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Microsoft announces Windows Phone 8.1: Everything you need to know

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Microsoft as expected, has announced Windows Phone 8.1 and it is looking to be the most feature rich version of the operating system yet. The software giant has made quite a few changes to bring the new operating system on parity with Android and iOS, changes that could grant increased consumer attention.  
 
One of the key changes to Windows Phone 8.1, is the Action Center. This is basically the same as the notification center found on Android, where the user has to swipe from the top of the screen to gain access. In addition, Windows Phone 8.1 brings to the table background images for the Start Screen, though it is quite different when compared to the typical background image feature.  
 
Instead of allowing the image to sit behind the tiles, Microsoft has optioned to place background images inside the tiles. It's a unique representation and probably the best way to do it since users would be able to view the image if it were situated behind the tiles.  
 
Microsoft also highlighted a new feature called Wifi Sense, which will automatically connect the users to the nearest available WiFi network. Interestingly enough, WiFi Sense also allows the user to share home WiFi with friends without having to share the password. How Microsoft plans to pull this off is still up the air, but as of now, no other mobile platform is doing this.  
 
A new version of Skype  
 
During the Build conference, we see Microsoft showcasing what the new Skype is capable of. Basically, Windows Phone 8.1 has the ability to convert a phone call into a Skype video call. Microsoft did not give a complete demo of this happening, but it does sound promising, nonetheless.  
 
There's even a Swipe-like keyboard feature called "Word Flow" built into Windows Phone 8.1. Microsoft claims that typing with Word Flow is the fastest typing on a smartphone's keyboard and even has the Guinness World Record to prove it. The previous record holder was the Samsung Galaxy S4, for those who wanted to know.  
 
Cortana personal assistant  
 
We've long heard about Microsoft plans to launch its own personal assistant with the name, Cortana. Yes, it is real and yes, the voice over is done by Jen Taylor, the same voice actress who does the voice over work for the Cortana artificial intelligence character in the Halo universe.  
 
Cortana is pretty much everything you'd come to expect from Google Now and the things you would not expect from Siri. So far, it looks great, but there's much work to be done if Microsoft wants to surpass the likes of Google Now.  
 
For those who are interested in Windows Phone 8.1, you may have to wait until the next few months to get the update. However, new devices launching in late April and early May, will come with Windows Phone 8.1 pre-installed.

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