Top 10 things we learnt about Windows Phone 8 from the recent launch event

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Top 10 things we learnt about Windows Phone 8 from the recent launch event

On Monday night, Microsoft placed the final piece in the Windows 8 puzzle with the official launch of Windows Phone 8 - a platform that looks to unify the company's efforts across PC, Xbox, and mobile.

Set to hit store shelves at the end of this week, the new Windows Phone 8 devices will be sold under the banner of "the smartphone reinvented around you", and will be backed up by a significant advertising campaign that will kick off ahead of Christmas.

Before that, though, let's run you through the top ten things we learnt about the latest iteration of Microsoft's mobile operating system from the launch event on Monday.

In no particular order.

1. Customise, customize, customise

According to Joe Belfiore, corporate VP for Windows Phone, no two phones should ever be the same.

To that end, Belfiore pointed to the customisation potential of the tile-based home screen on Windows Phone 8 devices. These live tiles aren't new, of course, though you can now fit more of them on your screen and resize them to your needs.

2. Locked in

On the subject of 'new', apps can now directly update your lock screen with fresh info and photos. By way of example, we were introduced to the new Facebook app, which can take over the whole lock screen if you want, displaying a collage of photos, full-screen shots, or updates.

3. Call me, maybe

Continuing the theme of "Powered by Live Apps", Belfiore announced a new Skype app for Windows Phone 8. Instead of Skype just being a separate application running in the background, it's now always on and ready to receive calls and messages at any time.

4. Makes Sense

Data Sense is another new core feature. This new component of Windows Phone 8 doesn't just help you keep track of your data usage, but also helps you seek out wi-fi hotspots that you can use to reduce your mobile data consumption.

5. Get your game on

In terms of software, Microsoft is promising that 46 of the 50 most widely used apps on smartphones will be available on Windows Phone 8.

Windows Phone 8 users can, therefore, look forward to downloading Temple Run, Urbanspoon - tapping into Microsoft's new speech platform - Angry Birds Star Wars, Jetpack Joyride, and a total of 12 games from Gameloft soon.

6. Wait 'til I get you home

Microsoft also unveiled a new "Kid's Corner" feature during the Windows Phone 8 launch event. Kid's Corner is designed to deal with those 'Daddy, can I play on your phone?' moments where you're left in fear of what will happen to the data on your phone after your teenager grabs hold of it.

Windows Phone 8 comes with this feature as standard, allowing parents to control and manage what games, music, and apps their offspring can gain access to. Simple, but effective.

Kid's Corner was championed by movie star and mum-of-two Jessica Alba, who made a guest appearance on stage at the San Francisco launch event to help promote this safeguard feature.

Joe Belfiore, Steve Ballmer, and Jessica Alba 7. Room for two (hundred)

In the People Hub on Windows Phone 8 handsets, you won't fail to notice the new "rooms" component. As you'd expect from a feature with that name, you can now create individual rooms for specific groups, e.g. close friends or immediate family (a family room will be preset on every new phone).

Within each room, you can chat, send your location, and share photos privately. Everyone in the room can see everything, allowing you to share notes and lists in one hit.

These rooms should prove extremely useful for anyone with hundreds of contacts in his / her address book.

8. Take me to the cloud above

Windows Phone 8 will automatically upload photos, videos, and Office documents to Microsoft's SkyDrive file hosting service.

This means that users of the SkyDrive service - who get 7GB of free storage out of the box - will be able to gain access to these uploaded files from any Windows device. Seamless, eh.

9. Music and games

Microsoft also showed some love to its new Xbox Music service and the recently released SmartGlass application. The latter allows you to control your Xbox from your phone and interact with content on the second screen.

10. Phones 4u... and you

At launch, there will be five Windows Phone 8-powered handsets available. Two from Nokia, two from HTC, and one from Samsung. Read all about them here.

Jonathan Morris
Jonathan Morris
From starting out as a games tester for Mastertronic, Virgin and Sega in the late 1980s, it may seem odd to then ditch everything to write about mobile phones that, at the time, lasted 20 minutes between charges. He always had a hunch mobiles would become quite popular, but possibly didn't realise how powerful (and, ironically, returning to 20 minutes between charges). Jonathan's job is to continue advising on the best hardware to buy, in order to enjoy games that have advanced considerably since those long days and nights testing Double Dragon on the C64.