[sc:mobile-category ]Well it’s finally out, WIndows Phone 8.1 was announced last week at //Build/ and while they didn’t spend much time on it they did announce the big items.
First things first… when? For most users it will be summer before they see it, a few will get it next month with some new hardware and developers will see it in the next couple of weeks.
Second… what phones? They specifically called out all Nokia Windows Phone 8 devices, but they didn’t mention HTC or Samsung. However the carriers did announce upgrades to both HTC and Samsung upgrades after the keynote.
Ok, now for the fun stuff, the new features:
- Cortana: I’m not a big fan of voice control, but I have to say Microsoft made a good move in keeping the Cortana name. It links two of their major consumer platforms together and let’s face it, it’s probably better than anything the marketing department could have come up with.
- Three Column Start Screen: It’s been available on the Lumia 1520 for a while, so no surprise there. Makes sense for larger format displays.
- The Start Background: Kind of cool, but I think it detracts from the usability of Windows Phone so I won’t be using it.
- Lock Screen: Now that’s a surprise, the angled text is kind of cool and I think the API will be interesting as well.
- Action Center: A sorely missing feature in 8.0, this will definitely be a welcome addition.
- Word Flow Keyboard: The obvious parallel to Swype is clear and I have to admit I found Swype to be very hard to use.
- Skype Integration: About time, Skype should be fully integrated with Windows Phone by now.
- Calendar Update: Of all the calendar apps I’ve used I still believe the HP’s Touchpad WebOS version was the best. Microsoft has at least started to update some of the core components of WP and hopefully this is just the beginning.
- Music/Video/Podcasts: I’ve said before that moving most of the “User” applications out of the core OS and instead make them standalone applications made sense. These are the first but I’d expect over the next few iterations to see other parts of the OS migrate to the Store as well.
- People Hub/Email/Accounts: Nice to see s/mime and better social integration will be a big selling feature I’m sure.
- Wi-Fi Sense: Sounds cool and the integration with Cortana to enable and disable Wi-Fi should make it easier to save battery power.
- Storage Sense: Not much info on this, but hopefully it portends wider support for SD cards in new hardware.
- IE11: Nice to see Microsoft continues to keep Windows Phone up to date with their core browser. It looks like they’re also added password saving which will make it much more usable than before.