An Hour With Windows Phone 8.1

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Microsoft Windows Phone now has achieved third place on the leader board which is clearly depicted by their user base and the number of smartphones running across the globe. The mobile operating system took its time reaching up to this level which have been quite a delay but it looks like it was worth waiting for.

Initially the os was missing out a lot of features which threw it out of the league but now it has pretty much been able to climb up to that level where it is in power to compete with the leaders. Microsoft made an official announcement releasing the Windows Phone 8.1 yesterday at their annual event Build 2014. There were a lot of announcements during the event which would excite dedicated developers but we shall be talking about Windows Phone 8.1 and its new features for now.

Few weeks ago, we had reported a list of leaked features which stand true but there are more features which has been announced with the new update.

ACTION CENTER

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Finally a notification center on the operating system. After Android, iOS followed this approach with the release of iOS 5 and is now its Microsoft turn. A notification center was seriously the most lacking feature on the WP platform if you ask me.
Alike Android and iOS, a simple swipe down the screen brings the action center which has direct customizable shortcuts for WiFi, or Bluetooth etc. on the top with all the notifications below as they arrive. A small screen WP smartphone can have up to 4 shortcut icons whereas 6-inch handsets like Lumia 1520 can have up to 5 shortcut icons on the action center.

LOCK SCREEN THEMES/ BACKGROUND WALLPAPER

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As you might know, Windows Phone had a very limited customization options with their lock screen which was only accessible to some of the applications but now they have opened this API for developers to integrate their apps with it. Apart from this, users can now not only change the theme color but can also make the live tiles float on a background wallpaper as shown in the picture above. Now every WP smartphone can have three tiles UI which was earlier limited on a 6-inch display.

Wi-Fi SENSE, BATTERY SENSE, DATA SENSE and STORAGE SENSE

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WP had a battery saver earlier but in WP 8.1 this has been improved to provide details about what apps are consuming the battery and if we enable battery saver then what apps can have access to run in background. Storage sense and data sense as known monitors the data and storage for the apps as in what apps are known to consume what amount of data.

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Wi-Fi sense on the other hand is different as it helps us use Wi-Fi hotspots more efficiently by automatically connecting to free public Wi-Fi hotspots. If your contacts were to come to your home, WiFi sense will automatically connect them to your home WiFi with doing something in background by not sharing the password or any data yet connecting them to your network securely.

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WORD FLOW KEYBOARD

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Swype keyboard is now build in native in WP8.1. Microsoft claims that it the fastest smartphone touch keyboard and can get intuitive suggestions once configured properly.

CALENDAR

Improved calendar app with month, week and day view and easy swipe gestures.

INTERNET EXPLORER 11

WP8.1 features the new IE 11 that features much needed enhancements like private mode, Reading mode and sync with desktop browser.

SKYPE

Skype for WP has got seamless integration on WP8.1. Users can easily switch from voice to skype call directly from the call screen.

CORTANA

Microsoft has also announced their digital voice assistant, Cortana which they feature it as equally powerful as Siri + Google Now. It will be a US exclusive feature initially so there’s not much excitement about Cortana everywhere else.

Availability

Microsoft have announced that every WP8 running smartphone will be updated to WP8.1 which was a bummer in the case of WP7.5 to WP8 update as it required some hardware changes. Worst part there is no definite ETA but we expect it to arrive soon, probably to all WP8 running devices by Q3 2014.

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