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Windows Phone 8.1 Review: Solid, Compelling Stuff From Microsoft

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Windows Phone 8.1 Review: Solid, Compelling Stuff From Microsoft

Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.1 is among the most enjoyable platforms on the planet, equaling Android and iOS in almost each respect

It’s taken some time, however Windows Phone 8.1 lastly makes Microsoft’s cellular OS really feel prefer it’s “arrived”. I say that as a result of, although the OS has been round for over 4 years, it by no means felt completely full; there have been too many little issues lacking, too many frustrations. But with Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft appears to have addressed a lot of the lacking points and frustrations (all of which I’ll go into intimately on this assessment).

But earlier than we get began, simply to be clear, Windows Phone 8.1 isn’t a complete revamp of Windows Phone 8.zero, like iOS 6 to iOS 7 was. Instead, Windows Phone 8.1 is an incremental enchancment to Windows Phone with some very good and nicely thought out modifications that brings Windows Phone extra according to Android and iOS. In this manner, Windows Phone 8.1 is extra like going from iOS 7 to iOS 8 –– no huge visible modifications, simply numerous again-finish stuff. 

With that in thoughts, simply what are the good huge (and little) options of Windows Phone 8.1 that lastly make Windows Phone a real Android and iOS competitor? Let’s examine them out. 

Windows Phone 8.1 Review: Cortana 

Without a doubt the most important new function of Windows Phone 8.1 is Cortana, Microsoft’s private digital assistant designed to tackle Google Now and Apple’s Siri. Cortana is known as after the AI assemble from the Halo online game collection. And whereas Microsoft is final to the sport within the digital assistant area, Cortana can truly do greater than Google Now and Siri in some departments.

Cortana can presently do a lot of the issues any digital assistant must be able to, together with putting telephone calls, sending textual content messages, including calendar appointments, setting reminders and alarms, creating notes, and performing searches. One intelligent factor Microsoft constructed into Cortana is its “Notebook” function. This is the private digital assistant’s pocket book that incorporates notes about you: what you want, who’s in your loved ones, and your favorite locations to eat, and so on. Cortana makes use of this info to provide you extra correct outcomes. But although it’s Cortana’s pocket book, you’re the one in command of it, so should you don’t need Cortana figuring out one thing about you, you'll be able to delete that info from her Notebook. It’s this pocket book function of Cortana that permits the AI to provide your extra contextually conscious suggestions to requests you ask. This is one thing Siri can’t do. 

Another factor Cortana does that Siri can’t is supply integration with third-social gathering apps. For instance, you'll be able to ask Cortana, “What’s up with [a certain friend]?” and she or he’ll return outcomes about that pal out of your Facebook or Twitter feed. It’s a cool function and simply one other instance of how Cortana looks like a extra “entire” digital assistant than Siri.

Windows Phone 8.1 Review: Action Center

The subsequent largest function after Cortana is Action Center. Action Center is one thing that has lengthy been wanted on Windows Phone, particularly since Android and iOS have had an identical function for years. 

Action Center is similar to iOS’s Control Center mixed with its Notification Center. Admittedly the identify “Action Center” is a bit awkward, however a minimum of you now have fast entry to a few of the most often used settings akin to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Rotation lock, Airplane mode, and different actions proper from any display. You entry Action Center by swiping down from the highest of any display. In addition to fast entry to actions like launching the digital camera or enabling quiet hours, the Action Center additionally exhibits you your notifications, similar to emails acquired, texts, and different push notifications. 

What’s very nice about Action Center within the remaining model of Windows Phone 8.1 is that they’ve made a number of small UI tweaks that give it a pleasant polish. In the beta construct, Action Center had a really plain interface that appeared type of, properly, ugly. Now it's far more refined and stylish. Also an enormous plus in Action Center is the power to clear all notifications directly (one thing iOS desperately wants). 

Windows Phone 8.1 Review: Internet Explorer eleven

Windows Phone 8.1 additionally sees a brand new model of Internet Explorer, model eleven. The huge new options to Microsoft’s newest cellular net browser are all stolen from the desktop model, and this can be a excellent factor. Users can now entry open tabs on different Windows units, corresponding to desktops and tablets, proper on their Windows Phone. But better of all are the beneath the hood enhancements that you simply’ll benefit from day-after-day, regardless that you'll be able to’t inform they’re there. These embrace help for open net requirements like WebGL and HTML5 movies. 

Windows Phone 8.1 Review: Skinnable Live Tiles and Folders

The Start display has acquired a visible makeover in Windows Phone 8.1 too. There’s a brand new setting beneath Themes that permits you to use a photograph because the background for the Live Tiles on the beginning display. This is a intelligent implementation of background imagery, because it doesn’t add the picture behind the Live Tiles, as an alternative making it a part of the Live Tiles themselves. 

I truly actually just like the official design parts utilized in Windows Phone, so I shortly modified the Start display again to the default cobalt blue after enjoying round with skinning my Live Tiles, however I’m positive loads of individuals will probably be pleased to have the customization choices Windows Phone 8.1 brings. 

Another nice new function of the Start display can also be the power to group tiles into folders. To create a folder you merely drag one tile over one other and maintain it there for a second. The backside tile will cut up right into a grid. Simply launch the highest tile and identify the brand new folder. To entry the tiles inside, faucet the folder and all of the tiles will spring out under it. It’s a slick function that, once more, was a lot wanted since Android and iOS have had flyers for some time.

Windows Phone 8.1 Review: Improved Multitasking

Microsoft has additionally beefed up the multitasking operations in Windows Phone 8.1. As earlier than customers can entry the multitasking display by urgent and holding the again button on their telephone. Now, nevertheless, customers can merely drag an app down on the multitasking display to shut it. It’s a small function, however a pleasant one. 

Windows Phone 8.1 Review: Word Flow Keyboard

Another superior new function of Windows Phone 8.1 is the Word Flow keyboard. Word Flow is the equal of the favored Swype keyboard on Android. It permits customers to go away their fingers on the display and simply drag the tip of their digit from one letter to the subsequent. Windows Phone’s Word Flow keyboard can guess the phrase you're typing by the brief pause and alter in path as you drag your finger from one letter on the keyboard to the subsequent. 

Coming from an iOS background, at first I did not just like the Word Flow keyboard. Now after having used it for a couple of weeks, nevertheless, I’ve grown fairly keen on it. It actually is a quicker option to sort and Microsoft has carried out a very good job at bringing swipe keyboard capabilities to Windows Phone. 

Windows Phone 8.1 Review: New Apps

The Windows Phone 8.1 replace doesn’t solely add new system-extensive options. Microsoft has correctly chosen to construct some extraordinarily helpful new apps within the OS too. All these new apps might be accessed from the App List.

Battery Saver is an app that allows you to shortly see which apps are utilizing probably the most CPU energy, and for those who’re operating low on juice you'll be able to shortly kill the appliance. Battery Saver additionally allows you to shortly see how a lot present battery life you might have left, the estimated period of time, and the time because the final cost. You additionally get the choice to preserve battery energy when it begins to run low. 

Storage Sense is a useful little app which helps you to transfer information, similar to photographs and movies between your telephone’s inner reminiscence and a microSD card (in case your telephone helps such a hardware function). It additionally strikes a number of the previous storage settings, reminiscent of the power to delete information, from the previous Settings app to this new app, making them simpler to seek out. 

Wi-Fi Sense is discovered within the Wi-Fi system settings within the Settings app. The new function permits you to set your telephone to mechanically be a part of Wi-Fi hotspots each time one turns into out there. This lets you preserve your beneficial 3G or 4G knowledge allowances. It additionally permits Windows Phone customers to share their wi-fi router usernames and passwords with different Windows Phone 8.1 units. 

Windows Phone 8.1 Review: Verdict 

I by no means thought I’d say this a few Microsoft product, however the firm has hit it out of the park with Windows Phone 8.1. I started utilizing the beta of it in April and since then each iteration of the software program has been persistently improved, with new options, tweaks and design refinements. And now that it’s obtainable to the plenty, I assume it provides a compelling cause for a lot of to provide Windows Phone a attempt. 

That’s to not say there nonetheless aren’t some drawbacks to Windows Phone. The largest disadvantage is within the apps division. Google has but to make a single app for Windows Phone, and that basically hurts Microsoft’s platform as a result of many Windows Phone customers are in all probability heavy Google customers. Microsoft must get Google to make a Gmail and Maps app on the very least. 

But Microsoft additionally has a much bigger drawback with the overall lack of apps out there for Windows Phone. I gave up my iPhone to go to Android for some time just lately, and the transition was fairly straightforward as a result of most of my iOS apps have been obtainable inside Google Play. However, going to Windows Phone was more durable as a result of few of my iOS apps had Windows Phone counterparts – or any apps that have been comparable, for that matter. This is an enormous drawback Microsoft wants to deal with if it needs to start out taking customers away from iOS and Android.

Lack of apps apart, Windows Phone 8.1 is a tremendous OS. After years of feeling like an after thought, the OS now has a lot of the options any trendy cellular OS ought to have. It’s superbly designed too. But maybe most significantly, it makes me excited once more a few Microsoft product, and I am really to see the place they take Windows Phone from right here.

Pros: 
Really good customizability and organizational choices (like Live Tile folders). Action Center places all of the related instructions and notifications on the consumer’s fingertips. The Word Flow keyboard is welcome, although takes some getting used to.
Reviews Michael Grothaus
Cons: 
Lack of Google providers and apps continues to be an enormous disadvantage. But then once more, lack of apps on Windows Phone basically is a large drawback.
Verdict: 
Lack of third-celebration apps apart, Windows Phone 8.1 is a worthy cellular OS that firmly locations it as a viable rival to Android and iOS.
14:10, 30 Sep 2014
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