If you're using any Windows Phone 8-based handset, you can get the
final shipping version of Windows Phone 8.1 for free. Here's what you need to know.
Phone 8.1 dramatically improves how Microsoft's smart phone platform
deals with notifications from the OS and from apps. Now, in addition to
live tile updates and banner notifications, the system includes a new
notification manager called Action Center. It is arguably the single
best new feature in Windows Phone 8.1.
Manage App Updates
of the best new features in Windows Phone 8.1 is that the OS, finally,
downloads and installs new app updates automatically. This behavior is
probably optimal for most users, and you can see which apps have been
updated at any time. But you can also configure this behavior in various
ways and even disable it if needed.
Master Social Networking Integration
beta version of Twitter for Windows Phone 8.1 leaked this week,
providing an answer to some questions I was just going to pose about
social networking integration in Windows Phone. With this release, we
can see a version of Twitter that works like the Facebook app for
Windows Phone 8.1, one that integrates deeply with the system in a
now-consistent way. And that's a good thing.
Sync Settings with Your PCs and Tablets
Windows Phone gets closer to the PC- and tablet-based Windows OSes,
we're starting to see some neat integration bits. Key among those are
the new settings sync features in Windows Phone 8.1, which let you sync
key settings between your handset and your Windows 8.1-based PCs and tablets.
Master the New Custom Volume Settings
the many seemingly small but very useful changes in Windows Phone 8.1
is a rethinking of the ways in which you can interact with the various
sounds that come out of your handset. Now, instead of a global volume
control, Windows Phone 8.1 supports separate, custom volume settings for
the ringer and notifications and for apps and media.
Master Airplane Mode
mode seems simple enough: Simply toggle this feature when you're on an
airplane or other offline situation, shutting down all of the device's
radios and saving battery life. But in Windows Phone, Airplane mode is a
bit more nuanced, and in Windows Phone 8.1, in particular, it's far
more accessible too.
Phone 8.1 includes an improved Storage Sense utility that lets you
easily track how much of your handset's storage is used and by what. But
now you can also use this utility to uninstall apps, move apps between
built-in and microSD storage, and determine which items are stored on
microSD by default. It's a much more complete solution than what was
available in previous Windows Phone versions.
Manage the Navigation Bar
you're using a new Windows Phone 8.1 handset with Back, Start and
Search "soft buttons," you can configure how they appear in the
software-based navigation bar onscreen. This navigation bar can be
colored to match the background or accent color, or can always be black
to match the handset's front panel.
Cortana + Search
Pin Cortana to Your Start Screen
been holding off on discussing Cortana too much before I learn the ins
and outs of this incredible new feature in Windows Phone 8.1, but here's
one tip that will benefit even the Cortana newbie: You should pin
Cortana to your Start screen because it behaves differently when you do
Find Missing Bing Search Features
most people who have upgraded to Windows Phone 8.1 (in the United
States at least) seem to be enjoying the new Cortana virtual digital
assistant, some miss the secondary search features—like Local Scout,
Bing Music and Bing Vision—that used to be available from the Bing
Search interface in previous Windows Phone versions. No worries, as each
of these features is still available in Windows Phone 8.1.
Show More Tiles
you're upgrading to Windows Phone 8.1 on your current handset, there's
one new feature you'll want to seriously consider: The ability to show
more tiles on the Start screen. Previously available only on those
devices with a 1080p "Full HD" screen, this denser, more usable Start
screen layout is now available on all handsets that can run Windows
Phone 8.1, from the affordable Lumia 520 to the flagship Lumia 1020.
Use a Start Background
on your design sense and Start screen tile layout, one new Windows
Phone 8.1 feature may really grab you: The ability to use a photo or
other image as a Start screen background. Oddly, this feature doesn't
work as it does in Windows: With Windows Phone, the background comes
through on the tiles, not on the space between. And the effect can be
Pin the Sense Apps to Start
Phone 8.1 includes a new and improved collection of "Sense" apps,
utilities that take the guesswork out of using your smart phone. These
include Battery Saver, Data Sense, Storage Sense and Wi-Fi Sense. And
the first four of those can now be pinned to your Start screen for quick
access and live updates.
Internet Explorer 11
Master IE 11 Navigation
a major new part of the Windows Phone 8.1 upgrade, Internet Explorer 11
isn't just numbered to appear similar to its tablet-based sibling in
Windows 8.1. No, this is the real IE 11, with the same InPrivate
browsing, Reading View, settings sync, and improved standards support
you've come to expect on your other devices. But the similarities don't
stop there: You can now navigate the web using many of the same
techniques you use on a tablet.
Use Reading View in IE 11
Phone 8.1's new web browser has a number of interesting features,
including some that will be familiar to those who use Internet Explorer
11 in Windows 8.1. One of my favorites is Reading View, which makes an
average web article or blog post much easier to read.
Pin Web Pages to Start
the move to Internet Explorer 11, Microsoft has dramatically improved
the capabilities of its web browser in the Windows Phone 8.1 upgrade.
Key among them is the ability to pin a web site to Start as a live tile.
Windows Phone 8.1 Tip: Configure a Voice Navigation App
Phone 8.1 ships with a basic Maps app, which provides location and
direction information, as well as a neighborhood guide called Local
Scout. What's missing, of course, is voice guided turn-by-turn
navigation. But thanks to an integration model, these facilities can be
provided by a third party app that you can get from your handset maker,
your wireless carrier, or the Store. Here's how to configure a
navigation app, and access it from Maps.
Use USB Screen Projection
of the more eagerly awaited new features in Windows Phone 8.1 is the
ability to project the handset to display to a secondary screen via
wireless Miracast or wired USB technologies. This feature works much
like screen projection in Windows 8.1, and is useful for those that need
to show their Windows Phone handset to others in real time.
Take a Screenshot
added the ability to take a Windows Phone screenshot in Windows Phone
8, and it's worked consistently ever since. But with Windows Phone
moving towards a more integrated platform with Windows, the way you take
a screenshot has now changed in Windows Phone 8.1. Why? To make it more
consistent with Windows 8.1, of course.
Write your own apps
Get Started with Windows Phone 8.1 App Development
in learning how to make apps for Windows Phone 8.1? Or are you just
interested in software development in general? Either way, here's a
great—and free—way to get it done, using a free new instructional video
series from Microsoft and the software giant's amazing free development