features

Over the last week, there’s been a flurry of information about Windows Phone 8.1, due to be announced in only five weeks at Build. It's been overwhelming, so we’d like to direct your attention to our continually updated ‘feature list’ page for 8.1

It’s hard navigating through all the noise, so this is a one-stop, bullet point list, organized by category. Hopefully you’ll be able to get the bigger picture of what may be included in the final, release-to-manufacture (RTM) version, expected at the beginning of April.

If you're in our app, swipe right and choose View Links! Did we miss anything? We probably did, so add them to our forum’s thread, and we’ll attempt to verify and add it to the master list!

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The Windows Phone 8.1 SDK is the gift that keeps on giving. Today, we’ve already had confirmation about background images for the Start screen, which have yet to be fully revealed, and yesterday we had a big roundup as well.

This afternoon, developers Jeremy Sinclair (@sinclairinator) and Jesse Leskinen (@jessenic) have put together the bullet lists to end all bullet lists. Their info comes from MUI strings direct from the SDK, so they are subject to change upon final release. What’s interesting about this list is the sheer number of little things that we had suspected, but not yet confirmed in Windows Phone 8.1.

It should be clear that 8.1 is, in many ways, a complete overhaul of the OS from top to bottom, not just a few big features. That’s important because what you’re about to read below demonstrates just how busy the dev team has been to build upon the groundwork laid down with Windows Phone 8, back in late 2012.

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Microsoft’s digital music service, Xbox Music, has received an update for its Windows 8 application. The new update brings a collection of new features and bug fixes to enhance your listening experience. Whether using an Xbox Music pass for unlimited streaming or purchasing songs individually – this latest update is out to impress.

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With the launch of Xbox One on the horizon and approaching quickly (November 22nd, should you require the quick recall), the Skype team has published a new blog entry to detail some improvements and new features incoming with Skype for Xbox One. If you've been crying out for notifications and multitasking you're in luck with the next version of the popular communications client.

Not only is the team working hard to implement new features, we're also looking at free calls. Read on for all the details.

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The wait is over.

Yesterday we reported that AT&T was planning on releasing the double punch Amber and Windows Phone 8 GDR2 OS update today. As predicted, the update has begun at 1 PM ET / 11 AM PT and users should now be able to head into their Settings > Phone Update > Check for updates to initiate the process. The update will bump the firmware to 1325 and the OS to version 10327.

Nokia and AT&T have been working on bringing the coveted updated for a few weeks now, coming in near last in terms of the global rollout. Nokia had previously stated that the Amber update should be completed by the end of September and while that was accurate for most users, those on AT&T had to sit by as T-Mobile and Verizon both beat them to the delivery.

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Good news for those with the awesome Nokia Lumia 720, as the 1334 Amber firmware and 10328 OS update (GDR2) is now sitting on Nokia’s servers.

If you're adventurous and use Nokia Care Suite or Navifirm+, you can download the ROM and manually flash your device (losing all information in the process); alternatively, you can wait until your carrier begins to roll it out over-the-air, which is what we recommend.

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One area where it’s always difficult to please your audience is in regards to technology. Between hardware and software advancements you have a public who not only yearns but demands frequent updates for their devices. Some of it is rational and some of it resembles the tantrums of children. But somewhere in between, there is the truth.

Microsoft is in a precarious situation with Windows Phone as they have a lot of so-called 'chicken versus egg' problems to solve. For instance, they need more mainstream apps. But in order to get more apps, they have to have enough devices in user’s hands to convince developers to get on board with Windows Phone. But how can you convince people to buy your phone if you don’t have the apps (either real or perceived)?

With Windows Phone 8 build 10327 (GDR2), Microsoft is pushing out their second minor update for their new operating system this year (the first was GDR1 aka Portico). The concern for a lot of current users is GDR2 doesn’t really bring much to the table in terms of new features. Sure FM radio and an improved Xbox Music library are nice to have, but it’s far from the dozens of features people are demanding on Microsoft’s UserVoice forum.

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A few months ago Microsoft’s Bing search engine introduced a new feature known as Snapshot, which added the ability to instantly see snippets of information about a search query before submitting it. At first Snapshot only supported people searches (which Microsoft accounted for 10% of all searches). Today, the company is expanding Snapshot with new auto-suggest categories.

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Microsoft is set to fire up its updating engine for Windows Phone in Q1 next year, according to a tweet published by renowned Twitter account @Football4PDA. The account was the named source for the leaked images of the HTC Accord (HTC 8X), as well as a number of other headlines that have been published along the way to Windows Phone 8

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A presentation slide, reportedly from Nokia training material, has been leaked containing details of some features included in the upcoming Windows Phone 7.8 update. Microosft has promised to those who own Windows Phone 7.x handsets that more features are on the way to keep the experience current. While features highlighted are already known, it's good to see official confirmation through said material.

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Update: Ah, as it turns out what is shown above is actually an app called Emotiboard (found here).  In other words, false alarm! Sorry folks.

It looks like Nokia is getting frisky as they're showing a glimpse of the Lumia 800 evidently with the upcoming Windows Phone 7.8 upgrade. The image above comes via their Facebook page and while it does not mention 7.8 directly it does show some new emoticons off. Those emoticons are not found in current 7.5 builds but they are found in Windows Phone 8 as we demonstrated in our video tour two weeks ago.

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MetroTube for many Windows Phone users is the be-all, end-all for your mobile YouTube experience. With a slick design and excellent performance there’s little wonder.

Here at BUILD we were able to catch up with the developers behind MetroTube (and the new Windows 8 Twitter app Tweetro) for quick look at the upcoming update that will bring some new Windows Phone 8 features, including doublewide tiles and a new preloading feature (basically downloading for offline viewing).

In addition, we got a preliminary look at MetroTube for Windows 8 RT, which we can confirm is now officially in the works for your Surface.

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New Emoticons for Windows Phone 8

If you like sending text messages (SMS) on Windows Phone, you'll love the new emoticon system that Microsoft has put in place. Previously, Windows Phone allowed you to easily send some basic smileys and if you wanted some more advanced symbols, you had to dig out some codes or use a 3rd party app.

This time around, Microsoft put in a selector at the bottom with visible choices for each symbol. You even have categories like faces, food, symbols and more. If you use the same symbols repeatedly, they will show up in a frequently used area for quick access the next time you message. 

We should also point out that they work in all apps. We used them in Kik messenger with no issues (they just don't have color). All in all, it's these small changes that make Windows Phone 8 quite an improvement.

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Let’s be clear about something: Windows Phone 7 was simply a warm up act for Windows Phone 8. It was the start of something big and different for Microsoft, a way for them to take a distinctive approach to the current smartphone exemplar. But Microsoft were hindered by numerous roadblocks: an aging kernel (the core of the OS), limited hardware and a desire to be more conservative in features waiting instead for user-feedback and to see how people actually use their phones.

With Windows Phone 8, the gloves are off.

There are two areas in which Windows Phone 8 differs from its predecessor: the core of the OS has been updated with the NT kernel and the addition and refinement of features. Consumers don’t need to know about the kernel specifics but they will see the results: new, top of the line hardware. That hardware will be evident in a few weeks when devices like the HTC 8X and Nokia Lumia 920 become available.

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The newest addition of Windows is here and its looking very smart indeed but its lacking one thing, Media Centre.

That’s right folks, Microsoft’s analytics said only 10% of the Windows user base uses this full featured DVR replacement so are set to charge for it. The good news is, you can get it for free. Read on to find out how..

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AT&T is gearing up to launch the Nokia Lumia 920 very soon—in fact we expect an announcement on pricing and availability sometime on Sunday.

Word is that AT&T reps are also in the midst of training with the device, becoming familiar with its main features and selling points. Part of that training is being done with these videos that demonstrate the highlights of the Lumia 920.

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It Don't Matter If you're Black Or White...or does it?

This photo of the HTC 8S has been generating a lot of comments on Reddit with most people throwing out the word “sexy” to describe it.

The question you may be wondering is what’s the deal with the black and white? Is that some HTC thing? The answer is ‘nope’ as it is part of Windows Phone 8’s “ease of access” settings, meaning you can do this on any new device you choose. (We erroneously reported this earlier as an added theme--that's close but not 100% accurate).

The “High Contrast” mode was first detailed by WPArea.de back in July when the first SDK initially leaked. In short, it allows you to go to an all “black and white” theme including white on black or vice versa. Obviously this is meant for people with visual impairments but evidently a lot of you are enthralled with its appearance—guess we can call it Metro extreme mode?

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