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Developers are getting Windows Phone 8.1

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It all started with this tweet from Joe Belfiore, the corporate vice president and manager for Windows Phone Program Management at Microsoft, today evening 4:33 pm Sri Lankan time.

Any developer who is having a ‘developer unlocked’ device can get this Windows Phone 8.1 updated in one’s Windows Phone 8 device through Preview for Developers app. If you don’t have a developer unlocked phone or a developer account, there is an easy trick to get it. For that open  ”App Studio” through http://appstudio.windowsphone.com, here App Studio is an online service, using which anyone can develop Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.1 apps without any coding knowledge. In App Studio, sign in with the same Microsoft account you used on your Windows Phone. Now you have the permission to get the developer previews of Windows Phone OS. In your phone, go to Windows Phone store and install Preview for Developers app through http://www.windowsphone.com/s?appid=178ac8a1-6519-4a0b-960c-038393741e96. Open Preview for Developers app and sign-in with the same Microsoft account used above in App Studio. Tick the Enable Preview for Developers box and tap on Done. Check the OS version in Settings > About, it must be 8.0.10521.155 before installing the WP 8.1 Preview. If your OS version is less than 10521 you will first get this update after enabling Preview for Developers. OK, now your device is READY TO ACCEPT THE WINDOWS PHONE 8.1 DEVELOPER PREVIEW!!

Again, you need to check  OS version in Settings > About, and it must be ready to install the Windows Phone version, 8.10.12358. Using WiFi, you can update your OS and to get Cortana, the Digital voice assistant for Windows Phone, you need to change the language settings to English (United States). To achieve this, head into Settings > Language and add the language as a new entry on the list by hitting the add button. Ensure English (United States) is active prior to continuing. The phone may require a reboot.

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Head into region settings to move your virtual self from your current location to the US by changing the region. All that’s required for this step is to head into Settings > Region and ensure “country/region” is set to the United States and “regional format” matches phone language (makes it easier when switching back). The phone may require a reboot. verything should be set up and ready to go. If you cannot see Cortana listed as an app on the app list, give the phone a final reboot. You should then be able to load up the Cortana app, which will run you through the initial setup wizard. However, if you alter the region and/or language settings from here on out, you will remove Cortana.

Caution : One side effect of doing this is it appears to disable the Store from loading on some devices. So consider this a preview of Cortana, or just be aware there could be some negative consequences!

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Windows Phone 8.1 Features

Action Center

  • Notification center – Alerts, non-Toast notifications, update history, more
  • Quick-access to customized actions, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Plane mode, etc.

Apps + Store

  • Apps can capture audio/video from themselves; be limited for copyright concerns
  • App and Game data stored on SD cards
  • Apps on SD Cards are only allowed from ONE originating phone. If it detects that apps from another phone are installed on the SD Card, then it will ask to delete those first
  • App Suggestions by location
  • Backup of App + Game data to OneDrive (if developer enabled)
  • Facebook app comes with OS, updates independently, hooks into OS
  • Filter through installed apps by usage/install date
  • Manual Update checks
  • New Store design and features
  • Option to update store apps automatically
  • Option to update store apps when only on Wi-Fi
  • Single sign-in for apps (like on Windows 8) with Microsoft Account; sign in will persist across devices + apps with permissions prompt

Calendar

  • Google calendar support, with multiple calendars
  • Weather in calendar
  • Week view in calendar

Camera

  • Burst camera mode, including auto-deletion of bursts
  • New layout

Bing

  • Bing smart search (similar search system as Windows 8.1)
  • Podcast app powered by Bing, full featured

Browser

  • Internet Explorer 11
  • IE 11 to save and remember your password for websites
  • JavaScript and HTML for app development
  • Upload files through Internet Explorer 11
  • Tabs now show up individually in multi-task window
  • WebGL and Normal mapping support
  • YouTube Player including HTML5 video support

Developer

  • Background tasks: Bluetooth signal strength, Chat message notification, Device connection change, Device use trigger, Gatt characteristic notification, Location, Push notification, Rfcomm connection, System event, Timer
  • XAP replaced by APPX
  • ​​Audio/video transcoding that’s hardware accelerated
  • New dev tools including: SemanticZoom, DatePicker, TimePicker
  • Actionable notifications for apps
  • Silent/ghost notifications for apps

Email

  • Encrypted and signed e-mail support
  • New Email sync options with accordance to usage patterns (i.e. If you get a lot of mail on particular days and if you don’t check mail every day).
  • Option to always download emails and pictures within them

Enterprise and Office

  • Enterprise enrolled phones can have their passwords changed and remotely locked
  • Password protected Office document support
  • Office Lens support for scanning documents with camera, import into Office with OCR
  • Rebranding of SkyDrive to OneDrive
  • VPN support built in
  • S/MIME to sign and encrypt email
  • Access to corporate resources behind the firewall with app aware
  • Auto-triggered VPN
  • Certificate management to enroll, update and revoke certificates for user authentication
  • Enhanced MDM policies to lock down functionality on the phone for more enterprise control, in addition to richer application management such as allowing or denying the installing of certain apps.
  • Enterprise Wi-Fi support with EAP-TLS

General User Experience changes

  • Start screen backgrounds with parallax motion
  • Back button no longer closes apps, instead it suspends them
  • Double-Tap to unlock your phone (Feature from Lumia devices on Amber Update and newer)
  • Double Tap to Power Off
  • Favorite photos by tapping a heart icon
  • File picker
  • Kid’s Corner – Password won’t be displayed (bug fix)
  • Live Tiles – mark as red by swiping from the left over the Tile
  • Live Tiles – Three column support (maybe)
  • Navigation bar for phones without physical keys on the front
  • Notification if charger isn’t of adequate power
  • Quiet Hours – Disable notifications during pre-selected timeframe
  • Screenshot button combination is now Power + Volume Up
  • Search button will be the new way to open Speech (aka ‘Cortana’)
  • Separate volume controls for ringtones/notifications and music/media
  • Set default Voice Navigation app for the OS
  • Swipe down to close apps in multitasking view
  • Voice Narrator for Accessibility

Keyboard

  • General keyboard enhancements, show emoji when typing
  • Swipe keyboard option

Media

  • Audio/video transcoding, Hardware accelerated
  • Media editing: audio and video; Audio effects, video effects; Slow motion video
  • Xbox Music and Xbox Video as standalone apps instead of the Music + Video Hub (allowing more updates to be pushed)

Messaging

  • Change default SMS app. You can also change which SMS app will show notifications.
  • Mute Thread – Optionally silence text threads, no longer receive notifications or Live Tile updates

Phone + Contacts

  • Contact list sorting of those with phone numbers
  • Call duration (press and hold reveals a “details” menu in call history)
  • In-call speech commands. You’ll be able to say “Call XXXXXX”.
  • Inner Circle of contacts. Up to 40 contacts can be in the inner circle.
  • Operators can also install certain applications once a SIM card is detected

Sense

  • Battery Power Sense – App to monitor which apps draw the most power
  • Battery Saver (under Battery Sense) will have an app exclusion list
  • Data Sense – Operators can now control Data Sense limits remotely
  • Wi-Fi Sense – Sharing secured WI-Fi Networks with contacts if they have Wi-Fi Sense. They don’t get to see the shared password though
  • Wi-Fi can auto re-enable after a set duration of time
  • Wi-Fi Direct

System

  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • Chkdsk for SD cards to ensure card health
  • Geofence monitoring support. Geofence is a boundary around a place of interest to you. Location services can monitor geofences to tell your apps when you’re entering and leaving them. This would be really good for IFTTT
  • Miracast, PlayTo, mirror and project via wireless display or USB-out
  • Mouse and keyboard support (HID)
  • Stereoscopic 3D support
  • The phone will have to update to the latest version before you can restore it to factory settings
  • Trusted app list for NFC that will remove the need for asking whether you want to open a particular app
  • Virtual SmartCard support
  • Wallet supports tickets and membership cards
  • Windows Phone 8.1 apps won’t run on 8.0 devices until they upgrade

Windows Phone 8.1 brings a wealth of new features and improvements to the table. Some of these changes are meant to bring Windows Phone more in-line with Windows 8. The more closely the two operating systems resemble each other, the easier it is for users to transition between phone, tablet, and PC. One such change comes with Windows Phone 8.1’s new and improved search feature. The Search button and Cortana app, now searches not only the web for queries but also the user’s actual phone (much like Windows 8 and RT). This makes it easier than ever to find specific information and files on your phone. Even the actual web search results share a cleaner, slicker look as well. Head past the break to see how convenient searching can be on Windows Phone 8.1.

If there was any knock on the Windows Phone 8 Start screen, it might have been that it was too electric. Every Live Tile was brightly colored, many with embedded information scrolling through. There was no obvious focal point. In all fairness, some of those problems still remain. But my god, the upgrade’s beautiful. And personalized.

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On iOS 7, the home screen is a matrix of flat icons. Microsoft redesigned its Windows Phone 8.1 Live Tiles so that on the Start screen, some would be transparent windows overlaid on a background image of your choosing. You can place a People tile that rolls through photos of your contacts. You can set another tile to flash photos from your Camera Roll. You can pin music, specific people, and even websites to the Start screen, all of which can serve updates.

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The lock screen is also customizable to some degree. You can set any number of apps to display on the lock screen, along with the time, date, your next appointment, and the number of unread emails from multiple accounts. Eventually, Microsoft will publish a lock-screen customization app (announced at its recent Build conference), allowing Windows Phone users to create the sort of radically different launcher experiences that Android users can download. But it’s not quite ready, a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

Notifications-and-actions

Within Windows Phone 8, the Start screen’s Live Tiles were the primary source of communicating information, such as the number of unread emails. With Windows Phone 8.1, that’s augmented by a new Action Center notifications pane that can be pulled down from the top of the screen, even from the lock screen.

At the top of the pane are four icons: the local Wi-Fi router (if one is connected), a Bluetooth toggle, an “airplane mode” toggle, and a rotation lock toggle. You may replace them with other functions, such as the camera. Apps have the option of swapping in their own icons, too. There’s also a small link to the Settings page, plus a “Clear All” control. As it turns out, the latter’s rather important.

By default, the Notifications pane displays what appears to be every email you’ve received that day, from multiple accounts. On my device, that means my personal Gmail and Outlook.com accounts, as well as my work email filtered through Exchange. And that’s not counting the score updates from my MLB At Bat application. That’s a lot of scrolling. In this regard, Google’s Android does it better, with miniature tiles that let you drill down for more information.

While the Windows 8.1 Update for PCs introduced a number of improvements, it all felt like Microsoft was fidgeting, trying to fine-tune the computing experience to appease its most irate critics. The updates to Windows Phone 8.1, by contrast, feel far more fundamental. Yes, the latest iteration of Android, KitKat, pushed Google’s Voice Search and Google Now into the forefront. Apple’s iOS7 added notifications and a redesigned user interface. So we’ve seen this before—it’s Microsoft just playing catch-up, right? Yes, to an extent. But with Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft has built significantly onto an already-decent OS, and other pieces are falling into place: Microsoft’s continued courting of developers, the imminent assimilation of Nokia, and Microsoft’s recent commitment to universal apps spanning Windows and Windows Phone.

 

 

 

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