An update to Windows Phone 8.1 is on the way just weeks after the release of the product itself. Microsoft has begun detailing some of the features in the update to phone manufacturers, and the update will likely come in August, possibly being seeded to developers as early as next week. Microsoft reportedly put details about the update on its developer Web site.
One significant part of the update, unofficially called update 1, is that Windows Phone 8.1's operating system will include native folder support. The update will let users drag one Live Tile onto another to create a folder, after which they can rename the folder and have access to applications directly from within the new folder.
With the update, new tiles can be added to the folder by tapping and dragging a selected tile into the new folder. A similar feature has long been available in Android and iOS phones.
Ken Dulaney, vice president and distinguished analyst at industry research firm Gartner, said the folder feature might have been overdue.
"Folders is probably something they should have had years ago," Dulaney told us. "(They) want to have it as soon as it's ready to avoid losing sales to iOS and Android as a result of a missing table-stakes feature."
Windows Phone 8.1 will also offer support for 1280x800-pixel screens as well as 7-inch screens. The update will also include Voice over LTE support, which will allow Lumia smartphone owners to make phone calls over a 4G connection. Update 1 will include support for qHD (960x540 pixels), but none for resolutions higher than 1080p, prompting some observers to wonder if Microsoft wants only to gain the low-end smartphone market.
The update will also allow support for interactive cases. A popular such case is HTC's Dot View Case, which lets users view notifications through the case. Now, Android devices made by such companies as LG and Samsung are able to sync up with interactive phone cases.
"It's not surprising there is an update because as the new phones are readied for Christmas, Microsoft wants to have full support for as many features on the devices as they can," Dulaney said.
Better Cortana In-Car Integration
The update will introduce a handful of more subtle features. A "quiet hours" feature, when activated, will automatically redirect calls to voicemail and silence all notifications.
Also included will be an update for Cortana, the Microsoft digital assistant along the lines of Apple's Siri and Google Now. Update 1 will also bring a phonebook entry for Cortana that can be integrated with a car's navigation system, along with support for Network Time Protocol and a medium Live Tile for the Windows Store app.
Cortana, a feature available to U.S. Windows Phone 8.1 owners only, does the chores that have become standard for virtual assistants, including placing phone calls, sending text messages, adding calendar appointments, setting reminders and alarms, creating notes, and performing searches.