WP 8.1 – A new look and feel to Windows Phones

The Windows Phone 8.1 update roll-out has ended and almost all Windows Phones in the world have been updated to the latest version.

If we trace the history of Windows Phones, WP 7 was a total flop due to lack of many significant features (even adding custom ringtones was a challenging process). WP8 revolutionized the way Windows Phones were used. But there were still many shortcomings in this 8.0 version.

Then came Windows Phone 8.1 which has everything people wished for in 8.0. Microsoft has added many great features to it making a strong competitor in the smartphone market. With Nokia making high-end as well as low-end hardware, WP is gaining the market slowly.

WP 8.1 start screen
The new customizable start screen now exhibits parallax effect.

Whenever I used to tell my friends about my phone, they were like, “this feature is not there” and “that feature is not there. Android is better.” But now when they test it themselves, they say that it has improved a lot. There are tons of apps in the Windows Phone Store to choose from. The lockscreen and the start screen can be customized with all sorts of colors and backgrounds. The new parallax effect on the start screen background feels pleasant to look at.

Notification center
The all-new notification center which slides down from above.
Quick actions
Some quick actions in the notification center.

The biggest change that people noticed in WP 8.1 was the notification center which comes sliding from above. It was there on other smartphone platforms previously and now WP was added to the list. It is minimalistic and very handy to work with shortcuts for WiFi, Bluetooth, etc. and a list of notifications is displayed there.

Then there are three senses added to the OS. The WiFi Sense, Battery Sense and Storage Sense. All these are nothing but advanced apps to manipulate WiFi, battery and your phone storage like a pro. Battery Sense shows you how much each of your apps use battery during execution or in the background which is very important to know for those who are concerned about how long the battery will last. Storage Sense shows you every thing related to storage. The free space and space used by individual apps, offline maps, messaging & email, contacts, etc.

WiFi Sense
Advanced settings in WiFi Sense to control your WiFi usage.
Battery Sense
The Battery Sense provides detailed battery usage app-by-app.
Storage Sense
Storage Sense provides detailed storage usage of your phone.
Word Flow keyboard
Word Flow keyboard is one of the fastest keyboards. Just slide your fingers!

The new word flow keyboard is much similar to the Swype keyboard. It lets you type without lifting your finger from the screen. It is fast, and it is neat.

The new Xbox Music and Xbox Video apps are now redesigned and now can stream music and videos from your online Xbox music account. Albums can be bought on Xbox Music and can be stored on the cloud which can be directly streamed to your phone. This feauture is good for those who don’t have enough storage to store their albums offline.

One of the biggest feautures that was lacking in WP 8.0 was the file explorer. Microsoft added it to 8.1 but it doesn’t come packaged with the update though. It needs to be downloaded from the Store. It is just like the Windows Explorer that we see on Windows PCs. It has feautures to cut, copy, paste, rename and even share files via Bluetooth, OneDrive, OneNote, Messaging, NFC, etc.

Files
Files – the Windows Explorer on Windows Phone.

Cortana, your personal digital assistant is now supported in the 8.1. But as of this writing, it is available only in the US. It is yet to come to India. Cortana can do all sorts of stuffs, from calling your friends to providing you navigational support. You say, “Remind me to buy flip-flops the next time I am near a footwear shop” and lo, Cortana sets you a location-based reminder. Suppose you say, “The next time I talk to Alan, remind me to ask him about his German Shepherd” and Cortana sets a people-based reminders. These reminder are triggered accordingly and you can never forget a thing. Now that’s like a personal assistant, isn’t it?

The latest Internet Explorer 11 has been loaded onto the new OS. It has better support for viewing newer websited which use HTML5 and CSS3. The phone can now sync all your settings between all your Windows 8 devices and Windows Phones. The bookmarks, people, messages are all synced so you get a unified access to everything, everywhere and on evey devices of yours.

For me, I would say that now, finally, Windows Phone is a complete smartphone OS in all its aspects. If you use a Windows Phone (and have updated it to 8.1), tell me in the comments how you liked it. If you use any other OS, I suggest you to take a trial of Windows Phone in any store nearby and see the changes in the new revolutionary OS in the Windows Phone history.

Thanks for reading.

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