Windows Phone 8.1
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Our top five features of Windows Phone 8.1

There has definitely been a build-up of excitement surrounding the release of the Windows Phone 8.1 Preview for Developers. The update will bring a wide assortment of new features to our Windows Phones ranging from Cortana to a new Start Screen design.

But what are the top five new features coming to the table with Windows Phone 8.1? This question has been hashed out in the WPCentral Forums, in our comments, around the water cooler at work and probably over raw fish at the local sushi bar.

After the break, we’ll tap five of the new features that we think are the best with Windows Phone 8.1.

cortana

#1 Cortana

Cortana may be the most anticipated feature of Windows Phone 8.1. The intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator will first arrive as a beta for the U.S. market and slowly take over the globe.

Cortana will find its way to our Windows Phones with a built-in fan base being named after the fictional artificial intelligence character from the popular video game Halo. The new feature has already made the talk show circuit appearing on Arsenio Hall and the Tonight Show.

As far as functionality is concerned, Cortana will have the ability, through voice commands or type interface, to help you plan your day, check in on the weather and figure out what a bilby is.

Notification Center

#2 Notification Center

One of the great features of Windows Phone platform is toast notifications. The little banners slide across the top of your screen to alert you of new SMS messages, sports scores, Instagram likes, weather information and more.

But all too often you hear the sound alert for the toast and by the time you get your phone out of your pocket or walk across the room to see what’s going on, that darn little banner disappears. The new Action and Notification center will make this problem, dare I say, toast. The notification center will store previous messages for you to review and delete as needed. On top of that, you'll get a few customizable quick access tiles for your Windows Phone settings.

MicroSD Card Settings

#3 Installing Apps/Games to a Micro SD card

Granted, to enjoy this feature you will need a Windows Phone with a Micro SD card slot, but for those who do, being able to install games and apps to the card will help you manage your on-board memory with more efficiency.

Windows Phone 8.1 Camera Quick Access

#4 Camera Improvements

Being a photographer from another life, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching our Windows Phone cameras develop over the years. While we’ve seen tremendous advances in the camera hardware, the software improvements haven’t been too shabby either.

Windows Phone 8.1 will bring a handful of improvements to our camera experience that includes a new camera interface with configurable quick access buttons for the settings and a burst mode. The changes make sense and make the camera more usable.

I have to admit, it will be nice to access key settings directly from the viewfinder. It could be rather cumbersome to have to pull up the settings from the three-dot menu every time you needed to change the ISO or camera mode.

Windows Phone 8.1 Calendar

#5 Calendar Improvements

While toast notifications are one of the top rated features of the Windows Phone platform, the native calendar app has been rather lack-luster. Luckily, we have had third party apps step up to fill the void but OS restrictions often held these alternatives back.

The new Windows Phone 8.1 native calendar app hopes to turn the tide with a handful of new features to make the calendar more productive. Features such as new layout designs that include a week view and integration with the weather.

There are plenty of other features with the Windows Phone 8.1 that make this update very appealing and all the more difficult to only pick five for the top of the list. You still have new features such as the transparent Start Screen, the new Word Flow keyboard, video editing, automatic app/game updates, and more.

We’ve tapped our top five, now it's your turn. Let us know in the comments what you think are the top new features for Windows Phone 8.1!

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Reader comments

Our top five features of Windows Phone 8.1

298 Comments

I know everyone hates the people who say 'seems faster', but it is actually faster isn't it? I mean, the animations when you open apps etc, they are actually a lot faster. It's good!

Yeah it seems faster to me to -- though the app list is flipping annoying now -- I have a ton of games for my little one now cluttering my app list -- ugh.

The games are still in the game center. I prefer this, and I'm guessing paving the way for grouping.

App list is annoying. First, and only, problem I've found with 8.1 so far. My apps get swallowed up by the huge list of games I have installed. I liked having them segregated.

Please make this an option Microsoft!!!

Yes. It really is! Off all of the features, the speed bump is probably the least covered, buy maybe the most important.
Writing this on swipe which I love already! Hurray for Microsoft!
Hang on. I just tried this again. It is sheer bloody brilliant.
So fast on my 920!

Glad it's not just my imagination then :-)

My favourite feature other than the speed bump, is the new size of everything, like the keyboard, notifications, status bar etc. It's very noticable on my 1520. Didn't notice any difference on the 920, perhaps it hasn't changed on that.

The animations are unquestionably shorter.  Gives the impressions of the OS being 'faster'.  Open 3rd party apps does not give the same impression of being unquestionably faster which leads me to believe it is only an improvement in perception (which is fine as though the animations were still a hair on the showy side at the expense of gettign to where we want to be.)

CORTANA
Hi guys, I don't know if you all follow the Cortana personas on Twitter, but one posted a great idea. Here's a copy of the tweet from @CortanaLive

Looks like an awesome idea to me! Spread the word! Great attention getter for our beloved platform!

"Hi everyone. PLEASE Retweet this msg. I'm finally here. We want the world to know. So in Two hours. 5pm EST Tweet #CortanaLives @CortanaLive"

My store does not work, and neither does the tile background. Used an old Portal photo, looked odd, so I swapped to the pre-set background. The grey tile/rock look was superb, so I tried some others. None work, just keeps either the rock or Portal one.

Twitter is connected, I'm receiving notifications, when I updated my phone the twitter app disabled all notifications, just enable them and it will appear in the action center

Let's say you want to install only a few apps to SD (games for example which can get quite large). Is there a way to install only some apps to SD? The only setting I've found seems to make ALL new installs go to the SD card or phone.

 

Would the only solution right now be to change the setting everytime you want to install an app on the SD?

you could get everthig to save to phone by default, then move games to SD via storage sense

I had the same question. Looks like an all or nothing right now. I like adventure type games, and those I'd like to go on my SD card. However, things like Wordament and Hangman could stay on the phone. It would be great to have an option to prompt for save location.

When I transfered my apps to the SD, I has the option to select which apps to transfer, opening the contextual menu will bring the option to "select"the apps:)

That's not available in the preview. We'll see if an update adds it later on or if we have to wait for the release. I'd guess the official roll out, but we'll see.

I thought its a separate app developed by Rudy, not part of the OS. Which means it will be out as soon as MS/Rudy is done testing it.

I really dislike the new games hub, now all my games are clogging up the app list. It was faster and cleaner before

I agree with ericr42.  I always liked having my last 3 played games in a separate section at the top.  Maybe some feedback will fix this? ;)

Swear words do work. You just need to type them out once or twice first. Don't want grandma talking about her ducks to send the wrong message now do we?

Well it doesn't work for Swedish so I'm a bit sad about it. Love it thou when typing, eh, swiping in English :P

Does it work for polish? Can somebody check it for me, please? I will instal preview for developers only if the swipe keyboard works for polish.

i like the new calendar but i also liked the agenda view. i hope they bring it back. i do like that these apps, like calendar, are separate, updatable apps now. should make things like this much nicer.

The loss of the Agenda view is a huge step backward IMO. The Agenda view with Tasks was the killer Calendar feature that originally got me to switch to WP when it first launched. Why did MS remove it? Why remove a Calendar feature that has been there from the beginning?

Just trying the new features, hey do you think it's a good idea to move every app to SD card? Because I'm afraid it'll slow down the phone.

As excited as I was about the 8.1 preview, after hearing about everyone's issues, I'm reluctant to go to 8.1.  I'm going to wait it out and see if there are any fixes soon.  I love my 820, and it's running well.  I don't want to f@#$ anything up.

I wonder what happens if you remove an SD card that you have installed apps to. I just realized that my SD card is only a class 6 and I have a class 10 laying around, but I already moved a bunch of apps to it.

"The new Windows Phone 8.1 native calendar app hopes to turn the tide with a handful of new features to make the calendar more productive." The cool thing about the new 'native' app is that it appears to have been separated out from the main OS install. That will make it easy for Microsoft to update it in the future if it needs it.

Good and bad both.  The new calendar is awesome and you're right able being able to update it easily.  However once in a while i get an app splash screen, so sometimes a short delay in opening it.

I think the bad part about many of the apps no longer being 'native' and being separated out from the OS is that they tend to perform more poorly compared to the native apps. I think this is due to them being written differently as well as my 'old' Lumia 920. 

Am I the only one to notice that when you're taking a picture, there's a split second between showing the taken photo and the one just saved in storage, which lost a lot of quality, especially in color details and it gets a lot blurred. I can't get passed that. I can't consider my 920 being a good camera with such a huge flaw.

Out of the box, a year ago, camera was amazing, but after several updates, that started happening. I'm updating to wp 8.1 right now and I serously doubt that they've fixed that issue. That's the only thing I want to get fixed with all these camera updates. Difference is a lot noticable when taking pictures in low(er) light.

Also, taking a landscape picture with objects far away result in heavy blur. Another thing that wasn't happening before. When taking a picture at night, it looks like it's taken with VGA camera to be quite honest.

Also, could it be hardware issue? Should I return my phone? I doubt that's it, but I'd better ask.

That's a weird sounding problem - I don't have a 925, but I'd recommend posting it to the device specific forums, rather than on this 8.1 thread.

Clean your lense off!   Happens all the time... the lens does not look dirty but if you take a damp paper towel with a little water, clean it and dry it, it's like brand new again.  Trust me the camera has not gotten worst at all.

You should never use ANY paper products on glass, no matter how soft they are. They create micro scratches that add up over time. Only cloth should ever be used to wipe off the camera lens.

Like I said, it's not while it's taking the picture. It's while processing it. Check out @AndrewL920 comment below, he described it better than I did apparently.

I got to go with notification from your list but the best feature of all is gotta be Word Flow!  I'm loving the hell out of my phone now.  How this is missing from the list is a puzzle and a half.

With the notification center, every notification does the same vibrate. Any way for this to change? I like the one short vibrate for texts.

Calendar was two steps forward and one step back. The look is nice but the Facebook integration is gone.

It's no longer integrated for responding. They force the fb app on you. I HATE the fb app and only used it when I had to. And what happens to the "show only responded to". Once I decline it still shows that I'm invited. I want it gone lime before, I already have too much in my calendars.

You'll need Windows Phone 8.1 Professional or Ultimate editions for that.

Not having full storage encryption in 2014 is embarrasing.

Actually, aside from all of the obvious benefits, the app switching has been upgraded quite a bit. Swiping down to close apps is REALLY quick and fluid, no more drawn out animation.

Can any one tell me that can we now edit and add new songs to existing playlist in music section of windows phone?

Guys, on the first picture, the WPC tile is using the background image. How Can I use this feature? I've tried every combination of tiles on the app, and can't do it. Even if I select "accent" color, is still showing me a solid color.

Thanks.

No idea, but it's not good. Also WIFI opens the setting, simply doesn't turn on/off like on Android

Maybe because why in the heck would you need to do this at all let alone regularly enough to have it on a quick access area?   Are out outside of the States where every byte costs you money?

I agree these are 5 good features but I must say battery life on my 925 is dying much faster now. Cortana is useless without location being turned on as opposed to siri who at least will still operate without location based services turned on.  Not sure what else is draining the battery just yet.  My 1520 is doing the same them so I assume having Cortana turned on with location based services is the culprit.

Agreed, my 925 on t-mobile is getting eaten alive.  Top thing showing in the new app is Cortana in the 'being used' mode but I didn't use it more than 20 mins total and the battery continued to drop abnormally fast after that so I have to assume it isn't give an accurate read on what is using the battery.

 

Got to battery sense and disable background data for them cuz it turned on a lot of the ones you may have had off previously because before you were limited to 11 or 15

#6 -> Internet Explorer syncing Favorites and TABS across to phone!! Show's up in "Other" in the Tabs view on the phone.. So nice.

It was kind of scary at first how when I opened that tab it had the Tabs from my HP omni 10 and my PC at home in it... good, but I had no idea that it synced across devices. I guess I never paid attention.

It's really mostly useful for apps that you don't have pinned to the start screen. Nice to have a central place for history though.

Aside from all the spectacular features of WP 8.1, what about VPN. I mean, hows it gonna work?

Ready to install the update, and excited of course!

I'm really liking IE11 and the faster speed overall of, well, everything. Cortana's been hit-or-miss with some voice commands, but obviously she's in Beta. I've found that Facebook isn't playing nice in IE11 and keeps redirecting to the mobile site, despite being set for Desktop mode. I prefer using the browser instead of the app.

Everything is official if we are talking about Microsoft. Yes many has update there htc's with 8.1 already. Good luck

Yep. It's the one thing I really, really dislike about this update. So much worse in every way than the Music hub we had before.

Also disappointed that Kid's Corner still gives access to view all the photos on the phone through its "Customize" settings. That setting should be in the regular user mode, not inside the actual Kid's Corner mode.

 

I just realized you can hold the search button and it will load cortana with listening like the start button used to do.

Everyone has different needs. My two BIGGEST needs are:

1) FTPS

2) VPN

Are those functionalities added to 8.1?

 

I wonder if what is the improvements of the camera. The only thing I care about updating to wp 8.1 is the camera algorithm improvement. I am using 920 and the post-processing yellowish and blurry pictures are killing the pictures. Not necessarily blurry but you will notice the softness because of the algorithm.

My Top-Features are:
1. Install apps on SD-card!
2. Install apps on SD-card!
3. Install apps on SD-card!
4. Action Center
5. Calendar with the "this week" view.
6. Tile backgrounds
7. 3 row for tiles on the start screen -> is really great and even the little tiles are good to see and to touch
// left out Cortana since I'll meet her not until next year or so~

I just noticed that you can navigate backwards AND forwards in IE11 by swiping left-to-right (backwards) or right-to-left (forwards). That is a huge improvement. Finally!

I'm a bit ashamed to say that my most used feature so far is the start screen picture. I find myself just sliding the screen up and down like some sort of obsessive compulsive. :-)

still 'self timer' is not there in camera! one of the most basic feature!! this is the way they are competing with biggies like droid n ios haha what a joke

I put 6 columns on my Lumia 521. Looked tiny at first, but got used to it quickly. Not sure I'll keep it though - I like the look of the large tile going from side to side.

Can u confirm sd card support by giving us a screen shot. This one here does not mention about apps, just photo, music and videos

It is there, even if the text in this screenshot is not updated. Believe me, we wouldn't all be lying about it. :)

Best feature is saving apps for SD-card for me. Second is action centre. I not know about Cortana because I'm from Finland

They still need to add an ability for numbered birthdays/anniversaries. Instead of telling me its someones birthday, I'd like to know which birthday it is. With that said it'll probably come eventually.

I have already noticed a lag in opening my pictures from teh SD card on my 1520. In fact, playing back video fromt eh SD card actually crashed the phone. Odd because I have always stored photos and vids to SD on this phone, but never had any lag until the update.

Haven't tried any of the games I just moved to the SD card. I'll let you know if anything glitches there.

Plz make that kind of changes which can mke us feel satisfied,i mean calendar improvement is not a big milestone u hve created.....try to bring FM radio in Lumia 620 if u can....that z the major problem i am dealing with currently.....frm India....

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