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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Windows Phone 8 may or may not come to current handsets. Won’t stop them from working if it doesn’t

Windows Phone 8 will be available as an update to current Windows Phone 7 handsets….or not. Nobody, I repeat, nobody really knows the answer for certain. So everything you have been reading in the past few days, hours should be filed under the rumor tag. At the day of the day the question is: Does it really matter? Well, in terms of PR, Marketing and overall user trust, not releasing a Windows Phone 8 update (or a subset of it) for, at the very least, the second generation of Windows Phone 7 handsets (especially Nokia’s) would be one of the dumbest move Microsoft will have ever done. Remember, we are talking about the same company that launched the horrendous Kin handsets. Sadly, anything is possible with the boys and girls in Redmond so don’t get your hopes up.

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AT&T Samsung Focus finally getting NoDo via V1.4 update

Believe it or not but the NoDo update still hasn’t been rolled out across all devices yet. Many Samsung Focus owners on AT&T are apparently the unluckiest ones this time around because of bugs and hardware manufacturing inconstancy (all Focus devices don’t have the same memory modules). According to Microsoft the latest V1.4 firmware update containing device specific fixes (I assume that it should fix the multi-touch issue) is now being gradually rolled to AT&T subscribers.

As I mentioned yesterday, we have been working to expedite the scheduling of the AT&T Samsung Focus v.1.4 update. I am happy to report updates are being delivered now for this phone. Please connect your Samsung Focus v.1.4 to your PC to update your phone.

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Windows Phone 7 NoDo roll out still underway: Samsung Focus and Omnia 7 users still waiting

Some Samsung Omnia 7 and Samsung Focus owners are unfortunately still waiting for their Windows Phone 7 Nodo (v. 7392) update notification nearly three months after the the beginning of the update roll-out. Samsung devices have been plagued with update issues ever since the first minor update was pushed in February but this time the delay is caused by the silly carrier scheduling and testing (the update have successfully been resumed for the unbranded Samsung devices nearly a month ago):

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Samsung Windows Phone 7 update roll out resumed

Microsoft has just resumed the roll out of the Windows Phone 7 Nodo and 7392 security updates for the Samsung devices just a couple of hours after the release of Samsung’s patch for the Omnia 7. As you can see the screenshot above I just received the 7392 update notification. Any Samsung Focus Owner getting the update notification or are the Omnia 7 device’s only affected right now? Please post a comment below to let everybody know.

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Samsung Omnia 7 patch released to allow 7392 update

Samsung has just released a patch that is meant to allow the Omnia 7 handsets to correctly install the 7392 security update. We’ve know for a while that Microsoft halted all Samsung Windows Phone 7 updates because of an unknown issue that had to be fixed but this new development most probably means that the roll out will re-start now and that the solution will be provided in the form of this Samsung patch instead of an “updated” package as announced by Microsoft a couple of days ago.

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Fix for “Walshed” Windows Phone 7 handsets released

The “official” fix for the “Walshed” Windows Phone 7 devices is now out. As I said in the previous post about this issue only a few phone’s seem to be affected by the update problem so this utility is only for those of you who still can’t get the 7392 security update after applying the ChevronUpdater update hack to get 7390 Nodo.

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Microsoft forced HTC to downgrade color palette to 16bit on Windows Phone 7 handsets ?

A Microsoft support contractor/employee posted earlier this week that the color banding issue experienced by HTC users after the firmware update that came along side NoDo update was the result of Microsoft’s decision to force HTC to downgrade their device’s color depth to 16bit because it was apparently set to 32bit before. Let’s just say that I have some serious doubts about this claim. Anyway, here’s the full statement:

Hello,

When HTC launched the HD7 and Trophy they upgraded the color depth to 32 bit, which was outside of Microsoft’s design requirements of 16bit. Microsoft implemented the design standards to help ensure the best possible and consistent experience for all customers on all Windows Phones. To continue to deliver a stable and consistent customer experience, HTC returned the devices to the 16 bit design requirements as part of the March (7.0.7390) update.

The color palette change should not make a noticeable change to most customers experience on their Windows Phone 7. Microsoft’s goal is to ensure that the device is performing as optimally as possible – and as always their engineering teams continue to investigate the opportunities for future improvements.

Thank you for your contribution to the forums.

First, let me just say that the 16bit color depth requirement in WP7 is true. Only Mango will allow third-party applications to run in 32bit if the developer decides to force it. Now my issue with this whole situation is that forcing the OS to run in 32bit (via the registry) results in a serious performance hit. I invite anyone who claims that this isn’t the case to shoot a before and after video to see the difference. I’ve done it on an Omnia 7 & a friends HTC 7 Trophy. Both device’s take a nose dive in terms framerate, especially in third party apps. Before the NoDo update HTC’s devices didn’t exhibit any banding and performed without any performance issues as you can see in the the video after the break:

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Samsung Omnia 7 and Focus update issues still not fixed

 

Patience is a virtue, right? Samsung Omnia 7 and Samsung Focus will unfortunately still have to wait for their Windows Phone 7 Nodo and security updates according to Microsoft’s latest post on the situation.

I know some of you are eager for news on the Omnia 7 and Focus issues I discussed last week. We’re making progress, but I don’t have anything new to report just yet. As soon as I do, I’ll let you know.

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Windows Phone 7 ChevronUpdater issue being fixed. Microsoft explains the situation

If you have previously used the ChevronUpdater to update you Windows Phone 7 handset to NoDo then there’s a chance that you won’t be able to update your handset anymore. This was previously announced by Microsoft and was the reason why the hack was taken down a few hours after it went public. Now that the 7392 update is being rolled out some of the users who previously used the hack are unable to successfully in tall the update on their handsets. Fortunately a fix is being worked on by the man behind the original hack, and Microsoft is in the process of validating it.

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