In a mobile device world where speed and size are driving much of the demand, Microsoft Windows Phone is finally stepping up to the plate with an operating system that can keep pace.
Redmond on Monday announced new features for Windows Phone 8 Update 3, which will roll out to existing phones over the next several months. The company had three goals in mind with the latest update: enable new Windows Phone devices; enhance the platform with new capabilities for current users and partners; and improve overall quality.
That translates, in part, to a bigger Start screen for more Live Tiles, a new, customizable driving mode, and better accessibility options. Update 3 also adds support for larger and shaper displays and quad-core processors. That means better gaming experiences and longer battery life.
Under the Hood
“So the new update paves the way for future Windows Phone devices with 5- and 6-inch touch screens. The larger, 1080p HD displays on these devices will make Windows Phone even more personal -- for example by sporting jumbo-sized Start screens with room for six Live Tiles across instead of four,” explained Darren Laybourn, corporate vice president of Windows Phone, in a blog post.
A bigger Start screen means the ability to pin even more of the people, info, and apps that matter to you, he said, and built-in apps and hubs like e-mail, photos, people, and music and videos will also be scaled to leverage additional real estate on six-inch screens.
Update 3 will also bring support for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor. Laybourn said. The added horsepower that this chip delivers should make the mobile operating system perform even better, he said. And the new Driving Mode feature lets you send automatic replies to people who call or text while you are driving.
“Another highlight of the new update is Mobile Accessibility for Windows Phone 8, which isn’t a single feature but a suite of apps designed to make Windows Phone easier to see, hear, and use,” Laybourn said. “The apps, which include a screen reader, make it easier for blind and visually impaired users to manage calls and contacts, send texts and e-mails, browse the Web, make Skype and Lync calls, and hear notifications like alarms, calendar events, and low-battery warnings.”
What’s the Best Strategy?
We asked Roger Entner, a wireless analyst at Recon Analytics, for his take on the new update. He told us it’s about time Microsoft got more flexible. Microsoft Windows Phone has indeed gained a reputation for its hardware restrictions, which made devices on which the operating system runs homogenous.
“With that you have the advantage that with Apple everything works pretty well,” Entner said. “On the other hand you don’t get the advantages that Google has with Android where you have this plethora of different devices.”
As Entner sees it, Google wins by having many different form factors. He hopes to see the Windows Phone update open up a more diverse device base for Microsoft. Meanwhile, he wonders how long a single form factor will work for Apple.
“It’s like what Ford said, ‘You can have the Ford Model T in any color you want so long as it’s black.’ Apple is a little bit like that too,” Entner said. “They’ve become easier on the shell but if you look at the screen size they have two standards.”