By Adam Z. Lein | October 17, 2013 10:39 AM
The Windows Phone 8 GDR 3 update was released as a preview for developers just recently, so in this video we’re going to take a look at some of the new features. The update isn’t terribly large, but there are some significant changes. Check out the video below to see all of the new features.
I’m going to start with my favorite new feature. With Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8 GDR3 you can now access internet sharing without having to go into the phone settings, turn it on, and look up the password. I’ve paired my Nokia Lumia 925 with my Surface Pro using Bluetooth and now even if I have internet sharing turned off on the phone, I can go to the wireless networks listing on the tablet and the Nokia Lumia 925 shows up in the list. Selecting the phone and tapping connect will then use Bluetooth to turn on the phone’s internet sharing over WiFi feature. That means my phone can be sitting on the charger or in a pocket and I don’t have to go get it to turn on the WiFi router.
The next new feature I like is the mobile accessibility feature. This requires an app download and a reboot to enable. After you do that a special accessibility mode comes on at startup. The UI is designed to be functional even for blind users. A speech engine reads every button aloud so that you know what’s selected and full screen gestures such as directional swipes, double taps, and triple taps are used for navigating. It’s a bit different from the full Speech UI in that it’s not listening for your voice for interaction; you still use the touch screen. This mode even announces things like when your phone locks itself and goes to sleep mode.
Driving Mode seems completely useless to me. The concept is that if you’re driving the phone can automatically reply to phone calls or texts with a pre-written message that tells people you’re driving and you can’t talk right now. You can only turn it on by pairing it with a specific Bluetooth connection device though. The problem is, if I have a Bluetooth device in my car or in my motorcycle helmet, that makes it extremely easy to answer phone calls or reply to text messages using voice recognition without taking my eyes off the road or hands off the throttle. If there was a way to manually turn the feature on, I would most likely use it while I was on my bicycle since I don’t have any Bluetooth device for that and therefor no way of safely listening to or responding to messages.
Custom ringtones have been available for a while on Windows Phone, but now with GDR2, you can specify custom alert sound effects. These are all configurable in the settings area, but if you go to edit a specific contact, you can also specify a specific incoming text message sound for particular people. This way if you want to know that someone important is texting you right away, you can give that person a special sound effect.
There’s a rotation lock option in the settings now. I personally don’t care about this, but it’s there now.
The Storage settings area has seen a big update. You now have a lot more options for seeing how your storage memory is being used and there’s even a button for clearing out the temporary storage area.
The task switching interface has a new update as well. Now each thumbnail image of your recently used apps have a close button at the top so that you can clear them out. There’s really no reason to ever close apps on Windows Phone in this manner since as soon as they’re not in the foreground, they’re suspended quite well, but now you can do it anyway.
There’s a few other features that we can’t show you on the Lumia 925 because they’re designed specifically for devices with newer hardware. For example, new phones with larger screens will have 1080p HD resolution and a 3rd column of live tiles for the start screen in addition to expanded layout designs in many of the apps.