Windows Phone 8.1

Specifics emerge on new features for Windows Phone 8.1

Microsoft has successfully packaged and released Update 3 for Windows Phone 8, leaving only the 8.1 update, aka ‘Blue’, on the table for shipping. Expected to be reveled at Build 2014 in April, Windows Phone Central understands that 'M3' (Milestone 3), the escrow period and RTM dates have already been locked into place by Microsoft.

Today, The Verge has added to the story by detailing some new information to features already expected for the landmark release.

In an article published this morning, Tom Warren goes into more detail over the notification center and ‘Cortana’ the Siri-like personal assistant.

According to the report, a short swipe from the top will reveal ‘quick settings’ to quickly access common function and we can add that there will be four tabs as well. A longer swipe will bring up a full notification history.

On Cortana, the voice assistant program, the report mentions how it will learn location context and data from the phone, in addition to replacing Bing as the default search. It can also remind you of meetings with much more detail than the current system of alarms on Windows Phone 8.

Other features mentioned in the report that are coming to Windows Phone 8.1

  • Separate volume controls for ringtone volume and media playback (it won’t be on a per app basis, but rather system wide)
  • VPN support for enterprise users
  • Bing Smart Search results, similar to what is found on Windows 8.1 today
  • Xbox Music and Xbox Video will be separate apps, removed from the OS core to enable faster, more dynamic updates for users
  • Deeper integration into the People Hub for Twitter and Facebook

In addition to the new OS features, there are two new handsets from Nokia being prepped for launch ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Moneypenny’. The former will pack a “3D Touch system”, allowing users to interact with the device without touching the display, while the latter will have those newly revealed on-screen buttons for Back, Windows and Cortana.

We understand that ‘Goldfinger’ will have “cutting edge technology” and it is considered to be the next flagship Windows Phone.

Even more on Windows Phone 8.1

Other features Windows Phone Central can exclusively reveal that are either coming to Windows Phone 8.1 or that are actively being worked on include micro SD card support for installing apps and games. This feature is especially important for low-cost devices, like the Lumia 520, where internal storage is limited to just 8 GB (and less than 5 GB actually available).

In terms of the notification center, we can reveal that they work even on the Lockscreen. The Lockscreen can still be swiped up like normal to unlock the phone, but in Windows Phone 8.1 you can also swipe down to go directly to the new Notification Center.

The default camera app is also being updated, with buttons and functions similar to the Windows 8.1 camera app, though these will be located on the left side of the viewfinder.

First-party Tiles, like Email, can be swiped towards the left to clear the Live Tile of notifications/counts. Currently, users can swipe from the Right to bring up the full app list for the OS, but swiping left will clear any Tiles without the user having to open the program directly in 8.1. As of now, this feature is only open to first-party functions like Email and the People Hub, though presumably Microsoft could open it up to developers via an API.

‘Cortana’ voice assistant is very contextual, meaning it will be woven throughout the OS and it will work based on information on-screen. For example, say a text message is sent that states "Want to get dinner tomorrow in New York?" you'll see parts of that text message underlined. Click that and you'll be able to instantly enter the info into your calendar with some of those fields already populated e.g. it would fill "New York" as the location. If the message had the time it will already have the time in there as well.

Ghost notifications, we’ve previously mentioned in an earlier article. How they work is that for something like a "Like" on Facebook or a "favorite" on Twitter don't warrant a full Toast notification, alerting the user. Instead, ghost notifications just go straight to the Notification Center and don't overtly notify you. This feature will be open to developers, we are told.

Windows Phone 8.1 is shaping up to be a significant update for Microsoft. Current Windows Phone 8 devices are expected to be able to update to the 8.1 OS, though when that will happen it is not known. Microsoft's Build 2014 developer conference will take place on April 2-4 in San Francisco, where the first major update for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 are likely to be announced. Developer previews of those updates may also be available at that time as well, similar to the current Update 3 Preview program.

Source: The Verge, Windows Phone Central