I can't wait to see Windows Phone 8.1

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| October 10, 2013

Microsoft isn't in the kind of race that sees speed triumph. They're taking their time, just as they have with just about everything else they've ever launched (or considered launching), and they don't mind what's happening in other sectoins of the mobile market. They know their own mobile platform is missing some features, and in dire straights when it comes to other areas, but those handling the Windows Phone platform also know they'll get around to it.

There shouldn't be any doubt that the engineers, developers, and everyone else involved with Windows Phone aren't working extremely hard on the mobile OS every single day. Microsoft just takes its time, and they've got a plan for their major platform upgrades. A lot of people thought we were going to see Windows Phone 8.1, or Blue, right around this time of the year, but we all know that isn't going to happen now. Instead, Windows Phone users have GDR3 to look forward to before the end of the year.

The belief that Microsoft would have Windows Phone 8.1 ready by 2014 was mostly due to the fact Windows 8.1, the sister OS built for computers, was due at the same time. We know now that Windows 8.1 will be landing on the market at the end of October, but Windows Phone 8.1 won't be seeing the light of day until sometime early 2014.

So, more waiting.

But for Windows Phone fans, and those who have devices that will be getting upgraded to Windows Phone 8.1, the wait isn't too bad. As I mentioned, you've got updates coming down the pipe that should make it at least tolerable. If you're running a Lumia 920, for instance, then you've still got GDR2 (and Amber, from Nokia) to look forward to. And, if you're already running GDR2, then GDR3 should be right around the corner. These updates do bring new features, so it's not all just under-the-hood maintenance fixes.

Actually, that GDR3 update is pretty compelling when it comes to software updates and feature additions, if the rumors are true. Not only is GDR3 bringing support for devices with 1080p HD displays, more advanced processors, and display sizes bigger than five inches, there are new features bundled inside as well. Rumors have it that GDR3 will add support for attaching Office files to email, being able to close apps while multitasking -- instead of just having to press the Back button over and over again. There will also be a new Driving Mode, which will shut down some features of the phone, as well as offer automatic replies to text messages if you're into that kind of thing. (Don't text and drive.)

There's more, too. With GDR3, users will reportedly be able to select custom ringtones for IM, email, text messages and even voicemail. Screen rotation lock, and the ability to place three medium or six small Live Tiles in a row on displays with at least 1280x768 resolution. Plenty of additions to the software.

It's enough that Windows Phone 8.1 could have had the majority of those additions and Microsoft could have called it good. Instead, they're adding those things inside a "minor" update, and leaving plenty to speculate about regarding the actual Windows Phone 8.1 update next year.

And that's why I'm so excited about it. We've heard the rumors, things like Microsoft's response to Siri named Cortana. We've also heard that Microsoft will be aiming to merge the Stores between Windows RT and Windows Phone, which should bring plenty of new apps across the board. Most recently, though, we also heard that Windows Phone 8.1 will add support for displays up to 10-inches in size, which is just curious on so many levels.

It will also, according to the rumors, remove the necessity for the Back button on Windows Phone hardware. That's a bold move, considering the Back button, ever since the arrival of Windows Phone in 2010, has been a standard feature on every device. It also makes sense, though. The Back button can get kind of annoying in Windows Phone.

There has to be more, though. I just have this feeling in my gut that Microsoft, while they'll put plenty of attention on new apps, the merged stores, and probably Cortana (if the software is ready), I just can't help but think that they've got even more stuff to talk about. Even better things to bring to the table. Windows Phone 8.1 has to be a big update, just like Windows 8.1 is for the desktop. I don't think Microsoft is going to stumble on this one. And now I'm finding myself eager to see what they bring to the table.

Based on what you've heard about Windows Phone 8.1, are you excited for the software update? Do you think the updated platform will add enough to the mix to bring in new customers? Or will the fact that Windows Phone will still look like Windows Phone keep new folks away? Let me know what you think!

Products mentioned