Our top five features of Windows Phone 8.1

There has definitely been a build-up of excitement surrounding the release of the Windows Phone 8.1 Preview for Developers. The update will bring a wide assortment of new features to our Windows Phones ranging from Cortana to a new Start Screen design.

But what are the top five new features coming to the table with Windows Phone 8.1? This question has been hashed out in the WPCentral Forums, in our comments, around the water cooler at work and probably over raw fish at the local sushi bar.

After the break, we’ll tap five of the new features that we think are the best with Windows Phone 8.1.

#1 Cortana

Cortana may be the most anticipated feature of Windows Phone 8.1. The intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator will first arrive as a beta for the U.S. market and slowly take over the globe.

Cortana will find its way to our Windows Phones with a built-in fan base being named after the fictional artificial intelligence character from the popular video game Halo. The new feature has already made the talk show circuit appearing on Arsenio Hall and the Tonight Show.

As far as functionality is concerned, Cortana will have the ability, through voice commands or type interface, to help you plan your day, check in on the weather and figure out what a bilby is.

Notification Center

#2 Notification Center

One of the great features of Windows Phone platform is toast notifications. The little banners slide across the top of your screen to alert you of new SMS messages, sports scores, Instagram likes, weather information and more.

But all too often you hear the sound alert for the toast and by the time you get your phone out of your pocket or walk across the room to see what’s going on, that darn little banner disappears. The new Action and Notification center will make this problem, dare I say, toast. The notification center will store previous messages for you to review and delete as needed. On top of that, you'll get a few customizable quick access tiles for your Windows Phone settings.

MicroSD Card Settings

#3 Installing Apps/Games to a Micro SD card

Granted, to enjoy this feature you will need a Windows Phone with a Micro SD card slot, but for those who do, being able to install games and apps to the card will help you manage your on-board memory with more efficiency.

Windows Phone 8.1 Camera Quick Access

#4 Camera Improvements

Being a photographer from another life, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching our Windows Phone cameras develop over the years. While we’ve seen tremendous advances in the camera hardware, the software improvements haven’t been too shabby either.

Windows Phone 8.1 will bring a handful of improvements to our camera experience that includes a new camera interface with configurable quick access buttons for the settings and a burst mode. The changes make sense and make the camera more usable.

I have to admit, it will be nice to access key settings directly from the viewfinder. It could be rather cumbersome to have to pull up the settings from the three-dot menu every time you needed to change the ISO or camera mode.

Windows Phone 8.1 Calendar

#5 Calendar Improvements

While toast notifications are one of the top rated features of the Windows Phone platform, the native calendar app has been rather lack-luster. Luckily, we have had third party apps step up to fill the void but OS restrictions often held these alternatives back.

The new Windows Phone 8.1 native calendar app hopes to turn the tide with a handful of new features to make the calendar more productive. Features such as new layout designs that include a week view and integration with the weather.

There are plenty of other features with the Windows Phone 8.1 that make this update very appealing and all the more difficult to only pick five for the top of the list. You still have new features such as the transparent Start Screen, the new Word Flow keyboard, video editing, automatic app/game updates, and more.

We’ve tapped our top five, now it's your turn. Let us know in the comments what you think are the top new features for Windows Phone 8.1!

George Ponder

George is the Reviews Editor at Windows Central, concentrating on Windows 10 PC and Mobile apps. He's been a supporter of the platform since the days of Windows CE and uses his current Windows 10 Mobile phone daily to keep up with life and enjoy a game during down time.