While the Lumia Cyan update is slowly being rolled out to current devices, Microsoft has announced the Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, the first update with plenty of new feature introductions for all Windows Phone devices. Although this update might be quite minor, WP8.1 Update 1 is not without its surprises.
The introduction of Live Folders are probably the most notable feature in this update. Although Nokia and Samsung have used the folder system for users to tidy up their Start Screen, I have to say that their efforts were still far from convincing as it was not fully baked into the system, somehow the folders introduced by them are just slow and unresponsive.
Live Folders are different because it is totally integrated into the OS. It should let us organise our Start Screen without sacrificing any speed. The folders are somewhat alive too where there are live tiles appearing on the folder tiles and updating as usual. The folder name and the tile size can be changed too.
Although Cortana is still in Beta, Microsoft certainly thinks that she is ready to be made available to other countries including the UK, China, Canada, India and Australia. Cortana is labelled as a beta in UK and China but she is still in alpha stage in the other 3 countries. Microsoft also added some local flavours for Chinese users. Cortana has a new nick name in China, which is Xiao Na ( or Little Na ), speaks Mandarin and she is able to provide local suggestions. Cortana also picks up a few new tricks in the US such as snooze times for reminders and impersonation of Buzz Lightyear, Minions, Gollum and other characters.
Apps Corner is available for the special use of Windows Phone to limit the functions of the phone. This will be useful for retail units as emails and other personal apps can be disabled. Games and entertainment suites can be turned off for business phones too. Restaurants can only enable their own apps for customers to order food if they wish to use a phone as their menu. However, this feature is not for normal users like you and me.
The other smaller features includes improvements on Xbox Music, selecting multiple messages for forwarding and deleting, and the Store getting live tiles and enhanced security. There is more hardware support made available too. The Qualcomm Quick Charge standard, smart covers and new display resolutions are supported as well. This will hopefully provide OEMs with more flexibility to produce more interesting Windows Phone devices.
Although this update really is not as exciting as Windows Phone 8.1, I do welcome Microsoft to pace up their OS update cycle. This is definitely making Windows Phone more attractive. This update will be available for Developer Preview next week and there is no word on when it will go public. The funny thing is that I will be getting Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 before Lumia Cyan update. The latter was announced earlier and supposed to come before it. However, I would not complain as getting updates earlier is always a nice thing. Click here to learn more about Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1.
[Update] Microsoft has confirmed that users that have Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview do not have to downgrade to Windows Phone 8 in order to receive Update 1 next week. It created confusion as the extra step is needed to receive Lumia Cyan update.