Windows Phone 8.1 – What we know and what’s to come? [UPDATED]

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Update 1: Scroll to the bottom to see our update posted on 15/2/14 of massive 8.1 feature list

It all began February 10th, Microsoft quietly released the new Windows Phone 8.1 SDK to a select few Developers for testing and for those to provide updates to their apps awaiting the release of Windows Phone 8.1. All Developers selected for the SDK of course had to sign an NDA Agreement (Non Disclosure Agreement) at which all information new in the SDK, which of course has an emulator, should not be released to the public. So, up comes February 11th, and everything’s been leaked to the public, oh those reliable agreements eh.

Isn’t this bad for Windows Phone 8?

Since the leaks have been revealed, which we’re going to run through shortly and speculate, many people out there have said this is a bad thing for Microsoft, someone even said this could halt the sales of Windows Phone 8.0 devices, or make the Build conference less interesting as we know everything, but… 1.  If Windows Phone 8.1 took the Windows Phone 8 route and devices running current versions of Windows Phone would NOT get Windows Phone 8.1, then yes that would make sense, it would be a disaster for that to be revealed and everyone would likely rage and get rid of their devices, BUT, ALL current Windows Phone 8 devices from the Lumia 520 to 1520, HTC, Nokia, Samsung to Huawei will all get Windows Phone 8.1 so calm down. 2. We don’t know the half of it, anyone familiar with Developer SDKs will know the only things in SDK Emulators are the tools needed for app Development, so we expect much more User Features and features under the hood still to come.

So, now that’s covered lets review.

Windows Phone 8.1 Leaks Runthrough

Action Centre / Notification Centre

WP81 - Action Center
INFORMATION WE KNOW

Interestingly the Notification section was not in the build for the SDK, which is interesting as it would likely be an important Developer feature, but this has been confirmed in the build. Action Centre allows 4, possibly 5 on 1080p devices, hardware based shortcuts customisable in Settings to quickly toggle Settings such as Wi-Fi/Bluetooth etc, and a Settings shortcut is also there to quickly go to Settings. This alone would save my Windows Phone at least 4 tiles as I’m sure everyone uses apps like ‘Connectivity Shortcuts’ to have quick Setting toggles, and you no longer need to Pin the ‘Settings’ tile too. The Notification section of Action Centre is very much as we’d expect, latest Notifications up top sorted by App name with Notifications within those section, a ‘Clear All’ button can also be seen on the top left.

One big feature of this is that when the Notification Centre is in full view you can see multiple additional useful information under select traditional icons

  • Reception Bars = Cellular network name
  • Battery bars = Battery percentage
SPECULATION

How the Notification Centre will work is something still to be speculated, without Developer access in the SDK released their is still a way the Notification Centre could work. The Notification Centre could simply collect current ‘Toast’ Notifications in a sort manor in Action Centre, save the link provided by the Toast Notifications and sort them that way, this would mean Developers would have to do absolutely nothing for that to work, and as Notifications disappear when tapped anyway, it would actually be a workable way of doing things. But, this is just theory.

Internet Explorer 11

WP81 - IE11
INFORMATION WE KNOW

Upon the release of Windows 8.1 on the Desktop, it’s a pretty much guaranteed and logical move for Windows Phone 8.1 to feature Internet Explorer 11. Thanks to IE11 on Windows Phone, a lot of clear advantages will of course be available for mobile devices, one of the key features is support for Normal Mapping and the WebGL standard. Whilst Web Developers would like Microsoft to ditch the Trident engine for Webkit like everyone else, WebGL and the increased grade of HTML5 support does alleviate some of the gaps previously in IE10. One of the clear features noticeable in the Screenshot is support for HTML5 Video, which allows any Streaming service, example used YouTube, to playback video in browser instead of limiting to Full Screen H.264, IE11 will also support Custom Video Players which could see YouTube Caption Support and a ton of other advantages to online media.

Another feature supported in the browser is File Explorer, yes you can now use ‘Choose Files’ dialogues, how far this goes is yet to be proved, but if it works similar to Windows 8.1, then this is a very welcome addition. IE11 will also have the ability to download files and save them in selected locations, or open in a default app based on format.

SPECULATION

There’s not really much to speculate over a browser, we’ll have to see just what additions come in IE11 for Windows Phone 8.1, and if they get better following the upcoming release of Windows 8.1 Update 1.

One feature not mentioned for IE11 on Windows Phone 8.1 is ‘Reader’ and ‘Reading List’, pleeeeaaaaasssseee include this Microsoft, not only does it completely make sense for a mobile device, but … well actually the first reason covers it all, plus the feature is kinda redundant on Windows 8.1 as display sizes tend to be large enough to read content at regular 100% view.

Here’s Speculation for you, IE11 will feature separate Tabs integrated in to Multitasking. When opening a link “in a new Tab”, a new Window appeared, and when Multitasking was opened, two IE windows were present with each respected tabs, how customisable this is will be interesting.

Media Features

WP81 - Media Controls

Here’s a long awaited feature for Windows Phone, one that you have to almost scratch your head wondering why it took so long, Separate Volume Controls, hallelujah! Tap any volume key, just like you do currently to change Volume or enter Silent Mode, except you will get this new view. In the view, you have 2 volume controls visible and changeable much quicker than it is currently. Volume is separated by ‘Ringer + Notifications’ and ‘Media + apps’, which if one is currently sounding you will then see an addition Media Control, as shown in this image currently streaming Xbox Music. To cap off the new menu, another collection of new Quick Access Setting has been added, on the left one-tap Silent mode on or off, and on the right ‘Settings’ which sends you to ‘Ringtones and Sounds’ Settings.

Navigation Bar / USB Connection / Multitasking

WP81 - Navigation Bar
INFORMATION WE KNOW

Navigation Bar: As you may have noticed from our Media Features section, in Windows Phone 8.1 their is an optional Navigation Bar, which is essentially on screen buttons in favour of the current Capacitive buttons, similar to what’s available on Android. However, unlike Android, with the possible example of Immersive Mode in Kitkat, the Navigation Bar can be very easily dismissed from in applications with a simple gesture, and with a swipe up from the bottom gesture, brought back. You can also set auto hiding, or of course if you have hardware Capacitive buttons, ignore this feature entirely. The Navigation Bar can also be black background (as shown in Media Features image), accent colour background or match background, which we think would be the better of the three. Whilst I hate on-screen buttons, in Windows Phone 8.1 its implemented in a much less in your face approach, which is always a good thing.

Multitasking: Since Windows Phone 7.5, Multitasking has been easily accessible by tap and holding the back button to present you with a sea of applications currently active, then very recently came GDR3 Update 2 (Lumia Black on Nokia devices) which added a cross to close applications without having to have a session with the back button to end applications, now with Windows Phone 8.1, two new things to remember, but all for the good. Firstly, the easy one, whilst the cross is still available to tap, you can now simply swipe down applications, making closing a collection of apps really quick and easy, although in the current SDK build only one app at once. Second, and lastly, the Back button no longer closes apps, which is a good and a bad thing, good because its quick to close apps from memory, but bad because it takes that extra steps, but again good because that’s the end of closing apps accidently when going back further than you wished. It will be interesting to see this in action, overall I’m happy with all the new changes.

Power Sense: Battery Power Sense is a very useful addition to Windows Phone 8.1, through this new App pre-installed you can check percentage with more information and check which apps are using the most of your battery, nice addition, but may kill the majority of Battery apps in the Windows Phone Store.

New USB Connection Settings: This is a small new feature, but a feature none the less, ability to ask before using USB Data Connection has been added, as well as Notifications for when connected to a slower charger.

SPECULATION

With new USB Connection Settings, we were hoping for further support for USB File Management on Windows Phone, something that’s neither been confirmed or shown off, but still would be nice to see.

New Storage Sense App / New microSD options

WP81 - Storage Sense

Along with Batter Power Sense, Storage Sense is also available for Windows Phone 8.1, the renamed Storage section of Windows Phone 8. Thanks to Storage Sense, you can much more clearly set default Storage places for content on your Windows Phone, Music, Video and Images remain, but you can now finally add Applications to be installed from the microSD card, this is awesome for phones with smaller internal storage! Another new addition is to store new ‘Downloads’ to selected places, which is a new feature in the new IE11 for Windows Phone 8.1

Windows 8.1 Carried Over Features

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Back Up / Single Sign-in Support: On Windows 8.1, all Settings of Tile management, to information including passwords for many installed applications and more is synchronised to your Microsoft Account, thanks to this signing in to a new Windows 8.1 device displays your last (optionally) tile layout and all Settings carried over, this is expected to be coming to Windows Phone 8.1, which currently only has installed application saving linked to your Account. Windows Phone 8.1 is also expected to offer entire OS back up support, this would allows phones that break down, or even just people that get a new phone, to have everything they had on that phone last brought back entirely.

File Picker: We mentioned this briefly in our IE11 section, but it’s still important to mention the ability to view Files locally and possibly on SkyDrive to be able to be uploaded using basic web standards now finally supported on Window Phone 8.1.

Automatic App Updates: In Windows Phone 8.1, all applications will update automatically in the background, we’re expecting the ability to limit this to WiFi optionally, this is expected to work in the similar way as Windows 8.1, with the option to still check for Updates where necessary unchecked before.

Bing Smart Search and Bing Suite: Yes, that awesome universal Search result functionality found on Windows 8.1 is coming to Windows Phone 8.1, more information on both of these below.

Bing Smart Search

Yep, before we’ve even talked about Cortana, which unfortunately wasn’t available in the SDK build of Windows Phone 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1 takes another big feature from Windows 8.1, Bing Smart Search, so you’ll be seeing some pretty awesome Search results like the one shown above. What I’m interested in, is how they integrate this and implement it for a mobile device.

Full Bing Suite App Support / Messaging Updates / VPN

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Full Bing Suite Support: Speaking of Bing, all of the Bing apps built in to Windows 8.1 will complete their transition to Windows Phone 8.1 and be installed automatically after installation of stock Windows Phone 8.1. Apps include Bing Finance, Food & Drink, Get Me There, News, Sport, Travel, Weather, and the final addition of Bing Health and Fitness. The new Health and Fitness app however, like all apps in Windows Phone 8.1 Emulator don’t seem to run, but are there and it’ll be interesting to see what they are like.

Messaging: This is a pretty big feature of Windows Phone 8.1 is the support for third party Messaging apps to be set as Default, this is easily one of the most unexpected features coming in Windows Phone 8.1, but it would still be incredible to see just what Developers could do with this to vastly improve Messaging on Windows Phone moving forward. IMPORTANT MENTION: Facebook Chat no longer appears in Messaging Settings

VPN: Windows Phone 8.1 will indeed bring native support for VPN, which is obviously a great addition to the Windows Phone 8.1 feature list, whilst this was actually in Windows Phone 8.0 under a Microsoft Exchange account, full on user available VPN support can only be a good thing.

Microsoft Account Synchronisation

WP81 - Microsoft Account Syncronisation

Here’s a very useful addition in Windows Phone 8.1, but something we’re yet to be seen the true potential of, something that features in the Bing News app (one of the only apps that launches in the Emulator), is Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 full app integration, this is really exciting as it will potentially allow full synchronisation between phone and tablet/computer, something Devs have been asking for, for a while.

Updated Photos App / Facebook Mystery

WP81 - Photos app
INFORMATION WE KNOW

The Photos app has also been updated in Windows Phone 8.1, but in a way people don’t quite understand is the lack of Facebook/Twitter Photo Feed, and the lack of Facebook Photos album, more on that later. The addition of OneDrive is useful as you can still access your backed up photos online.

SPECULATION

You may notice that the Photos app has two sections of note, the top section, likely hosting ‘Camera Roll’ and ‘Saved Pictures’, then OneDrive is listed below a section marked ‘online’. This Online section would be perfect for Developers to be able to update their apps and integrate them in to the Photos app, for example lets say the Facebook app gets updated to appear in the Photos app, as well as other apps with Photo functionality like Twitter, but also maybe apps we haven’t seen integrated like Instagram. Once integration added their tile would appear in the Online section alongside OneDrive and you could easily access Photos from them services, it’s possible, but as noted, this is just speculation.

On the Facebook Integration front, the People hub and Calendar app is expected to remain with Facebook integration, in fact updated Twitter commands and functionality has been leaked, but as far as Messages goes we’ll probably end up limiting ourselves to the Facebook app.

New Accent Colour

WP81 - Accent Colors

Something rather confusing is that when customising Windows Phone 8.1, there’s an additional Blue coloured tile starting a 6th line of customised tile colours, whether we see more added we’ll have to see.

“Project my Screen” added

WP81 - Project my Screen
INFORMATION WE KNOW

Along with vastly improved “Play To” support natively on Windows Phone 8.1, something which is yet to be shown in full, currently Play To only broadcasts local Music, Video and Images, new in Windows Phone 8.1 is a new Setting simply and clearly branded ‘Project my Screen’, with this you can mirror your display out to a compatible device *expected to use either Mirrorcast or WiFi Direct (WiFi Direct newly supported in WP8.1)* wirelessly or even over USB.

SPECULATION

We noted earlier that USB Functionality menu was very quiet, and we expected further USB File Management tools, but this is very intriguing, the ability to mirror your display out via USB, whilst we would expect this to be limited to just supporting Windows, if Microsoft use open standards we could see variable support across the board. Project my Screen would also be great for Developers, but at the moment we really do know very little about the way this will work.

Music and Video Hub Separated and In Store 

wp81-new-music-app
INFORMATION WE KNOW

We definitely saw this coming, but has been confirmed in Windows Phone 8.1, instead of the current ‘Music+Video Hub’, all new Windows Phone 8.1 devices will have two apps simply branded ‘Music’ and ‘Video’. Both apps are expected to feature some updates in UI, the Music app has been leaked with further integration of Podcasts, but we’ll get on to that in a minute. One interesting thing about the new ‘Music’, and the ‘Video’ app, is not only are they separate, but available in the Windows Phone Store, so will be able to be updated independently rather than requiring a full OS update. The pointless 💙 rating system also appears to have disappeared from the Music app, which makes sense as it literally did nothing.

The Videos app will also be pre-installed and available in the Store, but what the app will do other than offer Movies and TV Shows with an Xbox Subscription, that’s yet to be seen yet, but hopefully Microsoft will add Full HD compatibility which has been unavailable from the app recently.

SPECULATON

Whilst I don’t think this will happen, wouldn’t it be great if Microsoft added yet another Windows 8.1 feature over to Windows Phone 8.1, free with ads Xbox Music streaming, not only would it be a massive advantage Windows Phone could have over other platforms, but with similar feature base as Apple’s iTunes Radio but much more cheaper for full version. The Now Playing UI shown above seems to show ‘Collection’ section to the right of the Now Playing section, which could mean we’ll see the original Zune-like way of playing Music when you leave and re-enter the Music app.

The Video app could both feature Xbox Live TV and Video Support, but also show Videos stored locally as no “V” is visible from the menu of options in the Music app. The Video app could store ALL Captured Videos, Stored Videos as well as TV and Movies, which would be awesome, and would make sense to not have to go to ‘Photos’ to watch a Video.

New Camera UI

WP81 - New Camera Layout

Now to my least favourite feature of Windows Phone 8.1, the new Camera UI. This is set to be the Windows Phone Camera UI, no relation to alternate Cameras like Nokia Camera. IMPORTANT NOTE: The colour pattern of randomness is due to using an Emulator without a Camera availability. It might just be us, but the UI looks really kind crappy, but luckily you will still be able to use alternate apps as default, but maybe this will grow on us when its functioning.

Native Podcast Support

WP81 - Podcasts

How it will be integrated is as unknown as Cortana, but Windows Phone 8.1 will feature ‘Podcasts’ with the ability of searching for Podcast feeds through Bing instead of having a Store to broadcast them instead. Through the Podcast interface you can manually add Podcast URL or search by searching the Podcast name, we think this is actually a very good way of doing it without Microsoft necessarily having to worry about providing and managing an all new Store.

Other new features/App Changes/Developer Updates/Features

  • No more XAP files, Windows Phone 8.1 will introduce a new app format APPX. Windows Phone 8.1 will also share something from Windows 8.1 in that ALL apps made for Windows Phone 8.1 will not run on devices running Windows Phone 8, which luckily is redundant as ALL devices will get Windows Phone 8.1.
  • Developer support for Hardware Accelerated Audio/Video Transcoding
  • Media editing: audio and video, support for audio and video effects and slo-mo video support
  • Apps can now capture audio/video themselves
  • Stereoscopic 3D support in app development
  • New Dev tools such as Semantic Zoom, Date and Time Picker support, GPS GeoFencing API similar to how Apple’s Reminders app works
  • Filter apps in App View by ‘Alphabetical’ (current), as well as ‘Usage’ or ‘Date Installed’
  • More battery efficient Multitasking
  • New Sharing UI, like Windows 8.1 shows recently Shared at the top, Tap to Send now ‘Tap to Share (NFC)’.
  • New Week View in Calendar application
  • New support for Wi-Fi Direct, the same technology Apple use for AirDrop to initiate peer-to-peer WiFi transfer, how this is used is yet to be known
  • A new collection of Background Tasks have been added including Bluetooth Signal Strength, Chat message notification, Device Connection Change, Device use trigger, Gatt characteristic notification, Location, Push notification, Rfcomm connection, System events and Timer.
  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE Support for devices other than Nokia Lumia devices.
  • UPDATE: Apps to be classed as ‘Universal’, same exact Development as Windows 8.1 on Windows Phone 8.1

Known features missing from SDK

Despite the fact this is official Developer SDK and Emulator of Windows Phone 8.1, their are still features yet to be discovered, and we’re looking forward to seeing even more features announced from Windows Phone 8.1, but not until Build 2014 we’d expect. Features we know are in Windows Phone 8.1 that couldn’t be found in the SDK are below.

  • Cortana
  • Notification Centre
  • Facebook (integration still questionable)

Summary

So, that’s Windows Phone 8.1 as we know it so far, it’s mad to think this is just a few of the features we’re expected to see shown off at Aprils Build Conference, which of course will be Satya Nadella’s first public keynote announcement show since becoming CEO.

We do have to mention, whilst this is an excellent publicity boost for the Windows Phone 8.1 announcement at Build, Microsoft is not happy about the leaks, but this is 2014 where it’s almost a bad thing if your product doesn’t get leaked as it shows lack of interest, which is something I think Windows Phone 8.1 is the upmost opposite of. Here’s to Build.

Source: MSNews, WMPowerUser, WPCentral, The Verge, Winsource, WinBeta …

=========

UPDATE 1

Two Windows Phone developers Jeremy Sinclair and Jesse Leskinen have leaked a full list of Windows Phone 8.1 features, depending if this is the full list does seem doubtful, but there’s a heap of features here, some previously mentioned in this post, but this is the full bulleted list they provided;

  • Sharing secured WI-Fi Networks with contacts if they have Wi-Fi Sense. They don’t get to see the shared password though
  • Social notifications will now show up in Action Center by swiping from the top of the screen
  • Operators can now control Data Sense limits remotely
  • Operators can also install certain applications once a SIM card is detected
  • Along with normal updates, there are now “important” updates.
  • Options to always download emails and pictures within them
  • Encrypted and signed e-mail support
  • Change default SMS app. You can also change which SMS app will show notifications.
  • Enterprise enrolled phones can have their passwords changed and remotely locked
  • “Write, when I swipe through letters”. That should be self-explanatory
  • 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
  • Office Lens support. Will scan in documents and screens
  • The phone will have to update to the latest version before you can restore it to factory settings
  • Option to update store apps automatically
  • Option to update store apps when only on Wi-Fi
  • App Suggestions by location
  • Manual Update checks
  • Password protected Office document support
  • Trusted app list for NFC that will remove the need for asking whether you want to open a particular app.
  • In-call speech commands. You’ll be able to say “Call XXXXXX”.
  • Double-Tap to unlock your phone (Feature from Lumia devices on Amber Update and newer)
  • Quiet Hours
  • Double Tap to Power Off
  • Notification if charger isn’t of adequate power
  • Screenshot button combination is now Power + Volume Up
  • Chkdsk for SD Cards essentially
  • 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
  • Voice Narrator for Accessibility
  • The Search button will be the new way to open Speech instead of the Start button (Since the newer phones will have the start button on screen)
  • 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).
  • Change the size and amount of tiles on your start screen.
  • Wallet supports tickets and membership cards
  • App Syncing
  • Backups now include application data (ABOUT TIME)
  • Screen Reader functionality (Maybe Text-To-Speech for apps?)
  • Screen Recording functionality
  • Inner Circle of contacts. Up to 40 contacts can be in the inner circle.
  • You can favorite photos by tapping a heart icon
  • Virtual SmartCard support

Keep it locked to RKUK Media as this post will receive updates as we receive news

Published by RKUK Media

RKUK Media ia a corporation based in West Yorkshire, UK. The web-based company now contains hundreds of technology and entertainment posts for anyone to enjoy at a non profit level.

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