Windows Phone 8.1 to get at least two OS updates in 2014

New information revealed to Windows Phone Central confirms that Microsoft is planning at least two OS updates for Windows Phone 8.1 in 2014. Internally known as ‘general distribution releases – or GDRs –  GDR1 and GDR2 are already on the roadmap for this year, with a possible third one in 2015 before the next OS revision, codenamed ‘Threshold’.

It should be of little surprise that Microsoft plans on repeating the same update schedule for Windows Phone 8 for 8.1, as it has proven to be a relatively successful method for adding new features to the OS and keeping Windows Phone in the news. A twelve-month cycle for major OS revisions also seems to be the new norm both for Phone and Windows.

As to what will be in Update 1 and Update 2 for Windows Phone 8.1, we’re not entirely sure. There’s little doubt that one of those will probably include the so-far secret ‘3D gesture system’ that powers mystery device ‘Goldfinger’ as revealed by the Verge. That technology could prove to a real game changer by not requiring any buttons for user interaction. I’ve noted previously that Goldfinger is not expected to be ready until Q1 2015.

I’ve also heard rumblings of a dual-lens phone from Nokia later this year, where two cameras would be used perhaps for a multi-focus, Lytro type effect. Extensions of the OS for support of both of those features would be required for new hardware. More than likely we’ll also see the usual bug fixes and minor feature improvements as well in those GDR updates.

As to time frames for the releases, there are two ways to look at it. Going by information we’ve viewed, mid-2014 (June/July) certainly looks plausible and coincides with other information that we’ve overheard. For Update 2, we’re looking at once again a November/December launch, mimicking the Update 3 unveiling.

Like Update 3 for Windows Phone 8.0, a Developer Preview to bypass carriers will presumably be made available, assuming there are no hiccups with the so far successful program.

Windows Phone Threshold, originally revealed by Mary Jo Foley on All About Microsoft, is evidently coming in Spring 2015. Not much is known about that update, including whether or not it will be called Windows Phone 8.2, 8.5 or Windows Phone 9, but it will coincide with the next major update to Windows desktop.

What do you think of Microsoft’s Windows Phone update cadence--still too little or does it feel appropriate for today’s market?

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • I think they're on the right track. Still might be "too little too late", but everything I've seen about 8.1 and future plans seems positive to me. And the Developer Preview program is the PERFECT way to get these updates out early to those who care, without affecting the 95% who just want to use their phones.
  • It's never too late..
  • Three days grace.
  • Even if I say It'll be alright Still I hear you say You want to end your life Now and again we try To just stay alive Maybe we'll turn it all around 'Cause it's not too late It's never too late  
  • Ughh, hate that song. :P
  • Evil. That album is great
  • Agree to disagree. :P
  • Nice.
  • So 2015 is the year of windowsphone right ?
  • Maybe 2030
  • Why is it to late? As long as WP males a bug in the media and keep the momentum going, I don't see it being a problem .
  • They don't to media stuff well, atleast not in India. I read in the leading national daily here, it had an article about BUILD, and it said 2 lines about cortana. no word about windows phone 8.1, and even the word BUILD wasn't mentioned. It mainly focussed on the fact that ms is giving windows free for sub 9 inch stuff. Very sad that wp8.1 didn't even get covered.
  • Probably because India has more to report on more basic stuff that occur in such a huge country than a technology announcement in mobiles?
  • Absolutely right.
  • Wouldn't that be more to the fault of the article you were reading?
  • No offense but it could also be because India is a low cost driven place to many.. I agree with you in that it should've been more WP 8.1 and Cortana news as well,for the sound of it.
  • Your media doesn't do media stuff well. That's a problem with India, not MS.
  • election time and t20 wc hogged up all the news space...
  • Yes, as long as it males a bug in the media.
  • lol. evil you
  • Hehe.
  • I don't get the "too little too late" comment; especially if the amount of features that are added doesn't even fit into the "too little" part.
  • I agree with you on the latter part... I guess I'm more concerned about the "too late" issue.  Feature-wise I think we're pretty much there with 8.1.  However, I don't think it's hard to argue that MS took way too long to get there... launching WP after iOS and Android were already the solidified leaders, and then dragging feet on basic, important features like multiple volume controls, rotation lock, notification centers, etc that should have been implemented much earlier.  Not to mention how long it took to get Skype available, and then how long it took to update it to the point where it was actually usable.  Imo, MS should have bolstered the WP team with enough extra people to bring it up to parity much quicker... it was very important to not have this long, drawn-out period of all this stuff missing.  Many of these things are not as appreciated by basic users, but they needed to get the tech geeks on their side so that they could start recommending it to their friends.  As much of a huge fan of WP as I am, I have to admit I think they failed on the schedule... they were way too passive.
  • Don't forget that Windows Mobile (Now Windows Phone) was in the business before Android and The iphone, they just took their mobile OS and started from scratch. I think that iOS might be doing this as well.
  • Believe me, I was with Windows Mobile from the first devices ("Pocket PC", right?).  That's kind of the problem... they stuck with Windows Mobile far too long... they made a spectacular move creating Windows Phone, very forward-thinking and all.  However, it just occurred so late in the process of iPhone and Android becoming giants that every user will have to be fought for with dollars.  MS hasn't seemed really willing to do that... in advertising, salesperson incentives, or development costs.  If they had tripled the size of the WP team and knocked out all these "little things" (in comparison to the os itself) that we're finally getting in 8.1 a year or year and a half ago they would have been in a much better position with the techies (whoi I believe often have a large influence on the masses and public opinion). Obviously part of the problem was that they spent a lot of time essentially recreating WP7 from scratch with the NT kernal for WP8.... all the dev time that would have went towards features went towards infrastructure that the user rarely sees.  Again, this was neccessary, but if they could have put extra people on to also add a lot more of the "fit and finish" it would have worked out better imo. Of course, I don't know what all the numbers are cost-wise and all... so this is all just conjecture.  But I am making these outsider judgements just based on the idea that if they had invested more to get the platform up-to-date with the competition (even at a bigger short-term loss) they would have had a much stronger product a logn time ago.  As is, we're finally now catching up and to me it does feel a bit late. 
  • Most of the "old guard" companies in the phone business were blindsided by the iPhone's success. They didn't believe it would work and Palm, Blackberry and Nokia were pretty much done as a result. So Microsoft isn't the only company around that missed it. It was always going to be slow, when you already have two platforms with a large market share it's hard to carve a piece for a third one. It took Android a while to start selling too and that's when only the iPhone was around. Making the OS free to OEMs is a good first step. Giving commission to sales people would be good and maybe once the Nokia acquision is finalized they can do that (I think right now it's Nokia who has to make that decision). If Microsoft is willing to spend 7 billion on Nokia, they should spend a little more to get the devices out there. It's just to get a jump start for the platform so the expense won't be that high (I would say, give a commision that offsets the profit on these devices just to move them)
  • Sure, I agree that they weren't the only ones.  They're just the ones who have the soluition that I like.  They did wait quite a while to even start working on the new WP os. My chief complaint is still that they then took a long time to get up to feature parity... we're still not there yet.  8.1 will get us close enough on most things.  But WP7 was lanched in Oct 2010.  So it has taken 3.5 years to get here... that to me is just plain too slow. I also hope very much that they can turn this behemoth of a ship around and make it a success (in whatever terms "success" is to MS)... neither iOS or Android appeals to me.  But after all these years I am a bit jaded and have a hard time believing that they will have the proper follow-through, and even if it is possible.
  • I believe it is never too late. A former girlfriend of mine comes to mind... I had a huge crush on this girl that I worked with, but she already had a boyfriend. We chatted and kept in touch at the office until eventually I moved on and went to another company. Myspace and Facebook came around and we kept in touch, but rarely. Anyways, one day 8 years later, I see an update of years and decide to message her to see how she is. We meet for a drink at happy hour and hung out. We ended up dating for about 3 years. So, even though I was "too late" at first since she was already taken by another, she eventually gave me a shot.  And the moral of this story is: No matter how good looking she is, somewhere, someone is sick of her (Android's) shi*! :)
  • I agree 100%. Great comment.
  • But at the heart of it, remember that just because they didn't grab the population by storm doesn't mean you don't have a great phone in your pocket. Be glad you have a somewhat niche product, conversation piece, what have you. You are the one your friends will turn to when they end up converting over, and you will be proud you stuck with the platform. I've been using WP since release years ago, and I'm that much more attached to it, having watched it grow and grow. Seeing the community, while small and powerful, join forces to steer a product is something neither Apple or Android can claim. They don't value feedback or care what customers want. They cater to those who need to be told what they need. WP is the opposite of that. You have a very productive platform that has been built with user feedback every step of the way and continues to be guided by the community.
  • I know right? "Too little too late" phrase is too little too overused.
  • I think they need better names for these updates than "GDR". start taking references from HALO.
  • Not too lair but they should fight the app problem!
  • Awesome! Nice article by the way Daniel!
  • Great penmanship.
  • Dan is on a roll. Is this like article #5 today?
  • Nice schedule, but still wish there was 'officially' no carrier interference.
  • +928
  • We all do and even Microsoft does too, but there's just no way around it. They own the "pipes". The Developer Preview program is designed to bypass that and to show carriers that their network won't fall apart if people are running these updates. It's only then that they might back off from their over zealous ways.
  • Maybe it's worth an article about carriers. Because here in Holland, we don't have this strict carrier interference when it comes to updates. Most of the time when MSFT releases the update, the devices will get it inmediatly. Why is it so different in the US? I really don't get it why US carriers need to take so much time testing a new software version when that software will practically always run fine on their networks. And when it comes to Windows Phone, we all know it's solid as a rock.
  • Don't feel bad. We here in the US don't understand either...
  • One reason is, in US if the phone stops working, people go to the carriers for warranty service. Not the oem's. This is exactly the opposite in many contries (People fo the manufacturer for service).
  • The carriers has to install the NSA surveillance tools and test that the cameras and mics are all "spy ready" for each phone model, then they have to make it undetectable, this takes some time. :}
  • The NSA software is installed in carriers outside the US too...
  • Yup, its opt in.
    You can find it under settings/accounts/sharing Share with NSA on/of
    Share with MI 5 or 6 on/of
    Share with Russia on/of
    Share with China on/of
    Share with everyone else on/of Default setting is on Posted via the WPC App for Nokia L 1534!
  • Because Europe was sane when they took off with GSM and swappable SIMs. Basically in Europe and most part of Asia, the OEM essentially sell directly to the end user, and the customer takes their phone to the carrier to sign up for the plan, it was and is still a great system and promotes competition. In the US (and Japan FWIW) however, the OEM sells to the carrier and don't deal directly with the end user.  So really the end user don't mean anything and the carrier IS the customer to the OEM, so the OEM has to please the carrier.  That's why it's so screwed up as the middleman (carrier) has neither the best interest of OEM nor the end user in mind but is just all for profit profit profit.
  • Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but aren't they owning the "pipes" and stemming the flow of the update release to existing customers/phones a tactic to get impatient or frustrated customers to upgrade and pay more?
  • BOOM!!!! Capitalism Baby!! Gold star for you.
  • This Posted via the WPC App for Android!
  • Capitalism? Lol, no. Capitalism likes free markets. Controlled markets are features of socialism, communism, and oligarchies.
  • Well, that IS what they teach in school, everyone gets rewarded for just showing up and really, Communism looks great on paper. This is free market capitalism at its bones. Create demand, control supply, give a taste, take it away then make that $$ when you see that thirst!! Just truth..
  • "Capitalism likes free markets" What a load of crap!   Capitalists like free markets when they are not the predominant force in that market.  But when they are the predominant force in that market, that's a monopoly and that's even better by them! There's a difference between the propaganda and what really happens.   Suckers just pay attention to the propaganda....
  • Wrong again. Free markets are a defining characteristic off capitalism. A monopoly is not part of a free market. They are features of state owned companies and oligarchies. These structures have names and definitions for a reason. You're taking the color black and calling it white. Someone's done a good job of brainwashing you.
  • It’s clear to me that you are an ideologue that has come to economics from your political stance.  It’s also clear that you have not read much US history or world history or you would be more cautious about your pronouncements.  In other works it’s quite apparent you are the one that is brainwashed. While monopolies and free markets are antithetical to each other, there are in fact times when monopolies can form under “free market capitalism.”   To think otherwise is just to prove you really don’t know history and are simply an ideologue. The most common type of monopoly under capitalism or any other economic system is one where the building out of infrastructure has very high costs.    Typical examples are the utilities; natural gas, electrical service, land line telephone service, and sometimes terrestrial TV.   It is very common for those companies to be monopolies on at least the local level. So that you don’t sound like an uneducated n00b, I’d suggest taking a look at the history of a few companies starting with Bell Systems/AT&T.   It would be good to also look at Standard Oil or US Steel.   Microsoft’s dominance of the OS market is often included on the lists of monopolies. Those are all examples of monopolies in “free market capitalism.”   Monopolies are not the exclusive domain of “socialism, communism, and oligarchies.”   The more complex argument comes if one were to try to tease out if megacorporations like Proctor and Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, GE, Viacom, etc. etc. have a form of monopoly power.   I have no interest in trying to do that in a WPC comment.
  • ^^I like smart people!!^^
  • The absolute pinnacle of free market strategy & capitalism is to, in essence, claim and hold a veritable monopoly for your goods and services. BOOM
  • Well, if we're going to play Monopoly, I call the race car!!
    Seriously dude, I know the "definition" of the words as outlines in books, and school, etc. Last I checked, I don't live in a book. I live in the real world where things define themselves. And BTW, black is just REALLY dark grey, and white, vice versa.
    Seriously....... Also, Sesame Street isn't real either. Sorry. 8(
  • They be listed NASDAQ right?
  • You may well be right imho.
  • Essentially. It's a control thing. The more control a company has over its customers, the more money they can force them to cough up. And they can pull it off because they know their customers won't leave since all of the other carriers do the exact same shit.
  • Only issue is, how many new highend 8.1 devices are slated to hit the US in the coming months? Answer: none. So I can't see how that is a viable theory.
  • Valid point! I might have been a little shortsighted, but do you see this happen when it comes around WP9 or the threshold devices if it has a different set of hardware requirements. for example, when the jump was made from WP7 to WP8 devices, the OS did not follow. Maybe WP8 phones will still be eligible for software upgrades to WP9 but carriers might promote getting newer phones instead. Of course I am not accounting for the dev preview program. Dont want to sound like I am complaining ahah, full disclosure I started with WP7 devices, then upgraded from WP7.8 to WP8 devices but getting that mango update was a bitch...and had to work around AT&T's bs...
  • The theory that carriers skip updates in order to make it more likely that their customers will get another phone has been around for quite some time.   I've seen it talked about on T-Mobile's site for some time now, and it's probably been mentioned at the other carriers as well. Daniel stating that because there's no highend devices slated to hit the US in the short term is not a compelling retort to a theory that's been around for quite some time.   That's like arguing that as the sun is not "up" at 2:00 AM, it's not going to be up later.   Why is the fact that there's no highend devices coming to the US relevant?   To use T-Mobile as an example, we still have the carrot of WP 8.1 (or for that matter GDR 3) that is presented for the 810 and HTC 8X owners on T-Mobile.   But the likelihood is that neither will get a firmware/OS update via OTA through T-Mobile.   For those people that are interested in the full firmware support they are stuck with getting the 925 on T-Mobile.   New highend hardware is not necessary for the argument to work.  I am certainly not stating that "forcing" people to buy a new phone is the ONLY reason why carriers might skip or not release an update, however the current release schedule is pretty much irrelevant for a theory that's around for quite some time.
  • Usually, the updates cone with new hardware, so this is a new scenario. If those "force upgrade" theories are correct, we might see the most hassle free upgrade yet. OR, in the case of AT&T they could still skip the update or strip out significant features.
  • Maybe not with 8.1, but when the Lumia 1020 came out AT&T was delaying the updates for the 920 and when people asked about it they recommended a 1020 with their upgrade scam plan (Next was it?)
  • I don't think so. I think it's big company inertia, and is a consequence of the notion from feature phone days that carriers control the software on the phones. I really, really, doubt that the marketing department (who would make the call if it were for the reason you said) for any of the major US carriers would say, let's withold sending out manufacturer OS updates to increase the rate of phone replacements. I don't think that helps them from a revenue or sales perspective. There just aren't enough of us eagerly awaitng software updates for it to have any affect on sales either way. On the other hand, the network engineering and security team is going to be much slower to give up on the old ways. From their perspective, it's just taking an unnecessary risk to release OS patches without testing them. And while I don't think the marketing department is pushing to withold the updates to generate more sales, I also think they're not fighting for immediate release either -- they just don't think it matters either way. So without anyone arguing that it would help their business by changing to immediate release, the security team wins.
  • this comment section needs an upvote button...
  • Good point but most of the time the updates are too large for the network so we use wi fi. Anyhow since the phones are locked and have their branding I guess that's part of the reason. That and bloatware
  • 100% agree.  They want you reupping your contract (also a US thing) every 2 years to get that discounted next-gen phone...
  • Daniel, I have to disagree. There is a way around it. The carriers do own the pipes that are buried underground and maintained by the OEMs. The way needs to happen "Over The Air".. Let us BREATH!! The BEST thing MS can do is push their 13 OEM partners for devices, and to follow up with an intelligent, concise, to the point, marketing strategy, suggest OEMs spend what would have gone to them in Patent fees, go towards sales incentives, ads, R&D. Bring the buzz & market share up so they can make the same demands as Apple, who has had this way for quite a while, for 1/3 of the cost. Carriers don't force their way with the almighty iOS. Uphill battle, I know. Time to not be the red-headed step-child anymore. But the point has to be made "Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you". Just saying..
  • In the US, the carriers exhibit a lot of control. Microsoft cannot get around it and with 3% market share, they are no position to dictate anything. Remember this: you are not the customer for new phones. Carriers are. They negotiate the deals, they buy the phones in bulk, they sell them to run on their networks. You merely "buy it" after they subsidized it.
  • Thank you very much for validating all of my points. Much appreciated. 8)
  • I don't understand why OEMs in the US can't just sell phones like other electronics through online stores (i.e. Amazon, Ebay) or brick-and-mortar chains (i.e. Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Radioshack, Target) without carrier influence and let the consumers decide what network to use it on. It wouldn't be any different than me choosing what ISP to use my devices (bought separately) on. There's just too many middle men. I bought my Lumia 925 internationally. I know I run the risk of warranty/support issues if something goes wrong with it, but I'd rather have the freedom to use my phone on any carrier I wish, with no contract obligations (I use Straight Talk).
  • They do to some extent. But the US consumer is addicted to the subsidized phone. When you take the subsidy, they have your revenue for two years and your switching costs can be astronomical. So they don't have a lot of incentive to provide excellent customer service and carry everything you desire. I hope Tmobile can continue this momentum for the consumer's sake.
  • Well a $30 L521 (after $20 mail-n rebate) will sure help that along..
  • I don't buy the market size argument. Apple offered ota updates from day one, before they had any market share the telcos agreed to it.
  • OTA started with iOS 5, which was iPhone 3GS, I think.
  • You mean day-one updates, not OTA. Early on you had to plug your phone in and use iTunes for the update (same thing with WP7 and Zune) Of course, Apple had only one carrier in the US for a long time and only a few devices while also controlling both the hardware and software, that made testing simple and day-one software update releases possible. When other carriers started selling the iPhone, Apple was already in a position to demand releasing updates on their schedule and not the carriers
  • I totally understand carriers being reluctant to take a risk and their retail channels being bogged down with excess inventory. And until manufacturers have a retail channel that is viable and profitable, this is the way it will remain. Even then, carriers don't necessarily want you, their customer, to walk into a Nokia store and shop another carrier's exclusive. US carriers will not certify devices on their network without a clear business need or incentive. Plus, most customers are traditional; they walk into a store and expect to pay a fraction of the real cost for a state of the art device. It is a vicious cycle of surrendering control and jacking up our own switching costs that carriers and most importantly, American consumers, perpetuate.
  • For the second time today, thank you for validating what I said. See my post above. 8)
  • Carriers are paper tigers... Apple, with an unknown and untested device, was able to completely bypass carriers from day one.
  • Apple, with an unknown and untested device, was able to completely bypass carriers from day one.
    You mean Apple who signed an exclusivity agreement with AT&T to help push the iPhone, and stuck with it for a good 4 years?
  • So true, we need updates away from carriers, they make updating too slow
  • Us citizens need to tell the carriers to shove their subsidized phones where the sun don't shine and start buying unlocked phones. Problem is you guys don't want to fork out full price at once like we do in Europe but still want the perks of a full price unlocked phone. I paid 420 euros for my 920 8 months ago, unlocked with a 2 year warranty. By that time carriers in the us were "giving" the 925.
  • There's a way to get rid of the subsidized phones with two year contracts and T-Mobile is the first to do it and they're gaining a lot of customers as a result. I got an iPhone 5S from them for $27 a month, no down payment. That's even better than paying 200$ for it on other carriers (and the total monthly cost is the same $90-100 for a single line plan) If T-Mobile's success with these unsubsidizes phones continues, other carriers will eventually offer the same (at least as an option)
  • Another beef that I have with the US carriers is that they have control over the OS features; adding and subtracting capabilities at their whim.  For example, AT&T branded phones have Data Sense stripped out (they say it causes issues on their network, when in fact it doesn't touch their network, and AT&T just wants users to exceed their data plans and pay more) and Internet Sharing (aka data tethering) is disabled unless users purchase an additional data plan (and pay for the data twice).  Flashing the ROM to remove AT&T branding fixes these problems, but the average user will not have the wherwithal to perform this potentially risky procedure.
  • Great! Windows phone will eventually take over ios n lagdroid :D
  • I doubt over take but it will no doubt even the playing field in terms of features. Apps, app updates and app quality i feel still need more attention right now
  • 3rd party developers I dont know what mani of them are doing with WP seriously. Not updating their apps. Its good WP and nokia have their native apps so that we can get less bugs on our operating system. 3rd party apps are jokes on every operating system compared to the native applications
  • This. And lt seems most (not all) of the developers just don't understand Metro design language, they still create stuff with their android habits. If only they take it a bit more seriously, wp8 can provide jaw dropping apps.
  • That's all they got ova WP is tha Apps....but rolling with WP ALL DAY!
  • I think it will knock ios out of second place in a couple years max, lagdroids gonna be the hard one to knock down though
  • Over iOS isn't hard as long as Apple keeps refusing to release cheap phones.
    Over Android...yeah..."eventually". Probably at the same time Chrome overcomes Windows...circa year 4001 a.s.c.c (after second coming of Christ)
  • they released a "cheap phone"....5C....HAHAHA
  • "after second coming of Christ" Never with out words. *self-five*
  • Sure it will. Give it another couple of months and world domination is a sure thing :)
  • Well, Microsoft are not making it visible. It could have the edge technically and it won't matter, if people are not made aware of its existence. At least in Europe, I have never seen an add campaign, not even a mention, zero, in 3 years. And ask the average Joe about it and they are clueless, they don't know what it is, what it does, nothing. It simply isn't a name. That is what needs to change and Microsoft are poor at it.
  • That's why MS partnered with and eventually bought out part of Nokia, a well-known European brand.  As a result they're now sitting on 10% of new handset sales in the EU5.
  • I'm stoked
  • Well played.
  • Gdr3 for 8.1 will bs there in first week of jan like how it happened this time.
  • Only for certain carriers. Sprint had it way back in October for the 8X.
  • So u mean this time microsoft will have a decent pace with all their updates including the carriers.
  • Actually, the 8XT on Sprint was first, on 10/22...the 8X was a few weeks after.
  • I got gdr3 back in november because of both the developer preview and htc's fast update progress (since the don't make an effort to give us proper firmware)
  • yippie
  • Ohh that great news ! WP will kick of well with WP8.1 and with such updates in store its going to get even better and better. Thanks for the heads up Danniel !
  • hope threshold is supported by current devices ........
  • Maybe only the s400 and s800 processor phones
  • First let me bask in the glory of Windows Phone 8.1 Dev Preview. Bring it on faster. Tomorrow maybe. Surprise us MS please.
  • I was thinking the exact same thing lol