I really want Windows Phone to become a viable option for consumers. They got in the smartphone game a little late behind iOS and Android (for realzies…Windows Mobile doesn’t count), which is why they are playing catch up.
With the latest ‘Developer Preview’ of Windows Phone 8.1, I think they have finally started to match the specs and features that your typical smartphone user has enjoyed for quite sometime on other platforms.
Since all it takes is $19/year to sign up as a Windows Phone developer and to register my Nokia Lumia Icon as a developer device, I decided to get the developer version of Windows Phone 8.1.
After playing with the features for about two days, I’ve already found my 3 key features that I think may just put Windows Phone 8.1 on par with iOS and Android.
Windows Phone 8.1 Action Center
What I didn’t like the most about Windows Phone 8.0 was the fact that I had to search through the phone settings every time I wanted to do quick actions like turn off Wifi, Bluetooth, or Airplane Mode. Android introduced the “pull down” Action/Notification center, followed by iOS with a “pull up” action center and a pull down notification center (Apple is doing THE MOST)where you can make quick settings changes and view notifications.
Windows Phone does have Live Tiles that inform you of updates on the home screen, but you have to put the apps on the home screen to get quick at-a-glance information. Microsoft decided to add Action/Notification center, where you can pull down from the top of your device screen (Similar to Android) to toggle on/off commonly used settings, as well as to see all notifications with the ability to click to “read more” in the native app. Pretty handy if you get a notification that isn’t apart of a Live Tile on your home screen.
Additionally, you also have more control over how apps display notifications on your device. You choose between Live Tiles, Toast notifications, or action center…or all three.
Windows Phone 8.1 Word Flow Keyboard
I am a HUGE fan of SwiftKey for Android. It’s an add-on keyboard that does both word prediction and the popular SWYPE functionality of typing words by dragging your thumbs across the keyboard (BOO on iOS of locking down the keyboard).
Windows Phone 8.0 has native word prediction where it displays what words it thinks you want to type about the keys. With 8.1 is adds its own version of Word Flow where you can quickly type via gestures. I’ll admit, I have extra-shmedium hands #DontJudgeMe and I frequently had to use two hands while typing on my 5-inch Nokia Lumia Icon. Now with Word Flow, I can bang out most short-form messages with one hand.
Windows Phone 8.1 Cortana Virtual Assistant
Everybody loves Siri, Google Now is even more impressive. Again, Windows Phone takes the best of both services and combines them together in its very own personal assistant named Cortana.
This by far is the runaway favorite of all the Windows Phone 8.1 features. With a tap (or hold) of the magnifying glass soft button, you can view Google Now-like information based on your interests (news, appointments, weather) and other information as Cortana learns what you view and how your use your phone.
You can also perform all kinds voice-enabled functions in classic Siri-style by speaking to Cortana
- Create calendar events
- Dictate notes and reminders
- Making phone calls, sending text messages and emails
- Look up movies, sports, and weather
- Browse the web
- A bunch of other stuff
Our smartphones are our everything devices, and the addition of Cortana shows that Microsoft isn’t just experimenting in the mobile arena, it’s actually working toward competing with the leading mobile platforms to add more entertainment, efficiency, and productivity to our daily lives…Yes smartphones can do more than just browse social media & viral videos, and play games.
Dope devices – Check
Feature-rich mobile OS – Check
Ever-growing app ecosystem – They’re working on it…
Now that Windows Phone 8.1 has been released to developers, I think more of them will buy in to the mobile OS from Microsoft and we will start to see even more top-tier apps come to Windows Phone, now that consumers can actually see themselves using it more.
Before all the fan-boys roll up in here, In my opinion, Windows Phone bringing some of the more popular features found on iOS and Android is more than just emulating what other platforms are doing. It’s all about competition…and competition is always good for the consumer.
What do you think? Are you considering a switch to Windows Phone?
If you want to get a comprehensive look at all of the Windows Phone 8.1 features, check out Scott Hanselmen’s ‘The Complete What’s New’ video for a walk though of all the new hotness.