Your Windows Phone is awesome. Forget the naysayers and anti-Microsoft doom-mongers – it might not be as popular and fashionable as Android and iOS, but Windows Phone 8 is an awesome platform. These ten secret features prove why.
1. Typing Is Fast & Easy
As with any smartphone, typing on a Windows Phone 8 device is crucial for replying to emails and messages. With the benefit of Microsoft Office Mobile pre-installed, you’ll probably find yourself typing in Word, Excel and OneNote as well.
Typing on the Windows Phone 8 software keyboard is a feature-packed experience; it involves more than simple tap-tap-tapping at the required characters, but the shortcuts included in the tool are provided to make typing faster, easier and more streamlined than you may imagine.
Our five tips will have you typing faster on Windows Phone within minutes.
2. Streamline Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer is the only major browser on Windows Phone, and thankfully it has some configuration options included. As well as offering the ability to set favourites and open new tabs (which you can switch between via menu > tabs), you can also set web pages as tiles (see below for more) and create a Favourites shortcut button on the web browser bar.
Open Settings > Applications > Internet Explorer, then select favourites in the Use address bar button for field. This will give you a shortcut to your bookmarked websites; you can also set the button to display tabs, which will bring up the tab view.
3. It’s Got Bing Inside
Android users get a deep integration with Google on their phones. It’s not hard to miss, what with Google Now and OK Google, Gmail, Google Voice, Hangouts and Chrome all pre-installed on most phones.
Microsoft has pulled a similar trick with Bing, but they’ve done it in a way that doesn’t scream “I’m HERE!” all over your phone.
On Windows Phone 8, voice and text search, music identification, barcode and QR code scanning, Bing local search and even scanned text translation are all powered by Bing.
4. Automated Text Messages
Ever been caught out with your phone ringing in the middle of an important meeting, or while you’re occupied with, ahem, personal hygiene tasks?
Windows Phone 8 has a selection of pre-written text message replies that can be used to save time in such a squeeze. Open Settings > Applications > Phone and tap edit replies to add your custom messages (two are included by default, but these can be edited).
With your custom responses set up, simply swipe up on the incoming call screen when someone tries to get in touch and tap text reply. From here, select the message you want to send and the SMS will appear on the caller’s phone shortly after.
5. Windows Phone 8 Is A Gaming Behemoth
I’ve recently been working on updating MakeUseOf’s Best Windows Phone Apps list, and the thing that stood out the most was the number of quality games that are now available for the platform. This shouldn’t come as a surprise – after all, gaming has been pushed as an element of the platform since the days of Windows Phone 7, and the Xbox Live integration is a selling point for many.
Along with superb games like Rocket Riot, Six Guns and Tiny Death Star, Windows Phone 8 also supports several emulators that can be used to expand the games library by running some retro gaming classics!
6. Link Mailboxes Into A Single View
There’s a good chance that you have more than one email account that you are currently using. If you’re reading, sending and receiving emails on your Windows Phone, having multiple accounts either means multiple tiles on the Start screen, or looking for your email inboxes in the app list.
Or so you might think.
In fact, you can link your Windows Phone email accounts into a single inbox by opening your email, tapping menu > link inboxes and selecting the email accounts you want to link. These will then be gathered into a group, which you can rename if necessary. The linked inbox will then be displayed on your Start screen.
7. Pin Almost Anything
One of the big feature points of Windows Phone 8 (and Windows 8) is the ability to “pin”. Documents, photos, contacts, website URLs, songs, directions and even widget-style app tools (such as the OneNote voice recorder) can be added to your Start screen.
There is no hard-and-fast rule for pinning. While any app, contact, or other native feature can be pinned by tapping, holding and selecting the appropriate option from the displayed menu, others can only be found if the app developer allows it. In this case, it will be highlighted with the Pin icon.
8. Your Kids Can Use It Safely
You might be quite concerned by the thought of letting the small, sticky fingers of children anywhere near your Windows Phone 8 device, particularly if it’s a Nokia Lumia 1020 or 1520 with their superior lenses and hardware.
In truth, however, it is easy to quickly configure a child-only zone on your Windows Phone. With Child Zone activated, specific apps and media can be placed for their enjoyment without you worrying about deleted email accounts and unsavoury websites being loaded.
9. Windows Phone 8 Multitasking
Windows Phone traditionally had a poor history with multitasking, but in the most recent update it has finally been brought into line with the type of control that iOS and Android users enjoy with the introduction of the App Switcher.
You can easily switch apps by holding the Back button down; this will display a new view, where smaller versions of all current apps are listed. To switch app, swipe to the one you want to use and tap it to activate.
The multi-tasking screen can also be used to close apps – just tap the X in the top right corner.
10. It Does Voice Commands!
You’ve probably heard of Siri on iPhone, and even Google Now/OK Google on Android. These voice command systems are ideal for performing tasks with just your voice, but what you probably didn’t know is that Windows Phone 8 has its own very good system, although like Siri and OK Google you’ll need to know exactly how to get the best from it.
Capable of composing and sending text messages, making phone calls and launching apps, voice search and dictation to Microsoft OneNote is also possible on Windows Phone. While this feature isn’t currently as polished as the competition, the forthcoming Window Phone 8.1 update is set to introduce the new Cortana digital assistant in mid-2014.
Ten Top Windows Phone 8 Secrets
Whether you consider these ten tips to be good news or old hat, the fact remains that Windows Phone 8 is equipped with some features that can improve productivity, usability and security.
From integrated Bing search to multitasking and voice commands, Windows Phone 8 is a platform that is capable of providing a strong alternative to Android and iOS.
Let us know if you have any favourites from the list, or even tips of your own!