Microsoft has revealed everything there is to know about Windows Phone 8, and given its new mobile operating system the green light for launch, which it will do over the first weeks of November. The company has always said it was holding a few surprises back, which it would divulge closer to the OS’s release, and it finally came clean during an event in San Francisco yesterday evening.
Sadly though, the features it held back are a little specific, and will either appeal to certain groups of people – in this case, parents – or to Americans, as that’s where they’re available.
First up we have Kids Corner, which is an easy-to-use setting that stops kids from doing something bad – sending an email, making an in-app purchase or generally making a mess of things – while still letting them play a game on your phone. There’s even the chance to customise the home screen especially for your children, a lot like providing a second account, just with more restrictions.
Next we have Data Sense, a feature that will help Windows Phone users “get the most of their data plan”, by automatically offloading data to nearby Wi-Fi hotspots, compressing web browsing data, offering comprehensive information on which apps are using the most data, and providing a warning when you’re getting close to your limit.
This may sound great, but it has to be supported by the network to which the phone is connected, and so far only Verizon in the USA has been announced. Perhaps a UK network will join them in the future though.
Finally, if you like to share calendars, notes and photos with other people who don’t use Windows Phone, then the new Room feature inside the People Hub will help you out, as it’s compatible with other systems, including iOS.
Microsoft also demoed a new Pandora radio application, which comes with one year of ad-free music streaming, but only in the US. Other apps discussed included a brand new Facebook, Twitter and Skype app. Microsoft also confirmed there are now 120,000 apps inside the Windows Phone Store, and that includes 46 of the top 50 mobile apps.
The event was considerably more varied than most new product launches, as Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore got his three children on stage to show how Kids Corner worked, then introduced Jessica Alba, who spoke about how easy it is to switch to Windows Phone, even if you use iTunes to manage your music.
CEO Steve Ballmer closed the event by talking about bringing Windows Phone into the new Windows family, saying if “you’re one of the hundreds of millions of people that will use Windows 8 in the next year, there is no better phone for you than a Windows phone”. That’s a lot of potential customers for Microsoft, does Windows Phone 8 have what it takes to attract them?