Microsoft Windows Phone 8: New Start screen, multi-core support, NFC, and more

Windows Phone 8 preview WP8

At a press event in San Francisco today, Microsoft unveiled its forthcoming smartphone operating system, Windows Phone 8. The OS revamp brings a number of new features — or, at least, they’re new to Windows Phone — including support for multi-core processors, NFC wallet payment functionality, Nokia maps, and a more-customizable Start screen. Below, a quick run-down of the new features promised for Windows Phone 8, which will begin shipping in devices this fall.

1. Hardware support improvements

Mult-core CPUs: Unlike Windows Phone 7, WP8 will support devices with multi-core processors. Microsoft says it will focus on WP8 functionality with dual-core devices, but will be able to support quad-core CPUs, or higher, as well. Good thing — Android already appears on quad-core handsets.

Shared core with Windows 8: WP8 will share one of its cores with Windows 8, making it possible for developers to make apps that work with both operating systems.

Micro-SD: Windows Phone 8 will (finally) work with devices that have microSD card slots, allowing users to expand storage, and more easily transfer files from their handsets.

Screen resolution upgrade: WP8 will support three different screen resolutions: “true 720p,” which is 1280×720 resolution; 1280×768 (WXGA); and 800×600 (WVGA).

2. IE 10

Internet Explorer 10 will come pre-installed on WP8 devices. Further, the browser will share certain key functionalities (Javascript, rendering engines, etc) with the tablet and PC versions of IE 10. (That also means it will share some of the same vulnerabilities to attack.) Microsoft promises faster Web browsing with IE 10, as well.

3. Better apps

Microsoft says it has made improvements in WP8 that will allow developers to more easily port apps created for Windows over to the phone version. The company also says WP8 allows for better for games, and “more immersive apps.”

4. Microsoft Wallet

Again catching up with Android, Windows Phone 8 includes a apparently robust Near Field Communication (NFC) digital wallet payment system that will work with both debit cards and credit cards, as well as third-party services, allowing users to pay for items with their phone. Microsoft promises the “mist complete wallet experience” of any NFC-enabled phone on the market.

5. Nokia maps

Goodbye, Bing Maps. Hello, Nokia maps. WP8 will come loaded with Nokia’s custom-built map app, which includes turn-by-turn directions, and offline support, so you won’t get lost if you don’t have a wireless signal. Nokia maps will also be available to third-party app developers.

6. Enterprise upgrades

Hoping to snap up some of the fleeing Blackberry users in the business sector, Microsoft has added in encryption and secure boot features into WP8, which are based on Microsoft’s Bitlocker technology. WP8 will, of course, come loaded with Microsoft Office.

7. New user interface

One of the “features” Microsoft appears the most excited about is its new Start screen. Now, users have greater control over the look of the Live Tiles. This includes far greater control over the size of each tile, so users can make the ones they use most big, and shrink less-important ones. New color options have also been added.

8. Skype and VoIP integration

WP8 will include “industry leading” VoIP integration. While Skype (which is owned by Microsoft) will not come deeply baked into WP8, the popular VoIP calling software will come as a stand-alone app for WP8, and will make use of the OS’s new VoIP support.

Check back with Digital Trends soon for more in-depth looks at Windows Phone 8.

Update 6/26/2012 by Jeffrey VC: Microsoft has shown off Windows Phone 7.8, which will give current Windows Phone users an upgraded Start Screen since they won’t be getting Windows Phone 8. There are also rumors of a Microsoft branded Windows Phone. Finally, Geoff has wondered whether its too late for Widnows Phone 8

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