If you own a Windows phone you may want to update to the new 8.1 OS aka “Blue”. Recently released, Blue has several new features such as independent control volumes, Cortana voice assistant, an improved YouTube experience, and several others that will make the OS more enjoyable for Windows Phone owners. With the new OS comes a new phone option, the Nokia Lumia 1520 which has five quick-action buttons that enhance the 8.1 features.
Notification and Action Center
First off we will explorer the notification and action center available in the new Windows Phone 8.1. The Notification Center allows you to centralize your information. You can also configure your notifications for individual apps and check your access from any of your screens. This special feature is one Windows users have been anticipating and now have access to. The notification center was a well needed feature because of complex alerts and the need to separate essential and non-essential alerts. While the Live Tiles have served a similar purpose, Windows users have been requesting this feature for some time. With this update, users can swipe down from the top of their display to view the Action/Notification Center. Detailed information will be presented including the phone’s remaining battery life and status of their SIM card.
The Action Center is at the top of the Action/Notification screen and has quick-action buttons for users to toggle the device buttons they most often use. For phones with a 1080P display a fifth button was added to the four which most Windows Phones have. Users can configure these buttons so they can select from pre-sorted lists of functions such as Wi-Fi, location, camera, airplane mode, background brightness, etc. Settings and Clear All are two permanent toggles for notifications and other device settings that direct users directly to the system settings where they can configure the action/notification center.
Another major update for Windows Phone 8.1 is Cortana. The inspiration for this dedicated personal assistant came from an AI character from the popular Xbox game Halo. By opening the Search button, Cortana greets you with “Hi,” or “Anything else I can help you with?” and your name as the standard messages. Cortana is represented with a glowing circle that pulsates and flips around as she listens to your commands. You can even teach Cortana the correct pronunciation of your name. Powered by Bing, this is the first and only phone-based personal assistant of its kind. By completing Cortana’s Notebook she will be able to get to know your likes and preferences. If you provide her your Facebook and email access she will begin to learn about you and look for tracking information on emails such as meetings, schedules, friends most frequently dialed, and will be able to personalize your search results. The Daily glance screen will display top stories, weather, upcoming trip information, and traffic alerts for your daily commute. Much like Google Now, Cortana’s information is collected based on your searches.
Windows Phone 8.1 has a new keyboard option called Word Flow which helps you edit the words you type through the cursor (aka caret). In the previous version you had to hold and press in order to bring the caret up but now you just have to tap in between words for it to appear. You can now grab the caret with the use of the small circle at the bottom and move it around. The circle is designed to help you better move the caret around in your text so you can add, change, or edit your text.
With the new Melodia feature you now have more sound options to choose from when assigning them to your apps. Version 18.104.22.168 is the newest release and is now divided into several categories such as Vintage, Unique, and even Apps which have traditional “official” sounds of apps like Skype, Facebok, Xbox alert, Twitter, and several others. With this wider variety of sound choices you can customize every app with notification sounds of your choice.
The new Nokia Lumia 1520 has a large screen display and a new fifth quick action button only available on 1080P phones. The graphics are excellent and the new Start background is flashy. Utilizing the full flexibility of the 8.1 OS, the built-in Microsoft Office means you can view and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files without losing any original formatting. Saving documents to OneDrive allows you to continue working on your Windows 8.1 powered tablet or pc and return to them whenever it suits you. The Lumia 1520 isn’t all work and no play,
however. The Lumia 1520 comes with a 41MP PureView camera with a ZEISS optic which serves as a great alternative to a DSLR. The Creative Studio assists with post edits of shots. With the amazing zooming capability of the built in camera you can see details you did not notice before you took the picture.
The 6 inch screen allows for a third column of Live Tiles so you can fit more games, bookmarks, apps, etc. into your screen to minimize scrolling through your tiles. Dolby Surround Sound and Miracast technology bring HD like capacity to enrich your video viewing experience. The features available on this phone greatly enhance your Windows Phone OS experience.
Updating to Windows Phone 8.1
According to Microsoft, Windows Phone 8.1 will be compatible with all Windows Phone 8 models, although this may vary by carrier. If your carrier isn’t going to support Windows Phone 8.1 - or you just can’t wait for the over-the-air update, you can install the Developer Preview, which is available now. However, you should be aware that installing the preview edition may invalidate your warranty.