Windows Phone 8.1 picks up the slack - Microsoft might be on to something here

By Malarie Gokey | Apr 14, 2014 11:07 PM EDT

Microsoft has been teasing the new Windows Phone 8.1 update for months, but now it's finally here - for developers, at least. All registered developers can download the Windows Phone 8.1 update on their devices as of Monday morning.

Most early reviewers agree that Microsoft has finally hit its stride with Windows Phone 8.1. The smartphone-only operating system has had a hard time getting off the ground, but the improvements made with this new update are so vast that Microsoft is almost guaranteed to win a few more people over to its side.

Among the most important alterations made to the Windows Phone OS, include more easily accessible notifications, improved quick settings, better integration of Microsoft apps and Cortana. Cortana is greatly admired by nearly all who have tested her knowledge and capabilities. Many believe that Cortana is reason enough to give Windows Phone a try.

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Microsoft made several big improvements to its app infrastructure, too, adding built-in Skype for calls, a better Podcast app, a really great calendar app and a vastly improved Internet Explorer 11 browser. The messaging app built into Windows Phone can also integrate other messaging apps and the keyboard is a lot more efficient when typing. The Maps app has gotten a nice makeover and now includes turn-by-turn navigation and public transit directions.

Small changes such as faster animations, the permanent presence of the battery bar status at the top of the screen and faster syncing for data transfers between devices as well as connections to both Mac and Windows 8 computers. Windows Phone 8.1 also allows you to decide which apps you want refreshing in the background and other features to help you save battery life.

Overall, the Windows Phone 8.1 update turns an average mobile OS into a great mobile OS. Now all Microsoft has to do is offer stellar hardware and a larger selection of apps to woo Android and iOS users away from the rest of the flock. Microsoft may have its work cut out for it, but if it continues to add high-end features like Cortana, it could be on its way up.

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