The New Windows Phone 8.1 review

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This week marks the release of WP 8.1 Preview version for developers. On April 14th 2014, Microsoft officially released it to the developers. I was excited by the news and instantly installed it on my Lumia 920. Honestly, I was amazed. I was expecting some new features but not all these POWERFUL features.

I will list all the new features I tested as a user and a developer and then how to install the update.

WP 8.1 New User Features:

    1. Notification and Action Center:

Of course we will start with the most long waited feature: The notifications center. Many WP users has requested this feature as it is a very powerful time-saving one that existed in other platforms such as Android and iOS.

notifications
Notifications Center

Just a drag from your finger at the top of the screen and here we go. The famous notifications and action center is here. As you can see you can not only view your notifications but also to edit your settings instantly like turn on/off your bluetooth with a touch. The amazing thing is that you can edit the actions you want to control in this screen from your settings.

notifications settings1
notifications settings

The only limitation here is you’re bound only to 4 actions to control. (Hopefully will be fixed in a future update).

And here is the notifications center in action:

notifications
notifications

2. Additional Column in the Start Screen:

start screen
start screen

Amazing, right? especially on bigger screens. And you can activate that option directly from your settings.

start settings
start settings

3. Wi-Fi Sense:

This features allows you to automatically connect to any Wifi network in your area even if it is not saved in your networks. This will save time for most of us instead of manually searching and connecting to the best signalling network.

wifi sense
wifi sense

4. VPN:

Now, you can connect to VPNs as you wish with different security protocols (you can use username/password combination or use certificates).

 

VPN
VPN

 

VPN options
VPN options

5. Workplace:

If your company creates an account for you storing all your work data, then you can easily connect to your account through this section and remotely control all your work.

 

workplace
workplace

6. Screen Rotation Lock:

You can lock the screen rotation if you want to change your sitting position without the annoying unneeded rotation or the need to hold the phone in a disturbing way to keep its orientation fixed.

 

orientation
orientation

7. Project My Screen:

This is one of the coolest features (at least for me). I do lots of demonstrations and events about programming and I had a major problem showing the results on my phone screen to my audience. This feature will solve lots of problem.

 

projector
projector

 

projector2
projector2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 8. Backup Apps Data:

Now you can not only backup your personal data, but also you can backup your apps data and settings.

 

backup
backup

9. Sync My Settings:

Here you can sync your settings on all the devices that are linked to your Microsoft account.

sync
sync

10. Quiet Hours:

In this setting, you can define some hours that you don’t want to get any calls, messages or notifications. You can as well make the Cortana app (to be mentioned later in the post) answer and deal with these for you.

 

quiet hours
quiet hours

11. Advertising ID:

This is a unique device identifier that can be used to improve the quality, frequency and relevance of advertisements displayed within their apps. 

ID
Advertising ID

12. Cortana:

Here is another huge breakthrough for windows phone devices. Now we have an intelligent entity on our phones like iOS’s Siri and Android’s Google Now.

I really enjoyed this feature, I spent a lot of time talking to her either using different services or just chit-chatting.

Cortana
Cortana

 

Cortana with Facebook
Cortana with Facebook

Here are some tests of her capabilities, I asked her these questions (using voice):

a. “What’s Your Name?”

wp_ss_20140415_0020She’s not only answering my question as a normal person but also getting related items from my phone (local) and from the web.

wp_ss_20140415_0021

She show me important news on the start screen as well.

wp_ss_20140415_0041

b. “find me restaurants”:

wp_ss_20140415_0022

wp_ss_20140415_0023

wp_ss_20140415_0024

wp_ss_20140415_0025

wp_ss_20140415_0026

wp_ss_20140415_0027I even tried to humor her:

c. “Will you be my girlfriend?”

wp_ss_20140415_0029d. “When will be the next episode of The Walking Dead?”

wp_ss_20140415_0030e. “Send me a message”

wp_ss_20140415_0032

wp_ss_20140415_0031f. “Get me to the nearest supermarket”

wp_ss_20140415_0033g. “How is traffic on the way?”

wp_ss_20140415_0034So, as you see you can have your own companion now with Cortana. Enjoy her.

13. New Browser:

WP 8.1 comes with a new version of Internet Explorer which has lots of very good updates.

One of them is the autocomplete in the address bar.

wp_ss_20140415_0019The other important feature is that we’re FREE. Yes, now you are not limited to only 6 tabs to open in the browser. You can open as many tabs as you wish and scroll between them.

wp_ss_20140415_0035You can even open tabs from other devices synced with your account

wp_ss_20140415_0036There is a new “inprivate browsing” option for you as well.

wp_ss_20140415_0037

wp_ss_20140415_003814. The new Video Player:

Now, you can (finally) play videos from their pages not separately in a separate application. You can pause them any time you want, open other tabs and then get back to your video.

wp_ss_20140415_0042

wp_ss_20140415_0043you can even play the video at the same time you’re browsing the page.

wp_ss_20140416_000115. Volume Control:

This is one of my favourites as well. Now, I can control the volume of ringtones and system separately from the same panel. I can even control the vibration also.

wp_ss_20140415_0044

wp_ss_20140415_004516. Phone Calls:

Now, missed calls are grouped together by caller id. 

wp_ss_20140416_0002_2And you have the speed dial option:

wp_ss_20140416_0003_217. Calendar:

The calendar now has a new UI design which is more organised and informative. 

It even gets the weather information of the day. 

wp_ss_20140416_0006and you can change to the view model you want

wp_ss_20140416_0005

Now, We will list the two MAJOR new changes in the API level for developers:

1. You can intercept incoming messages (which is a request from all WP developers). 

2. Support for universal apps that can run on PCs, tablets and phones. 

I still didn’t try the new API so these are what I got till now. 

There are other new items on the list, you can view them from WPCentral articles here and here

 

How to get the update?

(You must have a developer account and have your device developer unlocked)

1. Install an app from the store called “Preview for Developers”.

2. Open the app and check on “Enable Preview for Developers” and tap “Done”

3. Now, Go to the “Phone Update” in the settings and check for new updates. 

4. It MAY install one quick update, then it will take time installing the new WP 8.1 update. 

5. After your system restarts, make sure your language is “English (US)” and your region is “US” to enable the Cortana app. 

 

 

 

 

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