Windows Phone 8 officially launched

Microsoft has officially launched the latest consumer version of its smartphone operating system, Windows Phone 8. Speaking at the company's San Francisco press event, Joe Belfiore, manager of the Windows Phone programme talked us through the new OS that Microsoft is hoping will take both Android and iOS head-on.

Many of the new features WP8 adds to the mix have been detailed before, with a significant amount of the changes and improvements being revealed during Microsoft's Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco at the beginning of September.

Read: What's new in Windows Phone 8?

However, alongside more adaptable home screen tile support - now with three different tile sizes available - and support for multi-core processors, the company has unveiled a few extra additions.

Skype, now that it belongs to Microsoft, has unique integration with Windows Phone 8. The application (available for download from day one) can sleep in the background, but always keeps you signed in. It does so with minimal drain on battery life, unlike on other devices such as iPhone, where leaving Skype running in the background when multi-tasking can drain the phone's battery faster than a tramp can a bottle of Asti Spumante. The Skype app will be woken whenever there is a call or message.

There's Kids Corner, which allows parents to set up the applications and content they are happy with their children using and seeing. Each Windows Phone 8 handset comes with a Kids Corner Tile pre-installed on the home page and can set up the function through an intuitive wizard. A kid would not be able to progress from Kids Corner to the main screens of the phone without first entering a pre-determined PIN.

As well as tap to pay, the phone's NFC capabilities can also now be used to share contacts between similarly endowed Windows Phones and Windows 8 PCs. Another new feature is Rooms, a group-like function that allows you to set an area for a number of contacts, all of which will be able to interact within that room. They can chat and share calendars, pictures and notes.

With the Xbox Music store now also launched, a number of new features come with Microsoft's Spotify rival, including the Buzz Panel. Basically, access an artist in Xbox Music and you will see Twitter postings, images and news feeds relating to that band or soloist.

In addition, music that is purchased through Xbox Music is able to be stored in the cloud and accessed through any of your Microsoft devices, including Windows 8 PC, Windows Phone 8 smartphone and Xbox 360.

And Microsoft has played heavily on the apps that are coming too. The Windows Phone Store now has 120,000 apps and continues to see great new titles pour in. The company confirmed some of the apps and games coming soon: Temple Run, Jetpack Joyride, Angry Birds Star Wars, Angry Birds Space, Draw Something, Words with Friends, Urban Spoon, Fairway Solitaire, Asphalt 7: Heat, Living Social, Cut the Rope, and Disney’s Where’s My Water and Where’s My Perry.

 

Read: HTC 8X review

"No other system works this well across your PC, your phone and your home entertainment system," said Belfiore.

These are only some of the new features unveiled by Microsoft at its Windows Phone 8 launch event. You can check out more in Pocket-lint's extensive review of Windows Phone 8 coming soon.

The first Windows 8 handsets, from the Nokia Lumia 920, Nokia Lumia 820, HTC 8X, HTC 8S and Samsung Ativ 8, will start to roll out in the UK from this weekend (3 November) and then throughout the month.