During another edition of Build, Microsoft’s annual conference geared toward developers, the company officially introduced Windows Phone 8.1. The slight increase in the version number might suggest otherwise, but there are numerous news: at various points, we can consider this an even bigger change than during the transition from Windows Phone 7.5 to 8.0.
Among the new features of Windows Phone 8.1, we have a personal assistant, a central notification, more options to customize the interface and new features that will certainly be very useful in everyday life. We have gathered all you need to know about the next major update of Microsoft’s mobile platform.
The news that most occupied the time of the three-hour long presentation from Microsoft certainly was Cortana. This is the name of the character with artificial intelligence of the franchise Halo , but it is also so will be called the personal assistant of Windows Phone. In addition to answering questions and accepting voice commands, the Cortana has the ability to learn what the user interests to provide personalized suggestions.
The main features of the other assistants are also on Cortana: You can find nearby restaurants, learn about the weather, add an event to your calendar, set an alarm or discover the age of a famous, for example. One nice feature is that you can ask questions both speaking as typing, if you want to make no noise; this second case, the Cortana also will not use your voice to answer.
The Cortana works as a secretary and some features reminiscent of Google Now Through confirmation emails, the Cortana can discover what your next flight and displays useful information such as the time, the estimated time to the airport and boarding pass, for example. It can also analyze your daily routine and spend to inform you how long it will take to get home or to work.
As a secretary, Cortana has a kind of notebook where you keep information about you, such as your personal interests and the people you talk more. The user himself can include some data as a time of silence, during which the Cortana silence notifications, so you will not be bothered with calls from strangers while you are sleeping.
An interesting feature of Cortana are reminders of people. This means that you can ask the Cortana that remind him of asking back the actual borrowed 50 the next time you talk to your friend, for example. Besides being something cool (and useful), this shows that Cortana is deeply integrated into Windows Phone – I’m curious to find out what Microsoft will again in the next versions.
Another example of the strong integration with Windows Phone Cortana is support for third-party applications. Of course, this depends on the willingness of developers, but will allow the watch to a specific movie on Netflix user, send a tweet with the Twitter app, or talk to someone on Skype via video just sending a command to Cortana. It’s a level of integration that Siri and Google Now, older, not yet possess.
The downside of all this is the lack of support Portuguese. The Cortana will be initially launched in beta stage, only to users of Windows Phone in the United States. Microsoft has promised to launch a personal assistant in the UK and China in the second half of the year, while the rest of the countries will receive only the news in 2015. Microsoft has not confirmed whether the Portuguese will be among the supported languages.
An action center for gathering settings and notifications
A feature present on other platforms for years, but that most of the users of Windows Phone swore he did not lack, is the center of notifications. The Action Center brings together in a single display the notifications generated by the applications installed on your smartphone, eliminating the need to stay by clicking the Live Tiles on the home screen that, for lack of space, often did not provide any relevant information.
Notifications of all applications installed on your smartphone will be concentrated on a single screen, this means that you no longer need fixing applications on the Home screen to find out if there are new messages on WhatsApp or if someone mentioned you on Facebook, for example. The Action Center displays more detailed information such as a list of contact names and subjects of recent emails received. She also discreetly show the percentage of battery and date.
In addition to gathering the notifications, the screen displays buttons to make quick adjustments, how to enable or disable Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, airplane mode and internet sharing. These buttons can be changed in the system settings: If you prefer, you can place shortcuts to change the brightness of the screen to connect to a VPN or design your screen – one of the new Windows Phone 8.1, also, is the support for mirroring screen with Miracast.
More freedom to change the look
When it comes to customization, Windows Phone has always been a fairly closed operating system. The most you could do was change the color of Live Tiles and the background color of the screen, and put a nice picture as the background on the lock screen. This changed significantly in Windows Phone 8.1.
The news even begin on the lock screen, which gained custom themes. Now, besides being able to change the background image and the counters of unread items of applications, you can change the fonts and even the animations of the screen. Microsoft has not stretched much about the subject, but merely to say that users will have a variety of themes available.
On the Home screen, good news for those who were sick of solid colors is that you can put an image as the background of Live Tiles. Or nearly so: in fact, dynamic blocks will be transparent and reveal the picture that is in the back layer. Some applications continue with their own background colors, such as Skype and Office.
For those with many Live Tiles on the home screen or want avail the best space, you can enable a mode of high density to include a third column of dynamic blocks. In fact, this method already existed in Windows Phone since last year, but was exclusive to devices with screens of 5 inches or more if the giant Lumia 1520.
Eye in data consumption, storage and battery
Sense Data is the resource that monitors the amount of data in a given period spent by both Wi-Fi as the carrier’s network, and will be available for all devices running Windows Phone 8.1. He is an old acquaintance of owners Lumias and help customers that have limited data plans to control. How the Data Sense also shows the data exchanged by application, you can find out what the sweet tooth that is consuming the entire franchise.
Phone Windows 8.1 decreases the consumption data via three features. When Data Sense detects you are near the limit of the franchise, the smartphone will prioritize Wi-Fi to save the data plan. There is also an economy mode that compresses images when browsing the web, decreasing consumption. Finally, Microsoft included a feature called Wi-Fi Sense.
The Wi-Fi Sense works like this: when you’re near a Wi-Fi connection, known and protected, Windows Phone can make the connection automatically. With the feature will no longer be necessary to request the password for Wi-Fi restaurant for the waiter (or consult the Foursquare). Additionally, you can share your network with selected contacts without disclosing your password.
Two other useful features are Storage Sense and Battery Saver. Storage Sense shows how much space you’re consuming on your smartphone and lets you choose which drive you want to save photos, music and applications (internal storage or memory card). Battery Saver now has a power mode and lists the applications that are spending more battery for you to think again if the economy really need them.
Useful in daily news
There are many small new features in Windows Phone 8.1 that will make a difference in everyday life. The most interesting is probably the new keyboard Word Flow, which is the same look of old, but now lets you type by sliding your finger instead of push button by button. According to Microsoft, Word Flow is the fastest keyboard in the world, displacing eight seconds in the previous Guinness record, made in a Galaxy S4 with Swype.
Other features are:
- A phone call can be transformed into a video call on Skype with a touch;
- The calendar features weekly view and displays the weather forecast each day for you to plan better;
- The music and video players became independent. They also serve to stream music on Xbox Music and rent movies on Xbox Video;
- New podcasts native application that works in all countries, allows you to subscribe to any RSS feed and podcast features search tool;
- People Hub makes better use of space, large displays photos from Facebook and integrates social networking applications of others;
- Native camera application has continuous shooting mode;
- Internet Explorer 11 with read mode and private browsing;
- Individual volume controls for media and notifications;
- Support for virtual navigation buttons (back, home and search). The first Windows Phone without physical buttons on the front is the Lumia 630.
Last year, Microsoft announced the largest internal restructuring of its history, dubbed Microsoft One to unite teams and integrate their products as part of the transition from a software company to a service company. We noticed some signs of these changes in recent months, but it was during the Build that intentions were really clear.
Windows Phone 8.1 uses Microsoft servers to synchronize settings across all Windows devices. If you change the background color of the screen on your smartphone, in a few seconds it will occur on the desktop, for example. Passwords for Wi-Fi networks typed on notebook can be synchronized with the smartphone, which saves time. Internet Explorer 11, in turn, displays the same tabs and bookmarks that are on your home computer.
But the key point of this change are universal apps for Windows: The same application can run on Windows Phone smartphone, the tablet with Windows RT, the desktop with Windows 8 and Xbox One, with adapted for each type of screen interfaces. This saves significant development time and makes the whole Microsoft ecosystem is benefited by strengthening the variety of applications on all platforms.
With universal applications, the data stored in the cloud, in-app purchases and notifications are synchronized between devices. In addition, you may pay only once to have the same app on all devices – however, the developer may choose to charge a new user fee for the installation of the application on a device in a different category, if desired.
When it arrives?
Who owns a handset with Windows Phone 8.0 can upgrade to the new version in the coming months. Nokia has confirmed that all its smartphones, the Lumia 520 less than the Lumia 400 actual 1520 actual 2600 will receive the upgrade. Neither Microsoft nor Nokia have ventured to disclose more precise dates, as the release also depends on the approval of operators.
The first three smartphones with Windows Phone 8.1 factory installed are the Lumia 630, Lumia 635 and Lumia 930. They begin to be sold in some countries in May. Registered developers will have early access and will update your current devices to Windows Phone 8.1 still in the first half of April.