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New Windows Phone 8.1 Features Previewed in Leaked SDK

By - Source: The Verge | B 11 comments

Two months ahead of BUILD 2014 in April, sources reveal that Microsoft is quietly sharing the software development kit (SDK) to Windows Phone 8.1. One source is a developer that took to Reddit to reveal some of the upcoming features. Based on the details, Microsoft is indeed working on merging Windows Phone and Windows RT closer together.

According to the developer, Windows Phone 8.1 will include support for "Universal Apps," allowing developers to create Windows Store apps and Windows Phone Store apps from the same JavaScript and HTML code. For end users, that means Windows Store apps that will be nearly identical to the Windows Phone versions.

We knew Microsoft would eventually take this path, as Microsoft executive Julie Larson-Green said last year that "we have the phone OS, we have Windows RT, and we have full Windows. We are not going to have three." Another sign was the larger screen sizes added in the most recent Windows Phone 8 update in December, indicating that the mobile OS could be used on tablets.

The leak also shows that Microsoft will allow users to change the default messaging application, similar to the change Microsoft did with the default camera app. There's also a new feature for monitoring and tracking the battery's life, VPN support and the rebranding of SkyDrive to OneDrive. The Music+Videos app will be split into separate Xbox Music and Xbox Videos apps.

Other notable changes in Windows Phone 8.1 include the way the back button now works, putting an app in suspension rather than closing the app altogether (think multitasking). Microsoft has also "tweaked" the camera app, and has removed the Facebook integration. Internet Explorer 11 is now the current browser version, and there's also support for installing apps on SD cards.

A few expected features didn't make an appearance in the recent SDK including the Siri-like Cortana personal assistant as well as the Bing Search, the Action Center and the store.

Windows Phone 8.1 "Blue" is expected to be released during or shortly after Microsoft's BUILD developer conference in April. The company is also expected to release Update 1 for Windows 8.1, bringing new features such as the rebranded SkyDrive cloud storage, the ability to pin Metro apps on the taskbar, and more.

To see a full list of changes coming to Windows Phone 8.1, head here.

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  • 10 Hide
    falchard , February 12, 2014 10:23 PM
    Windows phones tend to have the best hardware inside, run more efficiently, and have a better UI. The code itself is also a lot easier to implement on a Windows Phone than other platforms.
Other Comments
  • 10 Hide
    falchard , February 12, 2014 10:23 PM
    Windows phones tend to have the best hardware inside, run more efficiently, and have a better UI. The code itself is also a lot easier to implement on a Windows Phone than other platforms.
  • 5 Hide
    vaughn2k , February 12, 2014 11:31 PM
    I have a Lumia 925 with Windows Phone Black, and it is seemless, quick/fast uncluttered, and simple. I like it. With integration of these three software, programs would be more efficient and porting would be easier... ;) 
  • 4 Hide
    SchizoFrog , February 13, 2014 1:13 AM
    It all rides on the release of 8.1 and the app store. Fingers crossed.
  • 4 Hide
    Innocent_Bystander , February 13, 2014 3:53 AM
    Windows Phone is already my favorite platform. MS, whatever you do, don't screw it up...
  • 5 Hide
    back_by_demand , February 13, 2014 4:19 AM
    Have an Ativ S on WP8, I love it to bits and the 8.1 upgrade will only improve it
  • 4 Hide
    boogalooelectric , February 13, 2014 7:55 AM
    I have a Nokia Lumia 820. Its awesome. Its fast, easy to use, the camera is good, I put a 32 gb sd card in it so I can carry most of my favorite music, the batter life is decent.Its much better then my wife's Iphone, and she had to use my phone once when her battery ran out of juice for the second time one day, during re-charging. She did not want to give it back to me. Though she does not like to admit it.Its a great phone.
  • 2 Hide
    alextheblue , February 13, 2014 9:55 AM
    There's a LOT of changes in 8.1 - more than I was expecting. The universal binaries will boost the app library over time of both Windows RT 8.1 and WP 8.1, although it will take time. One step closer to merging the two.

    One of the best changes for me personally is being able to more heavily utilize the SD card. I just hope users who utilize the SD card for more than just photos are smart enough to buy a decent card! I think that's been a big part of why they've been so gun shy about implementing this. Joe Schmoe just slaps in the cheapest card and wonders why his phone chugs when loading stuff. I put a fairly fast Adata premier pro card in mine. I'm hoping the next generation of phones will start to support UHS-II and we'll see huge leaps in SD card performance. Otherwise it's back to relying on super-expensive internal storage.
  • 2 Hide
    jacobdrj , February 13, 2014 10:05 AM
    I have a Lumia 521 on MetroPCS with the Amber update and WP8 GDR3. There is a saying: There are rarely bad products, just products priced poorly. The Lumia 521 is absolutely an entry level phone hardware wise, but at $30, with no contract, dual core @ 1 Ghz, and internal memory of 8GB (bigger than many other offerings even at $180) and a silky smooth OS that is tightly integrated and very functional, it is a FANTASTIC product. I hope 8.1 makes it onto my Lumia 521. I have been very pleased with WP8. And the app gap is not nearly as bad as it once was. Even with the paltry hardware, since I can't justify spending $600 on an LG G2 or an iPhone, there is no Android device I can get (no contract) for under $100 that is anywhere close to my Lumia.I wish Nokia/Microsoft would break their deal with AT&T Exclusivity and just sell unlocked phones in the mid-tier, like the 820, 720 and 620 in the USA. It is too hard to find them from reputable sources.
  • 2 Hide
    Parsian , February 13, 2014 10:20 AM
    I absolutely love my Lumia 1020 with Black Update, However, I would appreciate if they add the followings:-more copy/paste options across different apps (e.g. facebook)-better filing structure, better app access to storage. A unified file explorer with full access please.
  • 1 Hide
    ALANMAN , February 18, 2014 3:51 PM
    I've been with my Lumia 928 since June 2013 and loved it from the start (no pun intended). I can't wait for the 8.1 update, it only gets better from here.