(SAN FRANCISCO) — Microsoft is announcing Monday an update to its Windows Phone 8 operating system that will enable support for much larger screened phones or “phablets,” a combination of the words phone and tablet to describe the new category.
Microsoft, like Samsung and LG, which make large and in-charge Android devices, wants its software to run on phones that are too big to fit in an average pocket.
The software tweaks will enable Windows Phone 8 to run on 5- to 6-inch screens with full 1080p HD resolutions. But Microsoft hasn’t just stretched the software; if a phone has a larger screen, there is now a third column of live tiles or apps, enabling users to see more shortcuts to contacts or apps without having to scroll down the screen.
In other apps, with the Contacts app, for instance, users will be able to see more information on the screen, too, without having to scroll.
“A lot of the stuff we are starting to do on smartphones benefit from larger screens — media, movies,” Greg Sullivan, senior marketing manager for Windows Phone, told ABC News.
The higher-resolution screens allow for crisper images and to see more of a webpage or app. Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Note, though, Windows Phone 8 will not support stylus input.
Sullivan would not reveal any details on the first Windows Phones to have larger screens, but Nokia, which Microsoft purchased in September, is rumored to introduce the 6-inch Lumia 1520 next week at an event in Abu Dhabi.
While Microsoft’s separate Windows 8 operating system runs on tablets with screens 8 inches and larger, this class of device is meant to bring phone capabilities to the bigger screens.
“There are differences between the phone, the phablet and then the tablet,” Sullivan said, stressing that Microsoft is giving users more choice.
And with those choices and some more software changes, the company is hoping it will have more fuel to take on the Android masses and the iPhone.
In addition to the screen real estate, the new update to Windows Phone adds support for Qualcomm’s newest quad-core processor and some new software features, including a Driving Mode, which will limit notifications while you are driving. You can also close apps from the multitasking view now and a new screen reader makes it easier for blind and visually impaired people to use parts of the operating system.
“These are updates that are important to people and that are delivered in a way that is at a better pace than Apple and a better breadth than Android,” Sullivan said, adding that Windows Phone is now the third most-popular mobile operating system behind those two, yet growing at a faster pace.
Windows Phone was the fastest-growing platform among the leading operating systems for the second quarter of 2013, with a 77.6 percent year-over-year gain, according to IDC.
With Android and iOS holding a combined 92 percent of the global smartphone market, according to IDC, Windows Phone surely has a long way to go, but the platform is gaining size in more ways than one.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Madison Park, Keith Allen and Andreas Preuss, CNN