Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview

Windows Phone 8.1 Developer preview was released on April 14th – so I thought I would install it on my Nokia Lumia 520.

In order to get the preview, I had to install the “Windows Phone Preview for Developers” app.

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This allowed for the developer update to be pushed down to the phone. The update came down as normal and took about 30 minutes to install with no hitches.

Once the update completed, I explored the new features. A few of them impressed me..

  1. Start Screen

The start screen has got a make over in the Windows Phone 8.1 Update, with the ability to add a background to the tiles giving a nice scrolling effect.

Start Screen – No Background                 Start Screen – With Background

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2. Notification Center

The notification center is a nice addition to the Windows Phone platform – enabling quick alterations to settings (admittedly, it is something Android has had for some time now)

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3. Cortana

Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Siri and Google Now, and was one of the most eagerly anticipated features on the new platform. The idea behind Cortana is to be the most personal digital personal assistant available on a phone, powered by Bing. Below is an example of the Cortana interface.

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Initially, Microsoft has decided not to release Cortana outside the US. However, non-US residents can get Cortana by changing the language and region on their phone to English (United States) through the settings menu.

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The final step is to download the English (United States) speech language files. You then need to reboot the phone and then Cortana can be enabled.

Cortana comes with a “Notebook” feature which allows you to inform the phone of your interests and things you regularly search for – this is then integrated into the Cortana experience, with the phone reminding you of flight times, sports team scores etc.

Cortana tries to take the natural language interaction with the user to the next level – allowing progression from one thing to another.

For example, if I ask Cortana, “Find Chinese restaurants near me”, I get the following:

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Asking Cortana “Show me the second one” – the phone understands the context of the question based on the previous result:

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If i find anything else I find of interest, I’ll post it here – all in all, Windows Phone 8.1 is a huge improvement, with increased user personalisation and improved productivity features. It will be interesting to see what the end user community thinks of it when it is released in the summer.

 

 

 

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