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Windows Phone 8.1 detailed at Microsoft's BUILD conference

by Mark Tyson on 3 April 2014, 10:45

Tags: Windows Phone

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Microsoft has revealed a wide range of new features and functionality destined for the Windows Phone platform in Windows Phone 8.1. The updates are meant to help reinforce Microsoft's assertion that Windows Phone is "the world’s most personal smartphone". There's a lot of new features and customisation options being introduced and the headline grabbing debut of the Cortana personal digital assistant. Let's get on and run through what's new.

Lock screen

Windows Phone's lock screen is going to get a wide range of 'Lock Screen Themes' thanks to a new app which lets you personalise this initial window into your windows phone. We are promised the facility to make all sorts of different visuals and animations.

Start Screen

Previously Microsoft made larger screen devices capable of packing in more tiles onto their Start screens. This feature will now be brought as an option to all users. Also you can see a user selectable Start background picture behind these tiles. Both of these introductions help you make the WP interface more 'you', without destroying the finger friendly tile layout and overall visual signature.

Action Centre

Microsoft has supplemented the immediacy of its Live Tiles with an Action Centre pulldown menu which shows notification summaries from any app, whether it's pinned to the Start screen or not. This pull down also includes quick access toggles such as Wi-Fi, Flight Mode, Bluetooth and Rotation Lock.

Cortana

Microsoft proudly calls Cortana "the world’s first truly personal digital assistant". The assistant took form following research about how human personal assistants worked best. The assistant learns about the user and stores the info in a 'notebook' (editable), which helps it serve the user better. Cortana can also be proactive and give advice and alerts concerning activities you might be expected to undertake – such as about traffic problems on your commute home. Users communicate with Cortana using natural language typing or speaking. If you don't speak to request something Cortana, likewise, responds silently.

Joe Belfiore showed off Cortana reminder functionality. First he told Cortana to remind him to buy a certain CD when at the mall – Cortana understood and asked which local mall it would be. Then he set a 'People reminder', to be reminded of something the next time he called his sister on the phone, via text or in an email.

Cortana will fetch you personally customised news, weather, stocks, flights info and so on via Bing. The assistant can also work with third party apps. Microsoft namechecks compatible apps such as; Skype, Twitter, Facebook and Hulu Plus.

Word Flow Keyboard

This is the new gesture keyboard in Windows Phone. Apparently it’s a world record holder already as the official world record for smartphone input, previously held by the Swype keyboard on a Samsung Galaxy S4, was trounced by 8 seconds by a Word Flow user.

There are several more improvements and tweaks to Windows Phone functionality and utility including Data Sense, Wi-Fi Sense, Storage Sense, and Battery Saver – which help you make the most of your smartphone's resources. Also Internet Explorer 11 for Windows Phone is to be introduced to keep you in sync with all your Windows devices.

Windows Phone 8.1 will be rolling out to existing Windows Phone 8 users in the next few months. Meanwhile Microsoft/Nokia has some new Lumias which will be released in April with Windows Phone 8.1 pre-installed. More on those later.



HEXUS Forums :: 6 Comments

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One of the interesting things, is not just that the keyboard got the world record for fastest text entry, but that they did it using an entry level device the Lumia 520, which out performed a Galaxy S4, a phone that costs 4 times as much.
TheAnimus
One of the interesting things, is not just that the keyboard got the world record for fastest text entry, but that they did it using an entry level device the Lumia 520, which out performed a Galaxy S4, a phone that costs 4 times as much.
Then again - you're also comparing the add-on Swype keyboard to something built into the OS. Plus whenever I've tried Swype it's not the quickest. But, caveats aside, yes it's an impressive show of confidence in the platform.

Actually this revision of WP8 looks pretty darned reasonable - to the point where I can perhaps overlook it's drawbacks. But why, oh why, do Nokia do a fancy flagship handset (the Lumia 930) and then hobble it by denying it the storage expansion that they allow on the “lesser” models like the 630/635?
Due to the storage expansion options with OneDrive, Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive and Nokia MixRadio.
1stRaven
Due to the storage expansion options with OneDrive, Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive and Nokia MixRadio.
Last time I checked Nokia Maps has an offline mode which, unlike the Google one, actually allows you to download the whole of the UK.

Know what you're saying but saying “use online services” is fine if you can guarantee a fast, non-capped data connection. Unfortunately, poor folks like me that frequently go away from town's and cities have to put up with a 2G connection, and even if we're in 3G range then we've got 500MB or 1GB/month data caps. And that's not to count the impact on your battery of having to hit either cellular or wifi radios running to download all that data.

On the other hand, uSD cards are small, relatively cheap and according to my phone at least, don't hit the battery that hard.
crossy
Last time I checked Nokia Maps has an offline mode which, unlike the Google one, actually allows you to download the whole of the UK.

Know what you're saying but saying “use online services” is fine if you can guarantee a fast, non-capped data connection. Unfortunately, poor folks like me that frequently go away from town's and cities have to put up with a 2G connection, and even if we're in 3G range then we've got 500MB or 1GB/month data caps. And that's not to count the impact on your battery of having to hit either cellular or wifi radios running to download all that data.

On the other hand, uSD cards are small, relatively cheap and according to my phone at least, don't hit the battery that hard.

That is all completely true. I also have the maps downloaded as didn't want to rely on the internet connection but at least you have the choice with this OS.

I have a windows 8 1520 as I like the OS and it works well with how I use the phone and computer. I also got the 1520 as it allowed for additional storage cards but since I started with Nokia Mixradio, I haven't played more that 5 local mp3's and plex means that I dont need to copy my movies over either.

My last point was that online storage was where most of the manufactures were going with it as it ties people into the company and provides a further breaking point when people want to switch.