Windows Phone 8 Launch Live Blog: New Features, Killer Phones

Windows Phone 8 Launch Live Blog: New Features, Killer Phones

We’ve known the basics of Windows Phone 8 for a few weeks, and today sees the full official launch of the platform that aims to merge the desktop with the phone in a way Redmond hasn’t attempted before. Here’s the news as it happened from the global launch event in the US…

Lead image credit: Getty Images


We’ll also be at the official Australian launch event, asking all the big questions.

We know Windows Phone 8 devices are due real soon now and that existing Windows Phone users have to make do with an upgrade to 7.8, but there are still many unanswered questions. Will Microsoft produce its own hardware? Will Wallet work in Australia? Here’s hoping we get some of the answers.

What do you want to know?

Windows Phone 8 Handsets Announced So Far
Windows Phone 8 Review: You’re Not Perfect, But I Like You Anyway
Windows Phone 8 Launch Live Blog: New Features, Killer Phones
Nokia Lumia 920, 820 Australian Release Details

And We’re Live

[04:00] Morning everyone. We’re listening to bad guitar music while we wait for the event to begin.

[04:04] Joe Belfiore takes the stage and asks everyone to show off their Windows Phones. That wouldn’t work so well in Starbucks.

[04:05] “This has been a very special and significant project.”

[04:05] Talking about how Windows Phone 8 is optimised for Snapdragon.

[04:07] WP8 has 120,000 apps in the store. Not too shabby.

[04:08] 191 countries can now access WP apps.

[04:09] “Before I jump into talking about the new features… ” No, let’s do that fast, please.

[04:10] “The state of the art in the core smartphone experience hasn’t really evolved in the five years since it launched.” BlackBerry won’t like that.

[04:1] “The static grid of icons hasn’t really changed.” Yes, he’s said iPhone.

[04:10] “With Windows Phone, we decided not to use that tired old metaphor . . . our way is to put people at the centre of the experience.”

[04:11] Joe claims WP improves your relationships with people. So if you get divorced, blame your phone.

[04:12] And now a video with a sense of “what our team thinks about”.

[04:13] The video mentions a single dad. Clearly the divorce theme is going to predominate. Which makes sense, since Microsoft does want everyone to split with their current phone platform.

Updated Live Tiles And Lockscreen
[04:13] “It’s the most personal smartphone OS you can get.” Just like last week’s Windows 8 launch, seems we’ll get the same theme endlessly.

[04:13] Now recounting the features we heard about in June, starting with new live tiles. Which, as we know, can be resized and arranged as you wish.

[04:14] And now talking about apps being more than “a grid of static icons”. Hence “Live Apps”, integrating into Wallet and other apps.

[04:14] “In Windows Phone 8, we have built a new lockscreen which is powered by Live Apps.” Which is no surprise, given that Windows 8 on your PC does the same thing.

[04:15] “It will automatically surface photos, notifications and content from all of your favourite apps.” Customisable, though.

New Apps
[04:16] “With WP8, we’ve partnered with Facebook.” New optimised WP8 Facebook app coming, includes direct feed to the lockscreen. Some forced applause from the audience.

[04:17] You can also choose whether notifications come from Calendar or elsewhere.

[04:18] Now talking about what app publishers are doing. New version of Twitter for WP8 and Skype. Plus lots of US-centric media providers.

[04:18] Now let’s talk Skype. “On WP8, we’ve built Skype so it can integrate naturally into the phone experience.” The app is always on, which means you can get called whenever. “It does this without running the code in the background and draining your battery.” I’d love that to be true, but I’m cynical.

[04:19] Claiming 46 of the top 50 most-used apps will be on Windows Phone. Though it doesn’t seem they will all be available today.

[04:20] Now a random list of apps coming, many of the games due to Unity support. Temple Run. Angry Birds Star Wars. Jetpack Joyride. Fairway Solitaire. urbanspoon.

[04:21] Fairway Solitaire moves between phone, PC and Xbox. How very SmartGlass of it.

[04:22] “There is one app we wanted to announce and we couldn’t fit it on the slide . . . we’re going to give it its own slide.”

[04:23] Pandora for Windows Phone 8 is due. Which is good. But not until early 2013. Which is not so good.

[04:23] WP8 Pandora will include a year of no-ads free music. Noice.

[04:23] WP8 SDK will be released for general use tomorrow. Good, but why not today?

Data Sense
[04:23] Now talking about the problem of data costs. Yeah, we can relate.

[04:25] New feature: Data Sense. Claims you can surf the web more by tracking data usage more efficiently.

[04:25] “We’ve built a system in the cloud and on the phone client which actually compresses every single web page you browse.” A great idea, but hardly new — BlackBerry and Opera both do this, folks.

[04:26] Data Sense will track nearby Wi-Fi hotspots on a map if you think you’re running out of data on your plan.

[04:26] “As you get close to your monthly limit, Data Sense can automatically change the way your phone behaves.”

[04:26] Data Sense will show how much data you’ve used (and how much you have left). That will be awesome if it works. And would also show up phone companies who claim they can’t provide real-time usage info as lying scumbags.

[04:27] Testing on top 100 sites suggests consumers can get 45 per cent more web browsing on the same data plan. No mention of apps though.

[04:27] Ah, needs support from mobile operators to work. Verizon is being announced, but not details on other locations. We’ll be following this up, obviously.

[04:29] Now we’re moving onto sharing your phone with a slide that says “Daddy, can I play on your phone?”

[04:30] Another video. I suspect excessive cuteness will follow.

Kids Corner

[04:30] New feature: Kid’s Corner. “Kid’s Corner essentially creates a separate place on your phone that’s for your kids.”

[04:31] Oh noes. He’s getting his kids to demo.

[04:32] Walking through Kid’s Corner setup. Enable in settings, then set options for Games, Music, Apps and Videos.

[04:33] Left-swipe on lock screen and enter Kid’s Corner. Seems a good idea but maybe needs to be directly accessed from the screen. After all, big obvious icons are a WP8 feature.

[04:34] Kid’s Corner can be customised separately to the main phone.

[04:34] Now a parent to demo Kid’s Corner. But not just any parent. Jessica Alba. Obligatory celebrity moment.

[04:36] Jessica doesn’t want her kids all up in her Twitter. That seems wise.

Credit: Getty Images

[04:36] Now Jessica talks what she likes in WP8. In no way scripted. “My phone is really an extension of me as a person.” Bucket, please.

[04:39] Asking Jessica is switching from iPhone was hard. “It was really easy . . . I was a little bit concerned about my music . . . are my iTunes lists going to come over?” 1 minute transfer, allegedly, via Mac Connector.

[04:40] People looking at Jessica’s phone are “obsessed with the screen size”, apparently.

[04:41] Now Jessica gets her free plug for her eco-business The Honest Company.

[04:42] And there goes Jess.

People Hub Improvements

[04:43]First up: Rooms.

[04:43] Which are essentially just groups of people (friends, family, colleagues). Family room built-in at start.

[04:44] You can share current location on a per-Room basis.

[04:44] Also can store notes in each Room.

[04:45] You can also invite non-WP8 phone users into a Room for a “partial” experience. iPhone supported. Come on, tell us if Android is too!

[04:46] Calendar appointments from Rooms can be shared cross-platform, we learn.

Windows 8 Integration

[04:47] Now talking up how WP8 integrates with Windows 8 and Xbox.

[04:48] First, SkyDrive. No shock there. “Unlike other similar services, SkyDrive isn’t just for photos and videos.” Which ones, exactly?

[04:48] OneNote on WP8 is voice-enabled with auto-transcription. Very sexy. As usual, we wonder if it will work with an Aussie accent.

[04:49] Now we’re talking Photos. Has built-in “lens” options for automatic editing as you go. How very Instagram.

[04:50] Comparing SkyDrive and iCloud storage options. Photos can stay on SkyDrive for longer.

[04:50] Now talking Xbox Music, which we know a reasonable amount about.

[04:51] “This [US] fall, we’ll have sync companions for Windows 8, Windows 7 and the Mac”. All of which will move iTunes lists onto your WP8 phone, plus Office docs and the like.

[04:51] There’s a sense of wrap-up here. We’re talking people and “the smartphone around you”, again.

[04:52] Just “one more person” to talk about when the phones will come out . . .

[04:54] And here comes Steve Ballmer. But he’s not jumping up and down enough for my taste.

[04:55] Steve has to boast about Windows 8 first. “The demand for touch has been really quite astounding.”

[04:56] Yay, Steve is talking about developers. That feels better.

[04:59] But then a lot more blather about personalisation before we get to talking up Windows 8 integration.

Killer Phones

[05:00] Steve is in front of a slide saying “killer hardware”, showing off the partner phones. Lots of yellow and red.

[05:00] First up, Nokia, which Steve says is selling more WP than anyone else. Now he’s showing off the Lumia 920. [We’ll have more on this later today.]

More: Nokia Lumia 920, 820 Australian Release Details

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

[05:01] Talking up the optical image stabilisation feature on the 920, plus the ability to charge wirelessly. I’d have that.

[05:02] Next: Samsung Ativ S. “Flat out gorgeous.” 3.8in screen, long battery life.

[05:03] Next: HTC 8X. The lines allegedly echo the Live Tile design. Also Beats Audio tie-in. Not showing off the 8S today. Includes an ultra-wide-angle front camera. “Perfect for Skype.”

[05:04] “All these phones and many more will start to go on sale in Europe this coming weekend, and they will continue to roll out throughout the world in November.” Again, we’ll be following up on this at the Australian launch later this morning. Hopefully we’ll hear about the Wallet feature there.

[05:04] Now walking through the Verizon lineup. I can’t pretend I care, but they’ll be on sale by Thanksgiving.

[05:05] Ditto for T-Mobile and AT&T. All US Microsoft stores will carry a full range of WP8 devices, with all colour options available online. None of which helps us down under.

[05:06] “I also guarantee that between Windows 8, Microsoft Surface and Windows Phone 8, you won’t be able to turn on a TV or open a magazine without seeing a Microsoft Windows ad.” Prepare for saturation.

[05:07] And Steve is wrapping up. Unless there’s going to be a random band.

[05:09] Apparently everyone is “all in”. Restating the 46/50 titles stat. (Of course, I want to know what the four missing ones are . . .)

[05:09] “People all over the world are about to fall in love with Windows Phone.” Love, exciting and new . . .

[05:10] “We’ve reinvented Windows Phone around you.” This is what we’ll hear endlessly in the ads.

[05:11] Joe and Jessica back on stage with Steve to show off their handsets. I bet Joe is the one who gets cropped out when those photos run.

And That’s A Wrap

[05:13] So there we go. As we’ve noted, there’s an official Australian launch later this morning, and I’ll be reporting from that to see if local carriers get on the Data Sense bandwagon and when we’ll see phones.

[05:13] Data Sense is definitely the most interesting new tweak. Kid’s Corner is a nice idea, but I’d need to see it in action to really decide if it works. Rooms seems a nice idea, but I really want to know if there’s Android integration too. Doubtless we’ll know soon.

[05:14] Thanks for joining us — stay tuned on Gizmodo for all the extra detail and hands-on testing of the new devices. I’m off to get more coffee, it’s going to be a long day!