Windows Phone 8’s unannounced features revealed

Microsoft Surface Phone concept by Jonas-Daehnert (DeviantArt)

I wish this Microsoft Surface Phone concept was real…

The Windows Phone 8 SDK rumored to be released in the coming weeks but there are already some who have gotten their hands on leaked versions. Fortunately, they have been kind enough to show us what Microsoft has yet to tell us about. I have scoured the web for the new features that have yet to be announced officially. You shall find them after the break.

Before I dwell into details here’s a video that The Verge has posted showing the leaked emulator in action:

So what’s new?

Visually, Windows Phone 8 will have more colors options for tiles. The lockscreen is even more configurable. Users can set which apps will be shown on the notifications. We’ll be getting some new default wallpapers as well, of course, and the wallpaper can also be set to the image on the Bing homepage if you want. The app list remained unchanged though.

Users can set whether their photos, music and videos would be installed into the phone memory or an SD card. They can also move their media to the SD card if they are on the phone memory already. The Photo hub allows multiple photos to be selected for sharing or throwing to the bin. Options to crop, rotate and fix photos also exist. The camera UI has changed and has a Lens functionality that pulls in apps that use the camera into one UI. I believe the Lens feature will enable developers to create Lenses that provide Instagram-esque effects and such.

Windows Phone 8 Camera Lenses

Windows Phone 8 enables backups of applications, text messages, settings and media to the cloud. This will be useful for those rare but drastic times when our phones suddenly go berserk and the only way to make it work well again is to refresh the phone. The auto-upload to SkyDrive for photos taken by the camera still exists but it now allows full resolution uploads.

Speaking of cloud storage, there has been a rumor that users will be able to stream music from SkyDrive. The existence of a toggle for the Xbox Music cloud collection seem to suggest otherwise and online music storage might be a separate service after all. Also, elements of Xbox SmartGlass is clearly built right in the OS – one particular function being able to see what music is playing on your Xbox 360. If you didn’t know. Xbox Music is a re-brand of the Zune service. I live outside a country supported by Zune Pass but those who use it should still be able to avail of the service.

Windows Phone 8 Music + Videos Settings

One particular thing that I like is that updates can now be installed over the air. This means that we won’t need to plug our phones to a computer to install updates like we already do with Windows Phone 7 through the Zune software. With much of Windows Phone 8 connected to the cloud, what better way to monitor our bandwidth usage other than an integrated data-usage monitoring app. Yes, Windows Phone 8 has an app called DataSense where users can set their bandwidth limits, unlimited data allowance, and the date it resets. Pretty nifty and would be very useful to me.

Ease of access has been greatly improved. Text size can be changed for phone, People hub, email, messaging and lock screen. A high-contrast mode will hide background images and change the colors in some apps. Finally, there’s a magnifier that will enable parts of an app to be magnified by double-tapping the area with two fingers.

Right-to-left languages like Arabic and Hebrew is now supported. With RTL invoked the app list can be accessed by swiping to the right at the homescreen, the progress-bar in IE10 seem to have flipped in direction while RTL-supporting apps will also flip the scrolling direction and, of course, there are keyboards for such languages. A demo of RTL-support can be found below:

Nokia Maps, which will replace the Bing Maps service in Windows Phone 8, will support 4 views (roads, aerial, hybrid and terrain), 3D mode and 3D landmarks. Maps can show nearby WiFi hotpots but I doubt the feature will be available worldwide.

Windows Phone 8 will allow developers to add music to the media library. This means that third-party music stores may offer their goods to Windows Phone 8 users. Also besides the improved background tasks support is a feature called auto-upload so that content could be uploaded by user-defined apps automatically. There are also new APIs that developers can use. A new Bluetooth peer-to-peer API could potentially allow devices such as other phones and peripherals such as heart-rate monitors to communicate or even send files to one another. An SMS interceptor API could allow apps to intercept incoming text messages – an API that I might use to make my own SMS spam filter which I really need badly. Another new API allows developers to add new entries to the phone calendar – a feature that was widely sought after and was only possible before by accessing the calendar via the web and syncing it back to the phone. There should be more that I haven’t seen yet.

Additionally, some apps will accept direct voice control like being able to create notes via the notes app, IE10 has new settings including the option to change the address bar button, and the long-awaited screenshot feature is finally available!

Anything else?

I have not found any more information at the moment but I’ll post new info as they come. Are there any features you are hoping for? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

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