Windows Phone 8.1 to feature Start screen backgrounds and some more exciting features

Newly leaked information about Windows Phone 8.1 suggests that the update will finally bring background customization of the Start screen to the mobile operating system, similar to that seen on Windows 8.

According to a report from LiveSino, the upcoming update to Microsoft's mobile operating system will enable some more customization options for the users, than on previous versions of the platform. The report based on reverse engineering that leaked Windows Phone 8.1 SDK suggests that the users will be able to set an image as a background for the Start screen, which until now could only be set to black or white. It also mentions the option to show more tiles which may enable an additional column of tiles as seen on the larger Windows Phone 8 devices launched with Update 3.

In addition to customization, Windows Phone will finally be able to sync tabs with Internet Explorer 11 on other devices similar to Google Chrome on Android and desktop. A lot of information about the Windows Phone 8.1 update has leaked in the past few days through the SDK and documentation but there is still a lot that is unknown, as Microsoft has reportedly disabled some components from the SDK. However, some of the exciting features to be expected from the update are: ability to store apps on SD card, ability to download and access multiple file types on the phone itself, 'Action center' for notifications, improved background tasks and Miracast.

Going by the leaks, the 8.1 update is set to be a big one for Windows Phone and we will know more about it as BUILD is coming soon.

Source: LiveSino via The Verge | Image via LiveSino

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Same whining about Win8 in general... don't like it? Don't use it. Disable it. It takes 2 minutes to disable the Start Screen, but people whine. It probably takes 10 seconds to not use a background, but people whine. Are you that helpless?

I don't know if I'm excited or not for WP8 8.1; I'm still not sure if T-Mobile actually said "no more updates" to Lumia 810 based on the forums I'm seeing on the T-Mobile site.

I don't see why it can't get the update; hardware wise. Is it really that difficult to just give it a final update? If the 521 can get the update, why not the 810?

Awesome. I would set my start background to be the same as my lockscreen background so that it's a seamless transition between the two.

Can't wait for this release.

No. Some bloggers confused WinRT with Windows RT. Microsoft has continued to merge the programming model of Windows Phone Runtime (WinPRT) with that of Windows 8/RT (WinRT).

They never planned on merging the two operating systems. Makes no sense, they both already share the same core (Windows NT).

No, it's not, but it seems to be the thing Microsoft want to archief in the near future. They started to referrer to Windows Phone as Win PRT with WP8.1.

Studio384 said,
They started to referrer to Windows Phone as Win PRT with WP8.1.

WinPRT stands for "Windows Phone RunTime", it's effectively subset of WinRT that contains in addition contains phone-related functionality (e.g. interaction with mobile networks,…)
So no, they don't refer to WP as WinPRT. It's just the name of the APIs!

I think they should port over the two-tone accent tones from Windows 8, and the 'Tattoo' backgrounds.

However, having seen the god-awful mockups people do with photos or some ghastly colour behind the Tiles, most people clearly have no clue about why the way it is now works so beautifully. It's going to be like putting Bumper-Stickers on a Ferrari.

The screenshot currently floating around with the grey tiles and the pink/orange background is a prime example. Awful. Why would Microsoft want their platform reflected in this way, sometimes Users need to be saved from themselves.

Not everyone want black or white background thank you Microsoft for giving us an option to change our background

Windows Phone 8.1 looks cluttered as new information leaks. A background for the Start Screen, a Notification (or Action Center), separate volume controls (even though people find it useful, IMO it's not a deal breaker)... What about now? One more row for tiles?

To me, minimalism is losing its real meaning there.

Mamoru-san said,
Windows Phone 8.1 looks cluttered as new information leaks. A background for the Start Screen, a Notification (or Action Center), separate volume controls (even though people find it useful, IMO it's not a deal breaker)... What about now? One more row for tiles?

To me, minimalism is losing its real meaning there.


Christ there really isn't pleasing some people. You're the only one that doesn't want those features. Separate volume controls is one of the most sought after features. An extra row of tiles is coming as an option (it's called choice, it's good)
WTF is wrong with having a notification center?

Your post reads like this: "here's a list of features that everyone has asked for, for almost 3 years. How dare they add them?!"

It seems that users will be able to turn on and off all l these features therefore what they will bring is a better and more pleasant experience for users and make the OS closer to what made Windows successful: the ability to be tailored to the personal, and I would add variegate, preferences of the users.

Relax, dude. It's just a opinion.
I'll stress it: OPINION.

If you want them, fine! I'm happy you'll be glad that WP get these features.

siah1214 said,

Christ there really isn't pleasing some people. You're the only one that doesn't want those features. Separate volume controls is one of the most sought after features. An extra row of tiles is coming as an option (it's called choice, it's good)
WTF is wrong with having a notification center?

Your post reads like this: "here's a list of features that everyone has asked for, for almost 3 years. How dare they add them?!"

Relax, dude. It's just an opinion.
I'll stress it: OPINION.

If you want them, fine! I'm happy you'll be glad that WP get these features and I love that more people everyday get to know and like Windows Phones.. But please don't come telling me I'm wrong, 'cause I'm not doing the same with you.

Edited by Mamoru-san, Feb 15 2014, 8:40pm :

neonspark said,
I agree. It seems their answer to everything is more tile sizes and aren't using negative space effectively.

Yeah. I don't agree with some changes because it looks like WP is losing character here.
What's wrong with a notification center? Nothing, it works perfect. ON ANDROID. WP comes with Live Tiles, and even though they don't show EVERY app update, they show you the last one, forcing you to enter the app to see the other notifications. Live Tiles are designed so that you don't need to enter the app to see what's going on, but this concept does not work with social networks apps, since they have lots of information coming in a short period of time.

If the new row is something selectable, then fine. Let them have it! I know it works on higher resolution screens, but the addition of more tiles will make (IN MY OPINION, AND I STRESS IT AGAIN) the start screen looks cluttered -- and a user of Windows Phone wants, I guess, an elegant and clean mobile OS.

Indeed, all other updates are very welcome. I wouldn't like a separate volume control because I don't like it and I think it takes a lot of space on my start screen. But, AGAIN, this is my sole opinion. Of couse Microsoft should hear the majority.

Mamoru-san said,
Windows Phone 8.1 looks cluttered as new information leaks. A background for the Start Screen, a Notification (or Action Center), separate volume controls (even though people find it useful, IMO it's not a deal breaker)... What about now? One more row for tiles?

To me, minimalism is losing its real meaning there.

Minimalism or a Modernism design does not mean fewer features/options. By definition modernism puts functionality over design. Minimalism is by definition hidden complexity, which WP does well and still does well with 8.1.

The interface design that Microsoft is using and how controls and users interact with the interface elements are what make it a minimal/modern design, not a reduction in functionality or features.

Just because the controls are more minimal/modern, doesn't mean they can't have as many or even more options than any other OS, as long as the complexity is hidden or automated from the user as much as possible.

When WP8 was released it was fairly feature neutral as the majority of work was in getting the framework and legacy framework moved over and running as a proper layer on NT along with the new framework options.
(The NT part was the easiest part, and it actually took more work hiding the complexity for WP than it did to port Windows 8 to the phone.)

The majority of features you are seeing in 8.1 were started over a year ago, as it is the first full 'feature' revision/pass, just as WP7.5 was. This is why there is a lot of stuff coming in this release that end users see and notice.

WP won't be harder to use or more confusing, but it will have more options when the user looks for them. If the user never changes the Volume slider, they won't care or touch it and just use the hardware buttons, for example.

Mobius Enigma said,

Minimalism or a Modernism design does not mean fewer features/options. By definition modernism puts functionality over design. Minimalism is by definition hidden complexity, which WP does well and still does well with 8.1.

The interface design that Microsoft is using and how controls and users interact with the interface elements are what make it a minimal/modern design, not a reduction in functionality or features.

Just because the controls are more minimal/modern, doesn't mean they can't have as many or even more options than any other OS, as long as the complexity is hidden or automated from the user as much as possible.

When WP8 was released it was fairly feature neutral as the majority of work was in getting the framework and legacy framework moved over and running as a proper layer on NT along with the new framework options.
(The NT part was the easiest part, and it actually took more work hiding the complexity for WP than it did to port Windows 8 to the phone.)

The majority of features you are seeing in 8.1 were started over a year ago, as it is the first full 'feature' revision/pass, just as WP7.5 was. This is why there is a lot of stuff coming in this release that end users see and notice.

WP won't be harder to use or more confusing, but it will have more options when the user looks for them. If the user never changes the Volume slider, they won't care or touch it and just use the hardware buttons, for example.

I still do not agree, but that is perfeclty fine
IMO, some of these new futures are there and hidden, as you said. The slider isn't really necessary if you have hardware buttons, Of course it is an option, but still useless.

And I want you to notice that I'm not saying it will be harder to use. I just said it is cluttered with information that is put somewhere else and that the end user is more than proficient in finding.

OMFG finally. To all the people talking about seeing only a little bit of a picture -- you just need a picture that's long and tall, or to manufacture one that way in a skinny aspect ratio. No different than making a wallpaper that looks good across 3 monitors.

Talys said,
OMFG finally. To all the people talking about seeing only a little bit of a picture -- you just need a picture that's long and tall, or to manufacture one that way in a skinny aspect ratio. No different than making a wallpaper that looks good across 3 monitors.

That's not what they were referring to at all.

Ideas Man said,

That's not what they were referring to at all.

I was referring to posts like this: "I don't understand Start Screen backgrounds on WP, it's not like you're going to see much of the image."

My point is that you can have an extremely long and narrow source image -- for instance, 1080x5760 -- no different than in a 3x1 monitor setup, you'd need to make a background 5760x1080.

I hope MS will make its own apps following, as an option of course, the theme colour; on my start screen the only tiles with different colors are MS ones.

This (overall) seems a lot bigger overall than most +0.1 updates but I guess they are wanting to match the version number to Windows 8.1 rather than end up ahead.

To me, if you have live tiles firing off with a background image it would seem a bit busy, but it is a nice feature to have. I don't see myself picking a photo of a person or anything, but maybe something abstract.

What I really want to see on the Start Screen, is a way to group tiles similar to Windows 8. That would eliminate the clutterific feeling of using the Start Screen.

Dot Matrix said,
What I really want to see on the Start Screen, is a way to group tiles similar to Windows 8. That would eliminate the clutterific feeling of using the Start Screen.

This is something that still may happen, or a least a phone friendly variation.

I have a long list of 'would like' that includes things like this. For example, I would love to see the tiles rotate for landscape, even if was only the square ones so that it doesn't require any reflow. This type of stuff may have to wait for WP9 when the start screen does fully converge with Windows 9.

I would like it too but, as you pointed out, the large tiles would be an issue. Personally I would also like the ability to "group" the program in the list, when you swipe from right to the left. I still love the "honeycomb" paradigm but I understand that implementing it could be a deviation from the Metro guideline. Also what should be added is the ability, optional of course, to show more appointments and to do in the lock screen and the calendar tile

DLenaerts said,
And a sort of built in start screen folder system, not like the Nokia folder app but a built-in system, like on iOS!

We still haven't seen everything that's coming in 8.1 it seems, so any start screen changes might have to wait for a more final version. One such feature that I've read about but don't think is in this SDK is the ability to clear tile notifications with a left swipe, no more having to open the app.

Fritzly said,
I would like it too but, as you pointed out, the large tiles would be an issue. Personally I would also like the ability to "group" the program in the list, when you swipe from right to the left. I still love the "honeycomb" paradigm but I understand that implementing it could be a deviation from the Metro guideline. Also what should be added is the ability, optional of course, to show more appointments and to do in the lock screen and the calendar tile

They could just have the text rotate on all tiles, large or small. Seems like it would work out alright.

in other words you want something like the pivot control on the start screen. I love the pivot control and can't understand why they don't use it on the start screen since they are so against folders. better yet, add folders dammit.

Well as long you use something not too busy, it makes for a more interesting looking home screen. Not everyone wants a black background like they're playing Space Invaders.

Dot Matrix said,
I don't understand Start Screen backgrounds on WP, it's not like you're going to see much of the image.

You know I usually agree with most of the stuff you post here, but why are you so averse to the start screen backgrounds? No one is forcing you to use them. I'm really looking forward to having them, it's gonna look fantastic, especially if they're animated like in Windows 8.1. I think it's one of the most exciting features on WP8.1

I'd really like it if it would use your lock screen backgrounds, and when you unlocked your phone, instead the screen sliding up, your tiles would slide over the lock screen. I think it'd be a neat animation.

Dot Matrix said,
I don't understand Start Screen backgrounds on WP, it's not like you're going to see much of the image.

Probably not, but it does bring consistency with Windows 8.1 start screen.

Additionally, depending on how much latitude is given to users to customize the tile sizes, and or possible grouping, it could have more 'whitespace' for the background to display through.


siah1214 said,

You know I usually agree with most of the stuff you post here, but why are you so averse to the start screen backgrounds? No one is forcing you to use them. I'm really looking forward to having them, it's gonna look fantastic, especially if they're animated like in Windows 8.1. I think it's one of the most exciting features on WP8.1

I'd really like it if it would use your lock screen backgrounds, and when you unlocked your phone, instead the screen sliding up, your tiles would slide over the lock screen. I think it'd be a neat animation.

I'm not against it, but it just seems like such a trivial feature since the tiles o the Screen pretty much take up 95% of the real estate.

Dot Matrix said,

I'm not against it, but it just seems like such a trivial feature since the tiles o the Screen pretty much take up 95% of the real estate.

That might be but the black/white background does create a very iconic look that some people don't like. I can relate. At one point I had a black background on Window 8 to match my Phone but eventually I switched it around between black, the desktop wallpaper and the Windows 8 designs.

I think I will do the same on my Phone (would be really nice if it could sync background with Windows 8). As for not seeing much of it. A wallpaper of a nice landscape might be obscured from view. However the pretty colors of the landscape do create a very different impression of the startscreen. And if you add (for example) a wavy blue background then you got something that breaks the otherwise monotone look of the UI. Lastly I have my tiles grouped just like on Windows 8. So in my case I get to see more of the wallpaper.

Dot Matrix said,

I'm not against it, but it just seems like such a trivial feature since the tiles o the Screen pretty much take up 95% of the real estate.

It is a trivial feature, which is kind of the point, as I doubt Microsoft put any time or effort into it, and knowing how the code base works, they wouldn't of had devote hardly any resources.

It probably took a developer a couple of hours to implement the display of the wallpaper and the code to change/manage the background.

Besides, it does offer consistency and then it becomes a question of why not.

scumdogmillionaire said,
+1 -- I don't get it either. But if it shuts people up about it then whatever!

Agreed. And with a lot of their work crossing between Windows and Windows Phone, if the code's there already, why not support it?

Dot Matrix said,
I don't understand Start Screen backgrounds on WP, it's not like you're going to see much of the image.
Full images would probably rune the design, but Windows 8-like backgrounds would fit nice.

you have to give them credit to actually doing something users requested. the managers behind windows phone had so much ego that he didn't care to implement anything!

I bet they made internal changes and hired "1" extra guy to work on windows phone.

Dot Matrix said,

I'm not against it, but it just seems like such a trivial feature since the tiles o the Screen pretty much take up 95% of the real estate.

They do now, but if you have a cool background, you can have an interesting effect by leaving empty spaces on your tiles (just like on Win 8, an irregular grid of tiles can look interesting).

Fawzi Breidi said,
you have to give them credit to actually doing something users requested. the managers behind windows phone had so much ego that he didn't care to implement anything!

I bet they made internal changes and hired "1" extra guy to work on windows phone.

I think it's unfair to say that they haven't done anything. They have done a lot of work on Windows Phone over the last few years...

I will be sticking to the black background. The effect of live tiles on a black background with an AMOLED display is really distinctive.

Fritzly said,

Look great indeed but how to create the empty space showed just above the Explorer tile

Looks like that is assuming you'll be able to put the tiles into categories like in Windows 8.x.

That said... it's really amazing how much better that looks. I wasn't expecting to like it that much.

Depending on how you customize your Start Screen, you very well could see the backgrounds. Leaving spaces between any given number of tiles could leave you with some interesting looking Start Screens.

Fritzly said,

Look great indeed but how to create the empty space showed just above the Explorer tile

That's alread possible if you install an app named 'Name group of Tiles'. It's free in the WP store.

rfirth said,

Looks like that is assuming you'll be able to put the tiles into categories like in Windows 8.x.

That said... it's really amazing how much better that looks. I wasn't expecting to like it that much.

You should see the other one where the phone on the right goes into landscape mode. It actually scrolls vertically in landscape mode, just like Windows 8. And then there is another one of a Suface in portrait mode scrolling horizontlly like WP. Really cool how it merges the experience.

Quote by Dot Matrix
"I'm not against it, but it just seems like such a trivial feature since the tiles o the Screen pretty much take up 95% of the real estate. "

Shush.... Don't ruin it for the apple and android fan. Let them get the glory of "See MS gives and listen to us now"

Ronnet said,

That's alread possible if you install an app named 'Name group of Tiles'. It's free in the WP store.


I will try it, thanks.

Dot Matrix said,
I don't understand Start Screen backgrounds on WP, it's not like you're going to see much of the image.

in general background is old fashioned. for very large screen with few icons it may look good (e.g. PC or MAC backgroung) but for phones (in general) its just distraction but having option is better than not having options.

trojan_market said,

in general background is old fashioned. for very large screen with few icons it may look good (e.g. PC or MAC backgroung) but for phones (in general) its just distraction.

I disagree. Check the video I posted in the comment above yours. It looks really good in my opinion. Not a distraction at all. Kind of peaceful and more much alive than the current WP theme.