Microsoft today, at an event in San Francisco, announced the formal launch of Windows Phone 8. Detailing a slew of new and updated software and service features, complemented by a strong line-up of hardware from Nokia, HTC, and Samsung, described, by Steve Ballmer, as "killer hardware".
Key features include closer integration with desktop Windows (services, cloud storage, common core), updated People hub (rooms), added parental controls (Kid's Corner), live lock screen with customisable notifications and automatic background images, additional voice command support (dictation in select apps, supported in third party apps) and deep VoIP integration (including Skype).
Microsoft is set to formally launch Windows Phone 8 at a number of launch events around the world, and a live stream of the presentation via the Windows Newsroom. Windows Phone 8 represents Microsoft's latest approach to the smartphone world. Coupled with the recent launch of Windows 8 and Surface, it brings together many parts of the Windows world into a single ecosystem.
Nokia and US operator Verizon today announced the upcoming availability of the Nokia Lumia 822, which will cost $99 with a two year contract, and will be exclusive to Verizon. The Lumia 822 is an operator-specific variant of the recently announced, Windows Phone 8 powered, Nokia Lumia 820.
The Nokia Lumia 822 has support for Verizon's LTE 700 (Band XIII) and CDMA (800 and 1900 MHz) bands, as well as GSM and WCDMA bands (for use when romaing internationally). Verizon announced the Lumia 822 as part of its fall portfolio, and the handset should be in stores shortly.
Microsoft has announced the launch of Xbox Music, its new all-in-one music service, which offers integrated services across PC, phone and TV. Drawing on a global catalogue of more than 30 million tracks, it offers download-to-own, subscription (Xbox Music Pass), and streaming music options. The service will be available on Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox, replacing Microsoft's current Zune music service experience.
Nokia and T-Mobile USA today announced the upcoming availability of the Nokia Lumia 810, which will be exclusive to T-Mobile, and is, essentially, a variant of the recently announced, Windows Phone 8 powered, Nokia Lumia 820.
The Nokia Lumia 810 will not support LTE, instead it will rely on T-Mobile's "4G" network (HSDPA+) for data connectivity, which means it will support WCDMA 1700 (Band IV) and 1900 (Band II) frequencies. T-Mobile said the device would be available in the "coming weeks", but did not announce any pricing information.
Nokia Xpress for Lumia has been brought into the Windows Phone world via Beta Labs and 'offers a new way to save data, time and money while you find and enjoy interesting web content'. In other words, it's a proxy-server-based browsing system that compresses web content in much the same way as the famous Opera Mini - though there are some very interesting layout and subscription twists here, which we break down for you below.
On Monday Kantar released its latest set of Worldpanel data about smartphone market share in the EU5 (UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain), the US, Australia, Brazil and Mexico. The year-on-year figures showed mixed fortunes for Windows Phones with increased share in Europe (3.8% to 5%), but a fall in the US (3.5% to 2.7%). Brazil is another bright spot with market share increasing from 3.8% to 12.2%, Mexico, by contrast, show a small fall from 2.9% to 2.7%.
Nokia Reading, an eBook and news reading app, has received a major update to version 126.96.36.1998. The key new feature is News Stream, which provides a friendly and visually rich user experience for consuming RSS (news) feeds from newspapers, blogs, and other websites. In addition, DRM-free eBooks (PDF and ePUB formats) can now be imported from SkyDrive, complementing the built in eBook store.
In New York today the Windows Phone 8X by HTC was unveiled. HTC's new Windows Phone 8 flagship device has a 4.3 inch (720p HD resolution, Super LCD 2), 1.5 GHz processor with 1GB RAM, 16GB internal memory, a class leading 8 megapixel camera (f2.0 lens and a BSI sensor), and integrated Beats audio, all wrapped in a slimline polycarbonate casing.
We've summarised the key points and technical specifications in this news story, but you can read additional detail and analysis about the handset in our hands-on preview of the HTC 8X, which covers the key design, user experience and hardware elements.
HTC today announced the 8S, one of its two new Windows Phone 8 handsets, both fo which feature enhanced audio capability provided by Beats Audio. The 8S is the budget model of the pair, offering a 4 inch 800x480 Super LCD Gorilla Glass display. As expected in Windows Phone 8 devices, the 8S also has a dual-core Qualcomm S4 1GHz CPU. Memory is limited at 512MB of RAM and 4GB of mass storage. The latter can be expanded via the 8S' MicroSD card slot. The 8S has a distinctive design that will be recognisable by virtue of its various two-tone colour schemes.