Windows Phone 8.1, codenamed ‘Blue’, is a forthcoming milestone update to the Microsoft Windows Phone operating system. It is expected to be announced at Microsoft’s Build 2014 conference in April, with new hardware arriving in June.
A 'developer preview' program, akin to Update 3, is expected to be announced at Build, with immediate availability for the general public.
All current Windows Phone 8 devices, including the Lumia 520, are expected to receive the update.
History and Future
Following the re-launch of Windows Phone 8 back in late 2012, the 8.1 update follows on Microsoft’s planned 18-month upgrade path for their mobile operating system. While Windows Phone 8 had three feature-adding updates during its life-cycle (‘Portico’, Update 2, Update 3), the 8.1 update is a significant overhaul of the OS.
After Windows Phone 8.1 is announced (May 2014), it is expected to receive numerous General Distribution Release (GDR) updates, finally being supplanted by a spring 2015 release of ‘Threshold’ aka Windows Phone 8.2 or Windows Phone 9.
On February 11, 2014, the beta SDK for Windows Phone 8.1 leaked. You can follow all of that coverage here: wpcentral.com/windows-phone-81-sdk
On Tuesday, February 11, the SDK for 8.1 was leaked with various feature confirmed.
Features of the 8.1 update, part of Microsoft’s ‘Blue’ initiative, have not yet been announced as of February 2014. However, there are rumored to be numerous new features, including:
- ‘Cortana’ (codename) – A new voice navigation system for the OS, building off of TellMe
- Notification Center – A centralized location for overt and covert notifications on the OS
- Actionable notifications
- Separate volume controls for ‘Ringer + Notifications’ and ‘Media + Apps’
- Configurable ‘quick settings’ for system functions
- Optional on-screen keys for OEMs to use in new hardware
- Optional dual-SIM support for OEMs to use in new hardware
- File manager, possibly an extension of OneDrive
- Support for even larger displays (past 7”)
- Install apps and games to optional micro SD cards
Finally, the whole OS will have numerous smaller tweaks throughout, including background syncing of Tile color (to match and sync with Windows 8.1 devices), better emoji support, updated keyboard, new version of Internet Explorer, app list sorting, 70% API overlap for Windows 8.x and Windows Phone 8.x apps, VPN support via ‘Enterprise pack’ (built in to the OS), and better backup of app and OS settings akin to Windows 8.
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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.