The latest Windows Phone 8.1 update has been making all the right noises, mostly because it has added a Siri-like personal assistant called Cortana, the popular artificial intelligence character in the Halo series of video games. Cortana is now available on Beta in the US and a handful of other countries, but is unlikely to come to India in the near future. So, when I got the opportunity to review the updated OS, I thought it would be better to focus on features that we will get to use here.
Homescreen and tiles
The live tiles that set apart Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 gets something extra in Windows Phone 8.1. You can now add a start background to the tiles in the form of an image that flows behind the apps. The entire effect really stands apart from the other OS as you are not changing the homescreen image, but the image behind the tiles. You can add a third column of tiles now, which means there is lesser scrolling to do. However, I would liked the option to have a tile that runs over the entire screen, which is not available at the moment. But the real personal touch for me was the ability to call images from Facebook albums on the lock screen. Every time there is a new image there that can bring a smile to your face or a flood of memories.
The calendar view is richer than other platforms. For instance, items from different sources appear in different colours. So you have one colour for those sycned to your Microsoft accounts and another for Google and Facebook. You can also mark different types of posts like birthdays and invitations in different colours.
Word Flow Keyboard
The keyboard has to be one of the best things about this upgrade. However, it it’s not really innovative as the Swype keyboard is already a very popular app on Android. Where this scores over Swype is with its accuracy levels, which appear much better than on Android. Another feature that appears inspired by Android and iOS is the notification centre which can be pulled down from the top of the screen to rebel latest messages, mails and updates. It is not at all different from what you find in the other two operating systems except for the fact that this one also lets you access most of the other settings also from the window.
There is a lot of sense in the new Windows Phone upgrade. You can use Wi-Fi sense to storage sense where the device helps you handler some tasks really well and easy. Wi-Fi sense for instance knows when you are back to a known wireless hotspot and latches on to the network effortlessly. Data Sense lets you control how you use your data connection and set limits for consumption. Not really innovative, but handy nonetheless. The is a similar app for storage, provided you have a windows phone that less you user an external card.
Overall, the Windows Phone 8.1 is a really good upgrade. But it is just an upgrade, especially in India as it seems Microsoft is not interested in bringing the superb Cortana here anytime soon. Our thick accents might prove a bit too much for this intelligent assistant. Also, I can’t help but think that a lot of the new features are inspired, or forced, by Android’s success.