Hands-on with the full release of Windows Phone 8.1 and Lumia Cyan

Hands-on with the full release of Windows Phone 8.1 and Lumia Cyan

Summary: Microsoft is actively rolling out Windows Phone 8.1 after three months of being in preview mode. The Lumia Cyan update is also coming to supported Nokia devices.

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  • Windows Phone 8.1 and Lumia Cyan on a Nokia Lumia 1520

    The Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview launched in April and I loaded it up on my Nokia Lumia 1020. My awesome Nokia Lumia 1520 just received the official Windows Phone 8.1 and Nokia Cyan updates yesterday morning and it looks like the Lumia 1520 is my daily driver again.

    Windows Phone 8.1 improvements

    The major new feature of Windows Phone 8.1 is Cortana and I have come to find it much better than Siri or Google Now over the past couple of months. I especially love the location-based reminders that let me make shopping lists appear when I arrive at the specific store applicable to that shopping list.

    In addition to Cortana, Windows Phone 8.1 brings:

    • Quiet hours and Inner Circle in Cortana
    • Action Center
    • Word Flow keyboard
    • Start screen backgrounds
    • Backup and sync options
    • Internet Explorer 11
    • Updated Calendar application
    • Wi-Fi Sense, Data Sense, Storage Sense, and Battery Saver
    • Installed and updated apps show New in app list
    • Speed Dial under Phone utility
    • Live lock screen beta

    There are many more improvements in Windows Phone 8.1; check out the Microsoft announcement with all the details. After using the Developer Preview, I just couldn't even use my Lumia 1520 again when I took it back to 8.0 as I waited for the 8.1 update to hit my device. Check out my screenshot gallery to see how some of these improvements look on a Nokia Lumia 1520.

    Nokia Lumia Cyan improvements

    Most Windows Phone devices are Nokia Lumia devices so most of you will also see the Lumia Cyan update. Windows Phone 8.1 provides backend support for some of these improvements, while others are related to Nokia's work to make their devices even better.

    Lumia Cyan improvements include:

    • Bluetooth Low Energy
    • Motion data
    • Living Images
    • Dolby sound improvements
    • Miracast support
    • Improved camera performance

    I am particularly interested in checking out the improved camera software and Bluetooth LE support that will finally allow me to use my Fitbit, and hopefully Pebble, with my Windows Phone devices. WPCentral has more details on the Lumia Cyan update.

    More ZDNet Windows Phone 8 coverage

  • Cortana beats Siri and Google Now

    You can use Cortana as a voice control assistant, as well as a personal assistant showing you what matters to you each day.

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Smartphones, Windows Phone

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Talkback

33 comments
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  • Looks great!

    Lots of features. Do you know when this will come to Nokia 920?
    marc_w
    • STILL under testing

      The 8.1 update for 920's (and most of AT&T's range of supported devices) are STILL "under testing":

      http://www.nokia.com/global/support/software-update/wp8-software-update/availability-in-north-america/

      Such a shame it takes the carriers SO long to complete testing - 3 months should be MORE than enough to perform final testing of a new OS update which is already in wide circulation thanks to Microsoft's developer program.
      bitcrazed
      • 3 Months? More like 3 weeks.

        The deveoper preview (read: BETA) was out three months ago. The "final" version of the code was only released to carriers to start testing of the final build about three weeks ago.

        I am not sure I want them to rush through the kind of thurough network-compatibility tests that they run in three weeks. They do a lot of testing to make sure the product does not cause an issue on the network that impacts other usesrs. That is the primary reason for the testing.
        The-Bytemaster
        • Must be hourly

          If my User Acceptance Testing took longer than a day, I would be firing people. Giving them a week is beyond generous. But then again, if you set the bar low, your expectations are also low.
          thenitewatch@...
        • 3 Weeks...? 3 Years no DataSense until I Developer unlocked the Phone!

          AT&T is not a responsible carrier.
          Christopher Moor
      • while i agree on cant they do it quicker

        There is also the flipside in that it's no so much the OS as the firmware updates for Cyan that they are testing, and those weren't a part of the dev preview. So while we all got the OS upgrade as part of the Dev Preview, it's only half the upgrade that is going on.

        Still - I'd wish they would hurry it up :)
        aesonaus
        • And yet ...

          ... they've already tested and certified WP 8.1 for the 630 and the 1520. Yes, I understand and appreciate that they have to thoroughly test new OS' on available tin, but the time it takes for this to happen is FAR from optimal.

          I do hope, however, that since Microsoft is decoupling many of the features of WP from the core OS itself, that they'll be able to iterate faster on more of the apps and experiences that can be updated via the store and leave core internal OS updates to be shipped, tested and certified on a less-frequent-but-regular-and-predictable schedule.
          bitcrazed
    • Lumia 920

      I wish that Nokia/MS wouldn't always put the L920 on the back burner for updates. Those of us who were the early adopters of WP8 now seem to be the last to get updates (I've actually been a user since WP7). I was hoping to upgrade to the McLaren, but that isn't an option anymore. Waiting for the next flagship device; the Icon/930 would've worked, if they hadn't gone the cheap route and put on a display that can't support the Glance function (a fatal flaw for a "flagship").
      AMRooke
      • What makes you say the L920 is on the backburner?

        The updates that Microsoft releases work for all handsets. If you're waiting for your carrier to finish testing for the L920, then blame the carrier not Microsoft.
        vincewansink
      • The Preview isn't that hard to setup

        I finally figured out it was in my apps after I ran the SDK to dev release my 920 from AT&T lockdown. This is amazing what it does for the 920. It's a brand new phone! It took 5 updates to get all of the packages. I still haven't ran into any bugs from the off sites. It just works, and fixes most of what bothered me about the phone. I think MS is doing great if they just release it without the carriers. AT&T hasn't enabled DataSense in 3 years on the 920. Why wait for the carrier when they obviously haven't done anything?
        Christopher Moor
  • Do these updates

    make your 1520 a device you could use as a daily driver over an iphone or android?
    Low_tech
    • I think the time has come

      I just moved from my iPhone 4s to a Lumia 930. Windows Phone 8.1 is super slick. Basically everything that I had on my iPhone is on Windows Phone and then some. You can do some really interesting things with tile pinning for example. I use Whatsapp like many people, but I chat with my wife most often, so I was able to pin her Whatsapp contact to my Start screen, which makes things super efficient. The Word Flow keyboard is unbelievably quick. All of my iPhone apps were available, but I have found some 3rd party applications to replace a few.
      NitzMan
  • Should I wipe my 1520 with Developer Preview or wait?

    That's my question Matthew.

    I would prefer not to downgrade to 8.0 from the Developer Preview to get 8.1 + Cyan, but I also don't want to wait forever.

    Do you have any idea how long it will be before you can update from the Developer Preview directly to Cyan + official 8.1?

    And then on the other hand, there is also the Developer Preview update to 8.1 coming next week which I wouldn't mind seeing....
    jthompso@...
    • Backup, downgrade, upgrade, reset phone, log in, restore from backup

      If you backup the phone with your 8.1 Preview settings (Settings > Backup > Apps+Settings) it is a relatively painless restore. Your home screen layout and apps are preserved along with almost all settings. You do have to sign in to many of your apps again, and a few may have to be re-downloaded (I had 4 I had to download again out of 40+).

      The process is to backup, downgrade, upgrade, reset the phone (Settings > About), sign into your Microsoft account, and select the recent backup from the list of backups.
      Stephen570
      • Downgrade

        If anyone is unaware, use the Nokia Software Recovery Tool to downgrade: http://www.nokia.com/us-en/support/faq/?action=singleTopic&topic=FA142987
        Stephen570
      • Unfortunately, backup is incomplete

        At least if you compare it with iOS. That's the one thing I really loved about having an Apple device. As long as it was backed up, you could restore it and never know anything different.

        On Windows Phone, restoring a backup is likely to have you still spending hours afterward setting things up again in various apps, and reloading music and videos. Unless the app specifically supports Windows Phone 8.1, its data doesn't get included in the backup; and most apps don't yet.

        And don't get me started on how all my game progress was lost and I had to start over because the games I play are Windows Phone 8 not 8.1. Yeah I shouldn't be playing games anyway.

        Why can't they just grab a copy of all app data, stick that in the backup, and be done with it.
        PepperdotNet
        • I never liked iTunes

          One of the worst interfaces next to Adobe Acrobat
          Christopher Moor
    • Do it!

      Do your basic backup, download your videos to a PC using the Windows Phone App.
      Honestly, I didn't lose anything, the phone works great. I may not go with AT&T's firmware version. They haven't enabled or else crippled most of the features anyhow.
      Christopher Moor
  • Just got Cyan/8.1 on my 1520 yesterday

    Although I've only played with a couple of things, I think this is the biggest improvement since WP 7 first came out. I use Overdrive and Audible and, while they're both great, they've tended to lock up when transistioning between the car and other apps. Now, at least Audible seems to have rock solid stability. And Cortana reminds me of that old Arthur C. Clarke quote about sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic. I tried asking Cortana the following question and got pretty helpful search results: "What should I feed my raccoon to keep it from getting gout?" It had a little trouble with the word "gout" but eventually got it.
    Sir Name
    • The real question is.

      Do you really have a pet raccoon?
      thewags05