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Windows Phone 9: What you need to know

By Kevin Thomas on 28th July 2014

 

Windows Phone 9

 

Windows Phone 8.1 hasn’t been around for long and it’s a great update, thanks to the much needed addition of Action Centre and the a virtual assistant known as Cortana which is fit to take on Siri and Google Now.


But it’s just a 0.1 number update. What we really want is Windows Phone 9, complete with the overwhelming number of changes and additions that we’d expect such a big number jump to include.


There are signs of it coming too, not many yet, but they’re out there and we’ve collected them all in one place.


Release date


Initially there was talk that Windows Phone 9 might arrive by the end of 2013, which obviously didn’t happen. We might get it this year though, as late last year Russian blogger Eldar Murtazin posted to Twitter that Windows Phone 9 would appear in quarter 3 or quarter 4 of 2014, suggesting that we could see it in a matter of months.


With so few signs of it though that’s looking increasingly unlikely and more recently myce.com has got hold of a leaked Microsoft document, listing Windows Phone 9 Preview as launching in the second or third quarter of 2015, or in other words between April and September of 2015.


That seems far more likely at this point. Given how little we’ve heard a launch this year seems unlikely, plus as Windows Phone 8.1 hasn’t been around for long we wouldn’t expect a new version too soon. On the other hand we wouldn’t expect it will be much later than mid 2015 as by then Windows Phone 8 will be more than two and a half years old and definitely in need of a major update.


New look


So far there haven’t been many rumours about Windows Phone 9 but a few theories have emerged. For example, as well as hinting at a possible release date, Eldar Murtazin also claimed that Windows Phone 9 will have a new interface, different from its distinctive tile-based Metro look.


Apparently the new interface would be more influenced by Android than iOS. He didn’t elaborate on what that meant, but since they look somewhat similar to one another he could be referring to the open and customisable nature of Android.


One size fits all


He also tweeted that Windows RT will be ditched and Windows Phone 9 will be used on both phones and tablets.


Given that his release date claims are now looking unlikely we have to question the validity of these claims too, especially a new interface, as the interface is one of the highlights of Windows Phone 8.


However there is strong evidence in support of Windows Phone 9 being used on tablets and more than that, it may even be merged with Windows 9 to create a single operating system across all devices, surprising as that may seem, given that Windows 8 has struggled enough in trying to cater to both touchscreens and conventional desktops.


Nevertheless, last year DigiTimes claimed to have heard that Microsoft was working towards merging Windows and Windows Phone and additionally msftkitchen spotted that a Microsoft employee working on the Windows Phone Test Services team claimed on her LinkedIn profile to be ‘testing Windows 9 OS on Nokia, HTC and Qualcomm device.’


Now in all likelihood she simply missed the word ‘Phone’ from that post, but either way, we’ve recently had a near confirmation that Microsoft will be unifying its services.


According to Yahoo Finance, in a recent earnings call, the new CEO Satya Nadella claimed that “in the year ahead, we are investing in ways that will ensure our device OS and first party hardware aligned to our core. We will streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system for screens of all sizes.”


That doesn’t really tell us what form it will take and it could be that this streamlined version of Windows doesn’t arrive until after Windows Phone 9, but it seems like it’s coming.


However we can theorise that if and when the operating systems are merged that will inevitably require Windows Phone to be more powerful and versatile than it is now, as such a simplistic, locked down system wouldn’t fly on a PC. That might well tie in to Murtazin’s Android comparisons.


Windows Phone 8.5


We’ve also caught a mention of Windows Phone 8.5, or rather Phone Arena has. Even less is known about this and it’s entirely possible that the Windows Phone 9 rumours could in fact be referring to Windows Phone 8.5 and vice versa, or it could be that we’ll get Windows Phone 8.5 first, though with Windows Phone 9 possibly landing early next year it will need to get a move on.


All we’ve really heard is a warning to developers that secondary Live Tiles may not be available on Windows Phone 8.5. Secondary Live Tiles essentially allow you to have multiple tiles for multiple different aspects of an app. For example with Facebook you can have the main tile display updates to your feed and secondary tiles display activity from a specific group or photo album.


Taking that functionality out would be odd since it’s quite a handy feature, but it could be the first sign of a larger overhaul like the one that seems to be coming, which could see the Metro interface ditched entirely.

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