On July 30, Microsoft officials took the wraps off the first update to the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system.
A developer preview of Windows Phone 8.1 Update -- as Microsoft execs curiously have christened what is expected to be the first of several updates to its phone OS -- will be available some time during the week of August 4. The odd naming convention isn't a first; the Microsoft Operating Systems Group also decided to call the first update to Windows 8.1 "Windows 8.1 Update," despite the fact there will be a second update to that operating system, most likely on August 12.
(In the spirit of attempting to reduce confusion, I'm just going to call this Windows Phone 8.1 release "Update 1.")
The expected gesture-recognition technology that would have allowed users to hover over elements in Windows Phone 8.1 (rather than having to click on them) didn't make it into Update 1. Microsoft officials won't say when or even if they expect this technology to come to Windows Phone, but from what I hear, it's not dead and is still in the works.
That said, a bunch of new features, many of them somewhat minor, did make it into Update 1. With Update 1, apps can be organized into folders on the Start screen. There's a new live tile for the Windows Phone Store. Users can select multiple SMS messages, making text-message management easier.
There also are a couple of more meaty features in Update 1. Microsoft is turning on "consumer" VPN in this update, allowing users to connect to VPNs over Wi-Fi. (Enterprise VPN functionality was built into Windows Phone 8.1.)
Another of the bigger new features in Update 1: A new Apps Corner hub (somewhat similar to Kid's Corner) allows users to specify which apps are displayed in a special "sandboxed" mode that allows restrictions on which apps can be used. Businesses can use this feature to allow access to a certain app or apps without needing a full mobile-device-management product. Apps Corner is good for setting up retail demos or enabling scenarios where devices boot straight into a specific custom app
Microsoft also is updating the Xbox Music app simultaneously with the Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 release. As part of this update, it is bringing back features that were missing from the Windows Phone 8.1 developer preview, such as background syncing of users' music collection and swipe to advance.
Other Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 features which leaked earlier this week via OEM documentation are part of the release, too. Among them: Smart case support; qHD screen resolution (960 X 540); and Voice over LTE (VoLTE); and overall performance enhancements.
Those running the Windows Phone 8.1 developer preview should be able to download Update 1 next week. Those with the final version of Windows Phone 8.1 installed should be getting Update 1 from their carriers "in the coming weeks," Microsoft officials are saying.