Windows Phone 7 introduced wireless syncing of your full-resolution photos and videos to your PC via Zune desktop software. It was extremely useful because after setting up the phone for wireless sync, one did not have to worry about connecting the phone to the PC for getting pictures and videos off the phone. It would happen automatically as soon as the phone connected to the home wireless network.
I recently got a Windows Phone 8 device (Nokia Lumia 920). Finally. As you may know, with Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8, the Zune desktop software has been eliminated for phone-to-PC connection. Two apps have been made available for this purpose – a Windows Store app and a desktop app. On my Windows 8 PC I installed the Windows Store app and when I connected my phone, I was baffled to see that the wireless sync option was not there.
Then I realized Microsoft has moved way beyond the normal PC sync. See, Windows Phone 8 now has full resolution “backup” of pictures and videos directly and automatically to SkyDrive. In Windows Phone 7, there was auto-upload, but there was no setting for which resolution to upload, and videos were not supported at all. In Windows Phone 8, it is a setting you choose under Settings > Backup > Photos. “Best quality” photos are only auto-uploaded when on WiFi connection, and videos are only uploaded over WiFi. That backup feature, combined with SkyDrive apps for pretty much all platforms, is now the replacement for the old wireless sync. Pictures and videos which are uploaded automatically to the cloud can be brought over to the PC whenever needed, via the SkyDrive app or via the SkyDrive.com website.
With music and videos, Xbox service has announced plans for a cloud matching (which, even though not announced as available, is already working in Windows 8 PCs) and a cloud locker service which will allow uploading of non-catalog music for access across devices. With this “Xbox Cloud”, there is no need to sync music and videos to Windows Phone because as I realized, my entire music collection was available to me on my phone when I signed into my Microsoft account on the phone. No sync needed, no PC needed! (One thing to be noted though, as Microsoft has admitted, Xbox Video does not work on Windows Phone yet. Typical Microsoft, you can say, for not executing completely on this vision. The point though, is that once that is working, videos won’t need to be synced as such.)
For those who want to do it the old way, traditional sync is of course possible via the aforementioned sync apps (there are versions for Windows 7, Windows 8 and Mac OS).
With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft made us go to the cloud (and cloud only) for contacts, email and calendar. There was no desktop sync possible for those items. Now they get even more serious by enabling photos, videos and music to be exchanged between phone and PC via the cloud. That devices and services strategy is really coming into shape for Microsoft, isn’t it?
Update: One thing I forgot to mention, with Windows Phone 8 comes native screenshots capability. These screenshots go to an album on the device called Screenshots. It seems like the auto-upload feature only uploads the Camera Roll pictures. So screenshots have to be manually sent to the cloud. That’s a bummer.