With all the rumors and speculations about Windows Phone 8; most importantly what phone (if any) will be upgradeable the internet has become a mess of contradicting articles and quotes each claiming something different, and usually each one is the complete opposite of the previous; so here’s in hopes of getting some things cleared up for you guys.
I’m not a saint – far from it- so mistakes are highly likely; if you do find a mistake please head to the closest authorities without causing a scene).
Microsoft hasn’t spoken a whole lot about WP8 (in fact as far as I know they haven’t even confirmed if that’s what it’s called); regardless there are some pieces of information that have been confirmed through multiple sources and are almost a sure thing to come in the upcoming update to WP:
The current range of WP are almost exactly identical in terms of hardware; practically the main differences between the current set of available Mango phones revolve around Screen Size (Largest Currently is the HTC Titan ii @ 4.7″), Internal memory (Most of the current WPs are 8 or 16GB; there are some 4 GB ones as well a couple 32 GB), Camera Sensor (Highest MP = 16MP on Titan ii), Front Facing Camera presence, battery Size (Largest is Lumia 900 at 1830Ma and Design. The rest however is usually cut in stone (My main issue with WP 7.5 is the fixed screen resolution; 720p has become the new standard screen resolution and no matter how awesome the Lumia 900s CBD NON-pentile display is wVGA simply can’t compete against a High resolution screen). Upcoming Hardware changes that have been confirmed so far include:
- Multi-Core Processors: yes yes, I know Elop bashed Multi-Core phones; but it would seem as if Nokia are going to have to make one sooner or later; especially if it becomes a requirement for the more taxing WP8, it’s possible that any Nokia Pureview phone might require multicore simply because the camera itself might require a dedicated processor (as it even has it’s own processor on the 808); and as we all know with great processors comes great responsibility; meaning if someone screws up the way they work you could end up with about 4 hours of battery life (HTC One X is a nice example of this).
- More screen resolutions: It was confirmed that the upcoming version of WP will support 4 New screen resolutions; Although there are no specifics as to what these resolutions are My money is that 720p is a given in this field, it’s possible that we can also expect a Landscape slider phone as those also required specific resolutions (maybe something along the E7′s formfactor?).
- Support For Removable Expandable Memory: Here’s the weird thing, WP already supports Micro SD cards, as the first batch of WPs (first generations that launched with WP 7.0) actually used Micro SD cards as the internal storage, and with some degree of hacking and minimal mechanical engineering skills (mainly some soldering experience) it was possible to swap out these SD cards for one with a larger capacity; but for some reason WP just doesn’t support them as swappable/Expandable (as in Android & Symbian)- hopefully however this will soon be remedied; and once Removable SD cards are available logic dictates that Mass Storage mode and file manager should also be available.
- Native NFC Support: True Nokia already have a NFC Enable Lumia 610 but apparently they went through alot of trouble to get it working; however WP8 should support this “Inside the box” (we use the phrase “Out of the box” for the finished product so I assume “Inside the Box” is fitting for software?)- the NFC support on WP can be used by a secure element on the SIM card or by utilizing hardware in the phone itself, as well as the usual tap to share; except that the tap to share will be Cross-Platform be it with a tablet, Android phone or a PC.
On the software side even fewer details are available on what to expect; particularly when it comes to the magic word: “Updates”; I’m not even going to bother going into what we know rumor wise and what we don’t; but my personal opinion is that it all depends on the minimum requirements of WP8; if Dual core and up is a must; or more RAM then obviously forget about it; on the other hand all OEMs would probably do their best to ensure that their customers get what they can so even if the current gen of WP don’t get Apollo/WP8 we’ve been assured multiple times that they will still get constant upgrade supports; perhaps liter version of WP8 mainly the UI changes that will occur?
- Unification: The basis of WP8 is that it should finally bridge the gap between phones, tablets and PCs; to get this done WP8 is based on alot of the same components as the PC version; making it light-years easier for developers to make their programs phone friendly. Another aspect of the unification is the identical UIs as anyone who’s tried out the consumer preview of Win 8 has no doubt seen the Metro UI desktop (large point of debate between Love and hate but that’s besides the point).
- Bye-Bye Zune: Personally I love Zune, since it’s light on the PC (at least when you compare it to Nokia Suite), it’s easy to use, and it keeps all my music organized; but of course as most things are it’s not without its limitations- and in this case they’re kind of big ones mainly the fact that Zune has a relatively narrow Compatible OS field but is yet a critically important factor in using a WP device; I was surprised to hear that Zune only runs on Win XP SP3 and above, meaning anyone with the original XP or a Mac are out of luck. I highly suggest you read this article HERE on wpsauce that explain why Zune is the weakest link in Windows Phone’s armor.
- Skype Integration: Obviously Microsoft didn’t spend 8.5 BILLION dollars on acquiring skype just because it wouldn’t download on Balmer’s computer; the main vision of this is somewhere along the lines of a proper Skype/WP integration, which would most probably mean making skype calls without even having to run the app (as if it were a normal phone call).
- Camera Skinning by OEMs: Currently almost all WPs use the same camera UI with tiny changes (which is why most camera enhancement apps comes as separate apps rather than baked into the OS- such asCreative studio and the recently leaked Camera Extension; the second of which could be a preview of what to expect in upcoming Lumias).
- Deeper Skydrive Integration: Currently Skydrive on WP runs as an external application and is only accessed directly through the OS when uploading images to twitter; however WP 8 will change all that making Skydrive your primary syncing platform of multimedia between your devices (Ex: you just bought a new Lumia 910 and want to copy all your Music off your old Lumia 800; theoretically you should just be able to power up your 910 and sign in with your Live ID- then get a prompt to restore old phone data or something similar to that.
- DataSmart: As the name would suggest Datasmart is a new concept that will be introduced into WP8 that will give users a breakdown of data consumption, more flexibility to help them control their Data caps, as well as optimizing the usage of WiFi whenever possible.
- Enterprise Security: WP now has a slim window of eating up RIMs rapidly declining market share, and that can only be accomplished by becoming a leading name in enterprise/Business mobiles; as most companies are now switching to iPhones as their company devices WP has to make a name for itself in the field; therefore WP8 will support native BitLocker encryption — the same 128-bit, full-disk encryption used on PCs, as well as enabling multiple Business applications to help setup internal networks within company firewalls.
So far this post has just been a list of what to expect in WP8 from the OS itself, but what about the Vendors/OEMs? It’s useless to deny that WP isn’t going to grow, will it grow to the size of Android and Apple? I have no clue, but it definitely won’t stop at its last estimated 4% worldwide share; and with the upcoming release of WP8 multiple OEMs who first seemed to be testing the waters with their pinky fingers (basically slapping WP on leftover Droids) have announced that they plan on committing to the upcoming platform. Once that happens do Nokia’s words from MWC back in February stand the same where they said “Currently our goal isn’t to get the largest piece of the pie; our focus is on making a bigger pie”. Within the first quarter of a Lumia WP release Nokia had already earned the title of the World’s largest WP Vendor with over 36% of WP having their name stamped on it; I can only imagine what that number is now considering that was well before the release of the Lumia 900 & the 610 (However HTCs market-share also shouldn’t be under-estimated as yesterday the Titan II was sold out from online At&t Stores).
But as WP8 inevitably comes closer Samsung has confirmed it’s commitment to the ”platform as it would allow them to push out more powerful devices”, Also LG who have been relatively quiet on the WP front have promised some upcoming WP8 devices. These two vendors alongside ZTE’s Low end WP (which could pose a threat to Nokia’s Promising start in China) should not be taken lightly, Samsung have already dethroned Nokia from one title this year I’m sure they’d love to knock down a second.
In my opinion the Cause for alarm is the same reason as to why Nokia have done so well in the WP platform so far, simply put the Hardware is regulated; making the competition boil down to Camera, Design, Price and Software Services. Nokia Have the Design in their pocket’s hands down, the Lumia services are Beyond excellent beating anything Apple or any Android OEM have to offer with the completely free offline navigation (unlike HTC), The Awesome Mix Radio, Recently Launched NokiaTV and the long list of Nokia Exclusive apps ensures that Nokia are serious when it comes to software, Although the optical performance of the Lumia range has been spotty so far it’s not to be taken lightly since the promise of Pureview technology is coming soon to WP; and Finally Nokia seem to have gotten the pricing scheme right with the latest releases (at least when the phones are subsidized by carriers). However when the Hardware is no loner regulated there-in arises the problem, obviously I love Nokia (or else I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this) but for the sake of honesty I can’t recall a single Nokia smartphone that had some sort of earth-shattering hardware component (Cameras excluded of course); in all brutal and crude honesty Nokia have never been ones to push out the latest hardware on time first (recall this Meme by Jay?). In other words Nokia has got to step it up in terms of hardware output as well WITHOUT getting too cocky about their Software services, a major factor coming in WP8 as mentioned above is the skinning of the Camera UI; which HTC are quite good at (the camera UI on the OneX is pretty amazing if I dare say so- super fast captures, take images while recording, record in Slow-motion, up to 100 burst captures per minute…) once the doors are opened for Camera customization on WP you can expect to see alot of these features arriving on HTC’s Titan Successor (especially since it’s already trying to prove itself as a Camera beast); regardless if these features are gimmicks or not they are selling points and must be taken into consideration.
The answer/solution is a simple formula but a difficult one to carry out; Nokia has to keep their lead in the Software front, taking advantage of its special relationship with MSFT; expanding its entertainment and Mapping powers all the while upgrading their processors at the same time, not sticking to the same processor for the next five years. If WP8 is anything like WP7 (where it doesn’t require 17 cores to run properly) then the optimal solution for Nokia to make a respectable device without having to get into a core race with the other OEMs (last time they ended the Megapixel race with a 41 MP camera, I wonder how they’d end a core race?) would be to pull an “Apple-Like” vow of silence; NORMAL people don’t care how many cores are in a phone as long as it runs smooth; but if you tell them this HTC has 4 cores while the Nokia has 2 Cores; no matter how much explaining you do some primal part of the brain will believe that the 4 cores are better (MORE POWER!). On the other hand when all the consumer knows is that the phone “runs the latest optimized hardware” it won’t make a difference what else is on the table as it becomes an apple-oranges situation.