This morning, in addition to announcing Windows Phone 8 GDR3 (or just 'Update 3' as it is now being called), Microsoft has finally detailed their enthusiast update program so that owners of Windows Phone 8 devices can get the latest version of the OS without having to wait for OEMs or carriers. While technically designated for “developers”, anyone with a Windows Phone 8 device and a few minutes of their time can participate.
The program, detailed on the Windows Phone Developer Blog, will allow those who meet Microsoft’s loose standards to update to GDR3 starting later today. You read that right. The point of the program is to allow developers to try out their apps and optimize their code before the new OS goes live to millions of Windows Phone users, in addition to giving feedback to Microsoft.
Unofficially, it is meant to allow anyone to update their phones over-the-air to the latest version of Windows Phone 8, without carrier interference.
Later today, current registered developers can head the Windows Phone Preview for Developers page (developer.windowsphone.com) to get more information on how to enroll. Uses who accept the terms and conditions can then begin to receive the update through the Windows Phone Store—a method that is very similar to how Windows 8.1’s preview was given to the public earlier this summer. Users will install the new Windows Phone Preview for Developers app, which will allow them to manage the OS updates right from the phone.
Anyone can participate
Although the program is designated for “developers” in reality, any current Windows Phone user, including the "enthusiast” crowd, can participate. That’s because in addition to registered developers (who’ve paid the previous $99 registration fee, or the more current $19 offer), anyone who is also signed up for the free Windows Phone App Studio program (apps.windowsstore.com) can also participate.
While the $19 registered developer program allows you to unlock up to three devices, the free App Studio program allows you to unlock just one. So if you only have one Windows Phone, then you can participate in the Windows Phone 8 GDR3 update preview like anyone else.
If that sounds like the “enthusiast update program” that Microsoft talked about in June 2012, you would be correct.
There are only a few caveats users face by participating
- This only includes the OS update, not device specific firmware i.e. this is not Nokia's 'Bittersweet shimmer'; users should remain with their current firmware and will not lose it
- You can only move forward, there is no “going back” to earlier releases
- You need at least OS version 8.0.10322.71 to participate
- You will continue to receive the official update (and firmware) when they become publicly available, so there is no missing out of features, nor will you ever be behind
- This may void your device warranty
It’s important to note that there are no new API changes for GDR3, so developers won’t have too much work to get their apps ready for the new OS. Things like optimizing for 1080P displays is really the only big changes for developers.
We’ll of course cover this program as it goes live later today.
All in all though, Microsoft has seemingly delivered on their promise of a method for enthusiasts to never miss an OS update.
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Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.