Lots of exciting stuff announced today for Windows Phone 8.1. Don't believe me? Just search "#bldwin" on Twitter. Not only is there a bolstered notification system, new Start Screen features, new calendar functions, new lock screen capabilities, added features in Internet Explorer, and a brand new WordFlow "Swype-like" functionality added to the keyboard, but a brand-new personal assistant named Cortana.
Cortana is the first "truly personal" digital personal assitant
Joe Belfiore was able to showcase some of the many features of Cortana, Windows Phone 8.1's personal assistant. Cortana keeps track of your interests, reminders, what your quiet hours are, and other personal information. Belfiore mentioned that this "journaling" feature was inspired by talking to actual personal assistants and getting feedback on how they save information about clients.
A neat feature called "Inner Circle" is the group of people closest to you, that can contact you during your quiet hours. Another unique feature of Cortana is setting "People" reminders, which are reminders you can set for a particular person that makes Cortana alert you when you come into contact with that person.
As you can see in the gallery below, during a call, it will display the reminder for you.
More features of Cortana include being able to, with your express permission, read your emails to become more familiar with your interests including what and who is important to you. Cortana can set alarms for you, add stuff to your schedule, and reveal your calendar to you (as well as warn you about potential conflicting events).
Cortana will first release as a beta for Windows Phone 8.1, so that it can be improved on the backend.
New Lockscreen features
Belfiore also revealed a set of new Windows Phone lockscreen APIs which allow for adding new features to the lockscreen. One appears to be reminiscent of a Zune design. "Diagonal" as it's called, was developed by Rudy Huyn (developer of 6tag, 6sec, Wikipedia, and other apps) and will be included in the Windows Phone 8.1 update.
Developers will be allowed to access these APIs and create their own lockscreen variants.
A New Start Screen, Improved Calendar, Wi-Fi Sense, and more
In Windows Phone 8.1, you can toggle the view between more or less tiles by toggling the view of an extra column. You can also change your tiles with a background image by setting a Start background (see gallery below).
There's a brand new Action Center that serves as a central hub for all notifications with a swipe-down interface.
There's also a new function on the keyboard. WordFlow now has a "swype"-like feature which works well, and has set the new world record for fastest typing.
The calendar's also been improved, adding a new week view.
Lastly, Wi-Fi Sense intelligently scans nearby networks, finds free hotspots, and connects you to them with information you've previously provided. It saves you a lot of steps!
Windows Phone 8.1 will be Coming in "the next few months"
While this coveted update will come to existing handsets within the next few months, new Windows Phone 8.1 devices are coming late April and early May. Developers can expect to have access even sooner!
Lumia 930, 630, and 635
Microsoft announced three new Lumia handsets: the higher-end Lumia 930, and the lower end 630and 635 devices.
The Lumia 930 will be available in June, and the Lumia 630 and 635 devices will be available in May.
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