system should help solve this issue greatly.
Swipe to close apps
Accessing apps that are “suspended” is really easy. A quick swipe of the app screen upwards (like you could in WebOS) would make closing them a doddle. Microsoft of course will say that you don’t need to close them as they aren’t running, but it is nice to have control over these things, even if it is just for your own peace of mind.
Automatic app updates
It seems every couple of days we turn on our Lumia 800 and there is a little white number on the Marketplace tile saying we have updates. While we acknowledge that some want to be able to choose whether we upgrade our favourite app to the latest version, most just say yes. Wouldn’t it be great if, like Android, apps just automatically updated if you had previously said yes to the feature?
Website page title in Tweet button
You find something interesting on the web (like this article), you press the share via Twitter button - and then have to type in the headline again. Groan. Why can’t it just grab the title of the page along with the link at the same time?
Location-based security settings
When you are on a train it is understandable that you would want to make sure your phone is password protected in case you lose it. On the sofa in your living room and we're not so sure. It would be great if Microsoft could add a trusted Wi-Fi networks options that means when you are in your home and connected to your home Wi-Fi you wouldn’t have to type your password every two seconds when you check your phone.
Quick access to Wi-Fi without having to go into settings
Yes we know you can get apps to do this, but why can’t Microsoft just add it in as standard and offer it for a number of different settings, whether it is Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi, Battery or something else?
Quicker Email controls
One of the biggest bugbears when reading lots of email in Windows Phone 7 is that when you delete an email you are spat out back to the email queue rather than simply to the next email. That’s time consuming if you want to quickly read and delete plenty of emails at the same time.
More tile colours
A simple one, and not really that important, but the ability to chose your tile colour from a colour wheel, rather than just the dozen block colours there are now.