What to expect in Windows Phone 8.1 update

On February 10th, Microsoft sent out invites to select Windows developers regarding the Beta release of their Windows Phone 8.1 software development kit (SDK), which is the tool used to make apps. This was promptly leaked out, which pointed to a handful of features that can be expected when the update happens. Let’s go ahead and take a look at some of the prominent features that emerged from the leak. Just remember though that this is just a beta build and there are no guarantees that this will pan out exactly in the final version.

Action Center

We will start off with the much needed Action Center, which should provide a solid management system when it comes to notifications, alerts, history of missed alerts and notifications as well as access to prominent features such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Airplane mode and so on.

Volume Settings

Windows Phone 8.1 is also expected to offer support for different volume settings such as for music, for notifications and so on.

Google Calendar

The update is expected to include multiple calendar support for Google Calendars. Users should also be able view weather info and also see the weekly view now.

Podcast App

A fully featured podcast app powered by Bing, is also likely to make an entry with the new update.

Enterprise Support

Windows business users can expect greater enterprise features with built-in VPN support, password protected Office document support, encrypted S/MIME e-mail, EAP-TLS Wi-Fi authentication, certificate management, enhanced MDM policies, access to corporate resources behind the firewall, rebranding of SkyDrive to OneDrive, password changing and remote lock capabilities, support for scanning and OCRing documents with the camera.

Internet Explorer 11

Internet Explorer should move to version 11 and offer WebGL and YouTube HTML5 support. IE 11 should be able to offer file uploads as well as the ability to save and remember your website passwords. Tabs are also expected to display individually in the multi-task window.

Sense

There is likely to be an app that monitors and identifies which apps draw more power with the battery saver offering an app exclusion list. Operators should be able control Data Sense limits remotely while Wi-Fi users should be able to share secured WI-Fi with contacts, auto re-enable WI-FI after a set time, and also use Wi-Fi Direct.

System

System support is likely for Bluetooth 4.0 LE, Stereoscopic 3D, Mouse and keyboard (HID), Virtual SmartCard, Geofence monitoring, and a trusted app list for NFC. The device will have to update to the latest version if you want to restore it to factory settings and Windows 8.1 apps will not run on devices running Windows 8. There is also likely to be a chkdsk for SD cards to ensure the health of the card. Miracast and PlayTo will beam via wireless display or USB-out. Wallet is also expected to support tickets and membership cards.

Camera

The camera is expected to get a new layout and a burst feature mode with options to auto delete it if necessary.

Media

Xbox Music and Xbox Video should become standalone apps allowing for more updates to be pushed through. Media editing features should be available for both audio and video along with new audio and video effects and slow-mo videos.

Windows Store

Apps and games data can be stored on SD cards but apps on SD cards will be allowed only from one phone, so if it is stored on another phone, you may have to delete it there before installing on this one. Users will also be able to back up the data to OneDrive if it a feature of the app itself. Users will also have options to update apps automatically, update only if on Wi-Fi, or do manual update checks.

App suggestions based on location should become available along with options to filter installed apps based on usage or installation date. Facebook app should be available along with the OS and update independently. Finally, users should see a single sign on for apps using a Microsoft account.

Messaging

Users should have the ability to change the default SMS app and also choose which app can show notifications. There are also options to mute threads and notifications and Live Tile updates.

Email

Email is likely to get a few new features such as syncing based on usage, options to download email with pictures, and encrypted and signed email support.

Keyboard

Some keyboard enhancements are likely such as emoji displays when typing and swipe keyboard options.

Contacts

Voice commands, contact sorting, call details menu, creation of an inner circle of contacts and installation of certain apps by operators (based on SIM detection) are some of the enhancements likely in the phone contacts section.

Other Changes

Users can also expect changes in the start screen backgrounds, live tiles ( 3 column support and marking as red), nav bar display, Kids corner bug fixes, double tap functionality to include unlocking the phone and powering off, favoriting photos, file picker, Back button functionality to suspend rather than close apps, quite hours, new screenshot shortcut with power and volume button, Search button to open Cortana, option to set a default voice nav app, voice narrator for accessibility, and swiping down to close apps in the multitask view.

It does appear that the latest update will not completely unify the Windows ecosystem, but at least its getting a lot closer.

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