Windows Phone 8.1 |OT| Update 1


Windows Phone 8.1 is Microsoft's latest mobile operating system, rolling out in July, 2014.
Despite the small change in the version number, from 8.0 to 8.1, this OS is a big change in terms of features and fixes.
It's arguably even the biggest and most important update in the OS' history.

18 months after the last major Windows Phone release, this new release brings a lot of features to the OS that users have been requesting for years and
were available on Android and iOS for quite some time. But Microsoft also took their time to implement their own ideas, features, fixes and little innovations, most of which are going to be mentioned in this OP.

If you're new to Windows Phone, you might want to follow these links first, to make yourself a bit more familiar with the OS.

In many ways, Cortana is the highlight of Windows Phone 8.1. Microsoft calls Cortana "the world's first truly personal digital assistant". Cortana knows your home and work, will warn you about bad traffic and she helps you managing your calendar by tracking your flights, meetings and more. At first it might sound as creepy as Google Now, but thanks to Cortana's Notebook, you decide how much of your data she has access to and how deep the integration goes. In this Notebook, she stores what she learns about you and keeps track of your interests and preferences. Some of your interests she can figure out automatically, like the weather of your current location, but you can completely customize this part as well and add more interests manually. The Notebook is also the place where you can view and edit what Cortana knows about you, whenever you want. No internet connection required.

Since Cortana is powered by Bing, she replaces the old Bing app from the previous OS versions. Now when you press the search button on your phone, Cortana will greet you. Press and hold the button and she'll listen to your voice commands. If you think that talking to your phone is silly and makes you look stupid in public (or in general), then don't worry. All voice commands work just as well when you type them in and she'll give you a quick text-only response, too. In addition to voice commands and internet search, Cortana also has the ability to universally search your phone for apps, documents or e-mails (If you give her the permission).

Like a true personal assistant, Cortana can also manage your phone, calendars, appointments and reminders. You can tell her to turn various phone settings on or off, ask her about your current location and things in your area, she knows when and where you have a meeting and she'll quickly tell you what's next on your schedule. Thanks to her speech recognition, you can use multiple commands in natural language, thus making it quick and easy to create reminders. Simply say "I have a dentist appointment tomorrow at 4 pm" and she'll add your appointment. She asks if she got it right and you can either confirm, cancel or edit the appointment. With the way Cortana is integrated in the OS, you're also able to create person specific or location based reminders. Just say "I need to buy milk when I leave work" or "when my boss calls me, I need to ask him about the raise" and she'll set up new reminders accordingly.

Here's a list of things you can say to Cortana.
What can I say to Cortana on my Windows Phone?

The speech recognition API is also available to 3rd party developers. If you've installed Wikipedia, for example, you can simply press and hold the search button and say "Wikipedia search [keyword]".

Getting reminded of things all the time can be a bit annoying and no one would want to have a real assistant around 24/7 either. In Windows Phone 8.1, Cortana lets you manage your quiet hours. Once turned on, your phone remains silent throughout all calls, messages or notifications. Of course you can add exceptions. All you have to do is to add the people who can reach you any time to your "inner circle" and they can break through your quiet hours.

Cortana is only available in the US at the moment, with rollouts in China and the UK planned for later this year. iOS and Android will probably get the app before it gets rolled out in other countries for Windows Phone. Suck it!

When Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7 four years ago, the OS relied on its live tiles to notify the user about new messages and changes from apps. As the app selection grew and with no place to gather the quickly missable toast notifications, it was clear that live tiles alone weren't enough. The Windows Phone team, however, seemed to disagree and while they recognized the demand for a notification center, it wasn't high up on their priority list. Thank God for Kids Corner, though.

With Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft finally implemented a proper notification center in Windows Phone.
The Action Center, as Microsoft calls it, collects all notifications from various apps that are installed on the phone, as you'd expect. To access the Action Center, you swipe down from the top of the screen, just like on iOS and Android.

Once opened, you're greeted with a more detailed system bar, that shows your operator, date and battery percentage, a row of 4 or 5 configurable quick settings buttons (depending on the screen size of your device), a button to clear all notifications, a shortcut to your phone settings and a list of all your notifications.

Microsoft has always been very vocal about how personal the Windows Phone experience is, with a start screen that is fully customizable and tailored around the user. Users have always been able to pin their contacts, apps or photos to the start screen and turn them into animated live tiles. In Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft gives all users the option to add an extra column of tiles on their start screen, a feature that was previously only available on phones with a 5” screen or bigger. With this, the user has the chance to customize and personalize the start screen even further.
Or create an even bigger grid of small icons, sucking all the personality out that’s left in this design language. Eh, but what do I know.

The second change to the start screen is the ability to pick an image instead of a flat accent color as background for the start screen. Most tiles on the start screen will become transparent and show the selected picture in the background. Seeing how customization seemed to be a big topic during the development of Windows Phone 8.1, it’s hardly surprising that the OS is going to allow users to pick a custom lock screen theme with new animations the future. The feature is currently still in development and will only run on devices with 1 GB or more at the time of its release. Optimizations for phones with 512 MB are going to be made, but they take more time.

The calendar in Windows Phone 8.1 has been redesigned to allow a quicker and easier look on the schedule.
It integrates with, Facebook, Google, Reminders (via Cortana) and even Apple's iCloud, making it a good tool to manage the day.
It also finally brings a week view which many users have been asking for.

While redesigning the calendar they made it look a lot like Outlook on the PC. Probably not exactly a coincidence.

Like the calendar, the Windows Phone Store has been completely redesigned and now serves up personalized app recommendations. Apps can now update automatically over Wi-Fi, and it's possible to see the download progress right in the Store app.
Users will also be able to view the app purchase history, making it easy to reinstall previously bought apps. The new store also allows users to check for app update manually and it notifies the user once a day about pending updates.

Internet Explorer in Windows Phone got a significant update. This update adds lots of features users have been asking for in the past and brings it in line with Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1.

IE synchronization
With IE11, tabs and bookmarks can now sync back and forth between IE on Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1.

Password management
You are finally able to store your login and password on IE in Windows Phone. Like tabs, your credentials now sync across IE on your phone, pc or tablet.

Live pinned sites
In the past, IE on Windows Phone has always let you pin your favorite sites on your start screen and you got the name and fav icon on your start screen.
These pinned sites can be live now. By adding small lines of code, web developers can make their sites feel like apps on the start screen. Then, the backgrounds of these pinned sites update with the latest headlines, just like a native app would do.

Swipe to go back and forward
Another feature that was brought over from IE on Windows is the swiping gesture to move back and forward on your browser. By putting the finger on the screen and swiping to the left or to the right, it's now possible to move back and forward. It's that easy. With that, Microsoft also snug in another feature users have been asking for years. The forward button.

Reading View
Reading view works similarly to Reading Mode in Safari. It removes all the distracting parts of the webpage and presents you the article you're reading in a better formatted way that's easier to read.

Save downloaded files
Like it says, it's finally possible to save downloaded files in IE. It's a bit sad that it took this long.

DataSense High Savings Mode
This neat feature is actually part of the DataSense app. The High Savings Mode compresses the most data heavy images on web sites and allows you to get more out of your data plan.

No, no, no. No, don't worry. HTC has not found a way to sneak their Sense skin into this OS.
The Sense apps on Windows Phone are basically a toolkit to manage the OS and get the most out of the phone. It consists of Data Sense, Wi-Fi Sense, Storage Sense, and Battery SenseSaver.

Wi-Fi Sense will automatically connect you to free public hotspots it finds to help you save cellular data. And, if you’d like, you can opt-in to automatically and securely enable your friends and contacts to auto-connect to your home Wi-Fi, so they can use the internet connection at your house without hassling you for the password and typing it in manually. If you turn off Wi-Fi in Wi-Fi Sense, you can have Cortana automatically turn it back on when you reach one of your favorite places as identified in Cortana.

Storage Sense is there to help you get the most out of the memory and storage on your phone. It will help you manage content you have on an SD memory card if your device supports those. You can also move content – like apps, music, photos – between the storage built in to your device and an SD memory card.

Data Sense lets you track how much data usage you use in a given month and will give you a breakdown of usage by app so you can see which app is using the most of your data. As you near your data limit, Data Sense will more aggressively offload data to Wi-Fi and limit cellular usage… and in 8.1 there’s a new “high savings” mode that cranks up the compression of images as you browse the web so you can browse even farther using less data than WP8.

Battery Saver gives you a clear breakdown of how apps are using your battery so you can make more informed usage decisions. With “automatic mode” enabled, it can dramatically extend your battery life.

Over the past few years, Microsoft has expanded and evolved Xbox from their gaming brand to their entertainment brand. Today Xbox covers not only games, but also music, tv shows and movies.

For Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft rebuilt the Xbox Music and Xbox Video apps from scratch. This allowed them to make the apps faster, more fluid and more reliable. Or that was the thought.

With Xbox Music for Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft has killed the music experience on Windows Phone. The app is currently in a sorry state and not recommendable to most users. Compared to the old native app in Windows Phone 8.0, this app is slow, buggy and still missing features, like Live Tiles and the artist picture on the lockscreen during playback. Furthermore, it seems that the meta data issue on the Xbox Music server side is still prevalent. Music that has been synced from a computer might show up without album art and wrong artist or song info. This makes Xbox Music a bad choice for people with a big collection that waits to be pushed to to cloud.

Microsoft promised to update the Music app twice a month and tries to significantly improve it with almost each update. While some features are still missing, other basic features like a scrubber have finally been implemented.
Still, as of now, Xbox Music can only be recommended to Xbox Music Pass subscribers.

An "Xbox Music Locker" feature is rumored to be in development. It allows Xbox Music Pass owners to listen to their music that isn't available on Xbox Music, by uploading their MP3s to OneDrive. This could be yet another feature we might see before the Live Tile for the Music app returns. Please understand.

Owners of Nokia Lumia phones can use MixRadio as an alternative to the Music app. It plays all locally stored music files on the phone and offers a free streaming service with ads.

The Xbox on Windows Phone program marks another missed opportunity. After a short surge of Xbox Live-branded games back in 2011, it seems that Microsoft has abandoned the idea of Xbox Live games on Windows Phone. The archaic process developers had to go through to get their games certified and patched, with several weeks between submitting the games or patches and the release (even for game-breaking bugs), killed any incentive for developers to go though the program. Even Microsoft's own first party efforts on Windows Phone came almost to a complete halt or were ported to iOS. Games of which Microsoft didn't known the IP got delistet from the store. Rather than opening the platform to developers and let them use Xbox Live as a game platform, similar to Game Center on iOS, Microsoft let Xbox on Windows Phone die, after realizing what a failure it has been. This is reflected by the Games app in Windows Phone, which saw little to no changes since the first overhaul in 2011. The app in Windows Phone 8.1 has no resemblance to the overhauled brand identity that was introduced with the Xbox One, back in May 2013, and now that Windows Phone uses your app list to show your games, there barely any reason to use this app at all.

To give your phone some connection to the Xbox gaming part, Microsoft has developed companion apps to enhance the Xbox experience with your phone.
Smart Glass for Xbox 360, Smart Glass for Xbox One and Xbox Extras.

Below is a selection of apps that has been handpicked by the community. From Microsoft apps, to well-supported official apps and in some cases 3rd party apps for services like Instagram or YouTube, that are better than the official ones.

Because this OT is already getting too big, I decided to list a small part of other improvements as bullet points.

  • Wordflow keyboard that lets you swipe over the letters to type, similar to Swype
  • Independent volume control, with one slider each for Ringer + Notifications and Apps + Media
  • Native Bluetooth 4.0 LE support
  • Wallet now supports Apple Passport
  • Enhanced YouTube and HTML5 in browser experience (plays under the lock screen, too!)
  • Miracast and USB support for screen projection
  • Separate Podcast app with support for users outside the US
  • Automatic backup of device settings and app data
  • Swipe down to close apps in the task switcher

At Mobile World Congress 2014, Windows VP Joe Belfiore announced a new hardware program for OEMs. The strict hardware requirements of the past are now gone in favor of a more flexible and modular hardware platform that allows OEMs to leverage existing hardware designs. The new Windows Hardware Portal allows potential manufacturers to register themselves as Windows Phone OEMs and get access to the Windows Phone Qualcomm reference designs. OEMs can now slap the Windows Phone OS on their Android phones, with little to no change to the existing hardware.

Most of the new OEMs and ODMs are not well known in western markets, but are big players in their own respective markets. With the drop of the license fee and the new hardware program which supports dual-sim and lower-end chipsets, Microsoft hopes to get a foothold in the affordable volume market in emerging markets like China, India. This doesn't mean that Microsoft gave up on the western market, though. Manufacturers like HTC and Samsung are officially still developing new Windows Phones and even Sony is rumored to release a Windows Phone.

But the market leader in the Windows Phone space is Microsoft, of course. After acquiring Nokia's handset division, Microsoft is now in charge or developing and manufacturing the new flagship devices in all price categories. Some of them even run Windows Phone.


Windows Phone updates are rolled out and distributed by Microsoft, but like on Android, updates have to go through carrier approval first.
This process might slow down the release or roll-out of the update on your device. When you hear or read about a new update being released, but it doesn't show up on your device yet, then don't worry. It might take few days or weeks, depending on how fast your carrier or manufacturer is with the approval of the update.

Nokia/Microsoft Mobile has a special site that lets you track the availability and status of updates for Lumia phones.
Software update for Nokia Lumia with Windows Phone 8

To give developers a way to test their apps with new OS features and APIs, Microsoft introduced a developer preview program. Although it's labeled "preview for developers", it was actually previously announced as the "enthusiast program" at the Windows Phone 8 reveal back in June 2012. And thanks to Microsoft's App Studio, anyone with a Microsoft Account can be a Windows Phone developer, giving everyone the chance to test out future OS updates.

This guide will demonstrate how easy it is to register an App Studio account and enable the preview for developers on any Windows Phone.

1. Register as a developer
Go to and register the same email address you've used to setup your phone. The registration is absolutely free of charge and it's not a subscription either. Microsoft really wants you to become a Windows Phone developer.

2. Download the Preview for Developers App on your phone.
Like the registration, the app is free as well.

3. Run the app and update your phone
Once installed, you run the app and sign in with the same email address you used on and then tap on "Enable Preview for Developers".

Congratulations, you're officially a Windows Phone developer and will from now on receive the latest OS updates right from Microsoft.

Please keep in mind that you'll only get the OS update. Some manufacturers bundle their device specific firmware updates with OS updates and you won't be getting them through this program. Please understand.

On August 4th, 2014, Microsoft has released the first substantial update for Windows Phone 8.1. Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 adds lots of little changes, refinements and more customization options to the OS.

In Update 1, Cortana has been made available to the UK and to China in form of a beta version. For the UK that means that Cortana finally speaks and pronounces proper English, knows about the local sport teams (just football, really) and can give you info about the commute, stock exchange and more. What the UK isn't going to get is Jen Taylor's voice for Cortana, because she only speaks dirty American English. Enjoy your soulless generic robotic voice, UK!

For China, Cortana is a much bigger deal. Not only does she have all the features you'd expect from her (and if you don't know what to expect from her, then look it up in the first section of the thread), she's also been highly customized and tailored to appeal to the Chinese market. First they ditched the whole Halo theme and gave her a new form and animations that go with it. One might say even a bit more personality. It's cute, really. But the Microsoft China team didn't stop there. Cortana in China supports Chinese Mandarin in voice, text and speech. She can also display the air quality and pollution in the weather card, shows information about current driving restrictions and she's able to track local TV shows and celebrities. As a last bonus, she's also able to look up English words in the Bing Dictionary, although if it's anything like the rest of Bing's translator, one might rather avoid that feature entirely.

Cortana in U.S. has seen some improvements and new features in Update 1, too. She now supports new natural language scenarios, snooze timers for reminders and new additions to her personality, like "do an impersonation". Once the phone is connected to a car bluetooth kit, Cortana integrates with phone contacts and provides a hands-free mode, by simply saying "Call Cortana". All features will be available then.

Update 1 finally adds the ability to create folders on the start screen, by simply dragging one tile and then dropping it onto another tile. Live Tiles in folders continue to work as they would on the start screen. There isn't really much more to say, other than that Microsoft was finally able to cross another catch-up feature off the list.

After decoupling the Music app from the OS, god knows why it takes another OS update to improve the sad music experience, but that's what Joe said. The app is still far from being completed, but with this update, it will get some old missing features back.
With Update 1, Xbox Music can finally sync the music collection in the background again, gets the "recent plays" section back, Kids Corner support and the goddamn Live Tile.

The browser might be the single most important app on a smartphone and it was in Microsoft's best interest to improve the mobile browsing experience in Windows Phone as fast as possible. Internet Explorer 11 in Update 1 includes hundreds of enhancements and offers now a 40% better compatibility with the top 500 mobile websites, mostly by pretending it's Safari on iOS.

The IEBlog has a post about it and it's a good read.


Other improvements in Update 1 include:

  • A Store Live Tile that shows the latest apps and games available on the Windows Phone Store, similar to Windows 8.1 on the PC and tablets
  • SMS merge + forwarding
  • Apps Corner for businesses
  • VPN support for WiFi Hotsports

    Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 is available as a Developer Preview right now and will roll out to consumers in the coming months.
I've had the developers preview for awhile and love it. Swype is pretty cool.

All good improvements. Only bugaboo is the music app kinda blows now, but I know they're updating every two weeks.
Great OT!

Have had a Lumia 925 running this for a couple months now and love the new improvements. Hope they get this lock screen app going soon, will give it a unique look.
Pretty great OT, props to you there. I really want Windows Phone to succeed, but it's seemingly increasingly unlikely.

I actually just switched back to iOS after a year with my 928. WP has some genuinely great features, but the shocking lack of third party support and weird backend issues (really MS, you won't let third party apps receive call and SMS notifications because why?) kind of put me off after a while.

8.1 is beautiful though.
I enjoy my 1020 and 8.1, don't have much in the way of major complaints, and don't see myself switching to Android in the near future. I'm hoping this thread will change my mind!
Had it for a while. The os feature set is now pretty much on par with the other guys. I love the look and feel. I could tell all my friends with ios and android to give it a shot and they wouldn't be missing much but MS still has a massive app problem. There might not be room for 3 big phone os in the market especially since most are locked into their preferred os at this point. Really love it though. I think some people would be genuinely surprised at how pretty and intuitive WP 8.1 is.
Just a heads up tmobile will have the 635 for 99$ (off contract today.

Great backup/burner/old person phone. Hopefully my local store has one in the morning.
i Want to get a lumia 1520 but the lack of 3rd party is downright embarrassing. every time i see a commercial for an add i always see iOS and android but never WP.
Great job, what an amazing OP!

My 920 felt new again since I upgraded to the 8.1 preview, but I want to move on. Please Microsoft announce McLaren soon and its awesome features/specs! Or else I might be tempted to get a Nexus 6.
"Xbox Music Locker"? Great. It's a feature I've been waiting for, so it's nice to know it's coming soon.

I'm thinking about getting my mom a Lumia 635. I haven't used a Windows Phone since the LG Quantum, so I look forward to seeing what's changed.
I'm not sure if I'm the only one with this problem, but bringing Cortana up (via holding search button) is a lot slower compared to the original version of the preview. This still happens even after I did a hard reset.
At least iOS didn't murder my mom phone's battery with an update. 8.1 made her Lumia 620 last like 5h in stand-by with all background apps turned off, and it still wasn't fixed with any of the updates.
Your mom was using the unfinished developer preview? It could have been rolled back easily using that nokia software tool.
Might have to get my 920 out of my draw and give this a try. I moved away from Windows OS after struggling to find a good music and podcast player. The default player never remembered where I was in a podcast if I then switched to something else and everytime I used youtube or something it would also clear any paused podcasts etc. Got on my nerves.
Awesome OT! Love the Cortana animations. Been in the dev preview for months now on my Lumia 1020 love this update brings a lot of features that were lacking until now. My favorite has to be Cortana, the notification center, and background images for the livetiles.
Awesome OT! Love the Cortana animations. Been in the dev preview for months now on my Lumia 1020 love this update brings a lot of features that were lacking until now. My favorite has to be Cortana, the notification center, and background images for the livetiles.
Same here. Love my 1020. Wish they would work on an update though in the next year or so, will be time to consider an upgrade.
Best phone OS I've ever used, over a few different Android handsets and an iPhone.

I've been using developer 8.1 for a few months now, simply runs great, and the additions like Swype typing, battery meters, notifications are all fantastic. I've even converted a few friends and coworkers to Windows phone after they see all the stuff I can do.

Hope they're not planning on buying a lot of popular games or apps though....
Might have to get my 920 out of my draw and give this a try. I moved away from Windows OS after struggling to find a good music and podcast player. The default player never remembered where I was in a podcast if I then switched to something else and everytime I used youtube or something it would also clear any paused podcasts etc. Got on my nerves.
Podcast Lounge should do everything you want for podcasts.
Your mom was using the unfinished developer preview? It could have been rolled back easily using that nokia software tool.
It's ok, she gave the consent. And the developer preview was really more unfinished that I thought, specially if compared to the last "developer previews", which were pretty much the final versions (GM). Hopefully the battery life will return to it's prime with time (which wasn't really that good anyway).
Great OT brot.

It's ok, she gave the consent. And the developer preview was really more unfinished that I thought, specially if compared to the last "developer previews", which were pretty much the final versions (GM). Hopefully the battery life will return to it's prime with time (which wasn't really that good anyway).
has budget phone with small battery, uses unfinished dev preview with known battery problems, complains about battery life issues. Aha.
I went from Windows phone 8 to android and I miss every bit of it :-(

And after seeing this thread I think my return to the OS will happen faster than I think.
Great OT brot.

has budget phone with small battery, uses unfinished dev preview with known battery problems, complains about battery life issues. Aha.
It's a budget phone, yes, don't see what's the problem with that. The battery is small, indeed, but I'm comparing the battery life now compared to how it was under WP8. And back when I installed the preview, well, such problems weren't really known.

Who's enrolled in the developer preview program is supposed to have the final build now or only the Lumia Cyan update will bring the final build?

So you tried iOS on her 620 and it was better?
haha, funny... I just used the iOS post back there as a way to bring up my problem, guess I wasn't happy with my choice.