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BW Businessworld

8 Point Somethings

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If you can hear above the hullaballoo surrounding the Windows 8 launch, you’d know that Windows Phone 8 (WP8) is finally here. But what does this mean to you, especially if you’re considering a smartphone purchase in the next couple of months? Here’s my take on the top 8 things you need to know about Microsoft’s big revamp of the Windows Phone platform for smartphones.
1. User Interface: The tiled user interface that was a breath of fresh air with Windows Phone 7/7.5 still remains in Windows Phone 8, only you can now change the size of each tile to suit your own information consumption style - a larger size say if you want to see the full details of your calendar for the day, or smaller if you don’t want something like Maps or the dialer to take up a full slot on the screen. What this allows is, apart from the freedom of customizing your phone to your taste, the ability to compress more apps into smaller spaces and get many of them to show up on the screen at one. Which means you don’t have scroll down screenfuls to see the update you want, which kind of defeats the purpose. And while I’m still on the fence about the tiled interface, it’s not that much of a stretch to say that the home screen on Windows Phone 8 is the best home screen among all mobile platforms right now in terms of flexibility, information glance-ability and design.
2. New Lockscreen: The lockscreen just got a whole lot more useful with WP8, with the ability to have dynamic lockscreen backgrounds, say the killer wallpapers from Bing, for example. Apps can also make status icons available to the lock screen, and you can choose up to five icon types to show at a time: Facebook messages, Xbox notifications, unread email, text messages, missed calls, and the like. Lockscreen widgets – the ability to see details on new SMSs or calendar previews – are handy too.
3. Kids Corner: This one feature alone may seal the deal for parents out there – the ability to have a Start screen dedicated to your kids, customized with their apps/games. So that they don’t end up replying to your office email or sending tweets on your behalf! How it works is that you pick which apps, music and videos kids can see, then flick left from the lock screen to switch to the limited list of apps customized for the kids. To leave Kids Corner you tap the power button to turn off the screen, and simply by setting a phone password, you can stop those meddling little hands from going to the Start screen for your other apps. What’s more – Kids Corner automatically disables in-app purchases, so you don’t have to worry that games that have the ability to buy additional levels or unlock characters by paying will rack up a huge credit card bill in the hands of your toddler. Plus, it disables web browsing as well, so kids cant go onto the Internet using your phone either. It’s a stroke of genius, and I wonder why no other phone platform thought of this earlier!
4. Better Hardware Support: If you want the latest hardware specs under the hood of your smartphone, Windows Phone 8 will not disappoint, with support for multi-core chipsets, display resolutions up to 1280 x 768 pixels, and finally…support for memory card expansion, something that was missing in WP7. And finally, Windows Phone 8 finally brings native support for Near-Field Communications, which will let you use NFC to transfer plenty of content from your phone to either your PC or another person's device.
5. Poor Hardware Availability: Pity all that great hardware support isn’t translating into a slew of smartphone choices at launch. The flagship devices – the HTC 8X – is an excellent piece of kit to show off the new OS, but there aren’t too many options beyond that at the moment. Nokia’s much awaited Lumia 920 is still waiting in the wings for an India launch date, and if you’d been holding your breath for the local launch of this device since the Windows Phone 8 India announcement, you’d really have no pulse by now!
6. Rooms: It’s easy to get confused with the Groups feature, but Rooms give you more capabilities to communicate with an invite-only bunch of people, such as sharing your calendars, notes and photos. Perfect for sharing shopping lists or to-dos for connected family or close work buddies – and it works really well if all members of the Room are WP8 users. Getting non-Windows Phone 8 users into a room is a little more tricky, where the invite sends a text message to the recipient with a link to join the room on the Windows Phone website. Now, if the other folks don’t use WP devices and don’t have a Microsoft account, you’re going to have to wait for them to set up a new account before they can join you in the Room.
7. Average Multitasking: WP8 lets you quickly send apps into the background in what can be best described as a “paused” state, and supports apps that require a data connection, say Skype or a location-aware app, when they’re working in the background. It’s still not real multitasking a la Android and has some rough edges, especially with apps that are not updated for WP8.
8. Apps: This one’s a toughie. While the app support for WP8 is undoubtedly increasing, folks spoiled for choice on Android and iOS should wait till all their must-have apps are on board. It’s just not there…yet.
9. IE10: Here’s a bonus - IE10 is maturing into an excellent mobile browser. It scores high on performance benchmarks, and acts very much like IE on Windows 8, which means better website support and accurate (and quick) rendering. All the features of hardware accelerated rich interfaces work just as well on the browser in the phone as they do on the desktop, so there’s no feeling of a web app being a poorer country cousin of the native platform application. Plus, the focus on privacy – such as automatically turned on “Do Not Track” features and SmartScreen phishing protection – that are fast becoming concerns on mobile platforms work on mobile IE 10.
All Round Cover
Gone are the days when the single computing device one had in the house was the PC, and many of you may have a smart phone and a tablet to boot. Is there a single security solution to protect them all? Appears there is, in Symantec’s all-in-one solution, Norton 360 Multi-Device. What this allows you is, with one single license, a full year of protection to any combination of 3 (or 5) Macs, PCs, Android smartphones and Android tablets.

In terms of covering bases for protection, you get the regular Antivirus, Safe Web (for safer browsing), firewall and antispam/anti-phishing tools. In addition, you get a bunch of maintenance utilities, such as a Windows registry cleaner, online storage to backup your data, and alerts when programs consume a high percentage of CPU resources. Plus, there’s theft protection – remote lock and remote wipe capabilities -  for Android tablets and smartphones as well. A one-stop solution to technology piece of mind if I ever saw one!

Rating: 9/10
Price: Rs. 3,499 (3 devices), Rs. 4,999 (5 devices)

technocool at kanwar dot net