Review: Say Hello to Windows Phone 8

It’s not every day that we get a brand new mobile operating system to review. But today – with the official release of Windows Phone 8 – that’s exactly what we’ll be doing….indirectly, through Wired.com. Give me a break, my contract expires next month.

Anyway, Wired mobile guru Alexandra Chang takes an in-depth look at the pros and cons of the new OS, but here were a few of my favorite segments on the more anticipated features:

Usability: “First off, using Windows Phone 8 is as refreshing and fun as using Windows Phone 7.5. It maintains the same colorful, tile-based interface that’s now also shared with Windows 8, yet it still feels new. The new Windows Phone is more slick. Navigation is fast, the apps and the interface are more customizable.”

Custom Start Screen: “As for the actual software, the most noticeable improvement is the new Start Screen. The tiles now take up the entire screen — no more empty black right rail — and you can choose between three tile sizes. While this might seem like a small tweak, it makes a big difference for a customized experience. I love being able to now change the size and placement of each app’s tile on my Start Screen to find a configuration that works best for me.”

Live Tiles: “The Live apps, or Live Tiles, still work beautifully in this OS, and now each of the three sizes can support information snippets of different depths. For example, if you make the Calendar app large so it takes up a whole row on the screen, it can show specific information like the length and location of each calendar event. Set the Calendar app to the medium size, and it shows a more condensed version. The smallest size shows just the date.”

IE 10: “The web browser is now Internet Explorer 10, and it’s a big improvement. It’s incredibly quick; not once did I grow irritated with sluggish performance. If I had decent Wi-Fi — or at least a couple bars of service — IE10 worked great. It was stunningly fast when I had full bars on HSPA+, and I can’t imagine anybody will have complaints on a 4G LTE network.”

Windows-Only Apps: “I tested the other new features like Kids Corner, Xbox Music and Videos, Skype integration, the improved Camera app (for which you can collect third-party Lenses), Office, and OneNote. Each worked without problems. The updated SkyDrive makes it easy to access and save files, and every Windows Phone 8 user gets 7GB of free storage. (If Microsoft’s trying to be cute with a weird number, why not 8GB?) I imagine business-oriented people who depend on Office will love the built-in Office hub, which supports Word, Excel and PowerPoint. By saving to SkyDrive, you can start a Word Doc on your phone and pick up where you left off on a computer, or vice versa. Kids Corner is also a good tool for parents with young children; it sequesters your kids — who cannot be trusted — to their own child-proof area of the phone.”

Did you buy a new WP8 device? Share your feedback in the comments section below.

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