As of November 2013, the official Instagram Beta on Windows Phone was launched.
aka. My thoughts on Windows Phone 8. Above is a screenshot of my home screen tiles on a Samsung Focus running a 7.8 custom rom. This month of October has been filled with big mobile announcements, from 1 platform to the next. The wait is over now that everything has been announced, so should WP8 be your choice? I did a mini review for WP7 a few months back in conjunction with Jellybean. Now that WP8 is coming soon, we have a lot more to look forward to. I did get a chance to play around with the homescreen update from a custom ROM I installed this weekend as I am showing off above. The 1×1 sized icons are good, although a little too tiny.. the medium sized 2×2 default tiles also got a size up since they got rid of the wasted space on the right side of the home screen, also something that looked awkwardly large to me. I really like that I’m able to see more on one screen now, though, it’s a huge improvement. I’m not a fan of the 4×2 so I don’t have any of that size on my homescreen. I’ve only had the ROM for a few days, but I do plan to organize my tiles a little more now that I have the customization. So today’s big keynote. The single thing that really stood out to me was the improved Skype experience – being able to keep it running in the background. Skype has given people a mediocre experience on EVERY platform. Ive done Skype chat and calling on a variety platforms (iOS, Android, WP, OSX, Win7), and they never did a good job of minimizing bugs and user experience. The new experience for Skype really intrigues me. They claim you will be able to have Skype running in the background without decreasing battery life, and having it pick up calls and messages. Considering the fact that no one uses MSN anymore (or AIM for those who are American), Skype has become our main medium for keeping track of messages and video calling. Plus, you can sync it with Facebook chat and video calling (not on any mobile versions yet, but I’m sure it’s coming). The new lock screen is also something to look forward to, and something that devs can certainly take advantage of. We’ve always wanted to see things like weather and photo updates at an instant glance. I think WP already did a great job doing that on WP7 on the Pictures hub, and bringing it to the lock screen was the next logical step for better user experience. Think of all the custom Android apps that people have developed to do this (and don’t get me started on hacky iPhone apps). Now its native on WP. And I’m really excited. Kids Corner also caught my attention. I don’t have kids, but coincidentally, I wanted to make an application that was based around the same concept a few months back at a WP7 hackathon event. I wanted to allow WP phone owners to create filters on what apps they wanted their kids or friends to use when they let them play with or borrow their phones. Unfortunately, an experienced developer at the event told me that I’d have to touch the kernel in order to create something like that. I’m delightfully surprised that MSoft actually made the concept become real. It’s definitely become a real life situation that most people aren’t careful about. Not too too common for those who don’t have kids, but it happens. Might be a good way to block stuff even if your phone gets stolen. They didn’t go into much detail on security settings but I’m interested in seeing how it works. The Rooms feature seems interesting, as well. More and more apps are promoting sharing – sharing notebooks (Evernote), Photo Streams (Apple), calendars (Google), and now WP has created the concept of Rooms for sharing calendars, messages, and notes all in one among a group of people – and it’s multi platform. Again, not much detail was given and I guess it’s another thing you really need to test out to see it’s full capabilities. For some reason, the keynote today also emphasized heavily on Skydrive (it’s also 1 of 4 options on the favourite ‘new’ features poll on the WP Facebook page). Just to clarify, you are able to auto upload pictures to Skydrive already on WP7 and save .doc, .xls, and .ppt files to your SkyDrive account (and open it from your PC or Mac via the web app or desktop app). The 7gigs initial storage has been around for awhile, too. So I don’t know what exactly they were emphasizing, except maybe for the fact that it’s accessible from every device (which should go without saying..). Oh, and Pandora. I almost forgot. They mention of an early 2013 release. I’m hoping that they are made available to Canada by then, or I’ll be upset for missing out on that 1 Year unlimited offer.. So what about those on WP7? No word today for users that are hoping to upgrade to 7.8 unfortunately. A few custom ROMs have been made available over at XDA developers, but it seems that the official 7.8 won’t be coming out for at least a month. We’re being held in suspense here, but one thing we will definitely be seeing is the increase in apps. As I mentioned in my last review, the thing that bothered me the most about WP was the lack of decent apps… FREE apps, that is. I emphasize the Free because of a few things: 1. Many free apps have the generic black ads plastered across their UI. Not only do the ads takes up a lot of screen real estate, but they make the apps like less professional and appealing. I guess that’s why you buy the Pro version.. Below is a really good Facebook Viewer app that is visually similar to the iOS and Android versions of Facebook.. but it’s been ruined by the ad. 2. The popular and well-designed apps and games that came from iOS and Android are not Free. Even the apps that didn’t come from other platforms are never free. This is likely because WP allows users to ‘try’ paid apps before you have to buy them, so for developers, a Free version is not really necessary, and plus, it’s not worth the resources. But I hope this really changes soon. Instagram, please. I’m waiting for you. At least provide an API for other devs to use.. Other than the software, we have some big potential on the actual hardware that the new WP8 phones are running on. Wireless charging, NFC, SDCard support, multicore processors (on Qualcomm Snapdragon).. wow. Overall, I’m very excited for the future of Windows Phone, especially now that the Metro UI has been presented on Win8, making more people aware of WP. Obviously the UI isn’t for everyone, but I foresee one thing – it’ll definitely appeal to the female crowd (WP sure did a good job with that in the past, as well).