Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore has revealed that Windows Phone 8 will be getting a new Start screen when it is released later in the year.
The new mobile phone operating system, dubbed Windows Phone 8 Apollo, will take on Google’s next Android OS and Apple’s iOS 6, and refresh the live tiles and the way they are displayed.
It will offer an updated look that will be more akin to what Microsoft is planning for Windows 8 and Windows RT, as well as support for two new tile sizes. There will also be more customisation options, with new theme colours and a larger start screen layout.
The new small tiles take up a quarter of the space of a Windows Phone 7 tile, but can still display information.
It means Windows Phone users will be able to access more information at a glance, merging the idea of widgets with icons and trying to deliver the best of both.
The second new tile is a large tile that takes up the full width of the screen. This size of tile used to be reserved for OEMs and operators (and for Microsoft’s own apps), but, on Windows Phone 8, any application developer will be able to add a large tile to their code.
Small tiles are best designed as part of an application, but will also be generated automatically for any app.
Microsoft is upping the display resolution with Windows 8, adding 15:9 and 16:9 displays at 1280 x 768 and 1280 x 720, alongside the existing 800 x 480 display. The new Start screen will benefit from this as well.
It is hoped customers will like the idea of getting more icons on the Start screen as well as icons that share more information beyond a number of unread messages.
Apps that already cleverly use the live tile feature include Shazam, which offers an instant “Tag it” tile to sample a track, and Runkeeper that lets you know how many miles you’ve run in the week or month to act as a passive persuader to encourage you to go out again.