Starting this month, Windows Phone 8.1 is being rolled out to existing Windows Phone 8 devices, delivering a set of improvements to the mobile operating system.
We’ve already looked at how to upgrade to the Developer Preview to enjoy the new features now rather than waiting. One big attraction of the upgrade, for example, is Cortana, the digital assistant . Even if you have upgraded early, you may find many other great additions that you’re not aware of, yet.
The following list features 8 of our favourite new Windows Phone 8.1 tips and tricks.
Pin More Stuff
Microsoft has made it possible for you to pin even more apps and live tiles to the Start screen, so once you’ve upgraded to Windows Phone 8.1, make sure you add Cortana, Battery Saver and Storage Sense to the Start screen.
You’ll find them in the app list – all you need to do is long-tap each and select pin to start.
Each of these tiles will provide you with some vital information. Cortana will show you the latest news update based on your notebook preferences, while Battery Saver will highlight the current battery level.
Meanwhile, Storage Sense will inform you of empty space on your phone, both on the main device and on any SD card you may have.
Swipe Down For Shortcuts
Another way to quickly check your battery level is to open the Action Center, by swiping down from the top of the screen. Here, the battery level is displayed as a percentage.
Also available in the Action Center is the All Settings button, a shortcut to the Settings screen that saves time swiping to the app list (if you’re like me and had Settings pinned on the Start screen, you can reclaim that bit of space, too).
The Action Center provides shortcuts to any services you want to be able to easily toggle. Smart options would be wireless networking, Bluetooth, mobile Internet and perhaps Airplane Mode. Open Settings > notifications+actions to select your preferred actions.
Also, don’t overlook the power of the Action Center’s updates. Anything that appears here can be tapped to open, while updates can be dismissed in bulk by swiping them to the right. Every item can be dismissed using the Clear All button. This is only the tip of the iceberg – there is much more you can do with the Action Center .
Email & Calendar
On top of the existing Windows Phone 8 email features such as unified inboxes and live tiles displaying unread message counts, it is now possible to download images with your messages automatically, rather than tapping on the image link when the message is opened.
Open your email inbox, expand the menu and select settings, then scroll down and check the box labelled Always download full message and Internet images. Tap done to confirm.
Windows Phone 8.1 has added weather details to the calendar app. If it isn’t enabled by default, open Calendar, expand the menu and tap settings, then scroll to the bottom of the screen and check the box labelled Use my location to show the weather and suggested places. Note that location services must be enabled for weather information to be displayed.
Quick Volume Controls
Another bonus of Windows Phone 8.1 is the expanded volume controls. You can still access these by tapping the volume rocker hardware buttons on the side of the phone, and if you’re listening to an MP3 the player buttons will also appear.
Now, however, the volume slider can be expanded to display sound level options for apps and media. Just tap the down arrow on the volume slider to view and set levels.
New Look Store: Automated Updates
Apparently, I have purchased and downloaded 372 Windows Phone apps since 2010. This is information gleaned from a new screen in the redesigned Windows Phone Store, which you can view by opening the store app and tapping my apps in the expanded menu.
Split into groups of not installed and unavailable (they might be apps incompatible with your current OS or phone model, or withdrawn from the store), it is possible to bulk-install those that you want to use again, as long as they can still be downloaded.
It’s also possible to automatically update your Windows Phone 8.1 apps. In the Store open the menu and tap settings, then scroll down to App updates. Ensure Update apps automatically is checked for this to work. Previously, updating apps was a case of waiting for the Windows Phone Store live tile to tell you that there were apps that needed updating, which required manual updating, so this is a useful time-saving feature.
If you want to ensure apps are only downloaded over WiFi (useful if you have a lot of games on your phone), enable Only get updates over WiFi.
Swipe To Browse In Internet Explorer
Users of Windows 8 touchscreen devices will know that it is possible to swipe left and right in the Internet Explorer browser window to move back and forth between pages.
This feature has now been added to Internet Explorer mobile in Windows Phone 8.1, and despite the simplicity of the action it really does speed up your browsing experience.
Speedy Text Entry With Swype Typing
Back in the days of Windows Mobile, users were able to enjoy an app called Swype, which made one-touch typing possible. Since the end of Windows Mobile, the technology has been adopted by other mobile platforms (most notably Android) but it has been reintroduced with Windows Phone 8.1.
This feature doesn’t need activating – you either type in the normal way or you leave your thumb or finger on the phone and swipe it across the software keyboard to the letters you need to complete the word. Combined with Windows Phone 8’s predictive sentence feature this is a really good addition. Once you get used to Swype-style typing, you’ll never look back!
Another text entry improvement has been introduced for right-handed people – the space key now sits further to the right, potentially helping you to avoid making typing errors.
Customization: Tiles, Contacts & Alerts
Don’t overlook the way in which Windows Phone 8.1 can let you completely customize your device. Gone are the days of switching the colours of your Start screen tiles – now you can add tile backgrounds, a matching accent colour and a suitable Start screen tile arrangement to create a truly striking and unique look .
With the addition of customizable app alerts and the existing contact alerts, you can use these features to make your Windows Phone stand out from the crowd.
Have you tried Windows Phone 8.1 yet? Do any of these features stand out? Let us know your thoughts below!
Image Credits: Vernon Chan Via Flickr