Eight tips for Windows Phone 8.1 that you may not know about

With Windows Phone 8.1 being released today to those participating the Preview for Developers program, there is a lot to chew on. I wrote about the OS in a 5,500 word review and overview, but there’s so much in there, I figured you folks needed some quick tips on features you may not have known about!

Head past the break to see our eight must-know tips for Windows Phone 8.1!


Pin Battery Saver + Storage Sense to the Start screen – In 8.1, the Battery Saver and Storage Sense programs are now listed in the App listing. That also means you can pin them to your Start screen! What’s more, Microsoft made them Live tiles and the battery icon actually reflects your current battery status, where Storage Sense will show you in numbers your current space usage, including on your SD card.


Swipe down on the Action Center for detailed status – Do you like the battery icon but want to see it in an actual percentage? Swipe down on the Action Center (from the top) and you can get detailed data on your battery, the date, carrier connection status and more


Tell Cortana what news you want to follow – After doing a search through Cortana, you can scroll down to see ‘Update me on this news topic’. Click that and Cortana will start tracking that topic for you, showing any new news in your Daily Glance. The data will be saved in Cortana’s Notebook, under Interests > News. Tap on the item to toggle shows news on that topic and to enable notifications when there are new stories. You can also pin the topic to your Start screen.


Enable weather in Calendar – The new native calendar app can you show the weather forecast right in the calendar! Simply head to Calendar > Settings > Preferences to enable and start seeing the day’s high temperature and weather icon. Great for planning ahead!


Swipe down on the Lock screen to access the Action/Notification center – Even when PIN you can still pull down the Action Center in 8.1, without having to unlock the Lock screen. You can toggle the Quick action buttons and even dismiss alerts, but if you want to read anything, you’ll need to enter in that PIN


See which Apps auto updated – On Windows Phone 8.1, you can have apps auto update for you. Head to Store > Downloads > History to see what changed!


Scan barcodes/QR codes again – If using Cortana, you lost the ability to scan barcodes through Bing Vision. However, you can still access this app/service via your Camera > Lenses > Bing Vision. It’s not as convenient, but it works.


Auto-download images in email – Many email clients block the downloading of images in email due to security and privacy concerns (images are often just links back to the website,which could be malicious). But in 8.1, you can head into Mail > Settings > Always download full message and internet images and get your images back, automatically

I know there are way more tips and tricks out there for Windows Phone 8.1, but these eight should get you started on enjoying your new experience. Do you have a favorite trick that surprised you? Share it comments, and maybe it will make our next list!


Reader comments

Eight tips for Windows Phone 8.1 that you may not know about



I use Bing Vision relatively often. I'm still installing... Any idea if we can ask Cortana to "look" at something and have it processed through Bing Vision?

I'm still installing too so I'll have to test once I get it all installed but I hope you can just ask to open bing vision or something along the lines of that. It is a lens technically not an app so I'm not sure though.

I tried but it just does a bing search.

At first I was annoyed but then I realized it's the same number of steps:


Old way = swipe up lock screen, tap search button, top on bing vision icon

New way = press and hold camera button, tap lenses icon, tap Bing Vision, which is the first tile (not really a new way but the only way now)


It would be nice if "Cortan, scan QR code" could be set to open up a specific app though.

Just turn off Location, Cortana will turn off and Bing Search with Vision Search Button again will work as usual.

They should mention, that now you can select a custom ringtone for apps in the notification + sounds settings.

This works great.  A good tip is set location as one of the 4 shortcuts in action center so it is quick to toggle on and off to get back to Cortana goodness when you don't need QR code scanning.

The input language was what was screwing me up. I'd changed to US before the update but never completed the change so it said US but hadn't actually downloaded the US input stuff.

Run cortana from the app list and it'll have a link to take you to the settings you need to update. Not sure if it's the input settings alone or a bunch of them. I already had US settings for region and some other stuff, I had the input set to UK English since it didn't really understand my English accent before. So far Cortana has been a lot better.

Make sure the "English US" is moved to the top of the list under Languages, and that the region is to United States. (The Regional format can still be English (your country)

bing vision is in the camera lenses and the music search is in cortana ask whats the song and it starts listening and it tells you the song

Hey Daniel! Thanks for the tips, very handy and just so that i don't miss out on saying this, it would make the experience 'seem faster'. On a more serious note, is there a video showing the volume settings changes done by you guys? Also, has wp8.1 offered better battery performance? Any comparisons pre and post wp8.1?

My guess, everyone will say the battery life sucks but that's because they'll have been using their phone all day playing with all the new features... lol. Overall it might be a tad better with improved coding, but your personal battery life is about 80% determined by how you setup your phone, i.e. how many background tasks you have, screen brightness, etc. etc.

Also, when you first get the update, every single one of your apps will be reinstalled in the background, so that will kick your battery's ass.

How to enable Cortana on non US device....i switched phone region to US.. But Cortana is not enabled..

Settings - Region - USA
Settings - Language - English (United States) remove the rest or make English(US) the first one
PS: "Language not keyboard"
you should restart your device after changing the Region then Cortana should be in the App list 

Is there a quick way to delete multiple emails?...Seems to be no way to select all and delete...?...Or maybe I'm missing something

Yes, I have been doing that, but you have to select each email at a time, I was wondering if there was a select all email function, then able to delete all.

This is something I've been waiting for as well. It's quite annoying to have to select a msg at a time when you just want to select all and delete :).  Maybe it's there and we yet dont know about it.  I am in the process of updating my 920 to WP 8.1...we'll see!  If I find something I will repost here.

How about using a computer and logging in to your email account and doing mass deletion there? Seems like an easy solution to me.

Is there any way for Cortana to work under the English UK language? I would rather use proper English, plus, I hate the imperial system..

yes - he is asking for english uk but saying he hates the imperial system. but true. the imperial system is a big fail and the UK is supposed to switch to metric but they are soooo slooooowww in doing though. they just love their pints and stones and pound ..

Grew up learning metric in the US clueless teachers thought the US would switch to it throughout the 70's, 80's, and 90's...probably still believe that. Regardless, learned imperial in the work place... Love it.

Cortana is in Beta, so they are trying to limit it initially to where they have the best Bing data sources. Cortana will learn with usage, so it makes sense that they would not want the entire world as their beta testers. They will need time to understand the differences between cultures so that they don't give everyone the same responses.

In fact, Cortana is only useful with location services turned on, so they will have a better way to measure the differences on how people act regionally. This is no doubt true not only with diffferent regions of the world, but also for example on how a Cortana user in Maine would be different from one in Texas...

Question: How do you add apps to the notification center? Like all I see a my Google mail, WiFi etc.. How do I add others?

you need to first receive a notification. I mean, you set the app XX in it's settings to receive toats, and after receiving the first one it will show up there. Then you can, in the phone settings, define what to receive from that app: toast, tile, notification center.

Are you aware that the link you posted is from 2012?

The trouble some are experienced with Martketplace not being available is random. To some everything is working properly but some are experiencing trouble connecting (myself included). Guess it`s a random thing. I also did a hard reset and now I`m unable to download all apps.

Yea man. I am using 925, Can't even download apps from SD card. Why still there is no article or news on Store issue yet.

Thanks for the tips!  Does anyone know if there's a way to set Celsius as the default for things like the new Calendar view and Cortana?  I know Cortana can do a conversion but it takes one step extra. 

I have everything set to English (US), except for the Regional format, which I have set to Czech Republic. Calendar shows me temperatures in Celsius, but Cortana gives everything (answers as well as the "glance" weather info) in Fahrenheit :(

I'm still updating my phone to 8.1 but I have a question, do we lose the "Deals of the Day" "Events around Me" "Movies" "Popular Videos" and "News" (I think these were the categories not the exact names) pages that were available in Bing when swiping left and right?

I just changed my language on my UK Lumia 1020. It does require a restart for the settings to take effect...

More problematically for me, I'm in a village that has 750kbps internet. The download keeps timing out with an error code! Grr.

I may have to venture to McDonald's for their free super speed wifi (certainly won't be going there for the food!) :)

Thank god you're not going there for the (cough) food. Bacteria won't even grow on most if it. Btw, I'm American and I won't eat it either.

Way too many tiles using set icons backgrounds. Would be nice if calendar weather showed up on the tile.

Dnt know the size but it'll take a good amount of time coz first update prepares ur phone for the 8.1 update then a second update for 8.1 both are full fledged update packages so almost 2-3 hours required
But its worth it

I hope most apps are updated with the option letting their live take the theme colour (like Rudy's 6apps allow), make that background image really stand out!

I am 100% on board with this request.  I have been tracking as much news as possible about 8.1 but having a deeply comprehensive list of new features AND features that have transitioned but are now in a different location or activated in a different way (IE Bing Vision...and seriously, why can't that either be pinned or have an icon on the Cortana search screen like the old Bing screen?) that would be amazing.  If ANYONE knows of any such source, please post it here because that's what's really going to drive the usage of these new features.  A feature not used because of a lack of knowledge is a useless feature.

I'm pretty sure (though I haven't 100% confirmed) that you can no longer set your calendar to show only the facebook events that you've RSVP'd to. Seems like they all show up now, but maybe I just haven't found the setting to turn them off yet. 

Posts like this one are one of the great things about wpcentral. I am surprised to learn new things and especially with the new update Thanks wpcentral!

Store is down at the moment I guess.
Btw thanks for the tips Daniel
Word flow keyboard is awesome
Now smileys looks much better in keyboard.

I can't toggle wifi off in action center, it goes directly to the wifi settings page....

mabye a wierd place here but it thougt it is to small to start a new form tread


I can have 6 columns on my 4" HTC 8S! It rocks, thank you Microsoft! But I don't have Cortana. All settings are set to USA :/

If your 8S did not come from a US carrier, HTC did not add US English to their ROM. So far no work around to this issue. You can download the US English language pack, but all settings except the important "phone language" will change to US. Frustrating, to say the least.

why doesn't cortona have a bing vision button? seriously. Use it all the time, half my clients have qr codes for server inventory tags.

Can we change what the volume buttons on the phone does by default because right now it changes the notifications volume by default but most of the time when I adjust the volume it's for the music, not the notifications... So having to drag down the volume thing to be able to access volume for music is... not fun...

Same question. I hope so, because after years in the US I still prefer seeing temperatures in degrees Celsius.

Wait a sec. The small tiles, are even smaller? I'm at work and won't be home til later this evening. Enjoying the comments, making me wish I was home now. On a 928. Looking for more comments on how the 928 is handling the changes.

If you enable it, the small tiles are small, then there is a medium tile and then a large tile but there is a 3rd column now if you enable it so you can have 3 medium tiles across or one large tile and one medium tile to make up 3 spaces.

I love the third column, but I just can't seem to find a decent wallpaper for tiles. I dunno, I love the feature but nothing looks good enough, arrrghh 

too bad when i have notifications from 2 apps and i click on one notification, the notification icon disapear from the action center.

i thinks i've seen all notifactions so no need to display again. not true. i need to clear manually or clear all for it to disapear, like on android

I use Bing Vision all the time, surely hope there is a way to pin that app/service to the start screen for faster access.  Having to go into the camera and switch lenses will be annoying.

Anton know if we can manually set DNS and IP yet? I cant seem to work out if that's a thing now :/

Microsoft made them Live tiles ... maybe that's why we assumed that both apps have live tiles.

What silliness to remove bar code reader from search... Also not liking too much that Cortana settings are at the top in contrast to most all other views/apps.

Since I got into listing what is still lacking (please do not get me wrong, overall I LOVE the update):
- no multiselecting videos in gallery still
- still no way attach other file types directly in the email app. Come on!
- action center animation is choppy at least on my 920
- is it me or are the status bar icons fatter now? Maybe its just that they are almost always there now, which I also don't particularly like (I know, action center...)

My favorite improvement so far: perhaps some will miss the comma in the keyboard but i am LOVING how the space key sits further to the right, reducing my typos by 50% (used to always hit the comma key)! :P

Hopefully things they can fix n the GDRs.

Fully agree about the email attachments. Only way is to open the document and share it to email. You'd think they could do better with this process,

Hey Daniel, one thing I noticed, I couldn't link Cortana to my FB app using the beta.  Not sure if anyone else had that problem.  I had to download the normal one, the beta kept going to a blank page.

So I've been messing around with the 8.1 dev preview, and after changing region to US and I finally got Cortana, it just won't answer any of my questions apart from the tasks.

Example: Who's your daddy? The answer would be: a web search for "Who's your daddy".

Also after pinning the battery saver tile to start it won't show its live tile.

Any idea what's up with that?

If we have Facebook Beta instead of the regular Facebook app are we missing out on some integration?  It keeps suggesting that I download the regular one from the store.

I appreciate Microsoft for this update because I really do like WP and I want to continue using it in the future. #keepgettingbetter

Anyone know if there's a keyboard configuration that's (a) English layout, and (b) has the "ellipsis" character (maybe under the ".")…?  It's a small thing, but it's been irritating to me that it's not there. In texts and Twitter, every character counts, and "…" is a useful single character for me. :)

…I do try not to… abuse… the ellipsis character… too much… really… :^)

There is Japanese QWERTY layout which has it but it converts what you write into japanese letters and you have to do extra clicks to make it back into the english letters, but maybe there is a setting to remove that, I don't know.

How do I get the wpcentral tile to match the parallax background? For some reason its solid and not transparent like the rest

Lost is the ability to turn off background data usage for certain apps?  I used to go into settings and could find "Background" to turn off apps I didn't want using data in the background.  Is this somewhere else?

So much stuff today. I'm glad that I'm staying home! ha ha
Can you guys spread it out or will you have this much stuff all week? Phew...tought to keep up! :)

Hello , Do anyone checked network+ setting ? after updating wp8.1 i am not able to change call forward setting when i am not reachable. I am unable to disable that setting. Do anyone have any idea about it ?


Come to find out, background application settings can be found by going to battery saver and info under settings.

You can navigate backwards and forwards in IE11 by swiping left-to-right and right-to-left, respectively. I mentioned this in another comment thread but I am so excited about it that I have to mention it again!

I miss the point of the battery sense tile as this is always on top of your screen if that tile is visible too. I would have been happier if it also displayed the %.

Don't know if its been mentioned yet, but first thing I did was create the clean "stormtrooper" all black tiles look (light theme) by using an all black background image. Also if you swap to a dark theme with black background you get an interesting "no tile" look! 

No use of the ease of access "high contrast" setting also means email client renders all emails and images properly, hooray!

I thought there were going to be changes to the lock screen (with diagonal lock screen text, and the ability to scroll through songs without unlocking the phone).
Am I missing a setting?-or was this just something that didn't make it on to the final release? I must admit, I'm fairly bored of the lock screen and was looking forward to a change...

To all who want to blur out their pics for the homescreen background, just use Creative Studio and blur out the photo and BAM!!  Takes the whole background image to a new level.  



Did we get a way to put apps in folders? Please tell me yes.

If not, I'm going to be very disappointed that they decided to pull all my games out of the xbox live folder. My list of apps is very long and inconvenient to scroll through. 

As far as I can tell, you cannot organize apps into folders yet. However, any games should still be listed in "Games" as well as individually in the application list. You can find them in both places now.

Yeah, I just noticed that. But now having the games in two separate places is just annoying. It has no purpose and is a waste of space.

I thought they were going to work on making folders for apps. Scrolling through a long, single file list of icons is just inefficient. 

but the thing is we lost facebook chat on messenger...

but total update was awesome...

i mean really awesome...

one more thing cellular network is not in action center....

just 2 feature lacks for me from me...

Nine: Moving already installed apps from your phone to your SD

In Storage Sense, you can click on "apps+games" to see how much space an app uses on the phone. You can click on an app and get a new menu where you can "Move to SD" or "uninstall" the app.

Heck, you can even use the select button to select and move multiple apps to your SD in one go!