BUILD 2014: Microsoft Officially Intros Windows Phone 8.1, Details Cortana

The company also confirms partnerships with Micromax and Prestigio

By on April 2nd, 2014 16:51 GMT

Today, Redmond-based software giant Microsoft has officially announced the next version of its mobile operating system, in the form of Windows Phone 8.1.

The new platform release has been long rumored to arrive at BUILD 2014, and the platform release is now official, with two new mobile phone makes, namely Micromax and Prestigio.

Microsoft has been teasing the new update for quite a few months, and it appears that it has put a lot of effort into making the new OS version a great platform for its users.

The fact that Joe Belfiore, the head of operating systems at Microsoft, has kicked off BUILD 2014 with Windows Phone 8.1, might be seen as proof of that.

One of the main enhancements that the new OS version will arrive with is an Action center, with will provide users with fast access to various parts of the OS.

There, people will learn more on the battery percentage, will have fast access to customizable quick settings, or see details about the SIM card inside the phone (both of them, if the phone is dual-SIM).

Moreover, Windows Phone 8.1 will also come with App Notifications, something that has been long expected to arrive in the OS. According to Microsoft, developers will receive access to new APIs that will allow them to set their software to show specific notifications in the Action Center.

The new mobile operating system will also arrive with new lock screen features, as well as with APIs that will allow developers to set their apps to take full advantage of them.

According to Microsoft, Windows Phone 8.1 will provide users with a brand new, interactive experience, while applications will be able to take full control of the lock screen via said updated APIs.

The Start Screen has been enhanced too, now with a new set of customization capabilities packed inside, including the option to have more Live Tiles displayed at the same time, or background images, just as previous reports on the matter suggested.

Windows Phone 8.1's Cortana
Windows Phone 8.1's Cortana
The greatest new feature in Windows Phone 8.1, however, is Cortana, the long rumored voice assistant, which Microsoft claims to be the first truly personal digital assistant.

Cortana will be deeply integrated with Bing, while allows it to learn “everything about the world,” as Joe Belfiore said on stage at BUILD.

On top of that, Cortana is also capable of learning more about users in time, slowly becoming one of the greatest companions for all those who own a Windows Phone 8.1 handset.

Microsoft also demonstrated some of the features that Cortana comes with, such as the capability to perform searches, to deliver info on what music one likes to listen to, or where they like to eat.

Moreover, Cortana is capable of interacting with third-party apps. It can launch Hulu, Facebook, and more. Users will be able to take advantage of its features either through writing or through using voice to give commands or perform searches.

Microsoft also unveiled that the personal assistant will be able to read emails and read calendar, set appointments, and to inform users on conflicts in calendar. It will also be able to set alarms, to turn the phone to silent when needed, and more.

“Cortana is the only assistant that can set people reminders linked to incoming emails, texts, calls,” Microsoft notes. It can also remind users of different things they wrote down to remember.

For the time being, however, Cortana is labeled as beta. It is not a completed product, and Microsoft might not release it in a final version when Windows Phone 8.1 arrives, but it will be completed sooner rather than later. 

Windows Phone 8.1's Cortana
Windows Phone 8.1's Cortana
The calendar in Windows Phone 8.1 was also improved, with the possibility to easily flick through days, a new weekly view, with enables users to easily jump to a specific day, and with support for third-party apps.

The Windows Phone Store was enhanced as well, with better recommendations packed inside. Moreover, Microsoft added a Wi-Fi Sense in the OS, so that users could connect to better Wi-Fi hotspots around them.

The word flow keyboard has been greatly improved in Windows Phone 8.1, now being faster and easier to use than the keyboard in Windows Phone 8. It also comes with shape typing, which enables users to type much faster than ever, and which has already allowed the OS to win the world record for fast typing.

Internet Explorer 11 is also included in Windows Phone 8.1, with private browsing, a new reading mode, and other enhancements, which bring it in line with the browser in Windows 8.1.

According to Microsoft, the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system update will start arriving on existing devices in the next few months. The company is still applying the latest touches to it, and is set to work with manufacturers to have it delivered to users as soon as possible. 

New devices running under this mobile OS, however, should land on shelves before that. According to Microsoft, they are expected to become official in late April.

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