What You Need to Know About Windows Phone 8

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Microsoft recently unveiled the final build of Windows Phone 8, completing the recent trifecta that includes Windows 8 and the Surface tablet. I haven’t been able to play with the operating system – not even during hands-on demos of the Lumia 920 and the HTC Windows Phone 8X. Still, there’s a lot we already do know. Here’s what you should expect.

A refreshed user interface. Windows Phone 8 offers a refreshed user interface. For the first time ever, you’ll be able to resize the home screen live tiles among three difference choices. If you like, for example, You can create smaller, more compact icons and bunch together four apps in the space that one icon used to occupy.

Consequently, the home screen appears to allow for much greater customization. You can, for example, create a row of four small icons for Twitter, Facebook, Foursqaure, and text messaging. That’s a great row to have at the top of your home screen for quickly accessing social networks without having to scroll down a list. The smaller icons, unfortunately, don’t come to life as the larger ones do, however.

The best hardware yet. Windows Phone 8 supports NFC for sharing files between two devices, higher resolution displays, dual-core processors, and much more. What’s this mean for you and me? You can expect the best Windows Phone devices that have hit the market. I’m already impressed with what I’ve seen so far.

Nokia has the Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 in the pipeline, both of which offer beautiful industrial design. The Lumia 920 is the company’s flagship device and includes fun features such as wireless charging — never before seen in Windows Phone devices — a first class PureView camera for stunning photos that appear to be excellent even in low light conditions, support for AT&T’s 4G LTE network in the United States, and much more.

HTC also has a flagship device up its sleeve and I’m torn between it and Nokia’s phone. The HTC Windows Phone 8X (it’s a lengthy name), offers the same 8-megapixel camera and imaging technology found in the One X. In particular, I love the wide-view front-facing camera that allows you to turn the camera around and pack more people into a shot. It also has a totally redesigned body. HTC actually rebuilt the device so that the battery sits next to the screen, instead of at the far back of the device. This allows the company to include a larger battery while keeping the phone relatively slim. The phone also offers NFC, a dual-core processor and a large display.

Color. Color is finally back, folks. Nokia’s device will launch in a variety of colors here in the United States, including yellow, red, and cyan. HTC has also revealed that both its Windows Phone 8X and its Windows Phone 8S will come bathed in a bunch of colors that run the gamut from neon yellow to a beautiful dark blue. Sure, you’ll be able to grab a plain black Windows Phone 8X, but I’m incredibly excited to see Microsoft and its Windows Phone partners move away from the old monochrome hues and finally breathe life back into smartphones.

I have no doubt this will help folks gravitate toward Windows Phone 8 devices on store shelves. Seriously, how can you avoid not picking up and not playing with a neon yellow phone?

Affordable price points. Several sources have suggested that Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 devices will come in around the $99 – $149 price point, which is great; most high-end smartphones these days cost between $199 and $299 with a new contract. It’s possible that the final launch prices will be at the $199 level, but I think Microsoft and its partners will be aggressive enough to get these phones in people’s hands.

Windows Phone 8 will hit with a bang. Between Samsung, HTC and Nokia there will be six initial devices in the United States, but I’m expecting Nokia to push a few others (notably, the Lumia 922 and Lumia 822) to Verizon Wireless, too.

We also need to see some new, high-profile apps. The ecosystem is missing some major names, such as Instagram, but it’s off to a good start so far. If Microsoft can add a few big developers to the mix-up, as it has promised, the ecosystem and consumers will benefit in the long haul.

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