Skip to main content

A quick tour of Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2

The latest mid-range smartphones from Microsoft, the Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL, pack in Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2, the latest iteration of the Windows Phone operating system.

Let's take a quick look at all the new features that this update brings and a video tour as well. At the moment, Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2 is only available out of the box on the Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL, but Microsoft has confirmed Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2 'GDR2' for select handsets, including the Lumia 735 and Lumia 830. Availability is currently unknown, but it's in the works.

All Apps

Right away, you'll notice that the right arrow at the bottom of Start screen has changed. You now have an 'All apps' moniker with the button, tapping on to which you get the list of all the apps on your phone like before.


The Settings section is revamped, and it's a welcome change from the long, never-ending random scroll of settings. Seriously, the existing scheme of things was ridiculous with no order and no way to sensibly navigate to specific settings.

But all that is changed now. Individual settings are now grouped in categories, and the new UI provides easy navigation across the different set of settings. You can also search for a setting or pin an individual setting to your Start screen. This is pretty handy for quick access to settings that you need to access frequently, like Internet Sharing.

If you head to the About setting, you'll find another nifty feature. You can now edit the name of your Windows Phone device right there, without plugging it to your computer.

App Permissions

One of the very useful additions is the App Permissions setting that allows you to view and configure an app's access to phone's features like microphone or contacts. You can bar an app to use a certain capability like camera, or turn off the access to a certain feature like Contacts for all apps.

While Microsoft has confirmed that a few more phones will get the Update 2, soon all Lumia users would start counting days for the Windows 10 upgrade anyway!

  • Thanks for the news and update
  • Microsoft is known for its OS..... Surprising how they didn't give an option for auto rotation lock earlier and also gave us the worst settings page in the world(earlier)
  • Thanks for your humble opinion. As if anyone cares.
  • Ever heard of software increments? Android isn't perfect either
  • Lol, at their increment rate, they'll catch up to everyone else somewhere in 2025 if the rest of the competition does nothing until then.
  • They're actually doing fine. It all depends on how much timely feedback we give them, because they're apparently relying on that.
  • Wrong. Is about how much they agree with the feedback we HAVE given over the YEARS. While Android and iOS push up needed features by the users, we have weird updates like a new hamburger menu.
  • So what is it that they are lacking compared to the competition?? Nowhere that I can see
  • Off the top of my head:  Call blocking, DLNA, WiFi Synch, OS integrated Sensor Core abilities You don't notice it on Lumias because Nokia and MS filled these holes but they're not a part of WP 8.1.  If they were, they would be present on other OEM's hardware.  They're not.
  • Call blocking is available on my Lumia. DLNA can be done through the Lumia PlayTo app. Please explain the other two.
  • WP is on more devices than Lumias.
  • Well, then you have to blame the OEMs for not enabling those features.
  • Wrong, those features should be part of the OS.  You cannot enable what isn't there to begin with.  Play To and Call blocking only exist because Nokia was granted access to the OS beyond the app layer.  That version of the OS isn't what's shipped to OEMs.  Are OEM's expected to write their own code every time the OS is missing basic functionality present on all the other competitor's OS?  Should we just expect HTC to rewrite WP entirely to their liking?
  • Isn't that exactly what HTC and other Android OEMs do with Android? They spend time customizing the OS, if they feel the need to. I do agree with what you're saying though. If there's anything I don't like about WP it's that it's too locked down. Maybe there's a good reason for that, but I just don't get it.
  • Well, one of the strong points of WP and the negatives of Android is forked versions.  MS wants control of OS updates. They don't really allow other OEM's to issue OS updates of their own, only firmware updates.  MS doesn't want all those forked versions running around creating instabilities and ruining user experience.  Yet, that's exactly what they've done with these Lumia specific features is create a "Lumia fork" of their own.  Problem is, these are excluded basic features that should already be present before anyone forks anything.
  • Hmm I really hope Windows 10 has better APIs. The OS should should open up a little not just for OEMs but for devs too.
  • Well Samsung also have a "Play to" app of their own on WP, but it will only work with other Samsung products like fx. a Samsung tv.
  • If I recall, that "Play To" of Sammy's is just Miracast.  I don't believe it supports DLNA.  Now, my HTC does have Miracast support but Miracast is only half the package.  It doesn't include protocol and hardware configurations if you just want to do audio.  That's what DLNA support is for.
  • Samsung and other OEMs does include basic functionalities like multi-screen....then what WP OEMs have problems in doing that...
  • Play to and call filter existed from Symbian OS, but has right should be standard applications on a OS and not options according with the manufacturer , if want more OEMs user your OS needs lure and do things easier for them that includes make the play to, call filter an standard and not options
  • Not really. 2%don't matter.
  • Even I don't get a wi-fi sync is. Sensor Core has to do with hardware of the phone as well. It is very much there in most (if not all) newly launched Lumias.
  • OTG, a proper BT stack...
  • I guess then you think that all features of all Android phones are available on all devices too. Not. It's the manufacturer who skins the heck out if it to make things magically appear as if they were part of the OS. Try a GPE device and then tell me what you are missing... Oh wait, I can, EVERYTHING.
  • look at how long it took android to get where it is, i'd say windows phone is a lot quicker
  • Watch the video on YouTube comparing 640 xl and Samsung galaxy E series. I love WP and hate Android but it is unfortunately obvious in the video that They are light years ahead. Makes me realise why those users won't switch to our platform of choice!
  • Just curious why criticism can never stand on it's own. Sai never mentioned Android in his comment. You know, criticizing one OS (whether you deem it valid or not) does not automatically imply that another is perfect. 
  • Android had app to sd support in 2.3, removed it in 4.0., and it is still not available in lollipop. WP has app to sd since last year. I can go on all day.
  • Lol! For all its glory, Android sucks when it comes to storage.
  • Android has Audio profiles for different scenarios e.g.
    Silent, Vibrate, Outdoor, etc. Just as it was on feature phones. Android vibrates and rings at the same time. WP vibrates only once then rings. If you're in a noisy environment, you miss the call. Android dedicates a visible folder for Bluetooth received files.
    WP hoards 'unknown' received files including PDF and prevents you from deleting them. Android has the basic copy/cut/paste/select all for basic text editing.
    WP only has copy/paste. Android gives you the luxury of choosing a media app to act on a media file (e.g. mp3, mp4) once you click on it in file explorer.
    WP forces you to use a basic (limited) audio/video player. Android allows you download office files to any location on your device.
    WP seizes the file and makes it exclusively accessible via Office hub. I could go on all day ;)
  • What version you tried?, Android never had profiles of environments, Android pure that is also Android 4 versions can't move apps to SD which makes a low end and mid end phones became crap if wanted download or enjoy the millions of app due that many put restrictions to the usage of free memory
  • @olumide one more point you left to say.. Android can bring all those Ads and malwares and hackers , where in WP It's completely safe..
  • You're complaints are genuine, and those problems have troubled me in the past. As usual, the hope is W10 will fix all of them. It's not like we haven't told them on uservoice. There are workarounds to some of the problems you mentioned though, none really satisfactory.
  • To the best of my knowledge Android 4.0 did have the abilities to move applications to the SD Card, the functionality was removed probably in 4.4 KitKat. Developers have been complaining for quite a while about how much of a pain SD cards are, be it the read/write speeds, or random errors, or an SD card being pulled out of the device while it's running and causing issues. Google took the criticism and made SD cards behave differently than they did previously, here's something worthy of a read: Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I believe rotation lock was there since wp 8.
  • The new settings layout is much needed and overdue. Good job.
  • Its actually better than settings menu in Windows 10 mobile
  • Nooooo, this one looks ugly.
  • Yes it does, but it's still a welcome change. Next up they need to sort the setting by name, so they are even easier to find
  • By name? So you want About on the top of the list?
  • This is more confusing than the current one. But I do like the ability to search.
  • As Abe Lincoln said more eloquently than i will you can't please everyone. The platform is evolving and we must adapt.
  • Well I prefer the settings on Windows 10.
  • give this man a cookie
  • Maybe they could try Abe's method and just kill half a million of their users? Might shut the rest up.
  • Do you even realize that w10 still in alpha phase ?
  • but design language is done. They just need to create apps and adjust OS UI. So #notUpgradingToW10 is an option for me.
  • Then don't..
  • I like the OPTION of this menu layout... Not sure I want it to be the only one...
  • I like win 10 settings page
  • Maybe they could add a toggle for "Switch to classic view". Hhmm!
  • Maybe they could have different sorting options, like sort by alphabetical, categories or nothing like the old one.
  • W10 settings menu is much better
  • Eagerrrrr.......
  • By the way, is this WP 8.1 update 2 official from Microsoft? Or is it in beta? Because I got this update when upgrading my phone to windows 10
  • It's official
  • The article mentions that it comes out of the box on 640/640 XL.
  • I have bought a 640 yesterday,its has this update and its very  smooth.
  • Can you confirm the option to lock screen by double tapping the navigation bar?
  • Haven't heard anyone mention that one...:/
  • i can confirm that
  • Yup..u can do that..!
  • I stayed with wp8.1 update2 for a few days and it gave me enough trouble on 1520.. The main problem was occasional shaking of the start screen which made the phone hot and unresponsive and had to restart ot soft reset the phone not less than 5 times a day. I decided to proceed to windows 10 and believe me all those problems are gone.
  • I'm not experiencing that with my 1520, update 2
  • Good.
  • Got the update on my Lumia 1520, and never did W10. This was a much needed update, makes you wonder what took Microsoft too long to make it happen. (p.s: I've been using WP for too long, so I kinda remembered where everything was exactly, now it's a mess for me when it's organized) lol
  • Lol. I know.
  • Exactly.. Getting used to it now :D
  • Lol. Same here.
  • It's funny how our minds adapt to stupid things! Haha
  • I updated to 10 with my 1520 to play around, and then flashed back but I don't recall having update 2. Is there a how to for doing it? Not looking to go to 10 again, but would like to try the update 2
  • I updated using Windows Insider. I selected fast ring, and then looked for updates. I downloaded this update and it was WP 8.1 GDR 2. Now my phone keeps notifying me about W10, but I never downloaded it.
    So, do as follows:
    - Remember to check off the option to "automatically download updates if my data settings allows it"
    - Open Windows Insider app, select FAST RING.
    - Look for updates in settings>phone update.
    - When the update is downloaded and installed, this is 8.1 GDR2, don't download any next update, it will notify you about W10, don't download it!
    - Update: I already had Denim on my phone, and first step is to actually turn off preview for developers to get this.
    - Update 2: I did the earlier mentioned steps the same day that Microsoft pushed W 10 through the insider app, not sure if anything's changed now.
  • Did Denim come with?
  • I already had Denim before updating to GDR 2
  • Is it applicable to Lumia 520 as well??
  • Thumbs up man.. Thanks for the tip... It worked on my L730.. Now Rocking WP8.1 Update 2 :D
  • You're most welcome, glad I can help :)
  • You didn't update to 10 because you heard people who don't even have 10 on their phones say it is buggy, I have 10 on 1520 for a week now... 8.1 update 2 is buggier than 10
  • In windows insider app I didn't find any fast ring option,from where I want to select plz tell me,Thanks in advance..
  • How can I select fastring option in windows insider app,I didn't find any option like that..plz tell me I want to update my phone with gdr2
  • please do i need a connection to wifi before i can use the Windows Insider to Update my phone to WP 8.1 GDR 2 ?
  • This update came first for me then 10 followed. When I flashed back, I started the install again to get Update 2 and didn't take 10 this time. I still get pinged about the 10 update but its no biggy, the benefits from this are worth it.
  • Delete the inside app, then the servers should not see your device as one which has access to W10. I have update 2, but don't get any reminder for further updates.
  • Check if you are on the fast ring, if you are, then I don't know what might have changed.
  • Why did you flash windows 10 is very fine on 1520
  • How did you get update 2 on your 1520? When I tried Windows Insider it went straight to Windows 10 without any other installs.
  • I guess you were on the slow ring. Read my comment above, maybe you did something else.
  • I think it'll go to Gdr 2 first only in certain markets. Not USA as far as I know
  • Update 2 shows up only if u upgrade from 8.1 update to w10. If u are updating from the previous build of W10 it won't (I guess)
  • I think so too..AT&T L-920 went directly to WP 10 Technical Preview..had to utilize the Nokia Recovery Tool to flash back to WP 8.1 Update..(successfully-lol)..after playing around a touch with the 'alpha WP 10'..
  • I think they fixed it(Microsoft)
    Now you only get technical preview.
  • I followed the instructions and ended up with 8.2 update 2 last night so nothing changed.
  • Yup...
  • Have it on my 930 too, sweet as a nut!!
  • On Lumia 1320 update is cool....and I find the graphics and transitions are fluidic ever
  • *Fluid than ever.
  • Can you please tell me how to get it on 1320?
  • Could you tell me what is your ROM?
  • The app permissions and settings redo is much appreciated. It's a shame MS hasn't just pushed this through the Developers Preview program for all devices.
  • @cannon#WP:
    Having manual app permissions settings finally is great. But they forgot (or maybe left out deliberately?) the most important one: access to GPS. That's the first option I would deactivate for several apps. Couldn't care less for access to calendar on the other hand.
  • Windows 10 is mouth watering.
  • Have a lumia 730 got an update!
  • Over PFD or as a regular update?
  • Will they ever release this through the Preview for Developers program for any other models?
  • You can have GDR2 easily if you use the Windows insider app. It installs GDR2 on the way to Windows 10. Just uninstall the app as soon you have GDR2. That way I have it running on my Lumia 1020.
  • Not for my HTC One M8
  • That's bedside you have a HTC.
  • Did Denim come with GDR2?? I really want the EQ settings on my 630.
  • Not on my 920.
  • Wow that's a good idea, does it really work without going to windows 10. So are you are still in developer preview then? I too wish it for my 1020 DP
  • I haven't been on dev preview before. Just on denim
  • Nope.
  • Doesn't work on the Lumia Icon
  • No that is not good advice. In some markets it goes straight to W10. Don't advise people to do this to get GDR2 because they may end up with W10.
  • I don't like the new settings. All it does is make the list longer.
  • But you're scrolling less since you just press on the area you want.
  • But those areas don't make sense to me and it requires more clicks. I have to think in which section belongs this setting? And once you're in an area you still have to scroll. So you (at least me) tend to ignore those sections and just scroll more. It is faster and more annoying. But I pinned my most used settings to the start screen. That's what I do like about gdr2.
  • Neither do I.
  • But it makes it easier to find your settings
  • Neat but way to go.. 
  • Ok, when does it come out, because it looks awesome!
  • Probably the same amount of time it took for lucky wp7 handsets got tango-7.8
  • Wasn't it Mango?
  • Mango 7.5
    Tango 7.8
  • No no no.
    Photon is 7.0
    Mango is 7.5
    Tango is like a gdr to 7.5. It fixes some bugs and let 256 mb rammed phones to work with wp7 such as lumia 610 510 505.
    Wp 7.8 update has no codename
    Wp 8's codename was Apollo
  • Thanks Omer and arbetaren.
  • If you think this looks awesome try windows10
  • What about turning data off for certain apps. I'm thinking on roaming and hefty data charges when perhaps I only want to check e-mail and stop every other app's data traffic.
  • Pin "cellular data" to your notification screen to turn it on and off.
  • Block the apps from running in the background.
  • Heard of battery saver? Well, you can shut off background tasks for apps and that does what you want. But no, you can't shut off data allowance for individual apps. Maybe put their update cycle to "only on Wifi"?
  • Switch on restrict background data in data sense it saves a lot of data
  • Why did they change the all apps button. Prefer the old one but its not a big prob for me
  • Those who have a 920, do you feel the battery lasts longer with gdr2 than with gdr1 and denim?
  • Agree it looks ugly and distracting.
  • Yep. Dunno if its due to GDR2 or just that my battery had gotten better.
  • GDR2 is making phones get hot randomly I don't know why people are praising this update, 10 is better... 10 heats when you're on specific apps like photos and camera among few others while 8.1 update 2 could heat my phone when it is in the pocket
  • They dumbed it down. I guess MS thought some people wouldn't know what an arrow means.
  • Can't say that I have noticed any change in battery life. I noticed that after I installed it the scrolling improved greatly. Unfortunately the jerky scrolling has now returned. One other thing is the mobile internet, seems to be less reliable now.
  • Nobody has mentioned MKV video playback capability in XboxVideo app now. Confirmed with Lumia 625 8.1 Update 2.
  • Are you sure? Xbox Video is not detecting the mkvs on my phone.
  • WP 8.1 Update 1 -> WP 8.1 Update 2 -> WP 10 -> WP 8.1 -> WP 8.1 Update 1 -> WP 8.1 Update 2. From WP 10 inclusive every update with factory reset.
  • My 640XL recognised the MKV movie but can NOT play, it says the format is not supported
  • Relax... It's Sunday.
  • Hi.. As mention I have upgraded my Lumia 535 to GDR 2,update 2.
    Its awesome. But not that much changes are available
  • That's why its GDR.