We’re still waiting on Windows Phone 8 GDR3 – the update expected this fall to bring new software features and support for additional hardware options – yet that hasn’t prevented us from looking further off into the future, for what Windows Phone 8.1 might bring in 2014. We’ve heard bits and pieces, like how the arrival of WP8.1 might finally lead to a unified cross-platform Windows app store, but a lot of it’s still been a mystery – heck, we’ve got enough to figure out about GDR3 first. WP8.1 may still be many months off, but today we hear some more about what new to expect, and what might change about what we’re already familiar with.
One big change could be killing-off the hardware back button. Reportedly, users find it confusing, and Microsoft could ditch it to make navigation more intuitive. There could also be much improved multitasking support, with better management of background processes and notifications.
That talk of a unified Windows app store sounds like it might be reinforced by another rumor here, that Microsoft could introduce the option for developers to make universal binaries, embedding Windows Phone and Windows RT code into the same package. The 1080p compatibility we get in GDR3 could balloon into support for physically larger screens in WP8.1, possibly going full-on into the seven-to-ten-inch tablet space.
While some of that sounds pretty good, we wonder if changes like losing the back button could upset long-time fans, worried that Microsoft is “dumbing down” the platform in a race to the bottom. In any case, this info is based on reports from a single source, so while it may be accurate, it could also be missing the bigger picture, or leaving out important bits that would help with our understanding of all these changes. Hopefully, in the months to follow we’ll see the full picture become more clear.