This morning, Microsoft quietly released the shipping build of Windows Phone 8.1 to select developers. One of them went ahead and anonymously documented all the new features of said operating system on Reddit. While the build does reveal some enticing features, a few expected ones are nowhere to be found.
According to the developer, Windows Phone and WinRT are now categorized under Store Apps in Visual Studio, further showboating the merger between the two. "Main templates are universal apps that create both WP8 and WinRT project. Expecting to see more WinRT apps from now on as they're making it very easy and kind of influencing me to do so, considering the solo templates are at the bottom of the list," the developer adds.
Among many other revelations, support for 3rd-party text messaging client has also been mentioned. In the settings, there appears to be an option "receive texts using", which hints that you could now use a different app to handle your texting operations. Furthermore, the screenshot also depicts a "Battery Power Sense" tool which presumably helps you monitor battery life and get the most of it.
There is no Music+Video app, instead Microsoft has provided separate apps for the playback of audio and video files. It could be Xbox Music and Xbox Video, as we have heard in the past. There is a separate Podcast app as well, but that is all the information we have about it, as of now. The camera is said to have 3 different modes now, which are namely, camera, burst and video.
‘Pivot’ has been officially changed to ‘Hub’. Another interesting change that we had heard about earlier, the size of tiles have become smaller, so you can expect more screen space. Some features like reorder, header, semantic zoom, flyout (a feature taken from Windows RT), item-click event have also made their way.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes that this new version of Windows Phone operating system will bring along is that the back button won't terminate the apps anymore, instead as the developer mentioned, much like as in Windows 8, the apps will now get suspended. For closing the app, you can now swipe them down while viewing in the multitasking mode, so you no longer will have to tap the cross button, a feature that recent Lumia Black Update had brought to many Lumia devices.
As you can see in the image below (at the far right), you are able to swipe down to close. You no longer need to hit the close button.
The developer, who goes by the username "wpthroaway" on Reddit, also hinted at better storage management, and states that users will now be able to install apps on their SD cards. But much like Android, the developer can prevent the user from getting the app installed on the SD card. Speaking of storage, the final version may also include a file manager. Skydrive, on the other hand, has already been renamed to OneDrive in this particular build.
Also, the much longed for VPN support has been added to the OS. Remember the bitter YouTube app story? The new build possesses a new YouTube app, which from what screenshots we could find, doesn't hint at any ground-breaking features. There is no Facebook integration anywhere, and even its photo interrogation is missing. Although Twitter integration can still be found at places, so there is that. Interestingly, iCloud option has found its way to the Windows Phone as well.
Internet Explorer 11 has been updated with WebGL support, as well as the ability to play YouTube videos inside the browser. There is also PlayTo support, and single sign-on persistency across apps.
Speaking of things that are missing, there is no sign of "Cortana", a rumored voice assistant app for Windows Phone. We are still digging through the thread, and will update the post if we stumble across any new features. However, it does make sense that Microsoft may keep some features under wraps until it comes time to release the update.
Windows Phone 8.1 is expected to arrive this April, possibly at Microsoft’s developer conference, BUILD, which will be held on April 2nd. Apart from what we have learnt today, we have also heard about the new notification and action center features.
Thanks for the tip, amnesia!