BlackBerry was the focus of the mobile industry today thanks to the unveiling of BlackBerry 10 and the shedding of the RIM name, but it was a great day for Windows Phone enthusiasts as well. OS updates? Check. Surprise last-minute deals with Google? Check. Windows Phone 8 sync application updates? Check. Today had something for everyone.
The biggest announcement, of course, is that the long-awaited Windows Phone 7.8 update has finally started rolling out to Windows Phone 7.5 phones. This OS update (v7.10.8858.136) allows older devices to take advantage of a select few Windows Phone 8 features like the new Start screen design with three Live Tile sizes, 20 accent colors, and Bing’s daily image on the lock screen.
Microsoft and its hardware partners aren’t saying exactly when the update will arrive for a particular device, but it should happen before the end of February. You’ll receive a notification on your device as soon as the update is available. Unlike Windows Phone 8, Windows Phone 7.x doesn’t support over-the-air updates, so you’ll need to connect your phone to your computer and use the Zune software client to download and install the update.
If you’re a Gmail user with a Windows Phone, you’ll also be pleased to hear that Microsoft and Google managed to come to a last-minute agreement regarding the latter company’s controversial decision to drop support for the Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) protocol. Google had planned on preventing access to Google Mail, Calendar, and Contacts via EAS beginning today – and this is still the case for the vast majority of devices – but it granted a temporary stay of execution for those on Windows Phone, which does not yet support the alternative CalDAV and CardDAV protocols. Microsoft, for its part, plans to add these features to Windows Phone before Google turns off its EAS support for good on July 31, 2013. Unfortunately, the temporary postponement does not apply to Windows 8 and Windows RT users. There is, however, a workaround.
Finally, the Windows Phone app for desktop has been updated to Preview 3, slightly improving the way content is physically transferred to a Windows Phone 8 handset. This application is just one of many ways you can add or remove content from your phone. Cloud storage/sync is the preferred method, but you can also use the Windows Phone app on the Windows Store or simply transfer content via the file system like any other removable device. With any luck, Preview 3 will fix some of the metadata sync issues people have been encountering.