A Nokia-tailored update to Windows Phone 8 is here, rolling out as you read this. It’s called 8.1 Cyan and it will bring along a host of exciting, if not exactly drastic, changes. It’s worth bearing in mind that exactly when your Lumia device will receive this update depends on your carrier and location.
Undoubtedly the biggest addition which many WP users have been looking forward to is the introduction of Cortana. For those out of the loop, Cortana is WP’s answer to Siri and Google Now. It’s a virtual, voice-activated assistant for your handset – it offers instant, accurate search results for just about anything, plans trips, provides notifications, and more. If it works as well as we (and Nokia) hope it will, it should provide a real boost for WP in a platform war it’s lagged behind in for so long.
Cortana is only available to US users for the time being, though, but hopefully those in Europe and the rest of the world won’t have too long to wait. For now, you’ll have to make use of the new Device Search feature, which allows you to search for anything on your device using the Bing search bar – think emails, contacts, songs and the like.
Further Live Tiles customisation is available, with users now able to add a third row to their homescreen. A background image can also be set – the first time the OS has broken away from its minimalistic black/white design. Action Centre has been tweaked, and you can now view all your notifications there, as well as access quick setting like Flight Mode.
Wi-Fi Sense is a pretty nifty new feature, and one which doesn’t exist on either Android or iOS yet. Not only will your Nokia Lumia device now automatically connect to free Wi-Fi hotspots around the world, but it will even automatically enter in your details for you when needed, saving time and effort.
Nokia-exclusive apps are getting an update too, with Nokia Camera, Creative Studio and Storyteller all receiving new features and visual tweaks. The keyboard catches up to that found on most Android devices, too, with a new swipe-to-type feature.
All in all it’s a pretty beefy update, with enough changes to hopefully reassure the Windows Phone faithful that the platform is moving in the right direction and at the right pace. You can read more about it here on Nokia’s blog.