8 things you need to know about Windows Phone 8.1

A new version of Windows Phone is set to bring a host of new features to your Windows smartphone. Here, the O2 Gurus run through eight reasons why you should be excited about the Windows Phone 8.1 update hitting your phone.

1. It has a clever keyboard for super-speed typing

We guarantee you will feel like a magician once you get the hang of Windows Phone 8.1’s new swipe-based typing system. Instead of tapping out each individual letter, just wipe your finger around the keyboard and the software does the rest – it has to be seen to be believed, so check it out on the new Nokia Lumia 930 in the video below:

2. It comes with crowd-sourced Wi-Fi sharing

This is a neat addition for anyone on a strict data diet: Wi-Fi Sense builds up a log of Wi-Fi networks that you and your Windows Phone-owning friends have logged into, then automatically connects you to them when you’re in range. So if you visit a café you could automatically connect to its password-protected Wi-Fi just because one of your friends has been there and logged in before you. All without needing to put in your details or find out the password for yourself.

3. It’ll play nicely with your other Windows devices 

One of the big draws of Windows Phone is that it work seamlessly with your other Microsoft devices. The Windows Phone 8.1 software makes sure that you can see the same content on each device – whether that’s your documents using One Drive, your Skype contacts and chats, your Bing search history or your music and video library through the Xbox apps on your phone.

4. It gives you so much control!

The all-new action centre on Windows Phone 8.1 gives you a really easy and clear overview of any calls, messages or emails you might have missed, as well as a shortcut to switch things like airplane mode and Wi-Fi on and off. There’s also a new Do Not Disturb mode that will hold all your calls and messages until you’re free to take them. The 8.1 software also makes it really easy to keep track of your phone’s vital statistics like how much battery, data and storage space you have left on your phone.

5. You can make a personalised homescreen jigsaw

Windows Phone has always been good at letting you personalise your phone using its Live Tile system that shows friends’ photos and updates from social media on your home screen. But anyone who craves a bit more simplicity will like the update in 8.1 that allows you to choose a favourite photo to use as the background on your homescreen, with the tiles then fitting together to show the photo like a jigsaw. Check out the video to see how else you can customise the Nokia Lumia 635 and Lumia 930:

6. The camera has high-speed shooting action

Arguably the most important element of any smartphone is its camera: in Windows Phone 8.1 you’ll be able to use high speed Burst Mode for the first time. This lets you take lots of photos in a row so you can choose the best shot – it’s particularly good when you’re photographing moving things.

7. There’s a cool feature we’re bringing you early…

Visual voicemail is really handy for anyone who’s forever missing calls. All your voicemail messages are stored by name of caller in an easy list and from there you can listen to or delete each one in turn. No more sitting through five spammy messages just to get to the one your mum left you, you can just click straight into the voicemails you want to hear.

That’s why we’re so excited to be the first UK network to support visual voicemail as part of the Windows Phone 8.1 roll-out. Look out for a software update coming soon to the new Nokia Lumia 930, Lumia 630 and Lumia 625. Most other Lumia phones will also be getting visual voicemail as the Windows Phone 8.1 update rolls out.

8. …and one you’ll have to wait for

cortana

Ever dreamed of having a robot butler? Cortana is Windows Phone’s answer to the iPhone’s Siri. Named after an artificially intelligent character from Halo, she’s a voice-controlled personal assistant. You can ask her to do practically anything on your phone: write and send text messages, connect calls and search the web, set up calendar events or even just have a bit of a chat to get to know her better.

Unfortunately for us Brits, she’s only available in the US at the moment. Hopefully it won’t be long before she makes her way across the pond.

Does Windows Phone 8.1 tempt you to make the switch? Let us know over on Twitter @O2 or in the comments below.

You can also find us on O2 Guru TV or visit an O2 Guru in store.