Windows Phone 8.1 is only a few weeks away. So with that, let’s jump onto the latest rumor floating around today, namely the one dealing with background images on the Start screen.

There was some confusion about this feature – codenamed ‘shadowbox’ by Microsoft –with people believing that it was the background of the Start screen that would be skinned. As we cautioned in original report, that was close but not exactly how it will be (our lede image was the clue).

New alleged screencaps of Windows Phone 8.1 have leaked out of China, and were picked up by Windows Blog Italy. Both images show three column support and Live Tiles overlaid with a custom image.

Real or fake? While I can’t vouch if the screencaps are authentic or mockups, the spirit of the feature is dead on. That is, how Windows Phone 8.1 could look, should you pick that option under Settings. Likewise, I hear that three-column support is a ‘go’ for 4.5 inch devices or larger. That feature will supposedly be labeled as 'Show more tiles' under Settings.

Under Settings, users will indeed have an option to choose to a custom photo or image, which can then been used to ‘skin’ their Live Tiles. It actually works by making the Tiles transparent.  The effect is certainly interesting. This idea is by no means new, as users of the popular app Skinery Themes can attest. But Microsoft is essentially baking-in this feature for users as an option to customize the look of their phone. Users can also still just used the Accent colors, should they elect.

We should of course caution that Windows Phone 8.1 has not RTM'd yet, so things could change before release.

We’re curious as to what you think of the new option: yay or nay? Let us know in comments.

Via: Windows Blog Italy; Thanks, everyone, for the tip!