Hello again Windows Phone fans! It’s been a while since I shared some of the thinking behind the redesign of Internet Explorer in our previous release. Today, I’ll take you on a behind-the-scenes tour of our brand new browser for Windows Phone 8.
A solid design
When the browser team gathered to start planning for Windows Phone 8, we felt we already had a solid design. So if you’ve used a Windows Phone before, Internet Explorer 10 should look pretty familiar.
To recap: In Windows Phone 7.5 we redesigned the interface to make more room for the sites you care about, so they’re no longer “boxed-in” by the browser frame (you can see the before-and-after shots below). We’ve kept this look in our new release, plus retained popular features including the smart address bar, tabbed browsing, and pinned sites, to name just a few. Learn how to use them.
What might not be obvious at first glance are the significant under-the-hood changes we’ve made. Internet Explorer 10, for example, now shares more than a name with its counterpart on Windows 8: Both phone and PC versions are built on the same powerful engine and offer improved handling of key web technologies and standards, including new support for touch-enabled sites.
I’m excited to tell you about some of the great new features. So let’s get to them.
More ways to share
Have you ever stumbled on a website or video that’s so cool you immediately wanted to show everyone in the room? If you have an Xbox 360 at home with the new dashboard, you can now do that. Where supported, just choose the Xbox option from Internet Explorer 10’s Share menu (More > Share Page) to launch the Xbox SmartGlass app on your phone and send the website you were looking at to your TV (here’s a video showing how it works).
How about quickly sending a link to a nearby friend, without the need for texting or emailing? If your phone supports NFC, an emerging wireless technology designed for short-distance sharing, another new option you’ll see in the Share menu is Tap+Send. And this isn’t just for two Windows Phones. Since NFC is an industry standard, you can share with any smartphone—or even a Windows 8 PC—that supports the technology.
Tap+Send, by the way, also works the other way around: If you come across an NFC-enabled poster or flyer mentioning some website, just tap it to pull up the site in your browser.
Data conservation and backup
As unlimited smartphone data plans become a thing of the past, it’s not surprising more people are wondering about the impact of web browsing and other bandwidth-intensive activities on their phone bill. A new Windows Phone 8 feature called Data Sense has your back.
Where available, Data Sense can help reduce your data consumption while browsing the web without slowing things down or changing how sites appear. With Data Sense enabled, we estimate that you’ll be able to load up to 45% more web pages on the same data plan. Learn more about the feature.
When it comes to web browsing, Windows Phone 8 has your back in other ways, too. For example, your Internet Explorer favorites and settings are backed up in case you ever lose or change phones. Just sign in on the new device with the same Microsoft Account, and your data will be restored.
Safety and privacy improvements
Like desktop PCs, smartphones are also potentially vulnerable to phishing attacks—fake sites or emails that trick you into revealing sensitive info. To help prevent this, Windows Phone now comes with SmartScreen Filter, the same powerful anti-phishing technology found on Windows PCs that’s protected millions of people since it was first introduced in 2007.
SmartScreen Filter checks the sites you visit on your phone in real time against a regularly-refreshed list of reported phishing sites. If it finds a match, you’ll see this warning.
These real-time checks are important because the average phishing site is typically active for just a short amount of time. SmartScreen uses the latest data available to help protect you from phishing threats while you browse, a level of built-in protection not found on competing smartphones.
Internet Explorer 10 for Windows Phone also offers Do Not Track, which signals websites that you prefer not to have information collected about your visit as you browse. It’s important to note that it’s up to individual sites to determine how to interpret this signal. You can learn more about this option, also found on Windows 8 PCs, here. Do Not Track is turned on if you choose the “recommended” setup option the first time you use Internet Explorer. (Not sure if it’s on? Go to Settings > Internet Explorer> Advanced Settings. Learn more.)
You asked, we listened
When redesigning Internet Explorer in our last release, we made space for the relocated address bar by moving the tabs and favorites buttons under the More menu (you know, the one with the three little dots). As I explained in last year’s post, it seemed like the right call: while it put these options an extra tap away, our data showed few people actually used them. So we thought: what’s one more tap?
Well, we were wrong. While many customers did appreciate the change, a good number of you also told us loud and clear via the Windows Phone Suggestion Box that you wanted those buttons back. Restoring one-tap access to tabs and favorites was overwhelmingly the No. 1 browser feature request and made the top 20 list across all of Windows Phone.
But we faced a dilemma: how to return the buttons without shrinking the space we deliberately created for displaying websites? And if there was only room for one button, should it be favorites or tabs? After much debate, the team decided we’d simply let you decide.
So under More > Settings in Internet Explorer 10 you’ll find a new option to configure the address bar button, and make it refresh/stop (default), favorites, or tabs. If you choose tabs, we’ll also show a count of the number of tabs you have open. Here’s what this looks like:
Whichever you pick, the other actions will be available in the Menu. For example, I’ve chosen tabs for my button, so refresh/stop and favorites are in the menu, as you can see below.
Another feature you told us you missed via Suggestion Box is Find on Page—something we’d always intended to carry over into Windows Phone 7.5, but ran out of time. It was a hard cut. So we not only prioritized it for Windows Phone 8, we actually gave it an upgrade. The Find on Page engine is now identical to the one in Internet Explorer 10 on your PC, which means it’s fast and robust. When you search for something, we also use your Windows Phone accent color (I’ve chosen “Emerald” below) to highlight the current match – a small way to make your Windows Phone more personal.
Before I go
We can’t wait for you to get your hands on Windows Phone 8 and hope you enjoy these browser upgrades in our new release. We also look forward to bringing you more in the future. So keep up the energy, keep sharing your thoughts and opinions, and keep voting for features over at Suggestion Box. We’re definitely listening and appreciate your enthusiasm.