The Microsoft Mobile world is abuzz about a variety of news items. One of these news items affects the mobile device playing field. Other news items of note mostly revolve around the update to Microsoft’s flagship Windows operating system. Cortana typically takes center stage at press conferences and shows. But there are other changes to the operating system to make it look and feel more like its competitors and give users better control at the same time.
Nokia Will Soon Be No More
The mobile device world has been buzzing lately about the news that Microsoft is buying Nokia. As of this writing, it seems this purchase is final and a done deal. Don’t expect it to happen immediately, but we will see a phasing out of the Nokia name for something that Microsoft has so far remained mum on. For now the Microsoft Mobile Phone marquee will be known as Microsoft Mobile Oy.
Microsoft Mobile Operating System Gets Action Center
One of the things that people, myself included, that switch from iPhone and Android to Windows Mobile first noticed was the lack of an action center that let us perform a gesture and see the newest updates from our social networks. Microsoft caved to our demands with this latest release and gave us Action Center.
It lets you read a portion of the update instead of the whole update, and also opens the app for that social network instead of letting you reply from the action center, but it’s a start. It does allow you to pin certain icons like Wi-Fi and BlueTooth for immediate access.
Windows Phone 8.1 Gets Battery Saver
Battery Saver is a nifty little feature in the new Microsoft mobile OS that I like. There’s a live tile that that gives battery info like battery level. It also monitors apps to let you know which ones are hogging all your battery power. You’re also given means to conserve battery power and prioritize battery usage. When you’re running low on power, you can turn it on to disable push notifications to conserve power.
Windows Phone Now Has Sense
Wi-Fi Sense automatically connects you to free Wi-Fi when you’re out and about. Not only does this save you on your mobile data usage with your carrier, but Wi-Fi consumes less power than the mobile phone radio does. Wi-Fi Sense even works when there are terms and conditions that have to be accepted before the network logs you on.
Another new feature in the Windows Phone 8.1 Update is Data Sense. This app/feature works hand in hand with Wi-Fi Sense by helping you connect to Wi-Fi networks when you’re on the go without intervention from you. However, this might not be enough if your mobile contract has data usage limits. Data Sense also helps you track you mobile data usage so you can keep it under control and limit your costs.
Of the three new Senses, Storage Sense is my favorite. I take quite a few photos and videos and have a rather extensive music library. Storage sense lets me see what I’ve got on my phone and where it’s at. You can display overall usage statistics (8GB total storage, 5Gb used, 3GB available) or you can drill down some and see how much each category of media (music, video, images, apps, etc.) take up. The app also lets you clean out your storage.
Cortana Is the “Wow Factor” In Recent Microsoft Mobile News
If you only visit a few sites reporting on news on the Microsoft Mobile front, you might draw the conclusion that Cortana is the only really new thing for the most recent update to Windows Phone and you could be forgiven for drawing that conclusion. No, Cortana isn’t the only newsworthy feature, but it is the biggest and for good reason.
I’ve already done an article that was dedicated to Cortana, so even though I’ve saved the best for last, I’m not going to go into huge detail here. In short, Cortana is Microsoft’s version of Siri for iPhone and Google Now for Android. The general consensus though is that Microsoft hit a home run with Cortana while the best the competition managed was a double.
Launch the app and Cortana shows you news on top of your feed and the weather at the bottom. Tap the microphone and you can ask Cortana all sorts of questions. “Do I have any appointments today?” “What’s the weather for the NASCAR race in Kansas going to be like?” (Partly cloudy and in the mid to high 70s, according to Cortana.)
You can also use Cortana to help you “Name that tune” when you’re stuck. Simply tap the musical note icon near the upper right and let Cortana listen for a few seconds. One of my favorite Cortana features is “Quiet Hours” because of Facebook’s propensity to send text messages at midnight. Even better, I can tell Cortana to let my family members break through during my quiet hours.