Windows Phone 8 was released last month, replacing the year old 7.5 and as with many smartphone operating systems our experience starts with a setup wizard where we set options such as date and time. On an Android/Apple handset it is then common to assign an iTunes/Google account to the device and Windows Phone is no different, asking us near the end of the process to add our Windows Live account (the same sign in as MSN/Xbox etc).
Following acceptance of the Nokia user agreement we are presented with the Start Screen for Windows Phone and it certainly looks different to those used on Android, iOS and Symbian… even WebOS and a few others. In this version screen moves away from two columns of tiles towards a more flexible arrangement and swiping to the right takes us to the application list. Notifications appear at the top of the screen and we can add/remove tiles from the Start screen whenever we want by holding them.
In terms of general navigation, swiping the screen scrolls up/down. Pressing a tile launches that application/feature. Hitting the Windows key always brings us back to Start, the magnifying glass launches search (Bing) and the left arrow is our back key… holding this brings up an image of the applications which are running in the background ready for us to jump back into any. The lock screen displays a summary of any messages as well as the clock and swiping up takes us back into the OS.
As noted earlier a right swipe takes us into a list of the phones applications. This is an alphabetical list and a number of key items are installed by default from the basics such calendar, messaging and pictures through to more advanced Maps, Office, and Music/Video. Selecting an item launches it, holding down on it allows us to pin to the Start screen or uninstall.
No smartphone is complete without apps to enhance the experience and we find those in Marketplace on Windows Phone. As well as the usual selection of applications we also have the ability to download music and games in here. Speaking of games the Xbox Live app is our main hub for gaming action. We can download games in here too, launch them and interact with Xbox Live. This includes tracking our achievements and messaging friends. A wide range of games are available from Angry Birds through to Final Fantasy, Sonic and PES 2012.
Sticking with the entertainment theme we have the Music and Video hub which helps to manage our media library. Also installed on the Lumia 920 is Nokia Music which has a very interesting key feature. By entering Mix Radio we can access a streaming service, split into genre then themes which allow us to listen to a wide range of tracks which are constantly updating. Like a track that’s playing, then select make available offline to save it on the handset for later.
Windows Phone is also all about communication and productivity and being a Microsoft product it has compatibility with Office documents as well as a good email client and text messaging app.
Internet Explorer is also included on the phone, with Silverlight support. YouTube also makes an appearance too.
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