If you've been reluctant to embrace a Windows Phone because of its shortcomings, this list of Windows Phone 8 improvements might sway you.
Even the staunchest Microsoft fan can't deny that Windows Phone hasn't been a big seller. Despite some rave reviews for both the original iteration introduced in February 2010 and for the "Mango" 7.5 update, sales have remained slow.
As attractive as I found some of the Windows Phone 7.x devices, I've stuck with Android. It just serves my needs better. But as I wrote in the Smartphones blog the day Microsoft revealed Windows Phone 8, I just might finally make the move this time. Here are my top 10 reasons why Windows Phone 8 looks as if it just might lure me away from my beloved Galaxy Nexus when it's time for my next upgrade.
1: Additional storage — on steroids
I almost opted for the HTC Rezound instead of the Nexus, for one big reason: The Nexus doesn't have the microSD card slot that I had come to expect from my previous Android devices. I like being able to add extra storage if/when I need it. I was happy to see that Samsung reversed that decision with the Galaxy S III.
One of my dislikes regarding Windows Phone 7.x is the lack of support for user-removable microSD cards, as well. Microsoft apparently heard my (and others') complaint, as the Windows Phone 8 devices support not just microSD, but microSDXC, so you can add as much as 64 GB of additional storage. One of my reasons to pass on Windows Phone no longer exists.
2: Multiple cores
At a time when multiprocessing is the rule on the desktop and increasingly, on the laptop, high end smartphones have followed the trend with dual-core processors. And industry experts expect the competition among quad core phones to heat up in the second half of this year, with the Galaxy S III leading the pack with its 1.4 GHz Cortex-A9 quad-core CPU. Meanwhile, Windows Phones have tagged along behind, with single-core processors.
Never mind whether the Windows phones were plenty fast running on those single-core CPUs. Specs matter not just for what the phone can do when you take it out of the box, but also in regard to how it performs after you've loaded it down with apps — including resource-hungry apps that might not have existed at the time the phone was designed.
When Microsoft announced that Windows Phone 8 will support multiple processors (finally), I breathed a sigh of relief. Now we're hearing that the Windows Phone 8 platform is scalable enough to theoretically support processors with as many as 64 cores. Not that we'll be seeing those anytime soon, but it's nice to know that the OS is capable of that.
3: Big, beautiful screens
Sometimes bigger really is better — especially when you're trying to watch a movie or navigate a Web page. When the Droid X came out, with its massive (at the time) 4-inch display, I was wowed. I've been lusting after the Galaxy Note and its 5.3 incher, and I got all tingly when I read that the Galaxy Note 2 might top it at 5.5 inches.
With the exception of the HTC Titan at 4.7 inches, most of the Windows Phone 7 devices had comparatively small screens. And even the Titan had a low resolution 480 x 800 display, whereas the 4.65 inch display on the Galaxy Nexus is 720 x 1280, the same resolution as the HTC Rezound's 4.3 inch screen. Even the little 3.5 inch screen on the iPhone 4/4S is higher resolution at 640 x 960.
This was yet another reason I just couldn't bring myself to commit to a Windows Phone. Now that Windows Phone 8 is expected to support 720 x 1280 or 768 x 1280, I don't have to worry about that anymore.
4: Better apps
The current Windows Phone Marketplace has more than 100,000 apps, but that's still low compared to iOS and Android. Now that Microsoft seems to have "settled" on a phone OS strategy (finally!), I'm hoping we can expect more and better apps for the platform. According to a recent survey from R.W. Baird, 71% of the top 200 app developers are interested in the Windows Phone platform now, with two-thirds expressing excitement about the common code base across Windows Phone and Windows 8.
Since it will be much easier for developers to create apps for both platforms, we should eventually be able to have many of the same apps on our phones that we have on our desktops and laptops. That kind of consistency is good for users as well as programmers, as it means little or no learning curve for the phone apps.
5: Lock screen notifications
When I'm out and about, I check my phone often for email messages, missed calls if I'm in meetings and have the ringer turned off, and so forth. To do that now on my Android phone, I have to first unlock the screen, then go to the appropriate app or pull down the notification bar.
With Windows Phone 7.5, you get some information right there on the lock screen. According to reports, Windows Phone 8 will improve on that, enabling developers to display notifications for third-party apps, as well.
6: One wallet to rule them all (I hope)
In its preview of the Windows Phone 8 platform on June 20, Microsoft focused a lot of attention on its Wallet software, NFC hardware, and the potential to use them to make mobile payments. Done correctly, this could be huge.
Windows Phone 8's wallet functionality will compete with Google Wallet, Isis, and Apple's Passbook. You'll be able to use your phone to store your credit card information and make purchases at NFC-equipped retail establishments and store loyalty cards and digital coupons. It also supports in-app purchasing.
7: More devices to choose from?
One of the problems with Windows Phone 7.x has been the limited choice of devices in comparison to Android phones. (Of course, you do have more choices than iPhone fans.) Apple's philosophy aside, one size does not fit all. Depending on your carrier, if you're in the U.S. you might have one (Verizon) to six (AT&T, although three of those are variations on the Focus) Windows Phone 7.x models to choose from. Last time I checked, Verizon had 17 Android models available.
To be fair, it's easy to understand why vendors couldn't get too excited about building phones that didn't support 4G or high resolution screens when those were two of the hottest features wanted by buyers. I'm hoping that Microsoft's new direction with Windows Phone 8 will inspire hardware vendors to give us more models to showcase the new capabilities of the OS.
Details about Windows Phone 8 models are being kept under wraps at the moment, but news of some of them have already started leaking.
8: Finally — 4G
One of the reasons Verizon hasn't embraced Windows Phone 7.x, according to some rumors, was the lack of support for its fast 4G LTE network. Verizon is all about the network, and phones that can't take advantage of the latest network technology in which it has invested so much effort and money (including advertising money) just don't interest it much.
Makes sense to me. I, as a user, had little interest in a phone that would limit me to the old 3G network when LTE was available. Now that Windows Phone 8 will support 4G, Verizon seems to be warming up to Microsoft, with its chief financial officer saying in an interview back in April that it is looking for Windows Phone 8 to be a strong third player in the smartphone market.
9: Nokia maps
One of big reasons I haven't been able to tear myself away from Android is Google Maps and Google Navigation. A smartphone without turn-by-turn GPS navigation doesn't seem all that smart once you get used to having that functionality built into your phone. Now Microsoft has decided to integrate Nokia's 3D mapping service into all Windows Phone 8 devices. Sounds as if one more of the things on my must-have list has been taken care of.
Okay, this isn't a big priority for me. I'm not really a gamer. But now and then, such as when I'm stuck in an airport with a delayed flight on a rare occasion when I have no work to do, I'll play a game or two. And who knows? Maybe I'll play more often when game developers can create better games for Windows Phone 8, thanks to the native DirectX-based development platform.
And although it might not be a big deal for me and many business-oriented users, it will be important to many consumers and could push them toward buying Windows phones. The more successful the platform, the more likely that more new features and apps I do like will come along.