Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 coming to Preview users as early as next week
Windows Phone 8.1 is still being pushed out to users around the world, yet we’re already seeing Microsoft’s first update on the coming up the rear. Today Joe Belfiore took the wraps off of the upcoming update in China. While it is not a major one like 8.1, does give users a number of new useful features that should further expand the functionality of the OS, bringing it more on par with iOS and Android. There are also some expanded hardware requirements for OEMs which should allow much more flexibility for new low-cost phone models.
According to Belfiore, those on the Developer Preview program should expect to see the update next week. Here’s what we should expect from Update 1:
Cortana is currently only available in the US, but Microsoft has been working hard on bringing the personal assistant to other countries. With Update 1 Cortana will be made available as a beta, with users in Canada, Australia, and India receiving an alpha version.
In China, Cortana will go by the name Xiao Na, and will include additional features specifically for the region. The most obvious is her new appearance, which includes new sounds and animations. She supports Mandarin in voice, text, and speech, and also has region-specific information like air quality information in weather cards, information about driving restrictions, and the ability to track local TV shows and celebrities. She can also help people learn English by looking up words in the Bing dictionary.
In the UK, Cortana’s voice and personality have been changed to better fit the region, and she supports UK spellings and pronunciations.
For users in the US, Cortana is given a more hands-free approach for easier access when driving. For those with integrated Bluetooth car kits, you would simply tell it to “Call Cortana” and proceed to speak to her like you normally would.
As for those in Canada, Australia, and India, they’ll have access to an alpha version of Cortana with English language models from the US and the UK.
Windows Phone now supports native folders on the Start Screen! While we’ve seen OEMs try and implement their own versions, they turned out to simply be apps that opened up another list of apps, making it kind of redundant. Now, all users have to do is drag a tile over another and voilà! You can name your folder and rearrange tiles however you like!
Microsoft is working hard on improving the experience with XBox Music, releasing biweekly updates that include many performance improvements. One that we should see this week is a new “quickplay” feature that gives access to recently played songs. As for Update 1, we should see more improvements soon like a Live Tile (finally!) and support for Kid’s Corner. And of course we should expect more features and improvements down the road!
In Update 1, the store tile is now a Live Tile, giving users access to updates on the newest titles throughout the day (updates every 6 hours).
Similar to Kid’s Corner, this new features lets users select which apps to display in a “sandboxed” mode, making it ideal for use in businesses. There are also very retail-friendly features, such as allowing App Corner to boot straight to an app, setting up retail demos, and exporting App Corner profiles between devices. Developers also have access to data on usage.
Privacy and Security
Windows Phone 8.1 Update lets users to send and receive data through a virtual private network (VPN) when connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots, which shields your device from being identified by others on the network.
- Support for more Bluetooth standards, such as aptX codec support for A2DP, which should allow better quality streaming.
- Internet Explorer renders mobile websites better
- Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 support for devices running on the Snapdragon 800 chipset. Allows up to 75% faster charging.
- Support for Smart Covers like HTC’s Dot View case. We could see this on the rumored HTC One W8 Windows Phone.
- Support for new screen sizes/resolutions: 1280 x 800 WXGA, 540 x 960 native qHD and screen sizes of 6.01″ to 7″ for the 1280 x 768 WXGA resolution
- Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) standards supported
Again, while not major, this update comes with quite a number of nice features on the user-end of things. The fact that Windows Phone 8.1 is still being pushed out globally makes the upcoming availability of Update 1 pretty awesome, and points towards a fast-moving Microsoft. And with Update 2 expected around November, we just may see Windows Phone succeed yet!
Note that Lumia Cyan is still unavailable for Preview users, and there is no word yet on when a fix will be available.