Microsoft officially reveals the long-awaited update for Windows Phone users, version 8.1 at their annual Microsoft Build conference in San Francisco. There are many new features that come along with this update, many are features that should have been included in much earlier updates.
The biggest feature included in Windows Phone 8.1 is Cortana, which is named after the character from popular Halo series. Cortana is essentially Microsoft’s response to Apple’s Siri, Samsung’s S Voice, and all other voice assistants. You can perform basic phone functions, create appointments, execute searches, ask it to some play music and also set a certain period of time where only a select group of people can contact you. The more you use Cortana, it will be able to give you contextual and timely information when you need it or depending where you are, this is similar to Google Now.
Windows Phone 8.1 will also introduce a new action center , which is the notification center that most users have been requesting Microsoft to include. There are many options when it comes to notifications, you will be able to set which apps can send a notification to the action center and if the phone should vibrate along with it. There is also some settings toggles at the top for things such as WiFi, Airplane mode, etc. The lockscreen is now much more customizable, and will allow third-party apps to be able to do more by using the set of new APIs. The Start Screen titles now have the ability to put a image as a skin instead of solid colours.
Another new feature is called Wi-Fi sense, which will connect your device automatically to free wireless hotspots that are nearby. You will also be able to share your home wireless network with your family and friends but without giving them your password. Microsoft did not give the full details on how that would work but it seems like a very useful feature. The keyboard will now feature a Swype-like keyboard option that will let you glide from one letter to another to combine to type the word instead of inputting each letter individually.
Windows Phone 8.1 will be shipping on brand new phones that are scheduled for release this month. An update for older Windows Phone devices will roll out to consumers in the next few months.