Throughout the history of the phone a thought that has plagued many people's mind is that there are only two phone platforms: Android and Apple. This couldn't be farther from the truth, there are many more but probably the most recognizable is Windows. Microsoft's title of "#3" or "the third choice" hasn't stopped them from making a great product that is Windows phone. So when this past week we saw Microsoft announce Windows 8.1, I couldn't help but asking myself; is this really the answer to our players. Is this really the update we've been waiting for. Well read along and we'll find out together.
Ahh yes, Windows phone. Windows phone is really a love hate story depending on who you are. That being said most people who buy one know what they're getting themselves into. They want the easy to access live tiles that go up and down on a vertical axis and really give the user everything they need right in front of them. Well it just got better. We won’t go through every change, rather just the major ones that will affect your day to day use. Microsoft has added an extra row of tile at the bottom, a idea we first saw on the Lumia 1520 is now available on all devices, which is a welcomed change. They have also made some new animations which give the interface a new level of “zippiness”. There is sense everything; battery sense, data sense, wifi sense, it really helps the user to track how much of what they are using and how to better their device which is always a good thing.
Something that has always been a personal annoyance with Windows is that on the start screen there isn’t any feature where I can add a wallpaper. It’s just plain and dark, well that also just got changed. Microsoft has brought onboard new custom graphics. That means that instead of your graphic just being on the tile is floats behind the tile. This essentially makes your tiles transparent giving a new way to have a wallpaper.
Finally! They have also added a notifications center that I can actually use. It’s being called “Action Center” and that name isn’t an understatement. Like on Android and Apple a quick pull-down shade is offered to see all notifications. The unfortunate part is that you have to dismiss the entire thread of notifications rather than just one. For example lets say I get a friend request on Facebook and I also get a Facebook message, but I only want to dismiss the friend request. Well nope, I have to dismiss all of them which is a bit of a pain, but I can live with it.
Perhaps the biggest change is the new voice assistant. Cortana is fast and snappy, she brings a new level of interaction that just wasn’t there in previous versions of the OS. I would make the argument if Google Now and Siri had a kid, Cortana would be it. She brings the level of “friendly” interaction that Siri does, along with the knowledge and information that Google Now does. Now she does have her growing pains but thats expected from such an undertaking like this for it’s first time. Some features that Cortana brings, well she can text someone voice commanded, tell you where the nearest bus stop or restaurant is, remind you to text someone something next time you text them. Not to mention the usual calendar reminders, alarm clock wake-ups and much much more.
I personally am a fan of Windows 8.1. It’s not windows 9 so don’t expect revolutionary, even though some would argue this is. Everyone that buys a Windows phone knows what they want and what they’re getting themselves into, there isn’t much opportunity to change what you don’t like like on Android. But that’s ok, most people with Windows phones right now are happy for a bunch of reasons, but the biggest one is: that it is reliable. Never have i seen or even heard of a Windows device being slow or underperforming and 8.1 will only help that cause. I would recommend 8.1 to anyone.
In closing Windows has tried to earn our respect from the day they started and many have not given it to them simply because they think Android and Apple are the only two platforms. But I think that Windows has made a new and fresh ecosystem, they have made something that is different and thats what tech is all about isn’t it? Microsoft has given us something that puts the consumer first, go get it if you have a chance and you’ll be glad you did.
Author - Ben Smith