Microsoft talks up new Windows Phone 8 features, announces Samsung ATIV Odyssey for Verizon

Alex Wagner
Editorial Director of News and Content from Omaha, NE
Published: October 29, 2012

Joe Belfiore Microsoft

Microsoft today held its Windows Phone 8 event in San Francisco, away from the hurricane that caused the cancelation of other events. The company took the opportunity to talk up Windows Phone 8 and reveal a few new features and apps that'll be coming to the platform. One of the new abilities of Windows Phone 8 is to display Live Apps on a device's lock screen, which allows users to view things like sports scores, deals and photos without unlocking their phone. Microsoft announced that a new version of the Windows Phone 8 Facebook app is coming thats optimized for the platform and supports lock screen photos.

Speaking of apps, Microsoft revealed today that there are 120,000 Windows Phone apps available today, with many big names coming. The company says that it'll soon have 46 of the top 50 apps available on its platform, including Temple Run and Jetpack Joyride. That number also includes Pandora, which will be coming to Windows Phone in early 2013 and will offer users a free year of ad-free music. A new version of the official Twitter app for Windows Phone is also coming with better notifications and a new live tile.

Another new feature demoed by Microsoft today is Data Sense. Designed to help users monitor and reduce their data usage, Data Sense can track how much data has been used and alert users if they're about to go over their cap. The app can also seek out Wi-Fi hotspots to help reduce cellular data usage, and when wireless data must be used, it can compress the data so that a phone uses less of it. Microsoft says that, in its testing, Data Sense allowed users 45 percent more web browsing than they would've had without the app. Verizon will be the first carrier to offer Data Sense on its devices.

Along with things like Live Apps on the lock screen and Data Sense, Microsoft introduced Kid's Corner, a feature that can disable certain apps or settings on the phone so that they can't be accessed by a child. Kid's Corner can be turned on in a phone's Settings menu. Microsoft also outed Rooms, which allows selected users to enter a private "room" to share data like messages, photos and calendars. iPhone and Windows Phone 7 products will have limited access to Rooms features. Finally, Microsoft said that new sync companions will be coming to Windows 8, Windows 7 and Mac that'll allow users to do things like sync their iTunes content and playlists.

It wasn't all software, software, software at Microsoft's event today, as CEO Steve Ballmer also took a chance to talk up the new devices that'll be headed to AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon here in the U.S. Ballmer reaffirmed that the Nokia Lumia 822 is coming to Verizon's shelves and revealed that the 16GB HTC Windows Phone 8X will be hitting Big Red by Thanksgiving for $199. The third in a trio of new Windows Phone 8 devices for Verizon is the exclusive Samsung ATIV Odyssey, which is still a mystery save for its name and carrier.

On the GSM side, AT&T will be offering the Nokia Lumia 820, Lumia 920 and HTC Windows Phone 8X in November. T-Mobile confirmed earlier today that it'll launch the Nokia Lumia 810 and HTC Windows Phone 8X on November 14, with pricing set at $149.99 and $199.99, respectively.

It's been a little over two years since Windows Phone 7 first launched, and now Microsoft is ready to unleash the next major version of its mobile operating system upon the world. There are quite a few new features and apps coming to the platform, and Windows Phone looks to have much better carrier support this time around than it did when Windows Phone 7 launched (though we've yet to hear about anything Windows Phone 8-related from Sprint). Whether or not all of this will be enough to bite into the lead that iOS and Android enjoy remains to be seen, but Microsoft definitely appears to be going all out for Windows Phone 8. What do you all think of Windows Phone 8 now that it's been fully unveiled?

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