Windows Phone 8.1 coming at BUILD on April 2: All you need to know

Microsoft will announce the Windows Phone 8.1 update next week at the BUILD conference, and the software will likely come to devices soon after. In what would be the first major update to Windows Phone 8, Microsoft is making a whole lot of changes. Let’s take a look at what we know so far.

 

Notifications centre
At long last, Microsoft is bringing a notification centre to the OS with what it calls the Action Center. Like Android and iOS, a downward swipe from the top is all that’s needed to access quick settings and pending alerts. It’s a much-needed addition and very late in arriving.

 

Cortana
This one is the biggest news and could revitalise the Windows Phone platform, just like Siri did for iOS. Microsoft’s voice-asistant has been detailed a number of times in the past. It will provide users with contextual assistance, based on their locations and can also be called upon for select actions.

The app will have a Notebook feature which that allows users to control exactly what information is being shared with Cortana. Every time Cortana learns something new about the user, it will ask before storing information. This can also be edited or deleted.

 

More alive Start Screen
Live Tiles can now sport custom background images. A picture from Facebook, OneDrive or any other app and it will act as a breathing background for Live Tiles, creating a parallax effect such as the ones seen in Apple’s iOS7. You can either pick an image or a transparent background, and the tiles have a cool animated transition as you scroll through the home screen. It adds a neat design element to the home screen without taking away from the Live Tiles experience.

 

New camera interface
WP 8.1’s default Camera app now has a very Nokia Camera-like UI. It has a top app bar that sports shooting modes, the Lenses (if you are using a Nokia phone) as well as settings for flash and swapping between front and back shooters. There’s a new dedicated button for burst mode, along with a switch for video and stills on the bottom. Overall, it follows the clean design that we have come to expect from Windows Phone.

 

Apps to SD card
This one would be most welcome by fans. You can finally install apps to an external SD card, though Microsoft has to justify this feature with many more Windows Phone apps than the current list.

 

On-screen buttons
Microsoft removed the restriction that didn’t allow OEMs to have on-screen navigation keys, a la Android. That’s changing with WP8.1. Expect slightly slimmer phones and more.

 

The best news is that Windows Phone 8.1 will be available to all phones running Windows Phone 8, so even if you have an year-old Nokia Lumia 520, you will be getting these new features. We will find out more details when Microsoft takes to the stage on April 2 at the BUILD conference

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