Windows Phone Gets 8.1 Update and Nokia Cyan

Windows Phone 8.1 gets Cortana, swipe keyboard, action center and new customization features

By Stephen Pate – Microsoft / Nokia has started shipping the Lumia  Cyan bios software and the Windows Phone 8.1 update. Here’s a brief video with the main features.

Microsoft shipped the Preview for Developers this spring and I’ve used it and its three updates since then.  The updated features in Windows 8.1 are centered around making the Windows Phone more useable and more personal. I can say without hesitation that the new features make my Lumia 920 even more useful and fun.

Some of the new features did cause slight slowdown in the hardware so Nokia has burned the more CPU intensive processes in into the Cyan bios upgrade.

You will need both the Cyan and Windows 8.1 updates.  The updates have been released worldwide to phone carriers who will then roll them out to their customers.  It will take a little patience on our parts to wait for that to happen. The Windows 8.1 and Nokia Cyan updates are free. Non-Nokia phones will also get the update without the bios update.

Take the time to learn the new features by reading the story, click-through to the in-depth stories and watch the videos.

Lumia Cyan Action Center

Windows Phone 8.1 Action Center in Cyan update

The Cyan update adds a third column to the home screen of your Windows phone with even more customization of the tiles,

You can also customize the start screen background photo. I’ve found abstract photos can look cool while lots of detail in the photo can be distracting. Start screen.

The People Hub has been modestly improved. I still find it too much information in a single place with not enough ways to get what you need.

With Action Center you swipe down from the top of the screen.

As you can see in the photo above, you can customize settings, app notifications, Wi-Fi and Flight mode.  It also shows the latest app updates and messages.  Being able to quickly lock rotation has to be the feature everyone else will copy.  I’m a compulsive late night news reader (as in bed) and this stops the text from rotating. Awesome.

We all love free Wi-Fi hotspots then get caught in the dumb log-in rules and 20 page service agreements. Wi-Fi Sense will automatically connects to free Wi-Fi hotspots and handles some of the login details.

Word Flow is a swipe-like keyboard.  “Word Flow will also correct words as you “type” and predict your most often used expressions.” It’s amazing but I find it easier to type.

Windows Phone 8.1 Word Flow keyboard in Cyan update

For people in the US, Cortana is the new Siri-like virtual assistant, If you live outside the US, you should be able to use Cortana by setting your region to the US. That trick worked in the Preview for Developers.

Cortana stores what you do locally and does a basic job now of handling verbal requests.  Microsoft says it will learn about each users habits so it’s a matter of sticking with the learning process. “Read about the hidden tricks of Cortana here and meet the brains behind it here. She is also pretty good at football predictions.”

Device Search provides Bing searching across your phone including email, contact, appointment, docs or music. “Just type in a keyword in the Bing search bar, and voila, there it is.”

Internet Explorer 11 has been updated. I can’t say I noticed the difference but I don’t have the last update yet. The updated Calendar has gotten quite useful. It tracks appointments,  the weather and you can customize what you bring across from the People app.

Lumia Cyan update Start screen

Windows 8.1 Cyan updated Start Screen

The Lumia Cyan update has updated Nokia Camera, Creative Studio and Storyteller apps. “Nokia Camera gets a simplified user interface with one-tap access to edit and share pictures, and full-resolution zooming, re-framing and Creative Studio 6 (CS6) are available directly from the renewed Camera Roll.”

“CS6, available in the Windows Phone Store soon, brings new filters and image enhancement tools to make your shots unique. The updated Storyteller app allows you to share your best shots as a short Story Video on social networks.”

“The new Nokia Device Hub included in the Cyan update, your Lumia can help you track down a missing accessory by showing you where you last used it. You’ll also get recommendations for apps you can use with that accessory.”

People with Lumia 520, Lumia 525, Lumia 620 or Lumia 720 will get a free upgrade to global HERE Drive .

Your digital office

The Microsoft Lumia phone has built-in business support  with Office for Windows Phone. While Microsoft says you can edit documents, that takes a larger screen than 5&Prime. At least you can open docs. OneNote works especially well on the Lumia.

Outlook, Skype and OneDrive are also included. Outlook is divided into mail, calendar and contact aps. I use OneDrive and Outlook constantly on my Lumia. It keeps me from going back to my Surface or desktop to get things done.

“There are also several new enterprise features you should know about. With Windows Phone 8.1, you can send digitally signed and encrypted emails to people outside your company (S/MIME), and you can set your Lumia to automatically access your company’s virtual private network (VPN).”

Lumia Cyan update Nokia Camera

More goodies for Lumia 1520 and Lumia Icon

The Lumia 1520 and Lumia Icon cameras have been updated with Cyan. Nokia Rich Recording has been improved with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 sound. Other than the Lumia 1020, the 1520 currently has the biggest and probably best smartphone 20 MP camera (excepting the soon to be released Lumia 630)

“The camera capabilities will be even more robust (e.g. improved colors and low-light performance, continuous autofocus and improvements to RAW DNG images) and real thanks to the Living Images feature.”

The update also includes a form of MiraCast Screen Share technology “to project content from your Lumia 1520 or Lumia Icon to connected screens like a smart TV or projector. ” So far that’s more of a gizmo than a useful feature.

Your phone automatically checks for updates and will notify you when the update is available.

Check availability here: http://www.nokia.com/global/support/software-update/wp8-software-update/

Source – Nokia Conversations

By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

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