85

Microsoft's mobile OS finally feels whole

85

Finally. We've admired Windows Phone for years now, but the 8.1 update marks the first time that the platform actually feels... complete. With version 8.1, you can now enjoy a functional personal assistant, robust notification center, solid hardware support and a great keyboard, all of which were huge pain points that needed to be addressed a long time ago.

Of course, Microsoft still has plenty of challenges ahead. After all, it's still unclear what kind of changes will happen to Windows Phone after the Nokia acquisition is finalized, and we still haven't seen a ton of manufacturers announce new hardware yet, despite Microsoft's claim that there's renewed interest in the platform. The OS has struggled to grow since its conception and is just now starting to hit double digits in market share (in certain regions, anyway). Our hope is that this update ushers in a change in momentum for Microsoft. With new leadership, a better product and the company's "One Microsoft" vision, Windows Phone 8.1 could easily be the boost the company so needs right now.

Critic reviews

7.9
15 reviews
  • Ease of use
    7.6
  • Speed
    8.0
  • Configurability
    8.4
  • Ecosystem (apps, drivers, etc.)
    7.2
  • Openness
    8.0

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User reviews

9.0
4 reviews
9.0
Engadget Apr 14, 2014

Windows Phone 8.1 is the OS we've been waiting for years to see, bringing a notification center, personal assistant and other great touches.

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8.0
Ars Technica Apr 14, 2014

The result feels a whole lot more mature and a whole lot more capable than its predecessor. The 0.1 version bump, chosen to align the phone platform with its desktop sibling, belies the true nature of this upgrade. It is substantial, and makes Windows Phone tremendously better.

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8.0
Re/code Apr 14, 2014

Windows Phone 8.1 brings some much-needed features, and helps make the platform even better and more powerful. But with similar features already available on iOS and Android, Microsoft will have to hit hard with good hardware and competitive pricing to lure new customers.

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8.0
CNET Apr 14, 2014

Windows Phone 8.1 is the best update yet, thanks to its revamped design and modern features, but it lags behind iOS and Android.

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7.0
PC World Apr 14, 2014

Microsoft now has a firm foundation—a welcoming operating system with enough technical chops to attract both consumers and developers. This is the new reality: Microsoft can finally compete alongside Apple and Google, in what is now a three-way race.

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7.0
Gizmodo Apr 14, 2014

If you are OS-curious and Windows Phone hardware calls to you—specifically the 1020's camera magic—8.1 finally makes that a fling worth having.

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8.0
Time Apr 14, 2014

Windows Phone 8.1 offers an experience that’s fun, fluid and just about feature-complete.

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8.0
Pocket-Lint Apr 18, 2014

Much of what it's doing is holding a mirror up to the Android and iOS systems of this world, but as that language and usability becomes more universal, Microsoft is on the right path in adapting to its own needs and adding some of its own positive twists and turns too.

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7.0
Mashable Apr 14, 2014

For today, though, Windows Phone 8.1 is a phenomenal smartphone experience Windows Phone 8.1 is a phenomenal smartphone experience — in many ways superior to iOS and Android. It's a shame, then, that the ecosystem is still challenged with issues surrounding app selection and app quality.

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9.0
Phone Scoop Apr 14, 2014

There's no doubt Windows Phone 8.1 is the most complete and powerful version of Microsoft's smartphone platform to date.

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8.0
The Verge Apr 14, 2014

Windows Phone 8.1 is a good operating system. It can’t hide the still-lacking Windows Phone Store, but it goes a long way toward making Windows Phone feel competitive. It feels finished now, really for the first time.

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8.0
WPCentral Apr 14, 2014

I’m done saying Microsoft has finally caught up to the competition. I’m done predicting whether or not Windows Phone will finally catch on in the United States, where it sits at around 4% market share. I think 8.1 is a fantastic update from Microsoft.

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8.0
Business Insider Apr 14, 2014

With Cortana and user interface tweaks such as the new Action Center, Microsoft is much better equipped to take on the competition than it was before.

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8.0
PocketNow Apr 14, 2014

More importantly, now that Windows Phone is closer to parity with its competitors from a UX standpoint, there’s less preventing the curious, the deal-seekers, and the shutterbugs from coming over to take a look – and once Windows Phone gets its talons in you, it’s tough to break free.

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First Looks

product preview
PC Mag Apr 3, 2014

There's a lot more to Windows Phone 8.1 than just Cortana. New lock screen and Start screen options, a swipe-down Action Center, and an updated app store join many more additions.

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product preview
Tom's Hardware Apr 2, 2014

Like Google Now, Cortana follows and understands your behavior on the phone. It understands relationships, location, and many of your habits. Cortana can read the email on your phone (with permission) and extract relevant information.

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product preview
CNET Apr 2, 2014

Like Google Now and Siri, you can ask Cortana questions, such as "How did the San Francisco Giants do yesterday?" It's particularly good at answering sports questions, but you can ask it almost anything you want. Cortana replaces the simpler voice search feature.

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product preview
SlashGear Apr 3, 2014

All in all, while some of the biggest changes for Windows Phone 8.1 are architectural - part of Microsoft's plan to make the same apps run on desktop, mobile, and eventually Xbox One as well - there'll be plenty of rough edges polished off for users on the surface.

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product preview
Wired UK Apr 4, 2014

I don't know what's wrong with my thumbs, but they are just not built for typing. No matter what touchscreen keyboard I use, autocorrect is always my best friend. Microsoft is pretty proud of its new Word Flow keyboard, which claims the world record for fastest phone screen typing.

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product preview
The Verge Apr 2, 2014

Visually, Cortana is represented by a circular icon that adopts the same color scheme as your Windows Phone theme. It also pulsates when she speaks and rotates when searching for an answer.

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product preview
TechRadar Apr 3, 2014

Having found nothing compelling about Windows Phone 8, my tune is changing for Windows Phone 8.1. With Cortana, Microsoft seems hell-bent on creating something that doesn't emulate Siri or Google Now, but surpasses them.

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product preview
WPCentral Apr 2, 2014

Cortana is definitely one of the bigger headline grabbing features in Windows Phone 8.1. The other being the new notification center. Cortana is more than a voice assistant though. It’ll bring in the latest news for you and show the weather based on your personal preferences and location.

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10
EthanGalistan EthanGalistan

Windows phone 8.1 is definitely worth the wait. A good update on what was left out in windows phone 8. The notification center, Cortana, quiet hours, and personalized background for tiles are just some of the features I enjoy really much. With notification center, Cortana and quiet hours, I would...

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