Windows Phone upgrade adds on-the-job improvements

Microsoft is upgrading its Windows Phone OS to increase its functionality and suitability in business and government environments. Update 3 will begin shipping with all new Windows Phones, pushing out to most existing users soon.

As we saw last month when Apple updated its mobile phones to work better for business with the iOS 7 upgrade, Windows Update 3 adds utilities that serious users were craving.

The features that will likely get most of the spotlight are support for larger screen sizes, faster processors and the new driving mode, though the first of these won't even affect existing phones. Future Windows phones will be able to support five- and six-inch screens running in true 1080p HD resolution. Phones also will be able to use the Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor, so more robust applications are sure to follow. The driving mode simply limits notifications while a user is driving and lets people trying to call in know the driver is busy. It's not unlike a lot of third-party software that some agencies are already employing to limit texting while driving.

Digging down into the upgrade a bit, there are a few less flashy features that should go a long way toward helping Windows 8 phones, new ones and existing models, gain more acceptance among serious users and within government.

The first is a renewed effort to help with storage management. Even most high-end phones only have 32 GB of storage capacity without adding extra memory cards. Yet many enterprise applications can gobble up hundreds of megabytes of that just for their install. Phones with a mere 8 GB or 16 GB of storage capacity quickly run out of space. And it wasn’t that easy for a user to free up space. The new Update 3 lets users see exactly how much memory each application is using,  offers tips on how to get a bit more out of the existing space and provides links to storage utilities.

Multitasking, which is one of the biggest pluses to using a Windows phone, has also been streamlined. The ability to have multiple programs running at once is a big advantage, but as with storage memory, system resources are still limited — as is the battery power to drive everything. Phones that begin to run slowly may have become handicapped by having too much going on at once. Yet, until now, there wasn't an easy way to tell what was actually running. After Update 3 is installed, running programs are represented as thumbnail cards. At a glance users can see what is draining the battery and taking up precious memory. Unneeded apps can be closed by tapping a little X in the corner of the thumbnail.

Probably the biggest advantages of Update 3 to the Windows Phone platform will come when Snapdragon 800-powered quad-core devices hit the market with five- and six-inch screens. But the recent update also lays the groundwork for more efficient computing, something that even devices already in circulation can benefit from while also driving better future uses.

Those who don't want to wait for Update 3 can join the Windows Phone App Studio to get this and other updates while they are still in beta. Microsoft would like more people to join the App Studio, and has blogged about making it easier to sign up.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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