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Windows Phone 8 Tips: The Ultimate Compendium

Windows Phone 8 Tips: The Ultimate Compendium

The most comprehensive set of tips for Windows Phone 8 anywhere

No one loves Windows Phone more than I do, so it won’t surprise you to discover that I’ve written over 30 tips dedicated to Windows Phone 8. Here’s a single place where can go to find what you need and master Microsoft’s latest smart phone platform.

Note: I’ll be updating this article as new tips are added to the series.

New Windows Phone 8 capabilities

Take Screenshots

Windows Phone users have been asking Microsoft for years for a way to take screenshots of their devices. Now in Windows Phone 8 it’s finally possible.

Browse the Phone's File System

With Windows Phone 8, you can finally connect the device to your PC and access the device’s file system just like any other portable storage device. This lets you drag and drop files to and from the phone and, on devices with microSD storage, between that card and the phone’s internal storage.

Backup and Restore

Like Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 support automatic device settings sync to SkyDrive, allowing you to restore those settings if you lose and choose to reset your phone. But Windows Phone 8 also supports backing up text messages and personal photos and videos to the cloud.

Share with NFC

Windows Phone 8 supports Near Field Communications (NFC) technology, allow handsets to interact with other NFC-capable devices in unique ways. One of the key uses of NFC right now is for sharing, and Windows Phone 8 supports a wide range of content sharing over NFC.

Connect Bluetooth Devices via NFC

While Windows Phone 8’s support for Near Field Communications (NFC) is largely futuristic since it requires NFC-based payment systems or other users with NFC-compatible mobile devices, I’ve found one interesting use for this technology that works now: You can use it to more easily pair with Bluetooth speakers that are also NFC-enabled.

New Ways to Buy Stuff Online

In Windows Phone 7.x, you could make on-device purchases in Windows Phone Marketplace using credit/debit cards associated with your Microsoft account or, if supported, through your wireless carrier. In Windows Phone 8, these options have expanded to include PayPal and Microsoft gift cards, for apps and games only.

Share Your Phone Safely with Your Children

Every once in a while, an idea comes along that is so brilliant and yet so obvious, you almost smack your hand against your head in amazement. Kid’s Corner, a new feature in Windows Phone 8, is such an idea. How did we live without this?

Install Apps from SD

Microsoft this week enabled a previously promised feature for Windows Phone 8: You can now download Windows Phone apps to your PC, copy them to the phone’s micro-SD card, and then install them on the device. This process is called side-loading.

Data Sense

Available only to customers on Verizon Wireless for the time being, Data Sense is a new Windows Phone 8 feature that helps you keep track of your cellular data usage. This is important because most people today have metered accounts with a set amount of data, and Data Sense will help you prevent exceeding this limit.


Make the Text Bigger

While most Windows Phone users love the typography and design of the Metro user interface in their favorite mobile system, there’s one request I get regularly: How can one resize the onscreen text in Windows Phone 8 to make it more readable? It turns out you can.

Use the Screen Magnifier

A new screen magnifier feature in Windows Phone 8 helps you zoom into any area of the screen and pan around for a closer look. But this isn’t something you’ll enable and leave on. Instead, you can use it on the fly as needed.

Customize the Theme

As with Windows Phone 7.x, Windows Phone supports themes, which are combinations of a background color and an accent color. This time around, however, there are more accent colors available. And Microsoft’s device maker partners are adding their own device-specific accent colors as well.

Resize and Arrange Live Tiles

Live tiles are one of the best features in Windows Phone and a key differentiator between this platform and the competition. In Windows Phone 8, live tiles are even better. And one of the great new features is the ability to resize all tiles to any of three sizes, dramatically increasing the layout possibilities of the Windows Phone 8 Start screen.

Customize the Lock Screen

While the Windows Phone lock screen has always offered nice wallpaper-based customization, Windows Phone 8 offers dramatic improvements, with support for live app-based backgrounds and Windows 8-style notifications.

Get Personalized Suggestions

Microsoft has always marketed Windows Phone as the most personal smart phone, and with Windows Phone 8, that message has been amped up even further. While there are many aspects to this advantage, Windows Phone 8 includes an interesting personalized suggestions service that makes the system even more personal.

Fix the Me Tile

The Me tile in Windows Phone 8 holds a special place in the hearts of minds of Windows Phone 8 users. But what is this thing, exactly? And if you mistakenly un-pin the tile from the Start screen how can you get it back?


Use Xbox Cloud Collection

One of the more useful but confusing new features in Windows Phone 8 is its integration with Xbox Cloud Collection, Microsoft’s music storage locker service. But this service works with related services such as Xbox Music Pass and Xbox Music Store to make Windows Phone 8 the most complete and integrated portable music player available.

Use Xbox Music Pass

Microsoft’s Xbox Music Pass has been around in various forms for several years, but with Windows Phone 8 it plays a key part in that platform’s broader PC-free strategies, with subscription-based access to the tens of millions of songs in Xbox Music Store.

Manage Media with MicroSD

For the first time, Windows Phone 8 formally supports storage expansion via microSD, giving you the opportunity to store photos, music, TV shows and movies on a storage card rather than in internal storage.

Find Out What Song is Playing

When you hear a song you like, you can use an integrated Windows Phone 8 feature called Bing Music Search to find out which song is playing. It will also show you the artist and album names, and a button to purchase it online at the Xbox Music Store.

Access Podcasts Over the Air

While Microsoft has long supported subscribing to and managing podcasts for its devices through the Zune PC software, last year’s release of Windows Phone 7.5 ushered in the platform’s first steps towards a PC-free future. Now you can search for, browse, download, stream, and subscribe to podcasts over the air, from the device … assuming you live in the United States.

Enjoy Podcasts on the Go

While Windows Phone 8 is the only Microsoft platform to formally support podcasts, things have changed a bit since Windows Phone 7.x. And as you’re about to discover, where Microsoft giveth, Microsoft also taketh away.


Improve Your Camera with Lens Apps

Lenses, or lens apps, are one of the most interesting advances in Windows Phone 8. These special apps integrate with your smart phone’s camera, giving it new capabilities that don’t require you to hunt and peck around in your app list: Instead, you can access them directly from the camera experience.

Edit Photos

Windows Phone 8 adds news tools for on-device photo editing, expanding on the photo auto-fix feature that debuted in Windows Phone 7.5.

Import Photos to Your PC

With the move to Windows Phone 8, Microsoft’s smart phone platform has picked up a number of incredibly useful features that were missing in Windows Phone 7.x Case in point: USB media transfer support. This means that, yes, you can finally import photos from the phone to your PC using tools like Windows Photo Gallery.

Maps and Bing Search

Download Maps for Offline Use

In Windows Phone 8, the Bing Maps app is now backed by Nokia’s well-respected mapping technologies but looks and works much like the version in Windows Phone 7.x. Aside from using better underlying map data, the move to Nokia maps does comes with another major advantage: You can now download maps for offline use.

Windows Phone 8 and Turn-by-Turn Navigation

While Windows Phone 8 has certainly added many useful new features compared to its predecessor, it’s also a new platform and is missing some functionality that long-time Windows Phone users expect. Key among those, perhaps, is voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation.

Share Your Location

The integrated experiences in Windows Phone have always made it easy to share things with others using a variety of services. But in Windows Phone, the list of things you can share has grown yet again, and one of the new things you can share is your location.

Find Places Nearby

Because so many people use their smart phones to find restaurants, stores, attractions, events, and other places nearby, Windows Phone includes an incredible Bing feature called Local Scout, which Microsoft bills as your location-aware guide to the neighborhood. With Local Scout, you have instant access to the best restaurants, stores, and other places within 25 miles of your phone, right at your fingertips.

Find Out What You're Looking At

The Bing experience in Windows Phone 8 includes an integrated feature called Bing Vision that helps you find out more about what you’re looking at while you’re out in the world. Bing Vision understands QR codes, Microsoft Tags and bar codes; and CD, DVD, video game, and book covers. It can even scan and translate text.


Send Photos and Voice Memos to OneNote

In Windows Phone 8, OneNote Mobile has gained significant new functionality and is now available as a dedicated app outside the Office hub. One of the key updates to OneNote is deeper integration with the system, and you can now send photos and voice memos to OneNote from outside the app.

Internet Explorer 10 Mobile for Windows Phone 8

IE 10 Mobile isn’t just better looking, with a more efficient design. Under the covers, of course, IE 10 Mobile is a huge upgrade. And unlike previous versions, it’s actually based on the same web browser core and rendering engine as its desktop-based cousin in Windows 8. So IE 10 Mobile really is a version of IE 10. It’s not IE 10 in name only.

Share Your Internet Connection

As with Windows Phone 7.x, Windows Phone 8 allows you to use your handset as a Wi-Fi hot-spot where you share your cellular data connection with up to 5 other devices. This capability is particularly compelling for those with access to high-speed 4G and LTE networks.

Share Only with Certain People

In keeping with its highly personalized and integrated foundations, Windows Phone 8 offers even more ways to share information only with certain people. Key to this functionality is an improved Groups feature and a new feature called Rooms.

Manage Your Phone Online

Microsoft offers great online resources for Windows Phone users, including a web version of the Windows Phone Store, a Find My Phone service, and ways to manage all of the company’s services that you access on the device.

PC sync

PC Sync

If you’re familiar with how Windows Phone 7.x syncs with the PC, you’re about to get a major upgrade: Windows Phone 8 now syncs to the PC through a much simpler Metro-style app or desktop application. And if you’re using Windows 8 on the PC desktop, you can choose between the two or mix and match.

Understand Your PC Sync Options

It used to be so simple: When it came to syncing your Windows Phone 7.x handset to the PC, you used the Zune PC software, love it or hate it. With Windows Phone 8, however, Zune is out of the picture. And while your PC sync options have in many ways expanded, they’ve conversely gotten less integrated. This is, believe it or not, by design, as Windows Phone 8 is really designed to be more of a standalone system than its predecessor.

Use Your Choice of Music/Audio Sync Applications

After years of Zune and Windows Phone experience, I’ve kind of lost sight of the old way of doing things. But Windows Phone 8’s support of the Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) means that Microsoft’s latest smart phone platform isn’t as closely tied to the firm’s media software as were previous products. So you now have a wider range of choices when it comes to syncing music (and podcast) content.


Do you have a tip you’d like to see added? Please send me a note or add a comment below. Thanks! --Paul

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