UPDATE: Windows Phone 8 Apollo - rumours and speculation round up

June is gearing up to be a busy month, with Apple unveiling iOS 6 last week and Google set to launch its Android Jelly Bean 5.0 mobile phone and tablet operating system next week. Today, our attention turns to Microsoft's developers' conference called Windows Phone Summit. It starts on 20 June and we are expecting to see the Seattle software giant launch its new mobile platform - Windows Phone 8 Apollo. ITProPortal is now rounding up all the rumours and speculation surrounding Apollo, and there have been many.

The codename of Apollo can be traced back as far as December 2010 where an insider at Microsoft noted that the 7.5 Mango version of the platform will be succeeded by "Windows Phone 8" (codenamed 'Apollo'), in late 2012.

The next notable mentioned of Apollo came from a Nokia executive, claiming that the next Windows Phone version will be released in mid-2012. Michael Halbherr, Executive VP for Location and Commerce at the Finnish company, said that the next major iteration of Windows Phone was going to be a "very different game" to Mango. Halbherr also claimed that he wanted Microsoft to integrate NFC and a positioning framework that will help the successor of Mango "work better" with Nokia's own Navteq mapping provider.

In late December 2011, a Microsoft roadmap for 2012 was leaked. This contained details of the Tango and Apollo releases of Windows Phone. An actual image, from what appears to be a slide from a presentation, highlighted info to this year’s mobile OS releases, before those details were made public.

Tango was said to be released sometime during Q2 and was described as "products with best prices". This release was to make Windows Phone handsets more affordable, with support for sub-1GHz processors and 256GB of RAM. 1GHz was the minimum supported CPU for Windows Phone up until that point. Windows Phone Tango was eventually called Windows Phone 7.5 Refresh and has now shipped on the Samsung Focus 2 and Nokia 610 handsets, with the latter sporting an 800MHz processor.

The second key-entry in the leaked roadmap was Apollo, cited for Q4 2012. Its details included an "increase [in] overall volume", suggesting an improvement in the Windows Phone uptake being a major point for this generational release. The slide also noted "competitive superphones business", which will see the software giant release some high-end variants of Windows Phone devices - possibly using multi-cores and HD screens.

A rumour that reached us at the end of January was that not all Windows Phones 7 devices will be compatible with Windows Phone 8 Apollo. This could leave flagship devices, such as the Nokia Lumia 800, without any upgrade path. If this rumour turns out to be true, it may become the biggest setback for WP7 devices.

Tech editor, Eldar Murtazin, revealed that chances are high in that the forthcoming Apollo update will totally ignore the devices powered by its ancestor WP7 mobiles. "Last night we had a quick chat with the Editor in Chief of Mobile-Review on Twitter and he suggested that today's Windows Phones will be left in the dust come September when Apollo is due to take the spotlight," stated a report by the tech site IntoMobile.

At the start of February, a Microsoft executive outlined Windows Phone 8 enhancements. The Apollo release is said to be Microsoft's attempt to challenge Apple's iPhone and top-end Android smartphones. In a video communication to partners at Nokia, Joe Belfiore, senior vice president and Windows Phone manager, revealed some of the new features that are hoped to boost both companies to new heights in the market.

These changes included support for multicore processors, new screen resolutions (totalling four, though not specified) and removable microSD card storage. The company will also offer support for Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which will allow Windows Phone to introduce its "Wallet experience”, which many high-end smartphones currently on the market, including the iPhone, lacked. Additionally a tap-to-share function will work across platforms letting phones, tablets, laptops and PCs share content.

We reported that Microsoft intends to offer Windows 8 integration to users who buy handsets running Windows Phone 8, as the platform will be able to share a user interface and applications with Windows 8. When it comes to apps, Microsoft expects the environment to expand considerably; the company anticipates more than 100,000 apps will be available by the time the WP 8 mobile platform is launched.

Another piece of information came to us regarding Windows Phone 7 devices getting the Windows Phone 8 Apollo update. A Windows Phone fan from German mobile phone site, WP7App.de, claims to have spoken with a Microsoft representative at the CeBIT event in Hanover. "I got two pretty interesting answers to my question from the present manager of the stand, and it looks like Windows Apollo will be coming to Windows Phone [handsets]”, noted WP7App.de.

No exact date for the update was mentioned, but the objective was to schedule a release for the end of 2012. Meanwhile, our article noted that second-generation equipment (Lumia phones, HTC TITAN and Radar, etc.), as well as first-generation devices, would definitely receive an update. It is important to consider that some new hardware related features would not work on the older devices. For example, the front camera used in Skype was mentioned, yet understandably this will not work on all devices. This could act as possible evidence that Skype will be integrated into the Windows Phone 8 operating system.

The social networking application, I’m WP7, saw Windows Phone 8 Apollo appear in its logs, with the build number of 8.0.9662.0. I'm WP7 is an application that can be found inside the Marketplace, and although its purpose doesn't relate to statistics and leaking traces of an unreleased version, it does have a "Device Statistics" section.

In here, every platform using the app is registered, and signs showed that someone was using Windows Phone 8.0 Apollo back in April. Tagged as build 8.0.9662.0, Apollo was reported as running on one per cent of devices. Scott Peterson, developer of I'm a WP7, claimed the stat originated from an emulator and not from a spoofed client. Also, the Time Zone Offset lines up with the Pacific Coast.

From April, Windows Phone 8 features started to leak. A list of them surfaced on a Chinese thread belonging to a community of fellow Apollo enthusiasts, where we managed to obtain an accurate version of what is currently packed in a beta build of Apollo.

It seems that the upcoming version will bring Gravity induction, a feature used for games and common files. This will work as a tilt mechanism, which will enlarge thumbnails when the phone is brought closer to the owner. This should require a complex proximity sensor, but not all handsets may be able to use it.

In addition, the ability to add folders has been included, a feature that's been present in Android and iOS platforms for some time, and there are some major changes in Internet Explorer. Although these were not detailed, we do know that enriched characters are now available for simplified and traditional Chinese language support.

In May, pictures of a Nokia Lumia 900 running Windows Phone 8 were leaked. These showed a Cyan version of the handset stuck on the Apollo lock-screen, with the "Enter password to continue" field displayed. A blue-ish virtual keyboard was present at the bottom of the screen, while the upper-right corner revealed the build number of the packed Apollo version: 3.7. The login page looked very similar to the one found in Windows 8, as it kept the simple and clean design. The virtual keyboard also looked exactly like the one found in Windows Phone 7.5. Microsoft may have opted to not change the text entry method in the upcoming OS.

Also last month, the Windows Phone Developer Conference inadvertently released details of Windows Phone Apollo. The organisers announced that there would be an entire class devoted to the new software, fuelling rumours that Apollo will be available late Q3/Q4 of this year.

The class is taken by Paras Wadehra, Principal Software Engineer at Good Technology, and a former Senior Engineer at Microsoft. The description of the class, is as follows:

"This session will guide you on how to develop for Windows Phone Apollo, the new version of Windows Phone due out by the end of this year. You will learn the new resolutions needed to support and target Windows Phone Apollo, the new hardware you will program against, the changes coming to the Windows Phone Marketplace, and much more. There will be some code shown, which will help you migrate your Windows Phone Mango apps to target Windows Phone Apollo."

Wrapping up all the rumours and speculation, ahead of its expected unveiling, is an article from last week with leaked screenshots of the Windows Phone 8 Apollo operating system. These highlighted the integration of Skype chat, which offers the option of answering a call with or without video. This is along with a simple UI screen with three icons beneath it that will likely be used to open up a host of extra functions, enabling the user to tweak settings. A camera UI screen was also included.

Another screen-grab seemingly showed a data-usage monitoring feature, which would provide a noteworthy update to the Windows Phone platform. One of the graphical bars displayed how much data you have left, whereas the second showed how many days remain on your data plan – it appears you can also access options to adjust your plan beneath the pie chart, and record your usage figures. The final shot shows the Nokia Drive 3.0 UI, which will feature updated traffic reports and re-routing on Windows Phone 8.

Image credit: WMPoweruser, phoneArena and Nokia Innovation

UPDATE:

Windows Phone Summit is set to reveal more details on Apollo today; stay tuned to ITProPortal for more from the event.