On April 2, Microsoft unveiled to the world a new version of its mobile operating system, namely Windows Phone 8.1, which should start arriving on devices sometime this summer with a great deal of new features.
Compared to the previous flavors of the platform, the new OS build seems to be the most complete one, capable of providing users with features that bring it in line with other mobile platforms out there, including a personal digital assistant called Cortana.
Windows Phone 8.1 brings a new, faster keyboard to its users, Internet Explorer 11, a new Skype app, a battery saver, updated core applications, and many other appealing improvements. Moreover, it also comes with an Action Center that will display notifications from any application.
However, despite the tremendous amount of enhancements packed inside the new OS version, there are still a series of things that are missing from it, and this could prove a deal breaker for many users.
Maybe the most important thing that Windows Phone 8.1 lacks is Google applications and services, which are already highly popular on mobile devices, as well as on the desktop.
Windows Phone has always had issues with providing its users with access to Google's services, and this is one thing that the new Windows Phone 8.1 won't be able to resolve.
Given the feud between Microsoft and Google, Windows Phone users have been long deprived from enjoying push email capabilities for their Gmail accounts.
What's more, they won't be able to enjoy Google+ either, or a YouTube experience similar to that available for Android or iOS users. In fact, an official YouTube app is not available on Windows Phone as of now, and Windows Phone 8.1 is highly unlikely to get one soon.
Google Chrome is not available on the platform either, and the same applies to almost all other mobile apps from Google. In fact, the only one that can be officially found in the Windows Phone Store is Google Search.
Microsoft has tried to get Google's apps on its mobile platform, but the latter wouldn't allow it, and this could prove a big problem for Windows Phone 8.1.
Of course, the platform does have a great deal of services packed inside, but they are all Microsoft ones, and even one of the company's employees said on Reddit earlier this week that Bing was slower than Google, though it seems that Microsoft plans on improving this shortly.
However, Microsoft's services are not available for all users who might be interested in buying a Windows Phone 8.1. Some of them are restricted to only a series of markets, and many will be left out of them.
To be more precise, features such as Xbox Music and Video, Bing Music search, and others, are not available for Windows Phone users in all countries out there, such as emerging markets, where the platform enjoys the most growth at the moment.
With these services missing from Windows Phone 8.1 when it arrives in India, China, and other fast emerging markets, devices running under the OS might not prove as appealing as Microsoft might have wanted them to be.
In fact, Cortana, the personal digital assistant that might be considered the main great new thing about Windows Phone 8.1, won't be available outside the United States in the beginning either.
There are also features that are missing at the OS level, such as a File Manager (though there is a File Picker in IE11), the possibility to change the default SMS application, or the support for third-party browsers that are not based on Internet Explorer.
Windows Phone 8.1 users won't be able to use multiple apps for making video calls, and it won't be able to use Cortana for scanning barcodes either.
Of course, Cortana was announced as beta software for the time being, and it is expected to be improved in the not too distant future, though it remains to be seen how fast Microsoft will manage to add new features to it and when it will expand its availability.
In the meantime, however, this is one feature that is missing from the platform for those who are not living in the US. Unless it arrives in other markets fast, this will be a major drawback for the platform.
Apps are no longer a major issue for the OS, but some problems can be spotted in this regard as well. Most of the major apps out there are present on Windows Phone already, and others will arrive on it soon, but not all revolves around the numbers.
Only a few weeks ago, fake Google apps were spotted and removed from the Windows Phone Store, and many others are said to be in the portal too, which could hurt the platform's image, especially since it is still building its ecosystem.
With a series of UI changes packed inside, the aforementioned new features, and many other enhancements, Windows Phone 8.1 proves that Microsoft has finally found the winning recipe for its mobile operating system.
However, Microsoft still has to make a series of fine tunes to the platform in order to ensure that it can stand up above rivals such as Android and iOS. Some of them might arrive in the next version of Windows Phone, which could land in the next 6 or 8 months.
What remains to be seen is whether Microsoft will finally manage to make the OS great enough to get ahead of competition, or if Google and Apple will release new features that will push Windows Phone to the back once again.