Windows phone is an operating system for mobile devices, such as the tablet or smartphone. Microsoft developed this technology and it replaced another of their mobile operating systems, Windows Mobile. As Windows Phone 8 was recently released on October 29 2012, here is a brief history of the development of the latest operating system by Microsoft.
Windows Phone was first released in October 2010 and the design of the operating system was made with consumers in mind, as opposed to enterprise users. Therefore, a different user interface was created to enhance the experience of using mobile devices by using a design language that focuses more on the applications, rather than graphics. Furthermore, Windows Phone is compatible with other Microsoft services and is integrated with services from third parties.
Microsoft started developing Windows Phone in 2008, partly in response to the proliferation of touch screen devices being launched in the consumer electronics market. Microsoft needed a platform for mobile devices that is suitable for touch screen technology to stay competitive in the marketplace.
Windows Phone was officially released on February 15 2010 under the name Windows Phone 7 Series in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress. A couple of months later, the name was abbreviated to Windows Phone 7. In September that year, the software development kit for the Windows Phone operating system was made available so developers can use the tools to create applications for devices using the Windows Phone platform.
On February 11 2011, a partnership between Microsoft and Nokia was announced. Smartphones made by Nokia would use Windows Phone as their main operating system. Nokia declared that the Nokia Lumia 800 would be one of the first phones to use the Windows Phone operating system and this was announced at the Nokia World event in October 2011. As a result of this, Bing became the default search engine for Nokia handsets and the Windows Phone Store and Nokia OVI Store merged.
It was announced in October later that year that Windows Phone 7 would be used on several devices being launched by major companies that manufacture mobile devices, including Samsung and HTC. Sales of these devices would commence ten days later in Australia and Europe, before being on the market in America a few weeks later. The operating system supported twenty five languages to begin with, and apps could be purchased on the Windows Phone store in over 30 countries.
Details of a big update to the Windows Phone 7 OS were revealed at Mobile World Congress in 2011. Mango, the name used to refer to the update, addressed some of the limitations of the platform. The changes included developing a mobile version of the Microsoft web browser (Internet Explorer 9).
There are many features on the Windows Phone operating system, making it a practical and fun way for mobile phone users to connect with others and to organise their daily activities.
The brand new user interface categorises features into distinctive folders called “Live Tiles” on the home screen. These tiles are active links to your various applications and functions, including messaging, Facebook, music and gaming and update in real time. For instance, the number of unread emails changes as they are received and opened.
Additionally, some applications are grouped together to form a “hub” and it collects data between the local content on the phone and online content that is integrated with Windows Phones, such as social networks. For example, the People hub will access contact details from the mobile phone, Facebook, Gmail, Hotmail and other sources that keep this type of information. Also, a “Me” profile can be set up on the phone so a picture, status and wall can be pushed to the various social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn.
As Windows Phone supports multi-touch technology, a virtual keyboard is used to compose messages or dial a number. The touch precision of performing these activities has been widely commended by early reviewers.
In addition to this, the ability to zoom in on a picture by pinching the screen and scrolling pages has been praised by reviewers of technology websites, such as Gizmodo, due to the responsiveness of the touch screen technology.
The multimedia centre on a Windows Phone combines music, pictures, gaming and video applications together as a hub for entertainment utilising the Windows Phone operating system. Users can access songs, podcast and videos that have been stored on the mobile phone as well as being able to stream similar content on other music and video services such as YouTube.
In the Pictures hub, images are stored from pictures taken with the mobile, photo albums on Facebook or SkyDrive, a hosting service by Microsoft that allow users to keep files online in the cloud. Users can upload their photos to social networks, tag people in the pictures and comment on the photos.
Microsoft’s suite of products on the PC can easily be synchronised on a Windows Phone too. The Games hub is incorporated with Xbox Live, a digital media and online multiplayer gaming service for those who enjoy playing games.
The functionality of Xbox Live is present on a mobile device using Windows Phone as users with accounts can still message their friends, update their profile, interact with their avatar and more. Millions of songs from major record companies like Sony BMG are available with Xbox Music. There is also a subscription service called the Xbox Music Pass that allows users to download songs and play them with Microsoft devices for as long as they have a subscription. Xbox Video is where users can download movies in HD from large film studios like Universal as well as television programmes.
For those who use the Zune software (a media player, marketplace and media streaming application for Microsoft products), it can be easily synced with a Windows Phone wirelessly. Music and video files can be stored on a PC and on a Windows Phone, but apps are only kept on the mobile phone. On the Zune Marketplace, users can buy apps, music and videos for their Windows Phone. In fact, the Windows Phone Store can also be accessed with the Zune software to purchase songs, podcasts, videos and apps. Updates to Window Phone devices can be done by using the Zune software too.
Search on a Windows Phone can be done within applications. For example, by entering a search term in the People hub, it will bring up related results from the contacts folder. On the other hand, search is performed on the web browser using the Bing search engine, which includes looking for websites, the news and location on a map.
By holding down the Start button on a Windows Phone, the voice recognition feature can be activated by speaking to the mobile phone to quickly launch applications, call a contact or search a term using Bing.
When conducting a location-based search, the maps on Bing also highlight places of interest like restaurants or attractions nearby, which is an excellent feature. Although Bing is set as the default search engine, others can be used on a Windows Phone. The mobile version of Internet Explorer 9 is also installed on a Windows Phone and is similar to the desktop version where 6 tabs can be opened at once. Furthermore, favourite pages on the web can become a tile on the home screen as part of the customisable feature of the Live Tiles.
The Microsoft Office Suite is compatible with a Windows Phone which is to be expected. Named as the Office hub, the application has functionality for the mobile format of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote and SharePoint Workspace where users can view and edit files from a Windows Phone.
Again, folders stored on the mobile device can also be accessed in addition to files on SkyDrive. The different types of programs in Microsoft Office are distinguished by their tile colour. For example, Microsoft Word documents are represented by a blue tile whereas Microsoft Excel spreadsheets are represented by a green tile.
Windows Phone has been celebrated for its sleeker design and new user interface, making it easier for consumers to use their electronic devices efficiently. It is a faster and more fluid experience, enabling users to access their applications and spend more time doing the things that matter.
With the current version of Windows Phone, Windows Phone 8, the operating system has improved its capabilities by having background multitasking as a feature. This means that more than one program on the device can be run at the same time, something which was only available with bundled apps in the previous version of Windows Phone.
There are a number of mobile phones on the market that use Windows Phone 8. Mobilephones.com has HTC 8S deals as well as HTC 8X deals available in both black and blue starting from £15.50 a month and £26 a month respectively on contract. Mobilephones.com also has two phones that use Windows Phone 8 from the Nokia Lumia range. Mobilephones.com has Nokia Lumia 820 deals starting from £20.50 a month on contract and Nokia Lumia 920 deals starting from £20.50 a month. The Nokia Lumia 920 comes in black, white or yellow.