Windows Phone 8.1 features a laundry list of new features that include a new voice guided assistant, unified notification center, better customizability and a new keyboard.

Cortana Windows Phone 8.1 features Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Siri and Google Now

Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore announced Windows Phone 8.1 at the BUILD conference yesterday.

Most of the changes in this update have been leaked already, but details have been hazy. The biggest new addition is Cortana, Windows Phone’s personal digital assistant that is akin to Siri and Google Now. Powered by Bing, Cortana can call contacts, set reminders, calendar events, notifications, undertake searches, and create alarms along with other basic functions. Cortana is accessible by pressing the search button at the bottom of the device. Work on an always-on listening mode is said to be underway, but for now users have to press the search button to access the service. Cortana will initially be available in the US, followed by the UK and China. Location information for Cortana will be available through Bing and Foursquare.

Action Center Windows Phone 8.1 features Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Siri and Google Now

Another new addition in the OS is the introduction of a notification center, which is called Action Center. Through Action Center, users will be able to toggle Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings among others, as well as view incoming notifications.

Tiles Windows Phone 8.1 features Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Siri and Google Now

Customization has also been tweaked in Windows Phone 8.1. Users can now set customizable lock screens and use their own images as their start screen backgrounds. A new feature called Wi-Fi Sense allows users to share their wireless networks with their friends without actually giving them the password. Data Sense lets users track their cellular usage effectively, while Battery Power Sense tracks a device’s power utilization.

Windows Phone 8.1 comes with on-screen button navigation functionality, which means that manufacturers can now build devices without any hardware navigation buttons. Microsoft has also launched a new gesture-based keyboard called Wordflow that is similar to SwiftKey.

Microsoft has announced that Windows Phone 8.1 will be available over the coming months to all Windows Phone 8 devices. Devices that feature Windows Phone 8.1 will start selling from later this month.

Source: Windows Blog