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Microsoft Unveils Windows Phone 8.1

By Ng Chong Seng - on 3 Apr 2014, 12:10am

Microsoft Unveils Windows Phone 8.1

Alongside the Windows 8.1 Update, Microsoft today at Build 2014 also wheeled out Windows Phone 8.1 (codenamed ‘Blue’), the next major update to the company’s smartphone operating system. While there are literally hundreds of changes, most of the buzz revolves around consumer-facing features like Cortana (yup, that's the final name, and it really is voiced by Jen Taylor, just like Halo), a personal digital assistant powered by Bing and in the same vein of Apple’s Siri and Google’s Google Now; Action Center (simply put, a centralized place for all your notifications); background image support for the Start screen; a new lockscreen that supports themes; the new Word Flow stock keyboard (which now holds the world record for fastest typing on a smartphone); and Internet Explorer 11.

For the enterprise, Windows Phone 8.1 has built-in VPN support and S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) support for encryption and signing of emails, as well as enhanced MDM (Mobile Device Management) policies.

Windows Phone 8.1 will roll out in the 'next few months' as an update, while developers will get it this month. New phones with Windows Phone 8.1 pre-installed are expected in late April and early May. We'll explore the new features in greater detail once we've the bits. (Update: Hands-on with the Lumia 930 and 630; our top Windows Phone 8.1 features.)

Two new hardware partners - Prestigio and Micromax - are added.

Siri, this is Cortana.

Customizable lockscreens - bet you didn't know about that.

Action Center is Windows Phone's notification center.

Background images on the Start screen (in the tiles, to be exact).

S/MIME for encrypted mail and VPN support.

A revamped Windows Phone Store for easier discovery of apps.

Calendar got updated too, and gets a new week view.

Another look at the new Start screen. Storage Sense, Battery Sense, and Data Sense are updated too.

Wi-Fi Sense is something new; it enables smart sign-in to Wi-Fi networks, so that you save on cellular data costs.