Windows Phone 8 launches with new features, Skype and new apps

Most of you have probably already seen the full Windows Phone 8 event that was live streamed earlier today so I won’t write an essay about everything that was shown. Instead let’s do a quick recap on what was new or simply not yet officially unveiled since Windows Phone 8′s initial announcement a few months ago.

First of all Microsoft announced the newest version of Skype for Windows Phone 8. This new version of the app will fully integrate into the OS and allow seamless VOIP calling through the phone dialer and more features like background notifications and lock-screen integration. What’s new here (for Windows Phone) is that the Skype service will constantly be running in the background even if the app wasn’t triggered by the user. this means that calls or other notifications like messages will arrive as if they were regular phone calls or SMS. Most of the functionality of the UI and People/contact integration of the WP8 app are similar to the windows 8 version that was released just 2 days ago. Checkout the video below for a quick demo:

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Windows Phone 8 finally hits RTM

After a slight delay Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 has finally hit RTM status yesterday has you can see in the picture posted above showing Microsoft VP Terry Myerson signing on the big WP8 RTM billboard alongside other developers. Windows Phone 7 originally passed RTM on September 1st 2010 with devices hitting retail in November, while Mango hit RTM on July 27th 2011 with device shipping in October. If past history is any indication it’s obviously going to be a little be tricky for the OEMs and carriers to get the first batch of devices on the market before November at the earliest. The latest whisper on the streets are still pointing to an early November launch for the Nokia Lumia 920 though…

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Windows Phone 8 launching October 29th

Nothing is official yet but according to Mary Joe Foley’s own sources Microsoft is set to commercially launch Windows Phone 8 on October 29th just three days after Windows 8. Technically we may have to wait a few more days after the launch event until we start to see the first Windows Phone 8 devices hit retail and carrier stores around the world. Remember that MJ’s sources are often right so October 29th may very well be the real deal.

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New Windows Phone 8 Features detailed

I just took a quick tour of the Windows Phone 8 emulator bundled in the Windows Phone 8 Developer Preview SDK that leaked just a few hours ago and decided to take some screenshot to show you some of the new UI tweaks and Features implemented in Apollo. Beware that there’s a lot of images after the break and not a whole lot of text (just a few lines to describe what’s on the screen). So just hit the break to see what Microsoft has been cooking for this fall release and some nice features that have been long overdue.

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Windows Phone 8 Application platform detailed

The relatively big news today is the sudden appearance of the soon to be released Windows Phone 8 Developer Preview SDK which has leaked a few hours ago via Microsoft’s own password protected servers. Instead of making tons of posts detailing every single feature of the OS simply to generate hits I’m going to provide you with the detailed overview of the Windows Phone 8 application platform which I’m going to copy and paste (from the SDK) below after the break for those of you who aren’t able to get their hands of the Docs or the full SDK package. I’m also currently installing the full 1.3Gb Binaries on by Windows 8 desktop (important note: The WP8 Preview SDK is only compatible with the Windows 8 X64 Release Preview) and will make another post later on detailing the emulator. UPDATE: My WP8 Emulator overview is here.

The following document will go into details comparing Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT (hint: there are some important differences), The Direct3D feature set supported by the OS, the built-in Native Nokia Maps implementation, Camera features, NFC features Native code and XAML support. So just head over to the break to check it all out:

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Nokia Drive to be available on all Windows Phone 8 phones. No longer exclusive to Nokia’s

Here’s a surprising piece of news that flew under my radar yesterday: Nokia Drive will no longer be exclusive to Nokia Lumia handsets on Windows Phone 8 and be made available to all other platform partners (OEMs) which means that HTC, Samsung and Huawei handsets will feature it too. Some may see this news as one less reason to get a Nokia Lumia handset but if you look at the big picture here the point of this move is to push the whole ecosystem further as it was announced back when the Microsoft Nokia deal was signed. Remember that every Android smartphone has turn-by-turn driving navigation for free and with WP8 Microsoft will have a similar offering. Windows Phone 8 will also integrate Nokia Maps as the native mapping service in Windows Phone 8.

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Windows Phone 8 unveiled: Features and specifications

Microsoft just took the wraps off Windows Phone 8 today during the Windows Phone Summit in San Fransisco. As you probably be know by now current Windows Phone 7.X handset won’t be upgradable to WP8 but will instead receive Windows Phone 7.8 and you will understand why in a shot while after getting a small glimpse at what Apollo will bring to the table later this fall.

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Windows Phone 8 to launch this fall with only four OEMs: Nokia, HTC, Samsung and Huawei all powered by Qualcomm

What I have been predicting for more than a year has finally been confirmed today when Microsoft announced that all the future Windows Phone 8 handsets launching this fall will be powered by Qualcomm‘s SnapDragon S4 Plus / MSM8930 or MSM8960 SoC with the Adreno 225 or Adreno 305 GPU, which seems to once again be the only certified chipset partner for the platform. What is more surprising though is that only four OEMs are on board this time around: Nokia, HTC, Samsung and Huawei. The rest are ..well..nowhere to been seen and frankly we shouldn’t care given the total lack of creativity and effort that was demonstrated in the past. For more Windows Phone features info hit the link after the break.

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No Windows Phone 8 upgrade to current Windows Phone 7 handsets: Windows Phone 7.8 unveiled

Microsoft has unfortunately just announced that none of the Windows Phone 7.X handset currently available will be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8. Nope, never, nada, zip… Instead Microsoft is announcing Windows Phone 7.8 which will be a free update that will be pushed ALL Windows Phone handsets bypassing carriers (and downloadable via WiFi) that will will simply add the new Windows Phone 8 start screen to all “legacy” WP7 handsets. Other WP8 features which are not hardware dependent may or may not be part of WP7.8 (Nothing has been officially announced yet). That’s it folks there’s nothing else to say here. That shiny Nokia Lumia 900 you got last week will be stuck forever with the Windows CE based WP7.X platform. Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts (or anger..).

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Windows Phone 8 screenshots leaked

They are indeed really small and blurry but do look like the real deal. A handful of Windows Phone 8 screenshots have apparently leaked earlier today ahead of the June 20th unveiling. So let’s take a closer look at what we’ve got here.

The first screenshot you see above is the DataSmart functionality which was discuss by Joe Belfiore in an internal Nokia video a few months ago that Pocketnow had in its possession. This will allow user to track their cellular/Wifi data usage per app and per service.

This screenshot shows the video call integration in the Windows Phone 8 without the need of any thrid party application like Tango for example. Skype and the soon to be launched RCS-e standard:
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