Now, that Windows Phone 8 has arrived -- Microsoft highlights today the redesign of its Start screen--and lock screen.
The new Start screen in Windows Phone 8 features resizable Live Tiles and other improvements designed to make it even more personal, fun, and informative.
Microsoft explaining the behind the scenes of the redesigned Start Screen and how it is the best home screen on any phone, "Windows Phone replaces the static, do-nothing icons found on competitors' home screens with an innovation we call Live Tiles," Josh Phillips on Windows Phone blog stated.
"Customizable and constantly refreshed, Live Tiles provide up-to-the-instant info and updates on whatever you most care about (or app developers make possible)," Phillips added.
On Windows Phone, Start is more than just a place to launch apps--"it's completely relevant, personal, and unique to each of its users."
In Windows Phone 8, to make room for more content and bigger tiles on Start, Microsoft has relocated the arrow shown on the top of the home screen that formerly pointed to the App list, along with the the column of space (or "gutter" as called in design speak) down the right side of the screen is also now gone.
The arrow is now placed at the bottom of the home screen. Windows Phone 8 also allows re-sizing live tiles, and also added new color support, which brings it to a total palette of 20. "Besides vibrant new options like cobalt, yellow, and indigo, there are more muted tones like olive, steel, and mauve. And these don't just show up on Start. We've sprinkled more accent color throughout the phone, including on places like the keyboard," he said.
During the Windows Phone 8 launch on October 29th, Microsoft's Joe Belfiore took a shot at Apple and Google's Android mobile operating system and how they use rows of icons. Belfiore stated that the iOS app grid was a "tired old metaphor." Apple may have standardized the row of icons and Android may have copied it but Windows Phone 8 is designed to put people at the center of the experience.
"Set a Windows Phone down next to an iPhone or an Android device and one thing you'll probably notice is how much more empty, or "negative," space we use. Compared to other smartphones, there are also fewer visual frills like borders, shadows, or glassy reflections. This isn't an accident. Our goal is a more balanced, uncluttered look that puts the focus on your stuff, not our stuff," stated Phillips.
In addition, to Start screen--the lock screen in Windows Phone 8--also received several juicy upgrades in the new release.
For those new, "the lock screen, is the first thing you see when you turn on the phone, and serves to both shield Start from prying eyes and supply key at-a-glance info: things like your next appointment, number of missed calls or unread emails, plus the current time and date."
In another blog post, Windows phone program manager Danielle Ellbogen, talked about the notable changes said, "We now let you customize the notifications at the bottom of your lock screen. Now you can change the calendar slot in the detailed status area to things like email, phone, messaging--so you can see who the missed call was from, or read the first couple lines of a new text message."
It's the same amount of detail you'd see in the large Start tile.
The new Windows Phone 8 lock screen includes lots of new personalization options, including the ability to show the Bing picture of the day. You can also change the order of quick status notifications and add new ones. And don't forget the option to display band art (right).
Apps can now register to be on the lock screen. In addition, it's also now possible to customize and add new apps to the quick status notification area at the bottom of lock. "These are the little icons that show how many missed calls or text messages you have. You can even switch up the ordering of the slots," Ellbogen added.
Also, he said, in Windows Phone, "apps can set the lock screen background photo for you. So Facebook, for example, gives you the option to display images from your Facebook albums. Every 30 minutes or so you'll see a new picture."
If you're listening to music, the controls to pause and resume the music or skip tracks are also shown. "if you hit the power button, it brings the controls down for three seconds, but then they disappear," Ellbogen explained.
The new lock screen also added new security improvement, "It's now harder for someone to accidentally erase everything from their phone. As, you can now set up a PIN."
However to prevent people from having their phones accidentally reset, as "when someone taps out the wrong code too many times, some security policies require that the phone be automatically wiped. To help prevent that," WP8 now show you a simple alphanumeric phrase before the final PIN attempt. You need to enter this phrase exactly to try your PIN again.
Finally, Microsoft also highlighted the new Windows Phone 8 Dev Center, which in addition to the rfresh new look and feel offer following improvements:
- An all new document library (tens of thousands of pages) with a new code gallery, API library, and a sections on games and Direct 3D app development.
- Support for landscape screenshots so they'll appear in the correct orientation on your app details page.
- Better keyword discoverability.
- New advertising unit sizes (480x640, 480x800, 480x853).
- New confirmation messages for certain actions during app submission.
- For new apps using the map control, with the new SDK you can now get the required authentication tokens via Dev Center. (If you already have maps in your app, there's no change required.)
- The new auto complete drop down list (shown below) makes it easier for developers with lots of apps to find the one they want to manage.
In addition to above changes, this release also includes a number of other changes:
- all the steps and guidance for publishing an app are now under one tab.
- reduced latency for app download and in-app purchase reports to two days (down from six). "Our reporting infrastructure is set for the UTC time zone, so depending on where you're located you'll experience the change at different times as the reports catch up on transactions across the globe. (It will take a few days for the changes to roll out globally.) We're working hard to reduce this reporting lag even further in an upcoming release," explains Microsoft.
- an all-new and more encompassing content area devoted to design -- "walks you through the principles and process behind the Windows Phone UI, and provides a library of guidelines, controls and assets to aid you in creating your app," Microsoft added.
Here's a short checklist of key things to start with the Dev Center:
- Review the Application Provider Agreement and Windows Phone Store Policies. Both have been updated to reflect new product capabilities and market considerations. You’ll want to take the time to familiarize yourself with both documents, which includes both new (e.g. in–app purchase – policy 2.13) and updated (e.g. country/region specific requirements – policy 3.10) sections.
- Expose your app to more potential customers by using Dev Center to select from the list of 191 supported markets—or just choose all of them.
- Optimize your app price per market. This post provides some guidance.
- Take a look at the new reporting and reviews features.
- Download the Windows Phone 8 SDK, which you can use to add new double-wide tiles to your 7.x apps, among other things.
- Sign-up for a local Dev Camp to get hands-on, in-person guidance from the experts.