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5 most-wanted Windows 8 features for Windows Phone

Windows 8 sheds some light on other features we could end up seeing in Windows Phone 8 for smartphones.

New Windows Phone start screen on a Nokia Lumia 900
Windows Phone 8 is coming very soon. Josh Miller/CNET

Windows 8 borrows the "Metro" interface originated for Microsoft's Windows Phone OS, but there are a lot of great features tucked into the deeper operating system for desktops and tablets that could also lend power to the phone.

In June, Microsoft unveiled many new Windows Phone 8 features, but certainly not all of them. When Redmond reveals even more tricks for the new OS in its September 5 launch event, it's very likely that some of these Windows 8 goodies will make the jump from desktops and tablets to the smaller screen.

Synchronize IE10
Variations of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 10 browser will be on all three types of devices: the phone, the tablet, and the PC. Logging in to Windows 8 with your ID and password will sync your preferences, passwords, history, and bookmarks. Since you already log in to the phone when you initially set it up, look for this to come.

Windows 8
Windows 8's "Charms" sidebar could be a cool way to add functionality in Windows Phone, if applied with prudence. Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

Sync apps
Logging in to Windows 8 with your ID also syncs Facebook and Twitter accounts, your e-mail, and chat between any Windows 8 devices. This would be infinitely useful for the smartphone, particularly if Windows Phone device owners also own Windows 8 tablets or desktops and could swap among them with ease.

The same would ideally apply to apps. Downloading a photo-editing app on the desktop, for instance, should ideally push the right version to the tablet and to the phone. I envision a world in which developers who create for three form factors can sell access through in-app purchases, new to the smartphone in Windows Phone 8.

Picture log-in
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich already has its face-unlock feature, which lets you into a locked phone when your visage (or a photo) matches the one stored in its database. It looks like Windows Phone 8 could get something similar, too, but even more secure. For instance, you could turn your photo into your log-in background, then draw with your finger on the screen instead of typing in a PIN.

File Explorer
Windows Phone 7.x doesn't have a File Explorer. I can't blame Microsoft for wanting to shun the Windows Mobile legacy of a labyrinthine file system that felt too much like getting tangled up in desktop computing on a too-small screen.

However, Microsoft's designers have found a way to make the file system touch-friendly, so it could be time for a refresh to go along with search. In addition, many Android phones also include an explorer, and parity with Android and iOS is crucial to Windows Phone's success.

Universal search
Enter a term into the "Search Charm" in Windows 8, and you'll see results for a file, application, or setting. You can also search within Metro apps. Windows Phone 7 has a couple of search options in apps and for Bing, but there's no universal search that can trawl everything on the phone. This is a sore spot for Windows Phone, since search in its major competitors -- iOS, Android, and BlackBerry -- can call up apps, contacts, and Web search terms after you type in a few letters. C'mon, Microsoft, let's make this happen!

Since Windows Phone 8 shares a lot of the same basic code base as Windows 8, there's a good chance we'll see mobile versions of these features transpire. Either way, CNET will be in New York to report on what comes to pass, and what passes us by with Microsoft's new Windows Phone 8 launch.

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