How to Try Windows Phone 8.1 Ahead of General Release

Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.1 was announced less than two weeks ago, but Microsoft is already releasing this version of its mobile operating system to developers. Microsoft today announced that registered developers will have access to Windows Phone Preview for Developers, which will offer pre-release Windows Phone OS updates for development devices. The app will let developers test and validate their apps on a real device before the update hits general availability.

If you're not already registered as a developer, you'll need to either register as a Windows Phone Developer (this costs $19 and allows you to publish apps in the Microsoft Store), register as a dev with App Studio (free, and you can create your own apps), or developer unlock your phone using the developer tools. 

MORE: How Microsoft Cortana Improves Upon Siri and Google Now

The biggest addition with Windows Phone 8.1 is Cortana, Microsoft's answer to Google Now and Apple's Siri. This virtual assistant will help you set reminders, find your way around town, and answer questions via search engine results. There's also Internet Explorer 11 (with WebGL), a new YouTube player with support for HTML5 video, Battery Sense for tracking battery usage, Storage Sense for moving and organizing apps and files, WiFi Sense for managing connections, improvements to multitasking, a third row of Live Tiles regardless of screen size, Twitter integration on the Contacts Hub, and streaming via Xbox Music and Xbox Video.

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  • Christopher Shaffer
    I dunno about Cortana as a voice control for mobile OS, but I like the artwork ;)
  • Camikazi
    I like how MS is using their video game IP in an OS, it's clever.
  • WhyFi
    I DLed the developer preview. It's nice. Voice recognition is leaps and bounds better than previously and I'm already developing a habit of leaning on reminders ("remind me to check the stove in 8 minutes..." I've also set a few location-based reminders, but haven't actually been out and about to test them, yet). The keyboard, which was pretty good before, is an improvement, as well.
  • clownbaby
    What's with the naked lady microsoft?
  • Kieran Warren
    I hope Microsoft add cortana to Xbox and Windows PCs. I think the tool would be much more useful at home where it is quieter
  • CaedenV
    Jane, first off there is no 'try' on WP8.1 as there is no way to go backwards. If you move up, there is no going back, but it is a safe release.

    @Kieran Warren
    Yes, the plan is to bring Cortana to all platforms that have native OneDrive integration which includes XB1, and versions of windows after 8. However, it is still in beta, and it is going to take some time before Cortana rolls out across other regions in WP... so it will probably be after the win9/threshold release this time next year.
    Not only that, but with the 'new and friendly' microsoft we may see Cortana released on other platforms as well. Not likely the same level of features and integration, but I would be surprised if in a few years we did not see a version of Cortana available for Android and iOS/OSX. This would be a cloud solution, so it would have limited local features and may not run as quickly, but it could still be very useful for those who need features of other platforms.

    agreed. I am not into the Halo series, but even I get the general idea of who Cortana is, and think it is a brilliant crossover.

    Same here, put it on my 920 and my wife's 520 and it works smooth as butter on both platforms. I am not a huge fan of voice controls, but it works extremely well, so I may make more use of it now. I do wish that there was a landscape view to make typing easier in Cortana, that is an oversight that really needs to be fixed. Also, there at least one Android smartphone/watch playing around with an always listening feature on their devices (can't remember which one off hand), and if Cortana had that then I would be much more likely to use it. The issue is that half of the time it is just as easy to do whatever needs to be done on the phone as it is to activate listening mode and issue voice commands. Still, WP had the fastest and best voice recognition before, and now it is infinitely better. That is the difference between purchasing a digital assistant and letting development flounder (siri), and making your own and helping it grow.