It's official. Windows Phone 8 is coming this fall, and it has Windows 8 at its core. What does that mean for you? You'll finally be able to buy a Windows Phone with a multi-core processor and an HD screen, and you'll be able to run the full IE 10 browser. On top of that, WP 8 will also offer a more customizable Start screen, support for Nokia Maps, and both NFC and digital wallet support. Believe it or not, that's just the tip of the new Windows Phone. Check out all the features announced below.
Redesigned Start Screen
Knowing that Live Tiles were the heart and soul of Windows Phone, Microsoft redesigned the Start Screen to give users greater control over how it looks. Now, users can pin anything they want to the Start Screen as a Live Tile, and, more importantly, resize them into 2 other sizes -- small and medium. Live Tiles now take up the whole screen, and the black bar along the right side is gone.
Microsoft limited Windows Phone 7.5 devices to a single screen resolution, but Windows Phone 8 will support 800 x 480, WXGA (1280 x 768), and 720p (1280 x 720). Importantly, Microsoft made sure that the WP7.5 apps will still look good on the higher resolution screens.
MicroSD Card support
Finally! Windows Phone 8 devices will support miroSD cards. That means that users be able to transfer content more easily, and manufacturers will have greater flexibility when pricing devices.
Multi-Core CPU support
Until now, Windows Phone 7.5 devices have been behind Android phones and the iPhone in processing power. While the user experience has always been pretty snappy, Windows Phone 8 phones will be able to leverage multi-core processors, which should be able to speed up multitasking and provide better gameplay.
Shared Core with Windows 8
Having the same kernel as Windows 8 means that once developers write an app for Microsoft's PC platform, it will be very easy to port it to Windows Phone 8. For example, a game developer who writes a game for the PC will be able to easily port it to the phone. "You're going to see some beefy powerful phones running some great looking games," said Joe Belfiore, VP for Microsoft.
Nokia Map Technology
The fruits of the partnership between Microsoft and Nokia are being realized, as the company's NAVTEQ maps will be included in WindowsPhone 8 devices. In addition to enjoying turn-by-turn directions, consumers will even be able to download maps to their phones for offline use.
Faster, More Secure Internet Explorer 10
NFC and Digital Wallet
Using NFC technology, consumers will be able to use their phone as a credit and debit card, for loyalty and membership cards, and to access saved deals. Unlike Google Wallet, which places the security chip on the phone, Windows Phone 8 will require the security to be on a secureSIM card, which could help spur carrier adoption. Like Apple's Passbook, this will also mean integration with third-party apps. Orange will be the first carrier to support secureSIM cards, but Microsoft has been working with ISIS, and hopes to have a solution sometime in 2013.
Windows Phone 8 for Business
Acknowledging that some IT developers were dissatisfied with Windows Phone 7.5, the next version of Windows Phone will have a number of security features, including encryption and secure boot using Microsoft's Bitlocker technology. Windows Phone 8 will also provide the ability to sign and deploy apps without needing to go through the Windows Store. Finally, IT managers will be able to use the same tools to manage Windows 8 PCs and WP8 phones.
Windows Phone 8 now supports Native C and C code, as well as hardware acceleration through Direct3D. Additionally, developers will be able to use middleware and game engines from companies such as Havok and AudioKinetic, which will enable richer character simulation. Microsoft has announced partnerships with Gameloft and Big Fish, which will bring over titles such as "Nova 3," "Asphalt 7 Heat," and "Fairway Solitaire," which was ported from iOS in just two weeks.
VoIP apps, such as Skype, will be fully integrated into Windows Phone 8. That means when a Skype call comes in, it will look just like a regular phone call. When a user answers it, he or she will be automatically be brought into the Skype application. Like Google Voice on Android, VoIP apps should integrate with WP8's built-in phone features, except this functionality will be available to multiple developers.
It doesn't look like a Siri killer, but Microsoft is certainly taking voice more seriously in Wndows Phone 8. Through a partnership with Audible, the OS will enable a greater degree of user control using just your voice. While it's not perfect - a search for "Game of Thrones" was interpreted as "St. Louis, Missouri," the presenter was able to skip through chapters merely by saying "Next Chapter." This API will be available for third-party apps, and will be rolled out to Windows Phone 7.5 devices, too.
Users rejoice! Windows 8 will come with the ability to take screenshots by pressing on the home button and the power button at the same time.