A Look at the Windows Phone 8.1 Features

Windows Phone 8.1 was released to developers this Monday, through the Windows Phone Developers Preview program. The public OTA update for Windows Phone 8.1 will be pushed to devices starting this summer. All the Nokia users should be happy that every Nokia Lumia starting from Lumia 520 to Lumia 1520 would be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8.1. Now that you know a bit about the update schedule, lets dive into the Windows Phone 8.1 features.

Windows Phone 8.1 is a major update, with a huge list of missing features that Windows Phone should have had in the first place. It also does introduces a few features which are improved versions of there Android/iPhone counterparts. I would only be discussing the major features, there are a lot of new minor features as well. I’m sure you’ll have fun finding them out yourselves, so lets not keep you waiting.

For those who can’t access youtube, please head over to “Brief Look at Windows Phone 8.1 Features” video on vimeo.

Windows Phone 8.1 Features


Windows Phone 8.1 Features: Cortana

The most anticipated of all is the Microsoft’s new personal assistant, Cortana. Cortana is different from Siri or Google Now in many ways. We might say its has the best of both worlds with some tricks of its own as well. For starters, Cortana like a human assistant keeps a notebook of all your interests, reminders, inner circle, places and music searches. This allows Cortana to personalize herself according to your interests. You can simply access Cortana through the Windows Phone search button.

Some of the tasks that cortana can perform for you are:

  • It can dial people for you and even understands your relations. This means that if you ask her to call your mom, she would remember from the very first time who your mom is. Likewise, she can also remember other relations like dad, brother, sister, wife or etc. Cortana can also make a call on speakerphone, save a number to speed dial or turn on/off call forwarding.
  • Cortana’s notebook allows her to keep track of your schedule. She can make or cancel appoints for you. She can also tell you what’s your schedule for today, tomorrow or maybe the weekend. She can remind you that you had something to do at a specific time or when you talk to someone or even if you go somewhere. This allows personalized reminders such as, “Cortana, remind me to pick up grocery when i goto the mart”. Another thing that Cortana does it, that she even jots down notes for you.
  • You can ask Cortana about some of your everyday stuff as well. You could ask her if you might need an umbrella or coat today. She could also tell you how many calories are there in your diet. Maybe, you might want to know which song is being played. Cortana can do it all.
  • Cortana also has the abilities to interact with other apps on your phone. She can checkin to foursquare, tweet on twitter or even add a new show to your netflix list.

I hate to break it but Cortana is being launched starting in US only. In Q2 2014, it would makes it ways to China. While, it wouldn’t be until 2015 that Cortana makes it to other countries.

Start Screen

Windows Phone 8.1 Features: Start

The first thing that you notice about the Windows Phone 8.1 is that now it allows 3 columns of live tiles on all display sizes which were earlier restricted to only larger displays, such as the Lumia 1520 or 1320. Although, on smaller displays such as even the Lumia 920, texts and tiles seem a lot smaller. Therefore, if you would like your old Start Screen, you can easily enable or disable the feature from settings.

The new Windows Phone 8.1 also allows users to set a rather unconventional start background. The background image that you choose appears in the back of your tiles. The background image also dynamically moves, when you move your tiles up or down. This creates a very nice parallax effect. This is a nice change that focuses both on the consumers needs and the core Windows Phone design strategy.

Another thing that you would notice is that, when you swipe to the app list from the Start , now your games appear amongst your apps. This in my opinion is a rather unnecessary change, which kills the purpose of a separate Xbox Hub.

Action Centre

Windows Phone 8.1 Features: Action Centre

The long awaited Action Centre is also amongst the new Windows Phone 8.1 features. It allows users to perform quick actions such as toggling Wifi or Bluetooth status. Also, all the notifications from any app are grouped here under that app name. Unfortunately, for now single notification from an app can’t be dismissed and the group is dismissed as a whole. Hopefully, Microsoft will look into such minor things and introduce them in a minor update.

Good thing about the action centre is that its customizable. Like you’d expect, you can choose from a list, which quick actions to show. You can also enable or disable, if you want the action center to dropdown on the lockscreen. What i personally like is the ability to choose if any app should display notifications in action centre or simply display a banner or maybe do both.

WordFlow Keyboard

Windows Phone 8.1 Features: WordFlow Keyboard

Another addition to the Windows Phone ecosystem is the WordFlow Keyboard. Now you can easily swipe through the letter to type long texts, emails, documents or etc. Amazingly, the new Windows Phone 8.1 WordFlow keyboard also has a world record of the fastest smartphone keyboard.

Battery Saver

Windows Phone 8.1 Features: Battery Saver

Amongst other major Windows Phone 8.1 features, also is the new improved Battery Saver. It allows you to see battery usage separately for every app. You can also choose if an app should always or sometimes run in the background.

Wi-Fi Sense

Windows Phone 8.1 Features: Wi-Fi Sense

This is another minor, yet very important Windows Phone 8.1 feature. It automatically — without entering a password — connects you to new public hotspots or the ones that your friends have visited before. It also shares your Wifi password with Outlook, Skype or Facebook friends. This doesn’t display them the password but if a friend comes over, their Windows Phone automatically connects to your wifi.

Windows Phone Store Updated

Windows Phone 8.1 Features: Windows Phone Store Updated

Another, not to be ignored Windows Phone 8.1 feature is the updated store. It now has featured apps, quick links, categories and recommended apps all on the starting panorama. Most importantly, the new Windows Phone Store also has the option to auto-update apps. You can also see the history of downloaded apps and last updated apps. Lastly, app pages of the Windows Phone Store do have a new layout as well.

Don’t think thats it. There is still a huge no. of minor features that i have left out. There is no fun in just reading it until you have tried it out yourself. So, get yourself the Windows Phone 8.1 update as soon as possible and explore all the goodness that Windows Phone 8.1 has to offer. Just don’t forget to share you experience in the comments section below.

Also See: Windows Phone 8.1 Official


I am a technology enthusiast who has been writing tech blogs for few years now. I come from a Computer Sciences background & have been developing webs, web apps & smartphone apps from a long time. I also develop for White Rabbit & can be reached at haseebahmed (at) rabbit-white (dot) com.