Microsoft is expected to show off the Windows Phone 8.1 update at its Build developer conference in early April, but we don't have to wait that long to get a peek at what the folks in Redmond are cooking up for the next major update to its mobile operating system.
Another screenshot shows the Windows Phone app list, complete with a new "Battery Power Sense" app that enables users to see how much battery life a user's apps are consuming. There's also said to be a new Podcast app, dedicated Music and Video apps rather than a single Music + Videos app and Microsoft's own Bing apps are reportedly come preinstalled.
One other big app change involves Windows Phone's messaging capabilities. One of the leaked screenshots shows Windows Phone's messaging settings menu with an entry that's titled "Receive texts using." The default Messaging app is selected, but the inclusion of this option suggests that Microsoft may allow Windows Phone 8.1 users to select a new default messaging app, similar to the way that Windows Phone currently allows users to change their default camera app.
Finally, using the Back button in the Windows Phone 8.1 SDK apparently doesn't terminate the app that the user was previously in. Instead, it's said that hitting that button will suspend the app in the background, similar to the way that Windows 8 operates.
We'll have to wait until Microsoft officially unveils Windows Phone 8.1 in April before any of this information is confirmed, but if these WP8.1 leaks are accurate, the update is shaping up to be a big one for the Windows Phone platform. Not only do the "Universal Apps" template and the ability to set a default messaging app sound like nice additions, but the WP8.1 update is also expected to bring with it a notification panel known as "Action Center" as well as a voice-based personal assistant that's codenamed "Cortana."
While the x.1 change in its name might suggest that this is a fairly minor update, I'm betting that most Windows Phone users are going to be dying to get Windows Phone 8.1 on their devices as soon as possible. Here's to hoping that the wait between Microsoft's unveiling of WP8.1 and the start of its push to consumers is a short one.
UPDATE: More details from the Windows Phone 8.1 SDK have leaked out. Said to be included in the update is an iCloud option in the accounts menu and the removal of Facebook from the accounts menu and Photos app. Also reportedly packed into WP8.1 is a different method of YouTube video playback in IE. Rather than playing in a full-screen wrapper, YouTube clips now play directly on the page.
UPDATE 2: The stream of Windows Phone 8.1 leaks is apparently going to continue to flow throughout the day. More details on the impending update have leaked out on The Verge, including the ability to dismiss running apps from the multitasking menu with a swipe down, which sounds a tad quicker than the current method of tapping a "X" button in the upper corner of the app's window.
Microsoft has also tweaked its built-in camera app quite a bit in Windows Phone 8.1. The app features a new UI with two main options areas at the top and bottom of the display: The upper portion is home to settings for flash and Lenses, while the bottom part contains switches between photo capture, video recording and burst mode.
One major Windows Phone 8.1 feature that we've known about for some time now is support for on-screen navigation buttons. Today's leak revealed a new tidbit about those on-screen keys, though: The ability to dismiss the buttons by sliding down on an arrow that's located in the lower left corner of the display. Users can reportedly make the on-screen keys reappear by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.