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Four months after Microsoft previewed its new Windows Phone 8 operating system for mobile phones, the Redmond crew returned to San Francisco today to reveal even more details.
Windows Phone 8, which is characterized by its newly expanded Start screen, maintains the distinctive design that first set it apart from iOS and Android. Hardware features like support for NFC, multiple processing cores, and expandable memory will help bring Windows phones up to speed against the competition, along with in-app purchases, integrated Skype, and the shared Internet Explorer 10 code that Redmond also revealed months ago.
In addition, Microsoft today announced the following:
Customizable lock screen
Microsoft makes a more-active lock screen by letting you add full-screen widgets. Third parties will be able to ply you with their offerings, which for now include Groupon deals, Facebook information, and even weather, like HTC's weather app.
Lots of pretty colors
Microsoft has almost doubled the number of theme colors in Windows Phone 8, bringing the total number of hues up to 20.
We all need a little help from our friends. That's the premise of Bing and Local Scout's use of Facebook friend recommendations. In the Bing app, you'll see those appear in the new "for you" screen, where events and restaurants surface when they're popular, or when Facebook friends "like" them.
Swipe right in the Bing app and you'll see new screens advertising top headlines, local deals, what's in theaters, top videos, and local events. You'll click to load more information.
People Hub rooms
Microsoft's new "rooms" lets you communicate with groups of people you define. It's a lot like "groups," but adds live chat and the ability to share calendars and photo albums. A "Family" room is preloaded to get users started.
Shared NT Security brought over from Windows 8 accounts for the new full-device encryption that will give security-conscious users better peace of mind.
Microsoft introduced a sort-of user account for kids, which acts as a second lock screen for them. You can enable if you plan to hand the phone to young'uns without the worry that they'll accidentally call or e-mail someone, or open up a Web page that they shouldn't. The adult chooses which apps the kids see, which music they listen to, and which games they play.
Kids can choose their own theme colors, but they can't pin apps to Kid's Corner themselves. If your phone is locked, you just swipe right from the Start screens to get into the Kid's Corner.
Syncing with Windows 8
Cloud storage and syncing are two points of pride. Save an app in Office 2013 and you'll automatically see recent documents that you created on your Windows tablet, desktop, laptop, or phone on the others. Photos and videos are also cloud-synced this way thanks to Skydrive.
The Xbox Music service replaces Zune as the go-to app for tunes. It's already live for Xbox. A yearly subscription also gets you music mixes through SmartDJ, just as ZunePass did.
Xbox SmartGlass Xbox's SmartGlass app (already available for Android) turns your phone into a second screen to give you more details about the game you're playing or movie you're watching while you're playing or watching on your Xbox.
Data Sense compression
Behind the scenes, Microsoft's servers can compress Internet Explorer 10 Web sites to send to your phone using less data. Pages will load faster, and you'll get up to 45 percent more browsing for the same data plan. Verizon gets it first, then Microsoft will roll out to other carriers in the new year.
Windows Phone apps
Microsoft replaces the Zune apps with new Windows Phone apps for the tablet and desktop, and for Mac. System updates will take place over the air. Other apps coming to WP8 include Temple Run, Urbanspoon, Angry Bird Star Wars, Jetpack Joyride, LivingSocial, Where's My Water, Cut the Rope, and Pandora.
Nokia Angry Birds Roost
Nokia Windows Phones will exclusively feature the Angry Birds Roost game.