Microsoft reveals few details for new version of Windows Phone at MWC, though leaks paint another picture

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Image: Alex Holyoake/Flickr (Creative Commons)

After months of rumours and leaks, Microsoft have today announced a few features from their next version of Windows Phone, which rumours had labelled Windows Phone 8.1. And I must stress the ‘few’.

Joe Belfiore took the stage at Mobile World Congress to announce that the new update will “technically” support any Windows Phone 8 device. The new version will also make a lot of changes in terms of device support, with support for on-screen buttons, as well as support for Snapdragon 200, 400, and 400 LTE chips. While Belfiore described the changes as an attempt to “get more and more momentum,” it’s obvious that the company wants to take a bite out of Google’s budget marketshare, with Android dominant in that space. With the changes, hardware makers can now reuse Android hardware to run Windows Phone, giving more incentive to take a chance on the OS.

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Furthering the focus today on the developing markets, the new version will have Dual-SIM support, giving users “total user control.” By the looks of things, this means you’ll be able to use both SIMs simultaneously, with multiple live tiles per SIM card. Microsoft’s also trying to make the OS more accessible for OEMs with a new web-based hardware partner website giving smaller device makers an easier way to produce white-label Windows Phone devices.

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Microsoft also announced a version of Facebook Messenger for Windows Phone, which is coming soon, a sign that Microsoft is leaving behind its integrated ideals of the OS, taking a page out of its competitors fragmented social apps. Previously Messenger was integrated into the Windows Phone Messaging app.

No new hardware or real features were announced, despite significant leaks of the Windows Phone 8.1 SDK. Nick Parker, head of Microsoft’s OEM work, said that it’s up to manufacturers to announce new devices, but that Foxconn, HTC, Huawei, ISR, Karbonn, Lenovo, LG, Longcheer, Nokia, Samsung, ZTE, and Xolo will be producing Windows Phone devices in 2014.

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Nokia’s Lumia 630 has already leaked following the keynote, with on-screen buttons, a 4-inch screen, and 1GB of RAM. A dual-SIM version, the Lumia 635, is also rumoured.

Hopefully Microsoft can announce the already leaked features soon for 8.1. For an OS that’s already so far behind in the high-end market, it’s strange that they’re just going to let leaks steal their feature thunder. Microsoft is expected to release a version for all developers at BUILD in April, with a general release today promised as coming in Spring, or before the end of May.