Today, 2nd April 2014, during the //BUILD conference Microsoft officially showcased the new features set which are coming as part of Windows Phone 8.1. Also during the event, they showcased the features and improvements coming as part of Windows 8.1 Update 1.
In this blog post, I am just noting down those exciting new features coming in Windows Phone 8.1. Just go thru them and let me know which one will be the exciting one for you.
New improved Lock Screen and Start Screen
During //BUILD/2014 conference, Microsoft showcased few new features and enhancements coming in Windows Phone 8.1. Among them, enhanced Lock Screen and Start Screen are one of the new things that you will first notice when you have a Windows Phone 8.1 device in your hand.
The new enhanced Start Screen will allow you to set a background image instead of the default Accent Color and thus make your start screen look very prominent on the screen. App developers should make sure to set transparent tile icons to let the user use a background image below the entire set of tiles.
Live tiles also got better life in Windows Phone 8.1. These will not only show information updates on the screen, but also let you mark them read by just swiping across. These information updates will auto sync if the user reads them on another device. This will make them more live in the start screen.
Sense of Humour
A sense of humour has been added to Wi-Fi settings in Windows Phone 8.1. Now if you connect to a Wi-Fi spot on a Windows 8.x PC or tablet, the Windows Phone 8.1 will automatically connect to that Wi-Fi connection, when in range. This will reduce the hassle connecting multiple devices to the same Wi-Fi spot.
Battery Sense apps will allow you to monitor the apps which consumes power the most and report you accordingly. This will also turn them OFF when not in use.
Improved Calendar application
The calendar app has been upgraded to enhance some cool and new features. These includes: support of Google calendar, multiple calendars in the native WP8.1 calendar app, week view and weather report within the app. Let’s discuss them here a bit:
- Support of Google Calendar
Now you will be able to sync Google calendars in your Windows Phone by pulling the data from the server.
- Multiple Calendars
Windows Phone 8.1 will support multiple calendars in the native calendar app. So, all your calendar invites will now be in a single place and you will never miss an important meeting next time.
- Week view
In Windows Phone 8 and it’s earlier versions, we were missing the “Week View” as it only had Day View and Month View. Now in WP8.1, it will also have a Week View tab, but I am not yet sure whether it will support “Work Week View” too.
- Weather Update in Calendar
This might be good to have the weather information within the Calendar view. The native calendar app now supports it.
Cortana – The new Personal Assistant
Cortana, the Microsoft’s version of Siri is coming in Windows Phone 8.1 to assist you operate your phone without touching the screen. In earlier Microsoft Office suite we were familiar with the office assistant named Clippit (How many of you remember it?) and now it’s coming as Cortana in your phone device to talk with you directly and operate your phone as per your voice instructions.
Now, you might say that the voice command is already available in Windows Phone. So, what’s new here? Cortana is more than the default voice commands. You can talk with her and give her instructions to perform operations on behalf of you. Thus, it will make your life simpler. You can only experience it when you use it.
Cortana has it’s own “Notebook” which it keeps to track everything it learned about the user, the user’s friends and families by creating an inner circle like Google Plus.
It can be integrated with 3rd party apps, which will allow you to control using your voice only. Skype and Facebook apps were already updated for Windows Phone 8.1 to accommodate Cortana instructions. For example, you can instruct her “Cortana, call Kunal on Skype” or “Cortana, message Kunal on Facebook” and it will open Skype or Facebook to call or message the named person (only if the person name is available in the contacts list).
Not only this, Cortana can also help you to find out an email or a place by using the Bing’s advanced local search like Windows 8.1. You can also instruct her to create a reminder saying “Cortana, remind me to buy a set of oranges when I am near to the market” and she will remind you whenever you are near to the specified market. Isn’t it cool? What’s your opinion on this?
Action Center will allow you to quickly access the settings pages like Airplane mode, Wi-Fi Settings, Bluetooth settings etc. from a native app. This will also report you about alerts, non-toast notifications, update histories etc.
Internet Explorer 11
Enhanced App Store
Windows Phone 8.1 Store app has now improved UI and app suggestions by location. You can now set manual app update checks and/or automatic store app update. App and games data can be backed up on OneDrive to access them later but this will be only available if the developer of the app or game permit this.
Companies can now feature apps with larger Tiles when promotions or at the time of launch, bearing little extra cost.
Email Security and VPN Support
Now emails can be signed and encrypted before sending to someone. The native mail app now option to encrypt them. In //BUILD conference Nick showed how this works. In Windows Phone 8.1, you can now also instruct the native mail client whether to download the pictures associated with the mail.
You can now password protect any office document, access to corporate resources behind the firewall and/or auto trigger the VPN connectivity.
(still developing… will add more points on the new features coming into Windows Phone 8.1)
These are the major exciting features coming in Windows Phone 8.1. If you already have Windows Phone 8 device, you will get the update notification soon in your device (expecting at the end of April or early May). Windows Phone 7 users will miss this. I liked the Cortana feature more in this version. Excited to experience it once it is available in my phone. What’s your favourite feature among this? Please share with us.
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