Let’s be clear about something: Windows Phone 7 was simply a warm up act for Windows Phone 8. It was the start of something big and different for Microsoft, a way for them to take a distinctive approach to the current smartphone exemplar. But Microsoft were hindered by numerous roadblocks: an aging kernel (the core of the OS), limited hardware and a desire to be more conservative in features waiting instead for user-feedback and to see how people actually use their phones.
With Windows Phone 8, the gloves are off.
There are two areas in which Windows Phone 8 differs from its predecessor: the core of the OS has been updated with the NT kernel and the addition and refinement of features. Consumers don’t need to know about the kernel specifics but they will see the results: new, top of the line hardware. That hardware will be evident in a few weeks when devices like the HTC 8X and Nokia Lumia 920 become available.
Microsoft has also spent a lot of time listening to feedback on how people used their phones. As a result, Windows Phone 8 brings many new refinements that should please current users and make new ones happy.
The odd thing about Windows Phone 8 is there is no single killer feature. So when people ask “Why do I need Windows Phone over Android or iOS?” it’s hard to give a distinct, concise answer. That’s not a knock on the OS or Microsoft; in fact it’s a compliment. Often in the smartphone business, gimmicks are touted as “flagship features” or “must haves”. The problem with that is they are usually short lasting. All a competitor has to do is match that same feature by mimicking it (or sometimes just plain stealing it).
No, Windows Phone 8 is the whole package. It’s a fast stable OS that is as beautiful as it is functional. Combined with Microsoft’s might behind Windows 8 for the desktop, Surface tablets, Xbox 360 with Kinect and what you have is a single, united front attacking mobile, gaming and the PC. It’s a force to be reckoned with and it is just starting.
Live Tiles and Live Apps
Turning on the phone for the first time, we see those familiar Live Tiles appear on screen, flipping and changing gleefully, bringing that “glance and go” approach to the end user with ease. What is different about the design this time is the tile-size options: small, medium and large (affectionately called “double wide”). Users can now prioritize their Tiles by manipulating their dimensions, obviating the uniformness of its predecessor.
Not only does this make organizing your Tiles smarter it gives users a new level of customization. Sure, it’s not slapping on hideous wallpaper or changing the Tile’s physical look (i.e. skinning), but surprisingly such a small addition has dramatically changed the way the Phone behaves. And when placed next to Microsoft’s Windows 8 (Surface RT tablet), you can see the same look and vision oozing over.
Another simple but useful addition is the ability to share apps right from the App list. By simply pressing and holding on the app, not only do you get the usual options to review, uninstall or pin to the Start screen, but you can now directly share it via email, SMS or tap to share. The old method would require you to go search for the app in the Store and hit the Share button. This is obviously much more direct.