Microsoft made public on October 14 the list of features that are part of Windows Phone 8 Update 3 (8.0.10512).
Update 3 is the official name for what's been known unofficially as Windows Phone 8 GDR3. Many of the Update 3 features had previously leaked, including the update's support for 1080p HD screens up to five-to-six inches in size; support for Qualcomm's quad-core ARM processor; a new driving mode; an app-switcher option allowing users to quickly close apps; and room for six Live Tiles across (instead of four).
Update 3 also adds the ability to use custom ringtones for more things (like instant messages, email and voice mail); a new rotation-lock option to keep screens locked in either portrait or landscape mode; improved storage-management
Microsoft released Update 3 to manufacturing at the end of September, officials said. It should be available to consumers with new phones with Windows Phone 8 Update 3 preloaded in the next few weeks, and those with existing phones "in the coming months," according to Microsoft execs. Timing is dependent on carriers and handset models, officials said.
Microsoft also launched a new developer preview program for Windows Phone developers on October 14. Though the Softies aren't officially promoting the program this way, the new preview program will provide many of its Windows Phone enthusiasts with a way to get the latest bits without having to be hamstrung by carriers.
The preview program will allow developers to get Windows Phone updates before they are available to consumers. This will allow developers to make sure their apps work on new releases and give them time to get updates to their apps into the Store before consumers get updates to Windows Phone through official channels.
To participate in the dev preview program, users need to have a Dev Center account, an App Studio account, or a dev unlocked (registered) phone.
Microsoft officials said there are no new application programming interfaces being introduced with Windows Phone 8 Update 3, so there won't be a corresponding software development kit for this update. Developers won't have to do anything to get their existing apps to run on the new update. Emulator images for Windows Phone 8 Update 3 aren't going to be available until some time in the next three weeks, officials added.
The next Windows Phone update is expected to be Windows Phone Blue, which I'm still hearing from my sources is due in the spring of 2014. Microsoft officials still aren't confirming this or commenting on anything to do with the Windows Phone OS beyond Update 3.