Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.1 SDK for developers has revealed that the upcoming update will be packed to the brim with new and improved functionality.

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A Windows developer with access to the SDK has taken to Reddit to list the new features that Windows Phone 8.1 will include.

One of the biggest new features is the support for JavaScript on apps, which will let developers reuse more and more code between their apps for Windows Phone and Windows RT, a huge step forward for Microsoft’s plans to merge the two platforms. Multitasking is reportedly getting a major change – developers have reported that pressing the back button in an app no longer closes the app. Instead, apps are suspended in the background like in Windows 8, and users will have to swipe down on an app in the recent apps screen to close it.

Microsoft is also expanding on the existing feature of letting users select their default camera app – 8.1 includes the option to set the default messaging app, which should pave the way for third-party SMS apps, which are plentiful in the Android ecosystem. There’s a new option to sign in to an iCloud account, while Facebook has been removed from the messaging hub – Twitter is still integrated, and rumor has it that a newer, more advanced version of Facebook will be available in the final build.

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It’s been known for a while that Windows Phone 8.1 will add support for on-screen buttons, in an effort to make the OS more attractive to manufacturers. A leaked image reveals that Microsoft has added a button on the left hand side of the screen, in order to let users hide the on-screen buttons and use the extended screen estate in apps (the buttons will reappear with a swipe from the bottom of the screen.) The navigation bar can be customized in various ways, such as making it match the currently selected theme (accent color), letting apps show or hide it as necessary, and more.

Other features of Windows Phone 8.1 include a newer version of Internet Explorer with WebGL support and the ability to play YouTube videos inside a webpage, a “Battery Power Sense” feature to let users track what’s been eating the device’s battery, option to store apps on the external memory, ability to project the content on a phone’s screen to a TV, monitor or projector, renaming of SkyDrive to OneDrive following Microsoft’s rebranding of its cloud service, separate volume controls, and integrated VPN support (a feature that’s been often requested by users.)

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One of the most anticipated features of Windows Phone 8.1 is Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant that will take on Google Now and Apple’s Siri, but the leak unfortunately doesn’t reveal anything about that. Trying to use the search or any Bing-related functionality on the SDK results in errors, which means the Redmond giant isn’t keen on letting out info on its killer feature just yet. The SDK also doesn’t include Microsoft’s new notification center, another highly requested feature that 8.1 is expected to include.

Windows Phone 8.1 will be unveiled at Microsoft’s Build conference in April, and it’s clear to see the company has been rather busy in the past few months. 8.1 might just be the biggest update we’ve seen in the mobile industry yet, and it should close the gap between Windows Phone and the competition considerably and bring the OS into a state of maturity users have been clamoring for since Windows Phone 8 debuted back in 2012.

Source: Reddit