The much-anticipated Windows Phone 8 is finally rolling out. The latest version of Microsoft's smartphone operating system has major implications for both Redmond and Nokia, which is betting heavily on the software to help turnaround its ailing handset business.
Microsoft introduced the new platform Monday, but the world will have to wait a little longer to get their hands on Windows Phone 8 devices from Nokia and other smartphone-makers. Devices toting the new mobile operating system won't hit the market for at least another few days. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile will offer new models carrying Windows Phone 8.
"We can't wait for the world to meet Windows Phone 8, the most personal smartphone there is," said Terry Myerson, corporate vice president of the Windows Phone Division at Microsoft. "Windows Phone 8 comes on a range of phones that are stunning, colorful and unique."
A Unique User Interface
One of the most prominent features of Windows Phone 8 is Live Tiles. Microsoft actually calls this the "heart and soul" of Windows Phone. Live Tiles lets mobile phone users arrange the start screen however they want by pinning their favorite people, apps, music, games, photos and other items. In a move to let consumers personalize their devices, there are three sizes and 20 colors of Live Tiles.
Running with the "Live" theme, Windows Phone 8 also offers Live Apps. Live Apps bring information to the start screen like the Groupon deal of the day, flight information and news headlines. And Live Apps like Facebook can deliver real-time information to the lock screen with updated wallpaper.
Although Apple dominates in the app world, the Windows Phone Store now boasts 120,000 apps. Microsoft said hundreds more are being added every day. And Pandora, the Internet radio service, is coming to Windows Phone in early 2013 with one year of ad-free music.
Kids, Rooms and Payments
Meanwhile, Kid's Corner lets parents hand over their phones to the children without worrying about deleted photos, misdirected e-mails, unapproved purchases or accidental phone calls. After a simple setup, parents can activate a specialized place on the phone for kids to play, accessing only the apps, games, music and videos picked by parents.
Other features of Windows Phone 8 include Rooms, which lets you create private groups of people who also use Windows Phone devices so you can connect just with them, chat, or share calendars, photos and shopping lists. And Data Sense lets you surf more without going over your data limit by compressing Web images, deferring data tasks to free Wi-Fi and automatically adjusting your usage as you get closer to your plan limits.
Windows Phone 8 includes capabilities for payments via near-field communications (NFC). The Windows Phone wallet can also store your debit, credit, loyalty and membership card information on your phone. Microsoft will soon roll out a new Skype app that always stays on.
Meet Windows Phone Devices
Nokia, HTC and Samsung are rolling out Windows Phone 8 devices at U.S. carriers in the coming weeks. Verizon Wireless will carry the Windows Phone 8X by HTC for $199.99 with a two-year contract, and the Nokia Lumia 822, exclusive to Verizon, for $99.99 with a two-year contract.
AT&T will carry the Nokia Lumia 920, the Lumia 820 and the Windows Phone 8X by HTC, all going on sale in November. And T-Mobile will carry the Windows Phone 8X by HTC starting at $149.99 for the 16 GB version and the Nokia Lumia 810 from $99.99. T-Mobile is expecting customers to be able to purchase these Windows Phones on Nov. 14.