Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 8 way back in June, but details outside of the hardware were fairly sparse. Today, however, the folks in Redmond have delivered everything else that goes into the mobile OS, like software and apps. For starters, a brand-new lock screen has been added to Windows Phone 8 that is powered by Live Apps. This means your lock screen is updated with new photos, sports scores, and other information to keep you connected without having to dive into any apps. All the information displayed can be adjusted to suit your needs, so everyone's lock screen will be different.
As for the apps, well, Microsoft is pretty much allowing every major app to be supported, as well as ones previously only on Android or iOS. Pandora Radio is set to arrive in the early part of next year, and it'll be ad-free for the entire year on WP8 devices. Urbanspoon and other big-name apps are set to arrive too, plus games like Cut the Rope, Asphalt 7, and Temple Run join the WP8 fun. When everything is said and done, Microsoft plans to have 46 out of the top 50 apps available, which means switching from another mobile OS to WP8 will be that much simpler. If you have kids (or grown-ups) that simply won't put down your phone, you'll be happy to hear about the guest user account called Kid's Corner. What it does is allow you to set which games, apps, music, and videos are available, so you won't have to worry about your child or friend deleting something important or sending an errant text.
Rooms is a new feature that lets friends, families, and even companies set up a private area to share calendars, photos, notes, and more. Only people in that particular room have access, so it's a good way to keep things organized between them. Non-Windows Phone 8 users can view some of the content on a different platform, but I'm sure Microsoft is banking on everyone picking up WP8 to get the full experience.
Verizon users get first crack at the new Data Sense app to keep track of, what else, data usage. It tracks everything app-by-app, but also compresses every web page and finds available WiFi hotspots. Data Sense has a Live Tile to help you keep watch and alert you when you're approaching a preset limit. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claims Data Sense lets users "consume 45% less data" than the competition, which is a likely jab at Android and iOS' data tracking feature. The app is going to be available first on Verzion this fall, but no word on when other carriers can get it.
Windows Phone 8 devices will be available on Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile soon, however Sprint is not joining the launch party. That could be due to its customers' less than stellar reaction to Windows Phone 7 or maybe its because of Sprint's 4G debate between WiMAX and LTE. The carrier has settled on LTE for its 4G service, but that indecision could have cost it having any WP8 launch devices. Regardless, HTC, LG, Nokia, and Samsung should all have WP8 devices ready to go at launch or soon thereafter.