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Microsoft's promises slow upgrade for loyal Phone 7 customers

Getting Phone 8 in form, but not in function

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Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 users may not be able to upgrade their handsets to Phone 8, but an update promised by Redmond will make them look as though they have – though not until next year.

Windows Phone 7.8, probably the last upgrade to the "Tango" version of the OS, will add the customizable application tile sizes of its more advanced counterpart, plus 20 color schemes with which to express one's individuality. Faking it will have to do for the current user base, since Phone 8 is based around the Windows 8 kernel and can't run on older hardware.

Redmond is also adding a new screen-locking system with version 7.8, the option to stream the Bing picture of the day, and a safety pane that asks Exchange users to confirm message deletions. The number of countries that can buy apps for the handset will also rise by over 30 per cent.

As upgrades go, there's not a lot there.

"We know you’re eager to get the Windows Phone 7.8 update, and we want you to know that we’re working closely with our hardware and carrier partners to get it tested, approved, and rolled out to as many devices as possible in early 2013," said Terry Myerson, VP of Windows Phone.

While the channel has been reducing Phone 7 inventory since before the new OS launch, there's still a lot of older kit out there and a few units yet to sell. Whether a fake Phone 8 has much additional pulling power remains to be seen, but it makes sense to get existing users used to the new UI for when it comes time to trade up.

Microsoft announced the UI shift for Phone 7 back in June at the preview of its successor, and the fact that it's going to take until an unspecified time next year tells you how high the operating system is on the company's agenda. ®

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