Windows Phone: the Live Tile interface

Many first-time users are surprised when trying Windows Phone; Microsoft’s OS has nothing in common with the old Windows Mobile system, or the Windows desktop. It’s more elegant and simple than many thought it would be.

In this Windows Phone Guide, we’re going to introduce you to the main features of Microsoft’s mobile OS. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the system, or if you’re just looking for information before making the switch. Here, you’ll get a broad picture of what Windows Phone has to offer.

The Tile interface

Windows Phone 8 offers a modern and colorful UI, the Live Tile. Unlike iOS and Android, there are no Springboard or Homescreen icons, and no menus. With WP, you have a series of tiles in three different sizes that you can freely pin to the Start screen.

Windows Phone 8 - live tiles

Live Tiles also display additional information such as thumbnails, notifications or notes. For example, the calendar displays information on upcoming events, while the Facebook app shows status updates, comments, and images. You can also see the weather forecast on the weather app, or your latest snapshots, as a slide show. Other tiles will notify you of new messages or other updates.

Windows Phone 8 - more Live Tiles

Depending on the app, you can choose a specific view for a given tile, like a playlist for the media player, an address for the navigation app, a website from the browser, or a contact from the phone book. This lets you directly access the information you want.

Windows Phone 8 - Live Tiles can provide valuable information

Alternatively, you can find your apps from an alphabetical list. A menu will open by flicking from right to left. From here, you can pin new apps to the Start screen.

Windows Phone 8 - alternatively, pick Live Tiles by hand

Menu navigation and app design

You can navigate through apps and menus by scrolling up or down. You can also alternate different screens by swiping from the edge. The name of the menu or section is displayed in capital letters above the current selection. Some apps also include control buttons at the bottom of the screen.

Windows Phone 8 - screen headings

Multitasking

Like with Android and iOS, Windows Phone includes a multitasking feature. All you have to do is flick between the individual apps and tap on the zoom overview. Apps that aren’t visible just keep running in the background.

Windows Phone 8 - multitasking is easy

What apps can I install?

Windows Phone is still suffering from the reputation of missing many important apps, even though many of the most popular apps, such as Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, TuneIn Radio, Runtastic, and Instagram now have a version for Windows Phone. In many cases, you can also find great alternatives to some of the most  popular apps. If you’re looking for navigation apps, for example, Nokia provides a complete package with the HERE Maps app, with free offline maps included. There are also a ton of apps exclusively available for Windows Phone developed by Microsoft and Nokia.

Windows Phone 8 - plenty of apps are available

Syncing

Windows Phone works best with Windows 8. The device is recognized automatically as soon as you connect it to your computer using a USB cable. Through Windows Explorer, you have access to all the files stored on your device, which you can transfer directly to the computer. The same goes for pictures and videos, thanks to Windows 8’s built-in syncing app. If you have Windows 7, you have to resort to Zune Software. If you’re a Mac user, you must first install Nokia Photo Transfer for Mac. That said, we haven’t seen great results with these apps and suspect you’ll get the smoothest experience by sticking to Windows 8.

Windows Phone 8 syncing

Customization and security

On iOS, you can jailbreak, and on Android, you can root to enjoy non-Apple/Google licensed apps to tailor system details to your needs. Windows Phone has still not been hacked, meaning this particular point is hard to compare. For now, Windows Phone actually seems to be a particularly safe device: it’s rare to find scam apps for Windows Phone. The scammers, it seems, are focusing their attention elsewhere.

Make sure to check out the rest of our Windows Phone Guide to get all the details about Microsoft’s mobile OS.

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