A brave new world of Windows Phone is almost upon us, a world of digital assistants, fast connectivity toggles, improved camera and greater support for a wider selection of apps.
It’s time for Windows Phone 8.1, but how on earth do you get it? Is your phone compatible, is your upgrade even available, or will you have to buy a new handset to take advantage of these new tools?
Why You Should Upgrade To Windows Phone 8.1
Let’s get the basics cleared up first. If you’re using Windows Phone 8, the upgrade to Windows Phone 8.1 is absolutely unmissable. Put simply, if you don’t upgrade, you’ll miss out on the often funny and always helpful Cortana, who when not helping you organize your life can get you from A to B more effectively than a human co-pilot.
But there is more to Windows Phone 8.1 than just Cortana, with a whole host of new features that make the platform even more flexible and usable. These features are so good (albeit in some cases, late) that we think they’ll help Windows Phone finally go mainstream.
Indeed, you might even have tried Windows Phone 8.1 already, in the shape of the Developer Preview, a fiendishly easy way of getting a working sneak preview with almost all of the features activated.
How To Upgrade Your Windows Phone 8 Device To 8.1
So, how can you get Windows Phone 8.1 on your Windows Phone 8 handset?
Well, in theory, it’s simple: you activate Wi-Fi (upgrading over 3G/4G isn’t possible) open Settings, scroll down to phone update, and tap check for updates. This will prompt your phone to check with the Windows Phone update server, and if an update is available it will be downloaded, ready for you to install.
Roll-out of Windows Phone 8.1 commenced on July 15th, and at the time of writing handsets in the US and UK have received the update, although so far it has been limited to certain devices and carriers/networks. If you’re using a Nokia device, you can check their list of upgrade availability – the Nokia Cyan upgrade includes Windows Phone 8.1 as well as an improved selection of Nokia apps.
When checking the availability of your upgrade, you will notice statuses are listed as “under testing” or “available”. Those devices that are listed as “under testing” clearly don’t have the update available for them at this stage. If this applies to your phone, then you’ll have to wait, perhaps retrying on a daily or weekly basis until the update is ready for your device.
Incidentally, if you installed the Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview mentioned above, you’ll need to factory reset your phone before installing the full, official version of Windows Phone 8.1, so use the Nokia list to keep track of when your upgrade is ready, reset your phone, and then check for the update and hopefully install it without waiting too long. Of course, if you’re using the Developer Preview, then at this point there is no need to remove it as it is being regularly updated, but there will no doubt be a point in time when Microsoft closes it down, so this is worth keeping in mind.
Sadly, there is no way to force the update, as there was for Windows Phone 7’s various updates between 2010 and 2012.
Speaking of which…
Windows Phone 7 & 7.8 Devices: Sorry
I’m always surprised to learn that there are still people using Windows Phone 7 handsets. Released in 2010, the original Windows Phone release was less functional than its Windows Mobile 6.5 predecessor, although the responsiveness of the UI and the inclusion of Xbox Live integration made it particularly interesting. Sadly, that version didn’t really reach maturity until Windows Phone 7.8 came along, around the same time as Windows Phone 8.
If you weren’t aware already, the situation is this: Windows Phone 8 has a minimum hardware requirement, which is above that of Windows Phone 7/7.8. As a result, if you bought a Windows Phone 7 or 7.8 device, you cannot update it to Windows Phone 8 or 8.1.
Not one of Microsoft’s best decisions.
Upgrade Now: Buy A New Device
So, did your update work, or are you still waiting for it to be made available? Perhaps you’re still using a Windows Phone 7 device, or considering switching from Android or iOS or even Blackberry (although given recent improvements to their own mobile OS that might be unwise).
The easy way, of course, is to buy a new handset. The Nokia Lumia 930, for instance, is pulling in rave reviews, much like its predecessor the Nokia Lumia 920. Meanwhile, you might prefer to hold off for now; the expected release of the HTC One W8, a Windows Phone 8.1 version of the HTC One M8, seems likely to offer a strong alternative to Nokia’s devices.
Are you using the full, official Windows Phone 8.1 update already, or have you been frustrated by delays in the roll-out? Use the comments to let us know.
Featured image credit: PlaceIt