Hands on video tour of Windows Phone 8 Update 3

Earlier today, Microsoft surprised the Windows Phone community by not only announcing all the new features in GDR3, but by announcing the Developer Preview Program. That just announced program allows developers and enthusiasts to download the latest operating system updates from Microsoft. In fact it was just a few hours after those announcements that the Preview for Developers app went live allowing everyone to download GDR3, which Microsoft is calling Update 3. Let’s check it out those features in Update 3 for Windows Phone 8. 

First off, if you’ve been following the leaks and rumors from the past few months around GDR3 you should know this wasn’t going to be a monumental update. You’re going to need to wait for Windows Phone 8.1 (a.k.a. Blue) if you want to have your socks knocked off. Instead, GDR3 was an incremental update, one that’s giving your current handsets some much welcomed features while at the same time preparing for the next wave of Windows Phone devices – those in the 5 and 6-inch range. Let’s first check out the features we get today on our current handsets.

Goodnight App

Windows Phone has had multi-tasking since the Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango” update. By holding the back button you can see your most recent running apps. It worked reasonably well, but closing apps was a bit of a pain. You’d need to hit your back button a bunch of times to close out any running apps, not the best but it worked. Update 3 for Windows Phone introduces a few changes to that card view. First you’ve got the app icon next to the name beneath the card of the running app. Second, we’ve got a giant ‘X’ in the top right hand corner of the app. Tap that and you’ll close the app out. Simple and it works great.

While Windows Phone manages memory efficiently throughout the system, some of the more OCD among us like having the ability to close an app manually. It’s here and while others would have liked a gesture based solution like on iOS or WebOS, this is what we’re working with. As far as we know, this is how closing apps will work on any near future versions of Windows Phone, no gestures in sight. Honestly? Its fine and we’re digging the ability. Apparent you are too, it’s the most voted feature in our poll from earlier.

Ringtone for you, ringtone for her, custom ringtones for everyone!

Update 3 finally brings a feature users have been requesting for nearly three years now on Windows Phone – the ability to set customs tones for text, IM, voicemail, email, and reminders. GDR3 does that with aplomb and gives you the ability to set custom tones per contact. Just edit a contacts info and you can select your different tones for when they call or text you. For everything else, head into the ringtone and sounds section in settings and twiddle with what tones you want for your various notifications.

It’s a feature everyone’s been wanting and we’re glad to see it here. For example, you can bet mother-in-laws will be set to the tune of The Imperial March

Phone storage overhaul

The clouds parted, trumpets sounded, and the Windows Phone nation shouted together in happiness. Our Other Storage woes might just be a thing of the past. Update 3 brings improved storage management to Windows Phone. Check the video out above to see the process in action. The gist is that the phone storage section your settings has been overhauled. You’ll see a new graphical interface for how your storage is being utilized. Our favorite feature is scrolling down to the “temporary files” section, tapping it, and deleting all those files. Temporary files can accumulate on your phone over time and if you’re running out of space you can head there to quickly nuke them.

Don’t move

You’re lying in bed, browsing Twitter and click a link to a story you want to read. It opens in IE but the browser moves sideways. Wouldn’t it be nice if Windows Phone had an orientation lock to keep things from moving all over the place? It’s finally here, but it can be better.

Orientation lock is buried in the settings on your phone with Update 3. We would have preferred a faster way to lock or unlock our orientation. For example, placing an icon that you can toggle on and off in the volume controls would have been a nice touch. But at least it’s finally here. Hopefully they’ll listen to more of our feedback and improve functionality of this feature we’ve all been waiting for.

Driving mode, the most underrated feature in Update 3

Let’s first talk about Driving mode before I tell you why I think it’s usefulness is underrated. What’s Driving Mode? Check the video out above to see it in action, but basically you can have your phone ignore incoming calls and texts while you’re driving. While in Driving Mode, your phone can, as an option, sent pre-made messages to those trying to contact you. We’re big fans of NOT using our smartphones while driving, but we’re human and slip up from time to time. By using Driving Mode we’ll be less tempted to use our phones while operating a thousand pound death trap. It’s pretty slick how it works too. Driving Mode is enabled anytime it connects to a pre-selected Bluetooth device, like your car’s audio system.

But the functionality of Driving Mode goes beyond just keeping you safe while driving. I think it can also be useful in niche situations where you want to use your phone for things like music, but don’t want to be distracted by incoming messages or calls.

Maybe you’re studying for a huge exam or getting swoll in the gym, Driving Mode can be used to keep you focused on your goals. Maybe the Windows Phone team should consider not just driving mode, but different profiles you can select for your phone based on location, connections to certain devices, or any other situation you manually put your phone. That idea has some potential.

Various Update 3 knickknacks

GDR3 New Status Icons

New status icons layout in GDR3

Those things listed above are the main features of GDR3/Update 3 that we’re most stoked about, but there are other various things in the update that are useful. For example, you can now connect to Wi-Fi in the out-of-box-experience when you’re first setting up your phone. This is useful if you don’t have a SIM card in, but want to immediately get started with signing into your Microsoft Account on a new phone.

Update 3 also makes Windows Phone easier to use for those having a hard time hearing, seeing, and using Windows Phone. Various controls in the ease of access section of the settings have been improved for those needing them.

Internet sharing picks up some new features. You can now pair your Windows Phone with Update 3 to a Windows 8.1 device over Bluetooth, after that just select the network name and you’re connected. Easy as pie. We tried it out and love it on our Lumia 925 and Surface Pro, both running the latest software from Microsoft.

GDR3 for today and tomorrow

Abu Dhabi Nokia

GDR3 works on all Windows Phone 8 devices available right now and is important for enabling the next big change in hardware for Windows Phone. None of the handsets have it yet, but GDR3 enables support for 1080p displays. That’s Full HD and a resolution that’s expected to come to rumored devices like the Lumia 1520 and 929/1320. We’ll probably be seeing those next week in Abu Dhabi, but in the meantime GDR3 is what’s going to make those possible. Those large displays with 1080p will have the ability to display up to 6 Live tiles in a row, assuming you’re using the smallest Live tile.

Those new devices are going to need some new processing power, which is what GDR3 is also enabling. Windows Phone devices have always been powered by some type of silicon from Qualcomm in the Snapdragon family of Systems on a chip (Soc). The latest and greatest will be supported on Windows Phone because of GDR3. The Snapdragon 800 processor can currently be found on phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and LG G2, but starting next week we’ll probably be seeing it inside the Lumia 1520. Specifically the MSM8974 model number, which is a quad-core processor. Bonkers.

That’s the future, one we’ll seeing next week in Abu Dhabi. We’ll be live from the Middle East to bring you the latest and greatest from Nokia and Microsoft.

That’s your look at Update 3 for Windows Phone 8. Sound off with your impressions below!

Have more questions? Need answers? Check out our dedicated forums on this topic! forums.wpcentral.com/windows-phone-gdr3-preview

315 Comments
  • Nice features..
  • They're alright really, WP8 is catching up at the moment. I'd really like to see a better music player or at least better metadata input/music matching. I'd also like to see Wi-Fi Direct support and Miracast support (this is a big one). integrated File Manager, all the features of PC  are currently, and only possible in Android.....THIS IS WINDOWS, IT HAS TO change. Microsoft has to get this in their head "shoot to thrill, play to kill"
  • I agree about the music player, Zune was better than what is currently on wp8. When they updated to 8, the player lost some functions. And agree on a file manager.
  • Owh there're so much more functional we are lacking on our phones. Which makes every small thing feel like happiness. :) Player could be way better i agree. A file manager, there was a program on my Nokia n97 called "explore" it was the greatest app in the world i spent so much time in it. Wish something like that would be introduced in wp. Or may be soon some sort of jailbreak could let the app like that be on this beautiful phone.
  • And where is the possibility to pin 6 small tiles on lumia 920? Or they will bring it with bittersweet shimmer? LOL now operation system is 2,4 Gb instead of 1.9 Gb. They've solved other folder problem;D
  • MS pulled on non 1080p screens I was really hoping for this on my 928. Hopefully they will revisit this in 8.1
  • Haha nice sarcasm. Just shift the other storage to a system files so nobody complains. But yeah i still have the other at 1.4 Gb anyway
  • Also about 6 tiles was the experimental anyway of course it would be nice to have it like in settings just flick a switch to use 2 mis tiles or 3 coz some of us(not me) would still like to have big sized tiles.
  • Any one having the issue with clearing temp. files?
    It says "Deleting temp files.." but no space is recovered for me.
  • Same here
  • Haha, why am I not surprised.
  • It says its a background process, so its not designed for immediate feedback.
    I would imagine that right after installing Update 3, your temp wouldn't be that high.
  • Have you read the description? It is a background process, it takes some time and there is no guarantee it gets entirely or even mostly deleted.
  • Yes I hit it hours ago and my temporary storage is still the same... It can't possibly take that long to clear the files...
  • Hey my temp dropped 50 mb approx in about a min (rechecked)
  • Mine gained 28MB -__-
  • Maybe try a soft reset? On my 820 it deleted 400mb ish of files in less than a minute
  • same here too 
     
  • Did you even bother to read the article above?! Give it a try, it´ll prevent useless questions.
  • I just like the fact that you'll get updates without having to wait for carriers.
  • This
  • Really nice features, so looking forward to the "mother of all windows phone" announcement next week. The next major update for Microsoft must be a revamp/update to the windows store both in design and quality. Apple, Google & Amazon stores outshine WP Store. We need a one-stop-shop for music, books, movies, tv shows, magazines, apps & games all within the store.
  • I found two new options under the cellular heading in the settings menu. They have to do with controlling and/or restricting background data use. Hadn't seen any mention of them on here, so I thought I'd shed some light on them...everybody enjoy! I am pumped about getting the update as soon as it was announced after having to wait for at&t to release the last one. I updated my 920, and then I did my girls 520 also, and they are both working perfectly!!
  • I see nothing new under "Cellular".
  • Maybe it came with the gdr2 update, I'm not sure since three came immediately afterwards, but my girlfriends 520 didn't have the two new check boxes under cellular unto after I put the 3rd update on it. Just trying to help, because they are most definitely there, and they weren't before I did there updates. I'm sure of it. I have a screenshot. I just haven't figured out how I can post it. No worries though! What matters is that we got our update in a timely manner. Everybody enjoy!
  • Any idea if music syncing has been improved?
     
    Or does it still automatically mess up album info and cover art?
  • Not sure, but I have definitely seen improvements to the Music app. Songs load instantly, whereas before there was a bit of lag (because of the extreme size of my collection).
  • Back door bragger :)
  • Need to know info.
  • I think you Connect With Xbox Music option on , that what messes up the album info & cover art.
  • Alot of these things get solved with windows 8.1
  • I finally got my music semi-straightened out with no duplicate music (or pictures). I'm afraid to sync my phone or copy music to it from the pc. Luckily, I have Xbox Music so I can download whatever songs I want over WiFi which is about the same speed. Still, it would be nice to know if I can safely sync with my computer again.
  • Lol upload while the east coast sleeps huh?
  • Man, loving my phone more and more. Don't know what I'll feel when I get 8.1. Go MSFT!!!
  • excitement, duh. :P
     
    Though, multitasking could have been improved better (a small x, really? it should have been swype to dismiss like webOS or android) but that's nitpicking at this point.
  • But you know what, I absolutely love this feature.  I don't have to mash my back key to get out of a web browsing session.  This was such an issue for me since I had to use the website for my bank.  If you hit the back it tries to reload data that is no longer valid.  It's even worst if you just start web surfing.  You have to back out of every page you went to.  So you just have to keep mashing the back button to get out of the ap.  I think this above all the other new stuff is the best new feature in GDR3.
  • Really?! Why the hell should it be the same as webOS or android?!
  • MSFT is not a copycat like Android and IOS.
  • Will I get bittersweet shimmer OTA since I flashed my 920 to a French ROM to get amber and updated to gdr3 today?
  • Yes! Don't worry!
  • I did the same, very mad at at&t
  • At&t bothers me as well. When I get time I will throw gdr3 on my 920.
  • Gdr3 is still in preview and we are at least a month till we get nokias update.
  • Unfortunately, it's in AT&T's best interest to not update there phones so that people upgrade more often.
  • black mamba! 
  • That's a nice name for a phone haha
  • now wondering if sam supports lakers
  • Kid's Corner is not the same. Daniel said it was in the video. It no longer takes on the password of your phone therefore it can be accessed without a password now!
  • That's unchanged. I never had a password set for my Kid's Corner, but "my" side always has.
  • That will make life alot easier!!!
  • Mine still takes on the password
  • It still needs a password on mine - and there's no where to set it seperately.
    It won't prompt for