The best new apps and features of Windows Phone 8

Features Paul Briden 12:08, 30 Oct 2012

We take a look at the best apps and features Microsoft has added to Windows Phone 8

Windows Phone 8 introduces a number of changes over its predecessor.

The most significant ones are actually not being played up that much by Microsoft and include all the wonders of dual core capability, such as faster load times, better multitasking and so on.

However, there are one or two changes Microsoft pointed to at its launch event which, while in our view take a backseat to the improvements outlined above, are still worth knowing about.

Some of these are built-in apps or app capabilities, while others are fundamental phone functions and services. We’re going to take you through the best of them.

‘Live Apps’: Photos, Facebook and Twitter (for starters)

Microsoft has long been talking about Live Tiles – the concept of having an app shortcut which is also kind of a widget and which updates you with app-relevant info on the Start screen.

Now, however, it’s talking about ‘Live Apps’ as something related but also quite distinct.

Any app configured by a developer as a Live App will not only update you on information to the Live Tile in detail, but can be setup to push information and content to your lock screen, meaning you can get an update at a glance without going into your phone proper.

From launch the Live Apps will include the ‘Photos’ album, which can of course push an image slideshow to your lockscreen, as well as Twitter and Facebook, which can push notifications, status updates and photos.

Skype

Skype has received a considerable amount of attention and Microsoft says it has been integrated so that all its services work naturally with the phone.

That means at any point you can choose to conduct a video call through Skype but it’ll be part of your normal phone interface.

Microsoft has also worked some kind of magic which means Skype will be active at all times but won’t tax your battery power, meaning you can always be available for a video call.

Data Sense

Data Sense is a new feature built into the phone from the ground up. The idea is that it’ll help you tack your data usage but also allow you complete control over how much mobile data you use.

Not only that, but it’ll actually help you to minimise data usage and make most efficient use of the data you do use and it does this in a number of ways.

One of those is webpage compression, in a similar vein to the Opera browser, sites are compressed on remote servers to reduce load times.

The service also automatically offloads data and the combined effect should mean you can get up to 45 per cent more browsing out of your current data plan.

Kid’s Corner

Kid’s Corner is squarely aimed at parents who want to let their kids play with their smartphone but don’t want them going where they shouldn’t.

It’s essentially a content filter tool, but it allows you to set things up in advance, then toggle on Kid’s Corner mode before you hand the phone to your child.

You can pre-configure Kid’s Corner to only allow access to certain apps and games, restrict access to text and phone functions, turn off micropayment capability to avoid in-game charges and restrict what children can access via the browser (presumably you can also just switch the browser off if you don’t want them to use it at all).

Cloud and Synchronisation: SkyDrive, Office, OneNote, Xbox Live, Xbox Music and Xbox SmartGlass

SkyDrive, Office and OneNote are all fully integrated into Windows Phone 8 and Microsoft’s larger ecosystem of Windows 8 devices, including tablets and PCs.

Users get 7GB of free SkyDrive cloud storage which will be used to automatically store photos you snap on a device’s camera (though you can curate what stays and what gets left out).

However, it also works in cohesion with Office and OneNote, meaning notes and documents you create on one device are automatically accessible from your other devices and the updating between them is seamless.

This synchronisation also incorporates video, music and gaming services, including Xbox Live, Xbox SmartGlass and Xbox Music, allowing you to extend most aspects of your Windows content experience from one piece of hardware to the next.

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