The next release on Microsoft's update roadmap for Windows Phone 8 is starting to roll out now to devices around the world - although that process has already been overshadowed by reports of some devices being bricked after installing the update. General Distribution Release 2 is its name - better known as GDR2 - and it will bring a range of welcome, but fairly uninteresting, improvements.
Beyond that, Microsoft has one further update in store for 2013. We've known for some time that GDR3 will arrive before the end of the year, and will bring new hardware support, principally for quad-core processors and 1080p displays. Further details about GDR3 emerged today via The Verge, which revealed several new features that the update will bring.
The most visible change will come to the Start screen, with revisions to the Live Tiles for devices with Full HD (1920x1080px) displays; the network indicator logos will apparently also be updated.
Also on the UI front, a new 'driving mode' interface will be added to the OS, making handsets more driver-friendly. A rotation lock is also on the way - something that many users have been longing for since their first Windows Phone 7 handsets. This was reportedly considered an important feature for new phablet-class devices, with larger 5- and 6-inch displays.
Microsoft is also working on a feature to synchronise SMS text messages between handsets, PCs and the web. It's apparently intended to enable users to view their messages on other devices or via a web page - which calls to mind Microsoft's ill-fated Kin phones, and its 'Kin Studio' web interface.
There's still a question mark hanging over that feature though - it's said that the company may not complete it in time for the release of GDR3. "Sources familiar with Microsoft's Windows Phone plans" told The Verge that Microsoft hopes to have the update finalised by mid-September, coinciding with the announcement of a new Nokia phablet.
GDR3 will reportedly debut on that and other new devices, before it's made available to existing handsets later this year. Beyond that, "early 2014" is the timeframe for the next update, but it's expected to be worth the wait. Windows Phone 8.1 is believed to bring a broad range of improvements, such as better multitasking and a notifications hub, while an 'enterprise feature pack' is also promised.
Source: The Verge