Windows Phone 8.1 GDR2 documents reveal new changes in a future update
All eyes are on Windows 10 for phone these days, even for Microsoft, who have shifted development to focus on the new OS. Reports going back to April 2014 note that Windows Phone 8.1 was to have at least two GDR (General Distribution Release) updates over its lifespan. Windows Phone 8.1.1 came out last year, but the fate of GDR2 (8.1.2) or Update 2 was not so clear.
Now, Microsoft has published documents on Windows Phone 8.1 GDR2 dated January 28, 2015. Usually, such information is put behind a firewall and is limited to manufacturing partners only – that is, these docs do not reflect consumer-facing features and may be hidden again.
Windows Phone 8.1 GDR2 is still planned contradicting earlier rumors that it had been canceled (we noted last month that it had not been). Such timing lines it up with an announcement at Mobile World Congress in March, where Microsoft is likely to unveil some new mid-range Lumias.
We should caution that GDR2 is shaping up to be a minor update. The reason for this should be obvious, as Microsoft would rather sink development time and resources into building Windows 10. After all, almost all Windows Phone 8 and 8.1 phones should follow the upgrade path to Windows 10, leaving no one behind.
With that said, here are some of the changes in GDR2, at least for OEMs and manufacturing partners.
Windows Phone 8.1 GDR2 changes and updates
- Video over LTE – Customize specific settings and behavior for Video over LTE to meet mobile operator requirements including Showing or hiding the LTE video calling switch, Enabling video conferencing, etc.
- Restore Start tile layout – Append the OEM-defined Start screen layout to the bottom of the user's backed up Start screen layout when the user restores their device from a backup.
- More phone languages - Bangla (Bangladesh), Khmer, Kiswahili, Lao
- VPN Configuration service provider – New AlwaysOn value in ConnectionType; New Policies/AppIdleTimeout setting in the CSP
There are other changes as well, but they fall into the technical side of manufacturer testing e.g. a 'New location-based services (LBS) test library API.'
Interestingly, there are no changes to hardware requirements, including no added screen resolutions nor new Bluetooth profiles. Those rumors of 2K display and Snapdragon 805 chipset support were, as usual, bogus.
The Video over LTE is perhaps the most interesting of all the additions. The tools appear to let carriers make custom software for handling video conferencing calls (dependent on the chipset). How that will work exactly is unclear but being able to support video conferencing (perhaps in Skype) would be fascinating.
Currently, only Skype integrates into the Call screen on Windows Phone 8.1.1. Going forward, it looks like third-party apps and carrier supported services can finally plug in there as well (see the settings under Phone and 'switch to video calls' option).
Regarding the restore Start tile layout, this already happens with 8.1, however in 8.1.2 it looks like carriers can have their apps populate on the Start screen at the bottom. It is a cheeky way to get you to remember that those apps exist, as restoring to a different carrier can seemingly 'hide' those apps.
Is that it?
Many of you are likely to start complaining that GDR2 is not a big deal. However, it should be cautioned that these documents are only for manufacturers and carriers, not consumers. Any consumer-facing changes that do not require hardware support are not listed here e.g. new Cortana support or changes to the Action Center.
Because of this, anything written here is to be considered incomplete. Microsoft will likely reveal more information about this update during Mobile World Congress, including any of the real exciting additions.
As always, watch this space.
Thanks, HD2Owner and XDA crew, for the assist!
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Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the 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 watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. 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.