Just a few days after Microsoft unveiled its first-party tablet, the Microsoft Surface, here’s a look at the newly updated Windows Phone OS, now up to version 8 just in time for the Windows 8 launch later this year.
Windows Phone 8 will sport a new Start screen that builds on the personalization features of the Windows Phone 7.5 interface, making it even more customizable and personal.
The core concept of the Start screen is the live tiles. The selection, layout, and positioning of the tiles is what gives the Start screen its personality. You can pin your favorite apps, people, and groups, with the result that every Windows Phone is unique to its owner.
Windows Phone 8 improves this in two ways. The Start screen now fills the full width of the screen, removing the gutter and right-pointing arrow of the Windows Phone 7.5 screen. The live tiles are also substantially more customizable. There’s a new tile size, occupying a quarter of the screen’s width, and tile size is now up to the end user. A long press on a tile shows a size toggle to allow the three different sizes (quarter width, half width, and full width) to be chosen.
The result is greater flexibility for users, and more options for developers. In Windows Phone 7.5, only the half-width tile is supported for regular developers (though OEMs and phone carriers can produce apps with full-width tiles). With Windows Phone 8, all sizes will be available to all developers. The system will automatically generate new quarter-width tiles for existing applications.
Windows Phone just keeps getting better and better, and while I’m not hot on the tiles look for Windows 8, it works really well on a phone. Even though I’m a fan of my iPhone, once Windows Phone starts coming close to the number of iOS and Android apps and the OS evolves a little more, I might have to seriously look into getting one.