Microsoft reveals "Update 3" for Windows Phone 8

Since launching Windows Phone 8 towards the end of last year, Microsoft has delivered two major updates to the OS. General Distribution Release 1 (GDR1, known widely by its development codename 'Portico') was released to devices early this year, while the rollout of GDR2 is continuing across the globe. But neither of these two updates has significantly expanded the capabilities of Microsoft's mobile operating system, leading many to criticise the company for not doing enough to improve Windows Phone, even as it lags behind its rivals.

Today, Microsoft revealed details of what's coming in the next big update to the OS, which won't be called "GDR3", as we had expected, but is now being referred to as "Update 3". The company outlined three key objectives of the update: 

  1. Enable incredible new Windows Phone devices.
  2. Enhance the platform with new capabilities for current users and partners.
  3. Improve overall quality."


The first of these new devices will be announced next week, and is expected to include the first Windows Phone phablet, the Nokia Lumia 1520. Handsets like this will take advantage of Update 3's improved support for larger, higher-resolution screens. With 1080p support, the Start screen has, as expected, gained an extra column of tiles, with the ability to display up to six tiles across its width.

Microsoft says that "built-in apps and Hubs like email, Photos, People, and Music and Videos will also be carefully scaled to take advantage of the additional real estate on 6-inch screens."

Again, as we've been expecting, Update 3 also brings platform support for quad-core processors, although Microsoft only mentions the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 by name, suggesting that this may be the only quad-core chipset currently supported. 

Update 3 isn't all about the next generation of handsets though. New features are being introduced that will also come to existing Windows Phone 8 devices. One of the most highly requested features - since Windows Phone 7 launched in 2010, in fact - is a screen rotation lock, and Microsoft has finally delivered. 

You'll also find that another much-requested feature has made it: broader custom ringtone support. At long last, you'll be able to put your own sounds to use on text messages, instant messages, emails, voicemails and reminders. 

A new Driving Mode is being introduced too. When engaged and paired with a Bluetooth device, Driving Mode reduces the number of notifications delivered to the lock screen - such as text messages, calls and alerts - to reduce distractions while you're on the road. 

Many users will welcome the new Mobile Accessibility suite, which includes a screen reader to help visually impaired users manage their calls (including Skype and Lync) and contacts, send messages and emails, browse the web, and get improved audio alerts for alarms, events and low-battery warnings. 

You'll also find improved Bluetooth support, which Microsoft says will improve connection quality to BT accessories. This will complement the improved internet sharing features, which work by pairing the phone with devices over Bluetooth. 

Better storage management settings - a common gripe among users - will make it easier for users to free up space on their devices, with a more granular 'category' view' to show which apps and files are taking up space. Many users will no doubt be delighted by the news that the multitasking view also gives the ability to close apps.

And ticking yet another box on the list of frequently requested features, Microsoft now allows users to connect to WiFi during phone set-up.

Microsoft won't satisfy everyone with Update 3, but with this list of features, it's not only expanding the capabilities of the operating system, but demonstrating its willingness to listen to its users, delivering features that many have been requesting for a long, long time. The company says that the rollout of Update 3 will begin "in the coming weeks and will continue over several months", so don't expect it to land on your device any time soon. 

But for those that don't want to wait, Microsoft today announced its new Developer Preview Program for Windows Phone, which gives early access to the latest OS builds ahead of their public release. If you're a WP developer, or even if you've only created an app using the free Windows Phone App Studio, you'll have the option to install Update 3 on your device from later today.

Source: Microsoft | lower image via Microsoft


Editor's note: This article was updated after publishing to include details on the Windows Phone Developer Preview Program.

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i know i just got an update last Friday for my HTC 8XT. I don't know if it's GDR3 but what ever it was it made my device much more speedy and made the occasional audio-crackling problem disappear.

jeeze the settings are becoming a huge mess. could they please combine similar settings into groups (eg "Wireless" would include wifi, bluetooth, airplane mode, nfc) and give quick toggles within settings.

I will probably never use the orientation lock since it would take at least five swipes/taps to enable or disable it...

Do u think there'll ever be an update where we can modify the actual tiles?? I have 2 email accounts and can't differentiate between the two as they have the exact icon, even though one is an exchange account, and the other outlook.com

its a small gripe, but an annoying one...

Also, whilst on the aesthetics buzz, what's with the wasted space at the top of the home screen when u scroll all the way to the top, there is at least a good .6cm between the clock and start if tiles, of a black line wasting space...

For those who moan that this update is small/minor or w/e, that's what the GDRs have always been, small. They add a few things, fix bugs and add new hardware support etc. It was due to GDR2 that Nokia could release the Lumia 1020 for example, otherwise the hardware wouldn't have been supported to do so.

There's still some nice little updates in there for users though.

Lets not forget the performance increases and increased battery life.
My 920 went from smooth to buttery smooth and almost doubled in battery life after receiving GDR2/Amber. Worth to me more then any of the features I've gotten.

It's awesome to see this happen. I wonder if this program will also be available to update earlier to Windows Phone 8.1. I've got high expectations for WP8.1, especialy since they worked more then a year on that update.

I don't use the Bluetooth so the only thing for me is the "screen lock and custom ringtones" They should have called this Update 2.1 instead of 3

no matter what Microsoft do, they will always lag behind. It feels as if every trivial feature needs to be published and make a big fuss about it. I wonder how many developers are actually working. I bet less than 20 and over 2000 for HR, PR, QA, marketing, plans, strategy, graphic designers, etc... God damn hire more developers and speed up. The mobile I will purchase next will be the OS that I will invest my time with.

Fawzi Breidi said,
no matter what Microsoft do, they will always lag behind. It feels as if every trivial feature needs to be published and make a big fuss about it. I wonder how many developers are actually working. I bet less than 20 and over 2000 for HR, PR, QA, marketing, plans, strategy, graphic designers, etc... God damn hire more developers and speed up. The mobile I will purchase next will be the OS that I will invest my time with.

I agree that it feels that way but they've already changed up the development. They now have one core OS group, it does Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox OS development. Before then the WP guys were on their own which delayed things.

This is good news for some but will be very frustrating for those that have carrier locked devices. ATT only released GDR2 late last week, some 3 months after I got it officially for my device. I can only imagine and sympathise when ATT users will get GDR3, probably not til the new year, if they're lucky.

This is not good from a perception point of view, when you (MS) are trying to attract more switchers to your platform from the likes of Android and IOS, they've done a good job at sending people the other way.

The improvements themselves are welcome and needed and at least MS can say that the number 1 feature request (custom tones for alerts, sms and email) has finally been nailed and inside of a major update (being 8.1) - shows they are listening.

But they need to work faster and harder as they are still playing catchup in a lot of core areas. It still feels like watching treacle fall compared to how fast and how deep the changes were made for Windows 8.1, given a similar time frame.

Some nice features, but I was really hoping for separate volume controls and maybe the option to set the phone to vibrate or silence rather than the current one or the other... Man, that drives me nuts. lol

Why is there no mention in this article that it will be available to "developers" from tomorrow on.
We can all get it according to P Thurrott. You just have to sign up for free in App Studio and from then on we can download the update.

as a WP fan, it's hard for me to defend WP against others users of IOS or ANDROID.

my frustration is that the biggest software company in the world, not giving to much resources to it's most important attempt at the smartphones market, it's not fast enough, it's to little very late!!
this GDR3 is nice, but it's 7 month late!

it's not to much, when they take decision, they need to look at the competition, and then decide on time tablet and overall quality of the update, i think the guys at MS think IOS and android is 3 years in development, not mature 6 7 years OS's.

R1pper said,
as a WP fan, it's hard for me to defend WP against others users of IOS or ANDROID.

my frustration is that the biggest software company in the world, not giving to much resources to it's most important attempt at the smartphones market, it's not fast enough, it's to little very late!!
this GDR3 is nice, but it's 7 month late!

it's not to much, when they take decision, they need to look at the competition, and then decide on time tablet and overall quality of the update, i think the guys at MS think IOS and android is 3 years in development, not mature 6 7 years OS's.

Though I agree that more needs to be done (Particularly that the consumer sees), I think a lot of people don't consider all of the behind the scenes or backend work that they are doing to the OS... Some of which has been very time consuming...

I think they need to better divy up their time between backend and user facing features...

Completely agree with original comment, for me it was nokia the only reason I was staying with wp8, I've had wp devices since the beginning and only just moved to android due to my 2nd 920 packing in.

Nokia maps and nokia drive (HERE) were fantastic, very simple and one of the main reasons I was staying with the platform but apps like whatsapp and Skype were a shambles, apps I wanted never arrived such as pingit, hsbc fast balance etc.

I know they can't please everyone but they really are making it hard for people to love this platform at times.

Since moving to a platform I use to say was laggy I haven't and won't look back for a while, in fact even got the nexus 7 tablet as well as the sony z1 phone. no lag, faster and smoother than my 920 (I know 920 is a year older), has all the apps I want, whatsapp and Skype run amazing.

Another row of tiles...wasn't long ago we were making fun of apple for an update that added another row of....

Swings and roundabouts I guess.

I am hoping that MS is saving the good stuff for 8.1 update as I.ve been with the platform since wp7 came out and I'm over this...a lot better things they could bring to the platform then devoting resources to cater for 6" devices and more cores.

Osiris said,
Another row of tiles...wasn't long ago we were making fun of apple for an update that added another row of....

You seem to forget that that was the main "feature" of the iPhone 5. That and a panorama function (lol). They deserved all the crap they got for that back then.

Osiris said,
Another row of tiles...wasn't long ago we were making fun of apple for an update that added another row of....

Swings and roundabouts I guess.

.


No, the joke was that they announced a new, longer phone, for an extra row of icons.
Microsoft's not touting this as a major new feature, it's just one feature on a list of features for a minor OS update.

BajiRav said,
I guess Neowin missed the biggest news in that blog post - early access to developers.

I'm still waiting for their early access program for users... Though I couldn't believe how late they released the SDK last time, they haven't brought that up again since the release of WP8... lol

M_Lyons10 said,

I'm still waiting for their early access program for users... Though I couldn't believe how late they released the SDK last time, they haven't brought that up again since the release of WP8... lol


...
That's what this is. If you care that much you can dev unlock your phone (for free now) and get the early release. It was never for the general public, just enthusiasts.

siah1214 said,

...
That's what this is. If you care that much you can dev unlock your phone (for free now) and get the early release. It was never for the general public, just enthusiasts.

I understand that, but enthusiasts != developers... lol

This is a very respectable update from Microsoft given that it is a mid-cycle update. With other vendors you don't see many new features between major yearly releases but this seems to have a decent number of them.

Granted they are playing catch up but good to see them putting this much effort into it.

Surely at 6" a landscape-mode home screen is a must? I don't see WP's tile-UI doesn't lend itself easily to this - works well with RT8.1.

Mugwump00 said,
Surely at 6" a landscape-mode home screen is a must? I don't see WP's tile-UI doesn't lend itself easily to this - works well with RT8.1.

Yes- please enable a slider qwerty

Biggest thing for me so far is the ability to set custom ringtones for different things, it would be nice that a work email and a personal email have different tones, as well as a voice mail and a twitter notification not being the same notification as well. as well as being able to use whatever tones you want rather than the specific ones they force you to use.

littleneutrino said,
Biggest thing for me so far is the ability to set custom ringtones for different things, it would be nice that a work email and a personal email have different tones, as well as a voice mail and a twitter notification not being the same notification as well. as well as being able to use whatever tones you want rather than the specific ones they force you to use.

Agreed.

With regards to this feature, I compare WP with the Blackberry. WP makes the settings of ringtones and sounds very simple, yet very limited (there is no much customisation you can do). On the other hand you have BlackBerry with gives you tons of customisations on ringing, vibration, notifications, etc. But the customisation of these can be a bit overwhelming for some.

Maybe Microsoft could reach a middle ground?

Spicoli said,
I'd love to see something like the BB10 hub on WP8. There's really no reason for jumping between apps just to see different message sources.

The idea of the hub is nice and acts really like a notification center from what I've seen of it. That said, there is a notification center implementation coming with WP8.1. How they do it though is a guess at this point. BB10 and other mobile OS's, like Windows 8.x/RT use edge UIs and so on to bring things up, but so far WP doesn't became most if not all apps use the left to right pivot control to swipe through the app etc. So then if you have to bring up something like that by swiping in from the left like on BB10 I could see it breaking apps or just not working right. We'll see what they come up with, so far the rumor is that WP8.1 will have a main "user center/hub" that you'll swipe to from the left of the start screen (right being the apps list) which will have quick access to settings and who knows what else.

Spicoli said,
Are they going to add the MAP Bluetooth protocol? It's pretty bad their own phones doesn't support texting with the Sync car systems.

Nokia is expected to provide updated Bluetooth supporting that specification as their conference later in the month

Shaun said,
"Microsoft won't satisfy everyone with Update 3" who do they think they WILL satisfy with this poor update?

Not sure if a poor attempt at trolling or what, but Windows Phone is a solid OS. These improvements will be much welcome. Don't knock it till you tried it.

Shaun said,
"Microsoft won't satisfy everyone with Update 3" who do they think they WILL satisfy with this poor update?

Poor update ?
by the looks of it, You must own a IPhone or Android and have no idea on what you're on about...

GDR3 will now pave the way for High Spec Hardware for WP devices
And this is a VERY good update for Current users (WIN8 devices only?)

I think MS has set our expectations so low in the past that we think this is a great update .... Am happy anyway, it delivers much more than GDR1 and 2.

Shaun said,
"Microsoft won't satisfy everyone with Update 3" who do they think they WILL satisfy with this poor update?

How many updates have Android and iOS gotten since last major version? We've gotten 3. 8.1 will be out early next year and that's the huge update that everyone's waiting for, but I'm not going to complain in the meantime about extra little features added to my phone.

The multitasking improvement is VERY nice. Also, GDR releases are primarly aimed at OEMs to enable new kind of phones with ever increasing spec sheets (1080p screens, quad core CPUs)

Shaun said,
"Microsoft won't satisfy everyone with Update 3" who do they think they WILL satisfy with this poor update?

Wait till Nokia throws in more of their Lumia stuff with Bittersweet Shimmer

Shaun said,
So where are the updates that are aimed towards the people buying the devices?

Bittersweet shimmer will add a bunch of other stuff as well. Remember that you're bitching about what basically amounts to a beta.

c.grz said,
What updates would you deem to be "aimed toward the people buying the devices"?

Notification center, Cortana, a music app you can add songs to a playlist would be a nice start.

incendy said,

Notification center, Cortana, a music app you can add songs to a playlist would be a nice start.

For that kind of stuff, we've something called "Windows Phone 8.1". GDRs are more focused on adding support for new hardware and tiny small features.

siah1214 said,

How many updates have [...] iOS gotten since last major version?

You mean in the past 26 days? I think there was one 18 days ago.

CSharp. said,

If you're asking about the minor update to iOS 7, I'm assuming its feature set is identical to the iOS 7 GM that was released to the public 26 days ago (http://www.apple.com/ios/whats-new/ )...

Yes, that's my point (but I wasn't certain). Minor updates aren't supposed to be feature-packed. Any new features are a bonus, but shouldn't be expected.

That is cool. But...

They need to have separate volumes for Ringtones and earphones. Period! So many times I have damaged my ears while plugging my earphones because the ringtone volume was set to full. So whenever I feel like listening to music, I have to remember to turn the system volume to half.

I should not have to manually increase volume on my phone to full after every jogging session.

If this is not there, I am selling my Lumia. Enough is enough!

These are the small things Android and iOS just gets them right.

sanke1 said,
That is cool. But...

They need to have separate volumes for Ringtones and earphones. Period! So many times I have damaged my ears while plugging my earphones because the ringtone volume was set to full. So whenever I feel like listening to music, I have to remember to turn the system volume to half.

I should not have to manually increase volume on my phone to full after every jogging session.

If this is not there, I am selling my Lumia. Enough is enough!

These are the small things Android and iOS just gets them right.

Agreed. And different volumes for ringer and system sounds / volume would be awesome too...

I really dislike how my android splits up the volume levels into tiny little bits and I have to remember to adjust each volume properly, more so it's not always easy to find the right volume setting and you may adjust one volume high and not realize it's not the one you thought it was.

sanke1 said,
That is cool. But...

They need to have separate volumes for Ringtones and earphones. Period! So many times I have damaged my ears while plugging my earphones because the ringtone volume was set to full. So whenever I feel like listening to music, I have to remember to turn the system volume to half.

I should not have to manually increase volume on my phone to full after every jogging session.

If this is not there, I am selling my Lumia. Enough is enough!

These are the small things Android and iOS just gets them right.


what about this one: when ur listening to music and u play a YT clip, once its finished so us ur music cue.... U have to play ur music from scratch, bye bye unsaved track list!!!

and +3 for separate volume controls, I want volume control independently for:

- ringtones
- alarms
- media

adza33 said,


what about this one: when ur listening to music and u play a YT clip, once its finished so us ur music cue.... U have to play ur music from scratch, bye bye unsaved track list!!!

and +3 for separate volume controls, I want volume control independently for:

- ringtones
- alarms
- media


nokia music just pauses and when you press play it continues.

Shadowzz said,

nokia music just pauses and when you press play it continues.

nope... Just tried it, stops ur music, removes it from ur cue, and when the yt clip is done i have to manually select the song again...

adza33 said,

nope... Just tried it, stops ur music, removes it from ur cue, and when the yt clip is done i have to manually select the song again...


Are you listening to the streaming service or MP3s?
Cause any other played sound will just pause my music, and I only play MP3s on it.

Shadowzz said,

Are you listening to the streaming service or MP3s?
Cause any other played sound will just pause my music, and I only play MP3s on it.

Listening to MP3's... Let me just explain again how I'm doing it...

1. Start playing an MP3 album using the Nokia Music or Xbox Music.
2. Fire up IE and navigate to neowin.com
3. One of the Neowin articles has an embedded YouTube clip, I hit play.
4. Clips plays and once it finishes, it returns me back to the article and my music doesnt start playing again
5. I hit the vol up\down to see if its still cued, but its empty..
6. Now I have to go back into music > album > play again...

Dot Matrix said,
So, AT&T users can expect to see this maybe by the end of next summer?

I think you need to ask AT&T ( I think ) and ask when they are going to release it
I know here in Aus, we got to wait for the Carrier to do its testing and crap like that

Similarly, did my HTC 8XT come with GDR2--what is the version number on that?

And I can't be the only one to think the Settings screen needs some work. Even though I love that they are adding orientation lock, I feel it should be in a Display setting category, along with screen brightness and maybe lock screen. On top of that, why is screen brightness way down in the list when it is arguably one of the most important and sought-after settings?
The sweet dream would be a reorganizable Settings list.

Hopefully I can get it pretty right away on my 1020 I just ordered, since it's open I can probably get it by using the same or similar cheat I used to get updates early on my old Trophy.