We got an early look at Windows Phone 8 back in June, but thanks to a Software Development Kit (SDK) leak this week we've been able to uncover even more features destined for Microsoft's next mobile operating system. The SDK contains an emulator that provides basic access to some of the new functionality in Windows Phone 8.
The new Start Screen is present, and the option to change tile sizes appears to work well for customization. Microsoft revealed greater color customizations for Windows Phone 8 at its Summit in June, but it appears the company will offer a number of theme colors via a picker in the settings menu — with 20 colors to choose from right now.
Outside of the customization and Start Screen, there's two new features that Microsoft hasn't detailed fully yet. First up is Data Sense, a built-in app that allows you to monitor data usage on Windows Phone 8. At first launch it will ask you to configure a single-use, monthly, or unlimited data allowance and the date it resets. From this information, Data Sense is able to monitor how much data allowance is used. You can track this using a live tile on the Start Screen and the app will warn you when you're close to your limit.
SMS, apps, photo, and video backup
The second new feature that's a big deal for Windows Phone users is backup. Microsoft has built much greater backup options into Windows Phone 8, offering users the ability to store SMS data in the cloud alongside app lists and settings. The existing auto-upload to SkyDrive feature for pictures is still present, but there's greater control over video and picture backups now too.
Xbox Music service built-in
Most hubs have been updated with functionality. The built-in Maps app is now powered by Nokia and you can download maps to use offline. Internet Explorer now includes settings to allow you to change the functionality of the address bar button from fresh to favorites and tabs — something that Windows Phone users will be pleased to see. The Xbox and Music / Video hubs have a fresh user interface that closely matches Microsoft's SmartGlass theme, and there's even access to the Xbox Music store which is designed to replace Zune.
Photos and Camera functionality has also been updated. The Photo hub now lets you select multiple pictures for sharing or deletion, and there's also an edit option to crop, rotate, or fix pictures. On the Camera side, Microsoft is building in a Lenses functionality that pulls in apps that use the camera into one single UI. At present we could only test the Bing Vision feature, but there's a link to fetch more Lenses so it's clear this will be expanded somewhat.
We weren't able to test all of the functionality using a Microsoft Account within the SDK as this isn't currently supported within the emulator, but it's clear that Microsoft has a number of improvements planned that the company hasn't officially announced. We're expecting to see the SDK released in preview form shortly — a time when Microsoft will likely detail its remaining features for Windows Phone 8.