With Microsoft having recently debuted Cortana, the focus is once again back on voice-based personal assistants. While Google Now doesn t really have the personality of Cortana or Siri, but because of the Google backend, it is a front-runner when it comes to pure functionality. While it cannot tell you a joke, or what it thinks of the competition, most voice-based queries are handled with aplomb. But here comes the real kicker.
There has always been something that has kept Windows Phones from taking off. With Windows Phone 7, it was the fact that Windows Phone was new, restrictive and simply did not have the apps. Windows Phone 7.5 Mango introduced more apps, but the hardware was underpowered compared to the likes of Android devices and even the OS wasn t nearly as mature. Then came Windows Phone 8 and for a while it seemed that Microsoft was finally starting to get somewhere the platform was opening up, users got more control, support for new powerful hardware and HD screens came in, but we still did not have a device that was a runaway success.
When Microsoft first introduced Windows Phone they seemed to want to mimic what Apple had been doing with iOS. Create a polished but closed ecosystem that was tightly controlled, and curated. The problem with that approach was that it didn t give users a reason to switch from iOS or Android to Windows Phone. Those who wanted a controlled and safe environment went to Apple, and the people who wanted freedom chose Android. Then the Nokia deal happened, and with Windows Phone 7.5 Mango, Microsoft started realizing that they would soon have to open up based on the feedback they got from the market and from Nokia. Windows Phone 8 saw things improve - drag and drop file transfers, easy to add ringtones, sending files over Bluetooth and even sideloading applications to an extent. Also present was limited support for microSD cards. With Windows Phone 8.1 Microsoft has turned another page. It was never the company that believed in granular control unlike Apple and that is now starting to show. When people talk about the improvements that 8.1 brings, things like Cortana, the Action Center, background wallpaper support, more tiles and the Word Flow keyboard are mentioned. But that s just scratching the surface. Here are nine big feature improvements in Windows Phone 8.1 that no one is talking about.