Windows Phone News

Cortana heads to UK, China in beta, while India, Canada and Australia get opt-in alpha program

Tonight in Beijing, China, corporate vice president at Microsoft Joe Belfiore announced new Cortana rollout plans for Windows Phone 8.1 users, including a new 'alpha' program to speed up the deployment process. Furthermore, full details about Update 1 for Windows Phone 8.1 were also released, including early access starting next week.

As expected, China and the UK are now getting access to Cortana on a beta status, with substantial customization done for both countries, especially in China where some significant changes to the UI of Cortana have taken place. Additionally, India, Australia, and Canada are now part of an "early adopter program" where users can "opt-in and…try Cortana using English language models from the US and the UK."

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Microsoft unveils Update 1 for Windows Phone 8.1. Here are all the details.

As expected, Microsoft is finally revealing all there is about Update 1 for Windows Phone 8.1. Known internally as GDR1 for 'general distribution release,' this update is one of two for the 8.1 operating system in 2014. The news comes out of Beijing, China where Microsoft's Joe Belfiore announced the release during his keynote, in addition to the expansion of Cortana to the UK and China.

Update 1 is relatively minor in comparison to what 8.1 delivered this spring, but it still contains numerous new features for consumers, and hardware manufacturers. Leaks of these features in Update 1 came over the weekend and were accurate.

Additionally, starting next week, those enrolled in the free Preview for Developers program are slated to get an update to their phones to take advantage of the new OS refresh.

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It's hard to believe it's nearly August. As another month goes by I'll take a look at the Windows Phone landscape thanks to data from cross-promotion network AdDuplex. Every month AdDuplex CEO Alan Mendelevich ( @ailon) gathers data that gives us insight into the Windows Phone ecosystem around the globe. During the month of July, we're looking at an even bigger jump in the percentage of handsets running Windows Phone 8.1. Read on for more details.

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Microsoft's Cortana is one of the hottest topics that we cover these days for Windows Phone. Between the constant updates, improvements and its long-term potential, Microsoft's digital personal assistant is making waves across the globe. This response is even more impressive considering that Cortana is still technically US-based, though talk of imminent launches in China and the UK are heating up, in addition to other countries.

Speaking of expanding Cortana, Marcus Ash, Group Program Manager for Cortana on Windows Phone, recently commented that in expanding Cortana to other regions they "…learned a lot about scaling" and that it has been a "tough project." Ash's responses pose some interesting questions about the process involved, and we are itching to find out.

Marcus Ash and Sandeep Paruchuri, Program Manager at Microsoft, have volunteered their time to try an answer some of your questions about the process of expanding Cortana. Therefore, here is your chance to ask them in comments.

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If there is one Lumia 1520 that is the king of all 1520s it is an unlocked 1520.3 variant, which for those in the US comes with LTE support for AT&T and T-Mobile, in addition to 32 GB of internal memory and Qi wireless charging. Yes, it has everything.

Luckily, if you own that phone, you can now get the Lumia Cyan update, assuming you are not of the Preview for Developers edition of 8.1.

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Earlier this morning we reported on receiving tips – especially from India – that the Lumia Cyan update is deploying for the Nokia Lumia 1320. As it turns out, this is another mass rollout and as usual, we have compiled this list of regions, countries, and carriers for your convenience.

If you see yours listed below, head to Settings > Phone Update and force check the process to get started. However, if you do not see your country or carrier listed, it means yours is still under testing, so sit tight!

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Microsoft has today concluded the Nokia Device Hub and Storage Check beta programs, which allowed Lumia Windows Phones to connect to a variety of wireless accessories and anlayze on-board internal storage.

The apps are now part of the Lumia Cyan update and can be found on any up-to-date Lumia Windows Phone. If you're rocking Windows Phone 8.1 and Lumia Cyan, you'll be able to easily manage all your wireless devices in one place using the commercial release of Device Hub and check what space you have remaining with Storage Sense.

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In case you missed it, Fitbit launched their long awaited tracker app for Windows Phone 8.1 today. The app is already earning a 4.5 (out of 5) rating on the Store, with many customers pleased with the release.

In case you are new to Fitbit, and you need a new Windows Phone, the Microsoft Store is running a stellar deal. Starting at $149, you can grab both the Lumia 635 (AT&T black or T-Mobile white) and a brand new Fitbit Flex (black or slate). Those are no-contract prices too, although the T-Mobile package is priced slightly higher at $178.95.

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Although web sites and reporters often spill the secrets of companies, the best-kept ones get published by the companies themselves. Case in point is the revelation that 'folders' are coming to Update 1 (aka GDR1) for Windows Phone 8.1, which was accidentally revealed by Microsoft's website. Details though have been scarce about the forthcoming update, including what it contains. Luckily, Microsoft's Dev Center is filling in the blanks as we reported yesterday.

On Microsoft's website, buried within the Dev Center are two pages dedicated to the minor OS update. One page is 'What's new in the documentation for Windows Phone 8.1 GDR1' and the other just 'Windows Phone 8.1 GDR1.' Now, details from those internal pages is starting to trickle out.

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Windows Phone 8.1 is still in the early stages of rolling out to devices in over-the-air updates, but Microsoft is hard at work at future updates, including general distribution releases also known as GDRs. Those GDR updates, usually called just 'Update' or 'Update 2', bring patches, minor fixes, a few new features and enable additional hardware options for manufacturers (OEMs).

Evidently, references to GDR1 are found on the Windows Phone dev center under the OEM documentation. Unfortunately, if you try to click the links you are asked to log in, making this restricted to just OEM partners.

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Vodafone has announced on its support website that the Lumia 925 will be receiving the Lumia Cyan + Windows Phone 8.1 combo update starting tomorrow, July 25. From 2am AEST, the mobile operator will be starting the update roll-out, meaning the Windows Phone owners will be able to enjoy the latest OS features as they surface for the new day (unless there are any night owls reading).

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Yesterday we saw Cortana get updated on the background with a few changes or Windows Phone 8.1. If you went into Cortana's Interests you'd see a local events finder. Microsoft stated that they'd be updating Cortana every few weeks. Today some users see a few more categories under the Interest's section – recommendations for nearby places and local apps.

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Starting at 1 PM ET today, Verizon Wireless has started rolling out the previous 1028.3566.1417.0047 firmware for their Lumia Icon owners. The update is not Lumia Cyan. Instead, this update came out in May for those running Windows Phone 8.0, but for customers who opted into the Windows Phone 8.1 Preview for Developers, they did not receive the bug fixing firmware. Instead, they either had to downgrade and get the update or wait.

Now, Verizon is letting those on the 8.1 Preview update as well.

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Microsoft today announced the Lumia 530, a brand new entry-level Windows Phone. Those who recall the affordable Lumia 520 will know exactly who Microsoft is targeting with its successor. This Windows Phone is the latest handset to come from the tech giant running Windows Phone 8.1 and featuring a quad-core processor to boot. The only difference being the price, which will see both the single-SIM and dual-SIM variants be listed for under €100.

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