updated 02:57 pm EDT, Mon August 4, 2014
Update to Windows Phone introduces Live Folders, improved Xbox Music app
Microsoft has made the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 available to download for developers. The software update, which introduces a number of changes to the mobile operating system, can be downloaded by developers enrolled in the Windows App Studio program today, ahead of a rollout to all compatible Windows Phone smartphones in the future.
The update adds support for more device resolutions, including 1280x800 and 540x960, in preparation for future smartphones with differing screen dimensions. Support for smart cases is also included, allowing a phone cover app to be enabled when the cover is closed, or to set a default screen viewed when the case is opened.
Live Folders, a system allowing users to group apps in folders on the home screen but still allowing for tile updates to be viewable, is also included, alongside a new Live Tile for the Windows Phone Store. The Xbox Music app has seen some performance improvements, introducing features missing from the Windows Phone 8.1 Preview for Developers version, while the SMS functionality of Windows Phone now allows for multiple text message selection for deletion and forwarding. A new Apps Corner will let the user "sandbox" apps and restrict what it has access to, potentially useful for business users, while a number of other security and privacy changes are also touted.
Cortana is also being brought to new markets, with localized versions for the United Kingdom and China on the way, along with "alpha" versions for Canada, Australia, and India. While the UK version adds support for British spellings and pronunciation, the Chinese variant has had more of a makeover, including a name change to Xiao Na, Mandarin voice recognition and text-to-speech support, and air quality information cards. The US version adds the ability to invoke Cortana hands-free using a car kit, letting drivers "call" Cortana as a contact and speaking commands.
Windows Phone users not wishing to sign up as developers may have a few more months to wait before being able to use the software update.