New features in Windows Phone 8.1 revealed in leaked developer's preview build

As Microsoft reportedly began shipping builds of Windows Phone 8.1 to registered developers this morning, the inevitable screenshot leaks have already begun.

A developer has documented extensively many changes discovered in the new Windows Phone 8.1 SDK on Reddit, and has even included a couple of screenshots along the way to join the others that have been leaked over the past few weeks, which were first spotted by The Verge.

He reports that the SDK includes support for something called 'Universal App' which includes features to build apps for both Windows Store apps, for Windows RT devices, and apps for Windows Phone from the same HTML and JavaScript code. Microsoft has been hinting that this could happen for a while now but it looks as though this switch is finally beginning, especially as Windows Phone apps are now packaged with a .appx extension - just like Windows 8 and Windows RT apps.

The build also includes some features that users of the new OS will benefit from including the ability to monitor and track battery life and the ability to change the default messaging app, shown in the screenshot below. A highlight for business users will no doubt be the new support for VPNs. Interestingly, the Reddit user also mentions that the SkyDrive app has already been rebranded as OneDrive in this build. Other changes to default apps include the separation of Music and Video and the inclusion of a new Podcast app.

New features in the leaked Windows Phone 8.1 build

Multitasking capabilities have also been shaken up as it has been reported that pressing the back button no longer quits the app if there is nothing to go back to. Instead, apps just suspend into the background, like on Windows 8 and Windows RT.

There is no sign of Microsoft 'Cortana' in this build - Microsoft's long-rumoured alternative to Siri - in this early build, however.  Developers do report though that the search button and any Bing-related functions just serve up error codes at the moment - an indication that Microsoft is deliberately disabling this functionality, presumably to hide Cortana's presence for as long as possible.

A full Windows Phone 8.1 preview build is expected to released officially to developers at Microsoft Build in April, when the OS is also expected to be capable of being installed onto physical devices. The new features included in today's leaked build certainly don't showcase all of the changes that will be present in Windows Phone 8.1 so Windows Phone users new and existing will have to wait a little longer to know for certain what the next evolution of the growing Windows Phone platform will look like.

More and more features keep leaking such as pull to close apps, virtual navigation keys can be hidden, nav bar color can be changed and new USB settings. One of the more interesting changes is the ability to switch from the default messaging application too. While we don't know what third-party apps can be used (Skype?) it does open the door to making Windows Phone a lot more customizable. 

Source & Image: Reddit

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Microsoft asks people to "Do1Thing" for Safer Internet Day 2014

Next Story

ARM unveils Cortex-A17 processor for mid-range devices

58 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

Well to each their own i guess, but this does align better. I find the X can be awkward to get to with ones thumb, swipe seems so much easier.

I'd like to see a list compiled showing where MS is objectively catching up but behind, making "par," or surpassing other mobile OS's as of their current versions.

"Music and video are separated" Is MS killimg the Hub paradigm? I can understand that separated apps are easier to update but I likrd the concept. In W 8.1 as well the Pictures app is no longer able to display photos from other sources which was very convenient.

Things I'd love to see beyond these cool sneak peeks:

1) App folders integrated into the start screen (not a separate app) ... and ditto for Windows 8.x

2) Ability to sort the all apps screen like you can in Windows 8.1 (by date installed, most recently used, category, as well as name)

3) Ability to long-press and pin any setting to the start screen, without having to download a separate app to do that for me.

4) Ability to sort the settings screen ... right now it seems completely random. Would love to sort by name, most recently used, category at least...

5) More integrated voice controls... would love to be able to dictate text into any text box (mostly while texting, but also email, etc). More integrated voice-to-text and voice commands throughout the system

6) More integrated copy/paste... if I see text on the screen, I want to be able to copy/paste it. There are too many times when text isn't selectable (mostly in other apps, but also labels and such).

Skwerl said,
Ugh. Another JavaScript orgasm. Yuck. Please aim away from me.

The emphasis isn't on JavaScript, but on the 'Universal App'. There is also C# and XAML, obviously.

Personally I'd love Microsoft to bring back context searching with the search button, and to beef it up ala Bing Super Search style in Windows 8.1.

It seems rather sad to me that I can't tap the search button in Windows Phone and have it search all apps that provide hooks for searching, all in one place (For example, search for "Wolf of Wall Street" and have the Flixter app return results for session times, IMDB returning the movie's info, Wikipedia returning its page on the movie and book, email+messaging returning any emails/messages with the text, Bing News returning any news articles about the movie, and general Bing search results). If I'm in an app, then focus primarily on the app's results, but allow me to repeat the search with "super search" and go back to the generalised results.

My gripe isn't that it uses Bing (I happen to like it), but that it seems like such a wasted opportunity. The current approach forces app developers to add unnecessary search buttons all over their apps to accommodate a serious deficiency in the OS' design, considering a search button is always available, just not usable.

FalseAgent said,

that is coming

Here's hoping. The contextual search was one of my favorite features initially. I was sorry to see it removed.

M_Lyons10 said,

Here's hoping. The contextual search was one of my favorite features initially. I was sorry to see it removed.


Indeed, it was a great feature.

"Receive text using
Messaging (default)"
what is it for?!
and yes, finally, store apps and downloads on sd card hope windows 8.1 update 1 has this too

A guess would be to change the default application in which you store and write text messages, to allow OEMs to build their own?

It will however, definitely be an OEM-only feature, so don't expect the store to boost in new apps for this

bdsams said,
Hmm, if I could change my texts to use Skype instead of the default messenger app...that would be awesome.

Yeah would be awesome to receive texts days after you sent them

Until there's a device with a hardware keyboard I'm sticking with my Dell Venue Pro, regardless of it running WP7.8 ! Soft keyboards just don't do it for me and my fat thumbs

Just wondering if you've ever tried. I have the same problem but software keyboards "learn" how you interact with the letters to avoid mistakes. I personally wouldn't go back to a hardware keyboard on a phone

Yes I've tried... my other half has a touch-screen device (as an aside she had a hardware keyboard prior and massively preferred it). I think it's a lot about the tactile feedback for me, I'm a heavy txter and emailer and seldom use my phone for calls. I'm watching the touch screen tactile developments closely.

jamieakers said,
Until there's a device with a hardware keyboard I'm sticking with my Dell Venue Pro, regardless of it running WP7.8 ! Soft keyboards just don't do it for me and my fat thumbs

I would love a WP with a 0-9 keyboard and t9 input. To each their own

I would go back anytime. Cant stand my bloody NL920 Keyboard. Cant stand any on board keyboards. And what a waste of space they are on my screen. shame that WP8 basically does not support landscape devices. I kind of miss my HTC devices:((

Ha yeah, Microsoft sure know how to build up hype. There has been no official statement that WP8.1 even exists but then they go ahead and drop these little bombs. I don't think there has been so much excitement over any iOS or Android update and than there is for WP8.1.

Same, I still have the original Samsung Focus. I almost got the 1020 when my wife got it but I don't take pictures enough and the 1520 is too big for me and also not available in Canada yet.

Enron said,
It's a settings menu. Do you really need glowing orbs, animated background and rotating images to turn VPN on?

Nope, I sure don't. However, I also don't want something that looks like it was drawn in MS Paint 1.0. It is funny that MS calls it "Modern" when there is nothing modern looking about it.

runningnak3d said,

Nope, I sure don't. However, I also don't want something that looks like it was drawn in MS Paint 1.0. It is funny that MS calls it "Modern" when there is nothing modern looking about it.

And yet Google, Apple and others are falling over themselves to copy the design. I guess you're just out of touch.

Enron said,
It's a settings menu. Do you really need glowing orbs, animated background and rotating images to turn VPN on?

No, we just need something pleasant to look at... Call it what you want but black and white is... black and white...

jakem1 said,

And yet Google, Apple and others are falling over themselves to copy the design. I guess you're just out of touch.

I don't like the direction Apple went with iOS at ALL, and I don't like the direction Google is going (if they continue down this path). However, I can FIX whatever Google does to Android. Wonderful thing called themes. MS used to believe in them, then they decided to hire 8 year olds to do their UI design.

runningnak3d said,

I don't like the direction Apple went with iOS at ALL, and I don't like the direction Google is going (if they continue down this path). However, I can FIX whatever Google does to Android. Wonderful thing called themes. MS used to believe in them, then they decided to hire 8 year olds to do their UI design.

If you want to see what happens when you mix 8 year olds with UI design, check out Deviantart. I feel a lot better with MS than I do with a lot of the "themes" floating around out there, many of which have broken functionality.

runningnak3d said,

Nope, I sure don't. However, I also don't want something that looks like it was drawn in MS Paint 1.0. It is funny that MS calls it "Modern" when there is nothing modern looking about it.

Then buy something else. WP basically ruined other phone UIs for me, can't and don't want to deal with Android and especially iOS anymore.

jakem1 said,

And yet Google, Apple and others are falling over themselves to copy the design. I guess you're just out of touch.

you just anticipated me ... EPIC QUOTE