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New report points to notification centre and voice assistant for Windows Phone 8.1

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A source close to The Verge has reiterated what we’ve come to understand through numerous previous leaks: Windows Phone 8.1, also known internally as Windows Phone ‘Blue’, will feature a pull-down notification centre and a Siri-like voice assistant.

The update is expected to launch in April at Microsoft’s BUILD developer conference, but will likely only come to existing devices in the summer. The notification centre will be accessed like Android’s and iOS’s, by swiping down from the top of the screen. According to the source, a small swipe will activate a quick settings menu, similar to the alternate screen on Android post-4.2, and a long swipe will activate the full notification screen. It’s unclear whether the notification will show up as a Live Tile, too, as seen in previous leaks, but Microsoft is likely testing numerous layouts in the run-up to release.

As for the long-rumoured voice assistant, codenamed ‘Cortana’ after the virtual helper in Microsoft-owned Bungie’s Halo series, it’s expected to tie in heavily with Bing’s text and image search capabilities, but should also proactively notify users of upcoming appointments like Google Now. But it will need to do more — and better — to differentiate itself from those mature services. Windows Phone has consistently been behind Android and iOS in terms of features, but after celebrating its third birthday, Microsoft has few excuses left in justifying its dearth of certain abilities.

To that end, Microsoft also plans to repair a few holes in holes in Windows Phone’s foundation: VPN support for enterprise users and independent volume controls for media and ringtones should help ease the pain. The Verge’s source also posits that Microsoft may unbundle the Movie and Music services from the core OS to be able to more quickly update them through the Windows Store. Google recently did the same with its bevy of apps, from Play Music to its own calendar and keyboard, and Microsoft would be smart to follow suit, especially if system updates are subject to carrier verification. Apple, on the other hand, can afford not to unbundle its system features because it handles its own updates, and issues them directly to users.

Finally, because Nokia is not yet a complete part of Microsoft’s Devices & Services division, it is working on its own updates to build on top of Windows Phone 8.1. Specifically, the newly-leaked onscreen navigation buttons will be integrated into at least one of the company’s mid-2014 devices.

Next year will finally be the time Windows Phone comes into its own. If you recall, both iOS and Android matured significantly in their third versions — iOS 3 introduced push notifications and Android 2.3 brought hardware acceleration to the system level — and, with a maturing app ecosystem and wider user support (along with the continued decline of BlackBerry’s consumer market share) Windows Phone is poised to grow quickly in 2014.

SourceThe Verge
  • thisismysmartphone.tumblr.com

    No notification centre was one of my biggest gripes when trying out the Lumia 920, Windows Phone just didn’t feel complete. I look forward to Windows Phone maturing and developing, because it’s very smooth and good looking.

    • 4beaches

      That screen up above is rather ugly and bland… That is the only way I ever see Windows phones… that same ugly screen

    • DefinitelyAbsolute

      You are kidding right, WP is the most good looking of all the operating systems, matter of fact one could say that Android and iOS 7 recently has been copying Windows Phone flat UI, even Steve Wozniack who co founded Apple called Windows Phone more beautiful than Android and iOS, WP is very polished.

    • alamarco

      I disagree. I hated the tiled look. I like the look of my wallpaper and how I can customize icons around it in a grid with Android. I feel Android can be customized to however the user feels, so it suits more people.

      Of course, everyone has their own opinion and I’m sure many won’t agree with mine. :)

    • Matt

      Yeah man. Them green squares is sexy. Best UI evar!

    • Cormang

      It all comes down to opinion. I enjoy live tiles. I hate static icons on a grid. But some people like the boring static icons or inconsistent widgets. That’s why there’s choice…

    • 4beaches

      Seriously, look at that picture at the top of the page. What makes that even the slightest bit interesting? There is nothing beautiful in that picture, that is for sure.

    • RobPilates

      The screen can be set up in practically infinite ways to the user’s preference, and the live tiles are kinetic, spinning and changing all the time. That makes it “interesting.” The phone itself is beautiful, that is for sure.

  • beyond

    can’t wait for WP blue as well, but I disagree I think we do need a screen dedicated to show all notifications. The main reason is that if you don’t have the live tile pinned to the start screen and you get a notification, you might hear it, but you are left wondering which application sent the notification. Or if your phone is on silent and no vibrate, you will never even know a notification existed at all since you are always relying on the live tile.

  • Nadefrenzy

    Lol.. about time don’t you think?

  • Cormang

    Actually, it’s not rumors at all. A notification center and swipe down controls were already stated would be in the next major release. The Enterprise features were already announced on the Windows Phone blog in July. Cortana is no secret either. The only part of this that is a rumor is the announcement at Build. I honestly think we’ll see an announcement before then with the developers conference taking place just a few weeks before the official upgrade is released…

  • downhilldude

    Wow! It’s taken them this long to fix that independent volume control defect?! And the VPN support is long overdue, as well.

    Moving at the speed of Microsoft, as usual.

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