Windows Phone 8.1 Features to Sway You Away from iOS and Android: Cortana, Action Center and a New Look

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The Windows Phone 8.1 has finally made an official appearance at the BUILD 2014, and it brings with it a number of new features that hope to not only rival those of other OS competitors like the iOS 7 and Android 4.4 Kitkat but also perhaps sway a few users to the Windows camp.

Perhaps one of the more gimmicky additions to the Windows Phone 8.1 is Cortana, the rival to Apple's Siri, and a welcome reprieve for those who were getting tired of the Bing search interface on the Windows Phone. But of course, she's still powered by Bing.

Engadget reports that Cortana, inspired from the "Halo" franchise, is able to handle a number of tasks as users' own personal digital assistant. She can make calls, send messages, keep track of reminders and even handle third-party apps that users have on their Windows Phone.

There's also a way to make her know more about users and, thus, personalise the variety of services that she can do for them. Users can make use of a notebook where they can put in their interests and needed updates, so she knows what users urgently need to be of better help.

What's even more interesting about Cortana is that users feel like they're talking to an assistant rather than a robotic invisible female helper. Though this can change—hopefully as an improvement—as Cortana is still on beta.

Action Center: Where All Notifications Happen

The Windows Phone 8.1 has also introduced the Action Center, which is the dedicated notification hub for the OS. According to GSM Arena, the Action Center is where users can customise quick setting toggles and connectivity like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and more.

It is also the location for the notification drawer with ongoing notifications for mails, calls and even those coming from Cortana herself.

A video from WP Central shows off how the Action Center manages the alerts for users different apps, as it provide a hands-on of the feature before it rolls out to Windows smart devices, and so far, the most anticipated feature seems to be delivering on its promise.

New Lock Screen and Sense Apps

New lock screens will also come with the update, as new APIs and apps that are integrated with the lock screen will also come with the update, according to Slashgear. The aesthetically inclined can expect a number of new lock screen designs, coming in circles, squares and triangles, depending on what they want to see on their own screen.

The Start Screen is also new for the Windows Phone 8.1, as users can now skin their tiles, a refreshing change for those who are tired of looking at flat-coloured tiles for Windows.

If that's not enough, the Windows Phone 8.1 will also have improvements on the Sense Apps, which will have new features like the Wi-fi Sense feature that lets users have more control on how they use their network.

Release Date: So When Do Users Get the Windows Phone 8.1?

The official reveal at BUILD 2014 almost didn't happen with the number of supposed delays that the new update was encountering. But even though it has already been unveiled, that doesn't mean that it will be coming to Windows phones soon.

According to Phone Arena, it seems that the earliest time frame for release of the Windows Phone 8.1 is sometime between April and May, though Microsoft did not confirm any official dates. And even the stated months may not immediately make available the Windows Phone 8.1 on all Windows devices either, so expect that the rollout would be similar to the way that other OS like the Android 4.4 Kitkat rolls out.

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