Tips and tricks for Windows Phone 8's new features

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Rooms and Groups

Groups and Rooms in the People Hub

Windows Phone 8 has two new features—Rooms and Groups—designed to help you connect better with family and close friends. Rooms are invitation-only places where users can connect with other room members. When one member shares a photo, video, note, or calendar event in the room, all members of that room can see that shared item. Thus, the Rooms feature is best for close-knit groups of people who all know one another and are comfortable sharing.

While rooms live on every member’s phone, groups live on just one person’s phone: yours. When you create a group on your phone, you can add anyone you want (without having to invite them), and they will never really know that they’re part of a group. The Groups feature is best for lists of people—such as close friends, coworkers, or schoolmates—whose social updates you want to see in one place. You can email, text, and instant-message an entire group at once, so the Groups feature is useful for planning big events.

To access both Rooms and Groups in Windows Phone 8, go to Apps > People. In the People menu, swipe three times to the left to get to the Together menu. Here you will see both the rooms that you are a part of and the groups that you have created. Your Windows Phone 8 device comes with one room ('Family Room') and one group ('Best Friends') already created.

Using either feature is easy. To create a room or a group, tap the plus sign at the bottom of the Together screen. Pick whether to create a room or a group, give your room or group a name, and then tap Save. To invite someone to a room, tap the Invite button and find the person on the contact list. You will have to wait until they accept your invitation to begin sharing with them in the room.

To add someone to a group, tap the group and then tap the Members button in the contact list. Tap the plus sign to add members to the group from your phone books. You do not need to wait until they accept an invitation to add them to a group.

Using Rooms

The default Family Room

Once you’ve set up a room, you can access it by tapping its name. Each room has several screens: the main screen (which shows all the members of the room), as well as a Chat screen, a Calendar screen, a Photos screen, and a Notes screen. Any member of a room can start chatting, add an event to the calendar, add photos to the room, or add notes to the room. All members can change the room’s background picture.

Note that only Windows Phone 8 users can fully experience Rooms. Windows Phone 7 and iPhone users can join a room and access the shared calendar, but that’s all. And as of now, Android users cannot join a room at all.

Using Groups

Groups messaging view

Once you've set up your group, you can access it by tapping its name. Each group has three screens: Group, What’s New, and Photos. The Group screen shows the members of the group, and lets you send a text or email to all members (or, at least, all members whose phone number or email address you have on record).

The What’s New screen shows updates from the group members, including Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking posts, while the Photos screen displays photos that the group members have shared on Facebook or other social networks.


Tap + Send instructions

All Windows Phone 8 handsets come equipped with NFC technology. Through NFC (near-field communication) you can wirelessly transfer files, apps, games, contacts, videos, and other content simply by pressing your phone to another NFC-enabled handset. NFC also enables Windows Phone 8 devices to support mobile-payment and digital-wallet functions.

To use NFC, first make sure Bluetooth is turned on (Settings > Bluetooth, then slide to the on position). Then turn on NFC (Settings > Tap + Send, and move the slider to the on position), and select the item you want to share. For example, if you wish to share an image, tap More (...) > Share > Tap + Send. Your handset will instruct you to hold your phone up to the other device, and the device will emit a slight buzz. A receiving device will put up an alert that someone is sharing files; click Accept, and you're done. You can also opt to ignore the transfer.

Sharing a website works in much the same way: Tap More (...) > Share Page > Tap + Send and then hold two devices together until they buzz. You can also use NFC to do wireless charging, to pair your device with NFC-capable accessories such as Bluetooth speakers, and to make payments.

The Wallet feature on Windows Phone 8 devices uses NFC technology to make mobile payments, but it also stores digital versions of loyalty cards, membership cards, and credit or debit cards. To add cards to the Wallet app, tap the plus sign from the All section and then follow the instructions to add the card. If there's an app that can be linked to that card, Windows Phone 8 software will find it and ask whether to install it, which leads us to the other common way to add a card to Wallet: Install an app.

Turning on NFC

Many banks and credit card companies have apps that are already compatible with Wallet features on Windows Phones. When you download the app, open it, and sign in, the card will be added to the Wallet app, giving you access to the information on that account directly from the app. Alternatively, if you've ever purchased something using your Microsoft account, you may already have a card associated with that account. Simply signing in with the account login information will associate that card with the Wallet app.

If you choose to use the Wallet feature, you'll want to set up a Wallet PIN—a numeric passcode to prevent unwanted access to your cards and accounts. To set up a Wallet PIN, go to Wallet > More (...) > Settings + PIN. From there, slide the Wallet PIN switch to the on position, confirm a PIN (which must be at least four digits), and then tap Done.

You can use your Wallet PIN in the Windows Phone Store to buy music and apps, as well. Remember that entering an incorrect Wallet PIN three times will temporarily lock you out of the Wallet features; you should be able to try again after a few minutes.

This story, "Tips and tricks for Windows Phone 8's new features" was originally published by TechHive.

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