A lot has changed in Windows Phone land over the past few months. So much so that Windows Phone is starting to be viewed by much of the tech community as just as good as Android and iOS with respect to OS function. Apps and ecosystem may be another conversation, but for now Windows Phone is putting on the big boy pants and declaring, “We’ve got fun things to do on Windows Phone 8.1! So lets give them a look.
We’ve come a long way baby. A lot has been rolled out to the public of late from the halls of Redmund, so we thought it might be a nice time to show you some of the new toys at your disposal. That’s right, we put the “fun” in functional. So let’s take a look at some of the things you can now do with that Windows Phone besides taking outstanding pics, shall we?
No, not the magic street in Harry Potter. Sure, it’s a bad joke, but if it’s good enough for J.K., it’s good enough for me. Right out of the gate comes a feature that was demonstrated, long sought after, and quietly released just a couple of weeks ago. Live Lock Screen Beta is an app you can pick up in the Windows Phone App Store that brings you the functionality that Joe Belfiore showed off during Build. The Lock screen with the various fields sliding off in all manner of directions, or the pseudo combination lock thingy are all now available on your Windows Phone 8.1 Device.
Simply download the app from the Windows Phone store and you can enable it by launching it. You can choose from a number of different backgrounds or make your own. Cool things like double tap to wake still work even with the new lock screen so give it a whirl if you haven’t already.
Another reasonably new feature in Windows Phone 8.1 is the introduction of folders. Nokia made an attempt at addressing this deficiency some months back, but for the most part, it failed. Sure you were able to group some icons together so you could keep all your mail accounts in one tile, but Microsoft’s implementation is so much better.
The new folders keep the Live Tile functionality by still showing the additional information – albeit in a rather tiny fashion. The tiles still flip and they exchange enlarged views, much like the People Hub live tile, but far more useful. Tap on a folder and the tiles drop down below. Select away. Tiles can even be resized and arranged within the folder, which is pretty cool, though the alignment defaults to the left even though the majority of people will be using a phone with their right hands. Eh well, they’re movable, so no harm no foul.
Make your buttons yours
The long-awaited action center has one really fun aspect to it that makes it so much more useful. The four buttons going across the top of the center can be configured to control a number of different on/off settings such as airplane mode, internet sharing, bluetooth, camera, brightness, etc. Sure, I know this is an oldie – it harkens all the way back to May of twenty fourteen, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Just a suggestion though, and this is a bit of a failing on Microsoft’s part, but make sure you get the most out of those four buttons. Those buttons are basically just on/off toggles – they will not provide quick access to WiFi settings for example. They will only turn the radios on and off. If you’re like me and you use WiFi and Bluetooth all the time, then you won’t be turning them off very often. My setup currently has WiFi (because it does show the network you’re connected to), Camera, Internet Sharing, and Brightness. Your mileage may vary, but I’m shooting for tap reduction here.
Cortana is another oldie, but goodie. Cortana has a wide range of utility which has been gone over time and time again. The handiest part of Cortana is her ability to recognize members of my family. So, instead of saying “Navigate to (–Redacted–) Doud’s house”, I can say “Navigate to my brother’s house” which is a much more natural way of speaking.
Plus Cortana has the famous Cortana attitude about her. In addition to speaking with her more naturally, she’s able to communicate with you more naturally, and sometimes with a saucy attitude. WP Central’s forums have compiled a pretty comprehensive list of commands you can give Cortana for which you will be properly rebuked. We tried many of them with mixed results. Check it out here.
So that’s a little roundup of some of the more fun and features you’ll find during your Windows Phone 8.1 experience, now that it’s being rolled out all official like. Developer Previews are one thing, but this is the real McCoy, so we invite you to explore and take full advantage of everything it has to offer. As always, one person’s fun may not be so for others – ask my wife about that any time – so what’s some of the more fun things you’ve come across in Windows Phone 8.1? Sound of below and let everyone share in the fun.