While Google’s event was rained out in NYC, Microsoft kept the announcement train going with the Windows Phone 8 event in San Francisco earlier today. There’s plenty to talk about with Windows Phone 8 so sit tight.
One of the first new features shown off was the “live lockscreen” that was leaked earlier this week. It’s powered by new Live Apps that are able to update your lock screen with info that you want. It’s not as advanced as, say, Google Now which actively learns things like your routine and sports team, but the greater, more granular control of the information the new lock screen can display will likely be preferred by more people.
Another Windows Phone 8 highlight was Kids Corner. Intended to be a built-in alternative to “kids lock” apps in various smartphone app markets, Kids Corner allows parents to set up an area of the phone with apps, websites, and media just for their child, sequestered away from the rest of the data on the device. It’s all accessed with a swipe to the right of the lockscreen.
In the age of tiered smartphone data, Microsoft’s given Windows Phone 8 new tools that allow users to manage their data usage and avoid potential overages. Data Sense is designed to give easy to follow insights as to how apps are using data on a user’s Windows Phone and set up alerts when someone approaches and reaches the their data limit. More interestingly, Data Sense has some carrier dependant functionality that will actually reduce the amount of data you use. If your carrier opts into doing the work on their end, Verizon is the first carrier here in the US to do so, Microsoft claims you’ll be able to browse 47% more webpages on the same data plan before hitting your cap. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.
With RIM’s BBM service still a surprisingly popular method of group communication, and other cross-platform group messaging apps taking the world by storm, Microsoft’s seemingly doing them all one better with Rooms. A mix of contact grouping and group messaging, it takes those features to the next level with the ability to create a shared group calendar, shared group notes, and shared photo galleries. Unfortunately like BBM, you’ll need a Windows Phone 8 device to get full functionality. Other group members can still get select data like a group’s shared calendar though. Still, we hoped that a cross platform Rooms app would be in the works.
Executives also took the time to address the app situation, which many believe is a poor one. Windows Phone now has 120,000 apps to choose from and 47 of the top 50 smartphone apps. They also announced that Pandora will finally have an official app on Windows Phone. Oddly a Windows Phone holdout, especially after having a well received app on Windows Mobile, Pandora will also have 1 year of ad free listening. Other apps coming to Windows Phone include Temple Run and Cut The Rope: Experiments.
As far as phones and availability go, European buyers will be able to buy Windows Phone 8 devices as early as this weekend with a rollout to other worldwide shoppers occurring in stages. For the US market in particular, T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon will carry devices beginning next month.
Windows Phone Event Gallery: