Last week Microsoft announced the Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 and now it is available to developer preview unlocked phones, except HTC Windows Phones which have hardware related issues which need to be resolved first. The changes in this update include Live Folders, App Corner, multiple messages selection and other minor tweaks. Here’s my experience on Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 on my Lumia 620.
Installing the Update
I did not receive the previous update (8.10.12400.899) as Microsoft has halted the distribution of updates to Developer Preview phones so I am getting the update together with Update 1 this time. This update bumped up my OS version of my phone to 8.10.14147.180.
The process completed without any error but it was quite slow given that the update is not a major one. It took me a full 2 hours to download and install it on my phone. The phone did turn quite warm in the process but not to an alarming temperature that I had to worry about.
This is probably the only feature most people care about. Although pinning tiles to the Start screen can give quick access to apps and provide useful information at the same time, our Start screen more often than not get messy over time. I used to have a very long Start screen because a lot of things were pinned there but not anymore as I had removed a lot of tiles away because I was having trouble to find the tile I want in a split second. Folders introduced by Nokia and Samsung (downloaded with the proxy trick to my Lumia 620) are not helping as they are very slow.
Thus, I welcomed the arrival of Live Folders to the OS. Live Folders provides a way to group tiles according to my needs and it is very responsive. The fact that they are “live” means that the folders behave very similarly to the original tiles. The tiles in the folder can update and refresh themselves thus providing information and notification count. Live Folders can be resized and renamed too. Its presence helped me to place a lot of apps on Start screen while staying organized.
There is no need to configure anything before using the Live Folders. You just have to drag and hold a tile over another for a short period and a Live folder will be created. The sizes of the tiles do not matter and you can place a larger tile into a smaller folder tile or vice versa. However, I find it almost impossible to place a large tile into a small folder as the small tile will move around. To remove Live Folder, you have to pull everything out of the folder. I do hope that future updates will allow the folder to vanish as long as there is only one tile in it.
The way that Live Folders behaves is slightly different from what we have in Android and iOS. Live Folders will expand downwards and show its contents after being pressed. The tiles below will be pushed down. It will not take up the whole screen like its counterparts in Android and iOS. This means that the tiles outside of the folder are still active and you can access them directly without collapsing the folder first. The folders will only collapsed if you press on the blank space, the empty expanded folder tile or the other Live Folders. Only one folder can show its contents at any time.
Apps Corner is where you can select certain apps to be placed on a custom Start screen and made available to the users. This means that they can only access to the apps you checked only. However, if you do not set passcode for your phone, the user can simply go back to the original Start screen. You can pin the setting page for Apps Corner to Start Screen too.
Sound very similar to Kid’s Corner? Yes, it is. The only difference is that more restrictions can be applied as compared to Kid’s Corner. In the advanced settings, you can choose to disable some buttons like camera button or search button. You can opt to disallow modification of tiles so that the users cannot mess with your original configuration.
For me, I personally feel that Kid’s Corner will be more useful to me as it is easier to be accessed. However, this does not mean that Apps Corner is totally useless. If the phone is used for certain purpose, it can be locked down to the particular app only. This will be useful commercially as phones can be used as demo units in phone shops, as menu in restaurant and for showcase purposes for exhibition purposes.
The other changes are quite minor to be honest. You can select multiple messages, calls or contacts to be deleted or to be forwarded. Internet sharing can be done via Bluetooth rather than WiFi for devices lacking the WiFi modem. Accessory apps in settings is pretty useless right now but you might appreciate it in the future as it allows communication between the phone and smart accessories such as wearables and smart phone covers.
Performance and Battery Life
In terms of performance, I would say it is pretty much the same for my Lumia 620. It felt slightly sluggish than I would have liked after the Windows Phone 8.1 update and I would say it was almost the same after this update. For battery life, I do feel that the charge drop on standby is noticeably worse. For 2 nights, the battery dropped around 20% after my 7-hours sleep. If my memory does not deceive me, the drop was about 10% for the same period before this update. Nevertheless the phone still can last me a day without any problem with WiFi turned on. I will update here if there is any improvement or deterioration in battery life. I do hope that Lumia Cyan update will improve both performance and battery life.
Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 is a minor update. However, the features it brought along are not meaningless, especially the Live Folders. It is great that Microsoft is speeding up the update cycle. This update might be insufficient to be a game changer and to attract new customers, it is a good step to keep current Windows Phone users satisfied.