8.1 things I like about Windows Phone 8.1 after two months
It's kind of hard to believe that I've been using Windows Phone 8.1 for over two months now. Like many of you, I downloaded and installed (and upgraded) to Windows Phone 8.1 on April 14. That was the day the Preview for Developers version was released to Windows Phone developers and enthusiasts. I've been using Windows Phone 8.1 as my daily driver on my Lumia 925 and Lumia 1520 since then.
How's the OS holding up? What are my favorite features all these days later? Read on to find out the 8.1 things I like about Windows Phone 8.1 for over two months.
Cortana is by far one of the biggest features of Windows Phone 8.1. Especially when it comes to headline grabbing features. Am I still using her the same way I was when I first loaded up Windows Phone 8.1? Yes and no.
I don't use Cortana as much as I'd like for queries and questions. Occasionally I'll humor myself and ask her if I need an umbrella this week. Which is silly since I live in southern California and rain is this concept that takes place in lands far away. I still haven't broken the habit of just opening the weather app, but I'm slowly getting better at remembering I can just ask Cortana.
- Related: Hands-on with Cortana
However, I do love, love, love using Cortana for reminders. People based reminders are nice, but it's the location-based reminders I use the snot out of. I have location-based reminders set for so many different locations and scenarios. Out of laundry detergent? No problem, just have Cortana remind me to pick some up the next time I'm near Target. Saw a cool restaurant in Laguna Beach over the weekend? Cortana will remind me to eat there the next time I'm in town.
So yes, I still love and use Cortana on Windows Phone 8.1.
2. Notification Center
This list of things I like in Windows Phone 8.1 isn't any particular order, but if I did order it to reflect importance you'd see the Notification Center as numero uno. It has changed how I use Windows Phone. I still admire the concept of Live tiles and glanceable information, but you just can't match the perks of a single place for your all notifications.
It's weird going back to a device with Windows Phone 8.0 and hearing a notification, then not being able to find it if you don't get to your phone in time. That all changed with the Notification Center in Windows Phone 8.1.
No more stress or anxiety because I now know every notification or alert will be caught by the Notification Center. It's awesome and probably my single favorite feature in Windows Phone 8.1.
3. Quiet Hours
Windows Phone 8.1 introduced a 'do not disturb' mode called Quiet Hours. It is wonderful for helping you relax in the evening and sleep at night. It's another favorite feature in Windows Phone 8.1 that I couldn't do without.
I've set up my Quiet Hours to automatically trigger and turn on every night at 10:30 pm and turn off the next morning at 6 am. During those hours at night, nobody can reach me and any notifications from Twitter or email won't show up. Unless I've placed you inside my Inner Circle.
Inner Circle is just one of the many aspects of Quiet Hours you have control over. You can configure Quiet Hours so that those important to you, like your spouse or children, can always reach you. Or maybe your boss can reach you if he calls three times within the span of a few minutes, because that's probably an emergency at that point.
4. Word Flow keyboard and Shape writing
The new and improved keyboard is so good Microsoft gave it a name – Word Flow. The new Word Flow keyboard is notable for a number of improvements that I dozens of times throughout a given day.
Shape writing is the biggest addition to the new keyboard that I can't live without. This is the new 'typing' mode where you glide your finger from letter-to-letter to spell out words.
Other things I'm really digging in the new Word Flow keyboard include the additional support for more Emoji, a bigger word library out of the box, the names of your contacts added to your dictionary and the ability to add swear words to your dictionary (or any word you want really).
5. More tiles on my Start screen
Windows Phones with large screens, like the Lumia 1520, come with an additional column for medium-sized Live tiles on your Start screen. However, handsets with smaller screens, like the Lumia 920, have traditionally had just two columns for medium-sized tiles. Windows Phone 8.1 changed that by giving users the option to show more tiles.
Every single Windows Phone 8.1 device I have has been enabled to show more tiles and I wouldn't have it any other way. It doesn't feel cramped at all to me, and I like the ability to not scroll as far to see more Live tiles and their respective content.
Thanks Microsoft for giving me the option to have a ton of Live tiles on my Start screen!
6. Transparent tiles
Speaking of the Start screen, I can't get enough of those transparent tiles. And neither can the lot of you.
The struggle is real to find the perfect Start background to complement those see-though tiles. But that's a good thing because it means we have transparent tiles. It's probably a superficial feature in Windows Phone 8.1, you just can't deny how awesome it is with the parallax scroll effect. It's also just one more way you can make your Windows Phone truly yours.
7. Unlimited tabs in Internet Explorer 11
For someone who writes about apps for a living, I actually spend a lot of time using the browser on Windows Phone. I always have and don't expect that too change too much. For reading long content I still prefer to send things to Pouch and use an app like Poki to consume it all.
The browser is where you end up when you click an interesting looking link inside a tweet. Which is why I'm a big fan of the unlimited tabs you get with Internet Explorer 11 on Windows Phone 8.1.
- Related: Kick ass features in IE11
8. Calendar redesign
To be honest I didn't use the native calendar in Windows Phone 8 and below. Instead third-party calendars, like Simple Calendar or Cal, added a bit more functionality that made me prefer them.
The redesigned Calendar app in Windows Phone 8.1 is getting a lot more love from me and it's used all the time now. I'm partial to the new week view and the integrated weather forecast. The week view alone makes me love the new calendar. Oh and the calendar can now be update through the Windows Phone Store and won't require an OS update like before. Which means we'll hopefully see even more improvements going forward.
- Related: (/video-tour-new-windows-phone-81-native-calendar)
8.1 Check for updates in the Windows Phone Store
C'mon. How many times did you get frustrated pre-Windows Phone 8.1 waiting for updates to appear for your apps in the Windows Phone Store? The new Store on Windows Phone 8.1 allows you to go in to the settings and manually check for updates for all your installed apps. This is super useful and I use it a few times a day.
You too have probably been using Windows Phone 8.1 for over two months now! Congrats and do let us know in the comments below your favorite features!
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not your favorite apps
Waiting and waiting here in Germany...
I hate that we have lost so many Music features from ZUNE to WP7, to WP8 and now the lowest point, WP8.1. Please go to uservoice and vote and comment.
and by the way how many tabs was IE limited to ?
1. Email Client
Change colors of font
Change font and BOLD, ITALIC, etc File Picker for send files like .PDF in a talk 2. Better PHOTOS Create albuns copy and paste photos 3. BETTER MUSIC, VIDEO AND GAMES APP I think that I haven't say anything about this, right? 4. Copy texts and paste text after I lock the phone. Yeah, if you copy a text and lock the phone, you will lost what you have copyed. 5. More natives apps, like stop watch, voice recorder, etc 6. Lock the phone and made a picture a passward like Windows. 7. List of apps like Windows 8.1, Category, etc 8. Oh, Man... The Settings is horrible! Would be good if is like Windows 8.1.... 8.1. Data Toggle 8.2 Cover of Album at in the bar on top when press to change the music, volume, you know.
Simply select and... copy.
It's pretty pathetic that WP leves a blank space on the start screen when no tile is present, or when a tile is deleted.. iOS, and Android, don't leave ugly gaping voids on their start screens, and neither should WP...
... The solution❔ .. Just give us the option of having the OS automatically fill in any gaps with a static blank tile, or maybe even have Cortana choose some information to display instead of leaving spaces blank... This is a no brainer feature, and like I said it could be optional.. Call it "auto fill" in settings, or something..
Seriously, I think this is needed more than ever now that we have transparent tiles..
Having to use separate apps for everything is unintuitive, and goes against WP's way of doing things... WP is nowhere near "loaded" and it couldn't hurt to have more options... If you wouldn't like it I would suggest that you don't enable it... That's the real win/win situation for everyone..
Key word here being OPTION......
Here on WPC there's always a few dudes that have to say that that wouldn't like to use somthing.... And, the answer they always get is "then don't use it".... I would never suggests a change like this without asking for it to be an option... And, WP could benefit from more options... I think I said it enough....
My Lumia 720 is blue and my brother is yellow.
On Notifications, the MLB At Bat app need to understand how to implement them. I get a notification but, as they all are, its cut off so I cant read what it is. When I click on it, the app opens, but it doesn't take me to the article the notification was referring to. At Bat is not the only app with this issue.
Love the tiles, love quiet hours and love checking for app updates.
I tend to forget about word flow. Still, I am loving 8.1.
Mmmm things I like, I don't know... I've been using 8.1 exclusively since it came out & kinda forgot which was part of what lol, but I'll give it a shot.
-The Custom Backgrounds ... I didn't like it when it leaked ... It's true what they say... Don't knock it until you try it.
-The fixed Data Sense.
-The Sense apps.
-The Upcoming Lockscreen App (12 days now since Joe tweeted "Two Weeks" lol)
-And Its Genuinely faster.
-Cortana & Quiet Hours, but never had the pleasure.
-The Updated Store.
-The Burst Shots feature... Which it was hi-res though.
-I can swipe down to close an app instead of pressing the "X" ... I wish if it was both ways ... Up or down.
What I don't like:
-Music App lol.
-The Gallery... I understand why they did it, but I still don't like it.
-The Status Bar doesn't autohide anymore.
-The Fact is Quiet Hours must be enabled from Cortana only ... Being an HTC user outside the states makes it really annoying.
-It broke my HTC clock lol.
As for the transparent tiles, the picture on the article shows how careful you have to be to not get an unreadable mess.
For real, I love the potential of WP but in practice it is not that great
(same argument goes to Android and iOS also). Hope MS gets their shit together
Probably the biggest problem i have is with Cortana, she isn't totally hands free which defeats the purpose of a voice client. Reminders are awesome but the fact that you can't use Cortana that well without looking is a bad thing and a fundamental flaw. What do I mean? Try using Cortana totally by voice over a headset and keep her in your pocket. Now try doing it while you walk. I assume most people keep the screen faced inwards to prevent accidental damage if you ran into a corner. Problem is Cortana turns on the screen while your phone is in your pocket causing miscellaneous touches that can effectively cancel your commands or prevent your phone from locking again. Ask her for scores? Its just a Bing search brining up scores. Siri reads back to you unlike Cortana. Sure Cortana adapts to what your interests are but if you can't use something like this hands free what's the point if I have to pull out the phone in the first place I might as well type my commands.
The rest are bummers (especially xbox music, games, photos hub, fb integration, no improvement on facebook app after using it for a year already) I regret ever installing 8.1. (and buying this crappy phone). I feel like we WP users are just beta testers. We'll never ever get superior experience.
Notifications Centre: Indeed, can't undervalue the ability to see all of one's notifications in one central area. In fact, it is because of the Centre that I decided to enable more of my apps to run in the background and give me info, e.g. MLB At Bat. Before I limited my selection of notifications to the apps I had pinned to the Start Screen, not anymore.
Three Columns: I use a Lumia 920 and I honestly didn't care about having the third tile option, that is, until I tried it out. I have to admit, my Start Screen looks amazing with the three columns, the L920 seems like a brand new beast at times.
Cortana: Admittedly I don't access Cortana by voice as much as I would like to, but I find myself typing inquiries, accessing the 'app' (for my news headlines, stock updates and weather) all the time, it's now firmly part of my regular phone routine. Unlike you Sam, we do have shifting weather up here in Canada, so the ability to ask if I need an umbrella is quite valuable for me.
Transparent tiles and parallax background: As with the three columns, this feature really did change how I looked at my L920, it's like a new phone. In fact, it was because of the ability to choose a background image that I decided to try out more accent colours on the phone, before WP 8.1 I just stuck to grey.
Calendar: No doubt, big improvement over the last version.
Universal Apps: Despite not even being out yet, it seems there's some traction on the Universal App front with Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1. The sudden steep climb in such apps and games hasn't gone unnoticed, and although it may not be the case in truth, it seems as though WP 8.1 brought about this shift.
Improvements to IE, i.e. unlimited tabs, InPrivate viewing, tab syncing between phone and PC, all greatly appreciated.
8.1: WHERE ARE THE CUSTOM LOCKSCREENS!?!?
Cortana, not available.
Quiet hours, not available.
Word flow, not available.
Transparent tiles, not my thing. (maybe transparent LIVE tiles when more apps have them)
Calendar, only use chronos calendar.
Unlimited tabs on I.E. I use UC browser.
More tiles, I like it a lot.
Notification center, I like it but it could be a lot better.
Edit. File explorers, finally!! I like it a lot.
2. Swipe keyboard - Hell yes and even the emoticon even if your apps doo not support them
3. App updates yep
4. Notification centre - yep
5. Smaller tiles - yep
6. WiFi sense - if it worked may just be a US thing but in the states at the moment not noticed anything different. However tons of potential. Especially password sharing.
7. Better access to the API that has huge potential.
However really not happy about losing the integration into Facebook for checkin as I used this a lot and never used Facebook itself app or webpage on my phone and not enjoying having to now. Major gripe.
Some other things I like that 8/8.1 brought:
Multiple text and pic delete.
Screenshots (something I thought I'd never use but use a lot)
Download entire email.
Choice of what to put where to phone storage or SD card.
Lock screen options.
The feature I hate most in WP8.1 is screen lock. Still using keys...
why there is not a gesture lock like that in windows8...
1.notification centre should have data toggle shortcut plus more shortcut.i have Lumia 720 and there is only for shortcuts and no data toggle the main shortcut is missing.
2. There should be only additional files to download as an update in store not full app or game.
3.ms should start carrier billing soon because many of us like me in India don't have credit card to purchase any game or app from the store. It is the big loss in revenue profit for MS.
Under the hood improvements
I find the cursor manipulation tricky. I don't use it that often. How about a cursor up down left right pad?
Having to switch keyboards for a colon. Could this be added to the long press on period options?
A decent outlook task manager with sort by date modified and task flagging
P.s. I don't have 8.1