What is new in Windows Phone 8.1?

Big Red - Windows Phone 8-1

I could answer this question with one word: everything. I doubt that there is anything on Windows Phone that has not been touched up, enhanced or overhauled. Trying to review Windows Phone 8.1 will almost be like trying to review a different OS from the one that we are used to. There are so many new features added to the platform that this might just take a while. So, I have attempted to list as many of the changes as are important to the regular smartphone user as possible.

General

Start screen backgrounds with parallax motion. Screenshot button combination is now Power + Volume Up. Back button no longer closes apps, instead it suspends them. Swipe down to close apps in multitasking view.

Notification Area

Alerts, notifications, update history, quick access to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Flight mode, Rotation lock, Screen brightness, and Settings. It also displays date and battery percentage in top right corner.

Calendar

Calendar has a new, more functional look, especially the weekly view. You can also move forward and backward by swiping horizontally. Google calendar support, with multiple calendars. Weather in calendar.

Internet Explorer 11

The ability to navigate forward and back in the browser by swiping horizontally. Now, you can open an unlimited number of tabs. You can now download and upload files in the browser (Yay!). Inline YouTube Player with HTML5 video support. Save and remember your password for websites. JavaScript and HTML for app development. You can change reading font size.

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Email

The email app comes with a new feature that monitors your usage patterns and adjusts email sync to that pattern to save your battery and data. New Google support for synchronising email, calendars and contacts.

PS: If after upgrading to 8.1, your Gmail account throws up synchronisation errors, simply delete it and set it up again. During setup, select “Google” and complete the process. It should work fine after that, synchronising your mails, contacts and calendars.

Messaging

Mute Thread – Optionally silence text threads, no longer receive notifications or Live Tile updates.

Media

Music Hub is gone. In its place are separate Music, Video, Podcasts and FM Radio apps.

Battery Saver

This lets you monitor which apps draw the most power. You can also disallow apps from running in the background.

Photos

A completely new interface, and the ability to group photos by time and location. There is auto upload to OneDrive. Favourite photos by tapping a heart icon.

Store & Apps

The Store has a new, more functional look too. Now you can allow store apps to be updated automatically, and choose whether this happens only on Wi-Fi or on mobile data as well. Apps can now be installed on memory card.

Keyboard

Swipe typing built-in.

Did I miss anything out? Hit me up in the comments section. Version 8.1 is Windows Phone on steroids.

Mister Mobility

I started blogging about mobile in 2004 as a fun way to share my passion for gadgets and mobile services. My other interests include digital media, speaking and teaching, photography, travelling, and dancing.

12 thoughts on “What is new in Windows Phone 8.1?

  • April 16, 2014 at 10:33 am
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    Not sure if these will qualify as essential to a ‘regular user’:

    1. Using “Reading Mode” in Internet Explorer 11.
    I tried it yesterday and was suprised how nice it was. Its very usefull for viewing the full desktop version of a site on your phone.

    2. Keyboard now includes names from your Contacts in word suggestions.
    This one was long overdue and really essential for me. No longer have to type our long “local” names in full. They really slow me down.

  • April 16, 2014 at 1:25 pm
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    features “regular users” might appreciate

    – separate volume controls for notifications and media players
    – easier to add attachments to emails
    – speed dial

    • April 16, 2014 at 2:14 pm
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      Yes, definitely separate volume controls (though I have a friend who swears one control is perfect for him). To add:

      Depending on what accessory or feature you’re using at the time, the phone will give you separate volume control for wired headset, bluetooth headset or in-call loudspeaker. The really useful part is the phone remembers the individual setting and returns to it next time you use that particular accessory or feature.

  • April 16, 2014 at 4:31 pm
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    Yeah, Windows Phone is finally growing up as to actually be usable. Let Microsoft keep enhancing it, it will soon get there. At least the frustration on Windows Phone will now thin down to a few other missing features which may be added hopefully before the year runs out before I can comfortably recommend it to anyone.

    Good job Microsoft and good job to the consumers who refused to endorse Windows Phone operating system while Microsoft deliberately chose to skimp on all these essential features. That’s how democracy works to make governance better. Now, I’m sure they’ve learn a huge lesson that will stand them in good stead going forward.

  • April 16, 2014 at 8:18 pm
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    Any idea when the final update will arrive? I’d rather not download the preview version.

    • April 16, 2014 at 9:44 pm
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      Any idea when the final update will arrive? I’d rather not download the preview version.

      The “Developer Preview” is the final update – the same thing sent to manufacturers. The difference is that manufacturers may customise it e.g. Nokia’s Lumia-specific customisations.

  • April 16, 2014 at 10:20 pm
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    Microsoft did a very nice work in this update. Microsoft touched every aspect of the OS, in fact it’s a new OS. They gave us most of the things we window phone fans have always considered a luxury.

    That been said, Microsoft in their usual way still left something’s half done. Take for instance the toggle in the action center. What stopped them from adding the option for”DATA ON”? I thing people use that function more often than the”airplane ? mode” or even Bluetooth.

    Then you talk of the”battery ???? saver” it was a very welcome addition, but what stopped Microsoft from making it”digital” than the”analog” way it is right ???? now? Those horizontal bars (bar chart) should have carried the figure or value on percentage rather than letting users figure out which bar is longer than the other or which one is at the top. Likewise, the battery saver live tile should have been made on such a way that it show battery percentage. After all there is battery percentage shown in the action centre. Why not allow that to reflect on the live tile?

    I am a Nokia fan and I hate Microsoft with passion, but I must confess, after using Lumia 920 for 11 months along with my 808PV, I am now a windows phone ???? fan. My 808PV has since been relegated to being my secondary smartphone.

    Once Microsoft brings USB OTG functionality and file ???? manager to windows phone ????, then I can completely forget Symbian and forgive Microsoft.

  • April 16, 2014 at 10:42 pm
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    Although I’ve been using these features long before now, The update is a very big step up from Microsoft.
    At least I can now recommend the Os for friends to try out. I ain’t signing up yet until I see something entirely new, especially essential features that wasn’t in the list.
    I was hoping to hear that one can now assign a caller ring tone with using a third party app.

  • April 17, 2014 at 12:10 am
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    Everything with advantages come with demerits too. Some useful features killed in 8.1 include:

    Loss of agenda view in calendar

    Completely neutered messaging app, no Facebook/Twitter messaging support anyore. Now just sms/mms alone

    • April 17, 2014 at 9:37 am
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      the removal of the agenda view in the calendar is probably due to an overlap with Cortana scheduler. as for the messaging app, it wasn’t neutered. thing is the hubs were baked into the OS in previous iterations and now they’re stand alone apps. when the twitter and facebook apps are updated they’ll (hopefully) tie into the new APIs. this’ll also allow more apps tie in

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