Getting used to Windows Phone 8.1

Published on Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Getting used to Windows Phone 8.1

The Windows Phone 8.1 update has some major changes to the Windows Phone OS. For the most part I think the changes are great! Some things have changed and here are some details to help you get up and running in Windows Phone 8.1 as fast as possible.

I'd like to say this is the single most impressive addition, but it's now. Word Flow is a new keyboard mode to let you swipe words. You basically draw the word on the keyboard by connecting the letters in the word. Or, as close to them as possible. Word Flow has some forgiveness in that area, if you're close it will figure it out as there's likely only a small set of words that letters close to those on the keyboard.


The Windows Phone's answer to Siri. As you might expect, it's a huge improvement over just voice recognition in Bing Search. It is meant as a personal assistant (if you let it) and knows about your schedule, your mail, your contacts, etc. so it will basically do context-sensitive searches. For example, if you ask Cortana "What does my day look like tomorrow" it will list all the events in your calendar tomorrow. There's lots of processing that happens on the phone with Cortana, but information can go back to Cortana servers so that Cortana learns from everyone's use of it–so, it should improve over time. Some interesting things to ask Cortana include "What do you think of Siri", "Who's your daddy", "I love you", etc.


8.1 contains several additions and changes to better support enterprise customers (e.g. security conscience organizations). 8.1 now supports things like VPNs, security policies (when connected to the Enterprise)

The Action Center was introduced to provide a history of the toast notifications that appear on the phone. In addition, there are shortcuts to WiFi, Bluetooth, Airplane mode, Internet Sharing, Settings, etc. making them much more accessible. This is accessed by swiping from the top of the screen either when the phone is locked or unlocked. Some things are accessible when the phone is locked and some aren't. You can view the notifications list when the phone is unlocked–which makes keeping up with incoming information that much easier.

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  • background Start image (where tiles with theme background become transparent).
  • smaller tile option (which just makes your screen 6 tiles wide on a "typically" sized phone)

Calendar now has a week view and can show you weather forecasts based on your current location.

Lots of little things have changed or have been added. For example:

  • reading view in IE
  • option to auto-update apps when connected via wifi (or include cellular if you like)
  • Some Nokia-specific apps have been added to the OS
  • You can now indepently change the volume of ringer/notifications and media/apps by tapping the volume bar after you press the volume up or down buttons.

There's really too much to list in a single blog post; but the Windows Phone 8.1 update seems more like a major release and I would not have been surprised if it were called Windows Phone 9.

Composed with Effective Blogger for Windows Store

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