Update brings Live Folders, new localized test builds of Cortana, Xbox Music perks, mass SMS actions, and more

Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 (Developer) Preview is here.  And you can get it for free, if you so desire.

Normally, Windows Phone maker Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) charges developers a relatively low fee -- $19 USD.  But to get access to this and other Preview builds of upcoming Windows Phone updates on your device, you don't even need to pay that -- you just need to sign up for Microsoft's App Studio program, which is designed to court new developers.  App Studio participants get access to Preview builds just like full-fledged developers -- except they get it for free (you have to pay once you sign up to sell your apps in the Windows Phone Store.

Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 continues Microsoft's plodding, yet ambitious pace of upgrades to its maturing mobile effort.  It adds localized builds of the Cortana voice assistant in beta form for China (where it's called "Xiao Na", a common female name) and the UK.  It also adds alpha builds of Cortana for India, Canada, and Australia.

Windows Phone 8.1, Update 1 Preview
Live Folders (left, "Photography" folder) and China-regionalized Cortaina (right, "Xiao Na")

Another key addition is the new Live Folders -- expandable bins for your Live Tile widgets that act similarly to app/widget bins in Android and iOS.  Other features include updates to the Store tile (clickable links to new featured apps), updates to the Xbox Music hub, mass text message actions (check mark boxes for mass forwarding or deletion), additional customization for alarms, and more.
Microsoft tends to operate on a similar upgrade release cycle to Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android, first rolling out pending updates to developers (and power users). It then launches them the next month on new devices, before finally rolling out the update to existing devices via carriers.
Windows Phone 8.1 was announced in April.  It launched for developers that month, and launched for new devices in May.  In July, two months later, it finally began rolling out to the masses with older Windows Phone 8 devices.
We can expect some new Lumia phones from Nokia Devices to be announced IFA 2014 (Sept. 5-10th) mobile electronics trade show in Berlin, Germany.  Those devices can be expected to launch with the new Update onboard.  For those with existing devices who wish to wait for their carrier, you can probably expect an update sometime in the October timeframe (again, similar to Android).

Source: The Verge

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