How will Windows Phone 8 Apps Differ From Android and iOS?

How will Windows Phone 8 Apps Differ From Android and iOS?

Shopping for a new smartphone? Think you’re ready to make a switch in operating systems?

Welcome to the club! With the upcoming launch of Windows Phone 8, shoppers will have at least three great mobile device families to choose from, each with its own host of applications: Android, iOS and Windows Phone 8. Here, we break down four ways that the operating systems differ when it comes to our bread and butter: smartphone apps.

Social savviness based on the notable contenders: Facebook and Skype

Facebook worked directly with Apple to create a very deep social integration with iOS 6. So you can easily share photos, web pages, map views and other info, sync Facebook friends with Apple contacts, and “like” apps and songs from within other iPhone apps, as well as using a native Facebook app to access your Facebook account more conventionally.

Some of the same kind of integration—but not all—is available on Android, and the Facebook app for Android is more basic (though rumors are that it will be upgraded soon). Pre-launch reports are that the deep integration of Facebook and Twitter into Windows 8 (much like Apple users now enjoy) will be carried through on Windows Phone 8 devices; but for the moment, no native Facebook app has been positively announced for the Windows Phone 8 platform.

Popular video chat service Skype, however, is expected to make a unique statement on Windows Phone 8 devices. For one, video chatting with friends will be a more seamless experience, as Skype will be housed in the native People app, where all of a user’s contacts are stored. Secondly, Skype on Windows Phone 8 will let you view IMs and access websites in a screen next to your live chat. These are just some of the small—yet convenient—features Windows Phone 8 users can expect.

Navigation

Some built-in apps, like navigation, are distinct because each OS developer has built their own. On Android, Google Maps offers turn-by-turn audio directions, excellent map guidance and Street View photos of destinations.

Apple’s new Maps app for iOS 6 also includes turn-by-turn navigation and shows interactive 3D views and flyovers. At the moment, however, Apple’s new map database is said to be less reliable than Google’s.

On Windows Phone 8, users are eagerly awaiting an improved, Windows-branded, built-in version of Nokia’s navigation app (already popular on Windows 7+), with high-quality Navteq maps that cover the whole world. Bonus: Nokia announced in September that Nokia phones with Windows Phone 8 will feature downloadable Offline Maps and Venue Maps (maps of inside places) within the Nokia Maps app.

Gameplay

Most games for Apple, Android and earlier versions of Windows Phone have been pretty basic—Fruit Ninja, Cut the Rope and Angry Birds are good examples, where graphics are handsome and user interfaces simple and self-contained.

That may all starting changing with Windows Phone 8, which is slated for integration with Xbox LIVE on the back end and which runs DirectX 11.1 (the core Windows 3D graphics and multimedia API, which also runs on PC Windows and XBOX consoles). DirectX is expected to help PC and Xbox gaming brands port select software more easily to Windows Phone 8 devices, and some suggest that games will be a major driver of Windows Phone 8 sales.

Multiplatform integration

In the end, what may most distinguish Windows Phone 8 apps from those on other platforms is the continuity with Windows 8 on desktop PCs and lightweight Surface tablets. We’ll soon get a tast of this when Microsoft releases Office 2013 for multiple platforms. Promised features include the ability to synchronize application and document contexts, so that you can (for example) read a Microsoft Word doc on your desktop, then continue reading it on your phone or Surface. While that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do serious word processing on a handheld, it goes beyond current smartphones in extending the power of a desktop experience to your on-the-go pocket.

Apple and Android, however, are unlikely to take any of these challenges lying down. Apple already enjoys synchronization between iOS devices via iCloud. Android, meanwhile, is part of a widening ecosystem that includes ChromeOS, Chromebook laptops and the Chrome browser as a virtual application platform.

So, which smartphone operating system will offer the best app experience for you? We can’t decide for you, but we can recommend careful consideration of the pros and cons of each before buying.

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