What's different about apps and games coded for Windows Phone 8?

While Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7.x may look mostly the same, at their core the two operating systems are very different. As such, both OSs have a certain amount of overlap in terms of what software they can run but there are differences.

In theory, all Windows Phone 7 apps can run on Windows Phone 8. In reality, this is mostly true although there are some exceptions due to the need to upgrade an app’s graphics for the new 720P and 763 resolutions.  Likewise for games although at the time of the Windows Phone 8 launch, there are at least 20 Xbox titles that cannot run on the new OS due to needed updates.

Apps that are updated to Windows Phone 8 status don’t preclude Windows Phone 7.x consumers from using the app but they won’t be able to take advantage of some of the new Windows Phone 8 features, such as:

  • Lenses – Mini photo apps that tie into the camera module
  • Fast resume – The ability to resume an app even after re-launching it via its Live Tile
  • Lock screen Banner – WP8 apps can display information directly on the Lock screen
  • Lock screen notifications – WP8 Apps can display up to five custom notification areas
  • Background GPS – WP8 apps can have navigation programs constantly run in the background
  • App to app handoff – WP8 Apps can share information with other apps
  • Wallet – WP8 apps can integrate with the Windows Phone Wallet, allowing in app and in game purchases
  • NFC sharing – WP8 apps can optionally share images or information via near-field communication (NFC) aka “Tap to share”
  • Doublewide Live TilesWindows Phone 7.8 and 8 devices can show doublewide tiles for third-party apps
  • Voice commands – WP8 apps can use the TellMe voice service for speech-to-text or for custom voice commands, such as launching to a specific area within the app

There is no cost to the user to upgrade to a Windows Phone 8 app as it is the same one that Windows Phone 7.x users will buy.

Finally, games for Windows Phone 8 are a bit different. Due to the addition of native coding, developers can release Windows Phone 8-only games either for Xbox or even third-party titles. That means some games will never be available for Windows Phone 7.x users unless the developer releases two separate versions—a prospect that is unlikely due to the difficulty in maintaining two code bases. Because of this, in the long run Windows Phone users will see the greatest fragmentation in the games area as opposed to the more ubiquitous apps.

Listed below are apps and games that have either been updated for Windows Phone 8 or released specifically for the new OS.

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