Developers leak Windows Phone 8.1 SDK, reveal new features

For our full coverage, head to Windows Phone 8.1 SDK leak - All you need to know!

Windows Phone 8.1, codenamed 'Blue', is a forthcoming major update for Microsoft's mobile platform. While we're anticipating an announcement at the company’s Build 2014 conference in April, with new hardware arriving in June, already Microsoft has released the SDK to developers and we're seeing some leaks appear on Reddit, pointing at a handful of new features in the 8.1 update. 

The leaks published by developers who have early access to the SDK show signs of further unity between Windows Phone and Windows 8.1, which Microsoft has previously hinted at. Both JavaScript and HTML is touted as being supported for app development, enabling developers on the desktop+tablet OS to bring across compatible content for smartphone consumers to enjoy.

Some obvious changes have been jotted down, including the rebranding of SkyDrive to OneDrive, not to mention the ability to set up and configure connections to Virtual Private Networks (VPN). A number of other changes have reportedly been implemented in the SDK, making multitasking easier with the removal of "X to close" and allowing users to swipe down on each app tile (much like Windows 8.1) – the back button no longer closes apps, but suspends them.

New File Picker

Here's the list of features noted by the developer with Windows Phone 8.1 SDK access:

  • NEW Audio/video transcoding, Hardware accelerated
  • NEW Media editing:  audio and video; Audio effects, video effects; Slow motion video
  • NEW Apps can capture audio/video from themselves
  • NEW Stereoscopic 3d support
  • NEW Wi-Fi Direct, a Wi-Fi standard allowing direct peer-to-peer connections over Wi-Fi without an access point
  • NEW Windows Phone 8.1 apps won't run on 8.0 devices until they upgrade
  • NEW Documentation confirms ALL current Windows Phone 8 hardware to get 8.1
  • NEW Dev tools: SemanticZoom, DatePicker, TimePicker
  • NEW PlayTo support
  • NEW Single sign-in for apps (like on Windows 8) with Microsoft Account; sign in will persist across devices + apps with permissions prompt
  • NEW YouTube Player (see lede image) including HTML5 video support (video playback doesn't have to be full screen)  And you get custom UI, so YouTube Closed Captions are in
  • NEW File picker (see above image)
  • NEW Geofencing API for location-based reminders
  • NEW Background tasks: Bluetooth signal strength, Chat message notification, Device connection change, Device use trigger, Gatt characteristic notification, Location, Push notification, Rfcomm connection, System event, Timer
  • NEW Slide down to close apps
  • NEW Navigation bar color selection
  • NEW USB choices
  • NEW Updated camera layout, similar to Windows 8.1 (see photo below)
  • Back button doesn't terminate the app
  • No more XAP, instead APPX
  • VPN (Virtual Private Network)
  • OneDrive (previously SkyDrive) with integrated file browser (just like Windows 8.1)
  • Filter through installed apps by usage/install date
  • Select multiple tiles when customising the Start screen [FALSE]
  • More efficient multitasking
  • Ability to install apps on inserted SD Cards
  • Internet Explorer 11 improved with WebGL and Normal mapping support
  • Separate volume controls for ringer, media, etc.
  • Bing smart search (similar search system as Windows 8.1)
  • Xbox Music and Xbox Video as standalone apps instead of the Music + Video Hub (allowing more updates to be pushed)
  • Redesigned Xbox Game Hub
  • Twitter integrated more deeply into the contacts Hub 
  • Facebook account option REMOVED (updated)
  • Quick settings access (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) by doing a quick swipe from the top of the screen 
  • Action Center accessed by doing a full swipe from up to the bottom (separate from the Notification Center)
  • Silent notifications which go directly to the Action center
  • Possibility to mark a Live Tile as read by swiping from the left of said tile
  • Auto-updates for apps (just like Windows 8.1)
  • Better backup functionality
  • Improved keyboard
  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE (to non-Lumia Windows Phones)
  • Feature to mirror Windows Phone screens to TVs and/or monitors

Things not included in the SDK:

  • Cortana
  • Action Center + Notification Center
  • new gesture-based keyboard

A final interesting note is how Windows Phone is referred to as WinPRT.

We haven't been able to confirm the above list, so be sure to take each entry with a grain of salt. That said, it's looking likely Windows Phone 8.1 will be an impressive update, bringing across much anticipated functionality. Reddit user DDReaper compiled the sweet list, taking everything from other threads and bundling everything in a easily digestible experience.

Source: Reddit; thanks to everyone who tipped us!

Camera App

New camera app layout

New: USB Connections, Nav bar color, swipe down to close apps

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.