We’re all firmly in mobile mode with Mobile World Congress kicking off over in Barcelona, but that hasn’t stopped Microsoft from letting everyone know what the current state of play is when it comes to an update to Windows 8.1, and the new Windows Phone 8.1.
Windows Phone 8.1
At an event hosted by Microsoft, VP Joe Belfiore announced that Windows Phone 8.1 is coming around April with key hardware support changes such as: support for Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 200, 400, 400 LTE chipsets, TD-LTE, TD-SCDMA SGLTE and support for dual SIMs. On-screen buttons like on Android are now supported, allowing OEMs to make handsets without the three physical hardware buttons. Hardware camera shutter button is also no longer a requirement.
With Windows Phone 8.1, users will now be able to store apps on microSD cards.
Windows Phone 8.1 will be backwards-compatible with most of the existing Windows Phone 8 hardware on the market.
Microsoft also took the opportunity to announce new hardware partners, with LG, Lenovo, ZTE, Xolo, Karbonn, Lava all onboard for Windows Phone 8.1 powered devices.
For those of you who love Facebook, there is some good news. Official dedicated Facebook Messenger app is coming to Windows Phone in the coming weeks.
Update to Windows 8.1
Regarding an update to Windows 8.1, Microsoft says it is coming some time this Spring, with support for hardware that doesn’t feature a touch screen at the forefront of the improvements.
According to Belfiore, while Microsoft is still very much a fan of touch-based input, the company understands that not everyone has hardware that supports touch and as such is setting out to try and make their experience a better one. That involves a new right-click option to get to the Start screen, new options for closing applications and app launching and switching being possible via the taskbar. The move will be welcomed by those who are using Windows 8.1 on older machines, or simply hardware that doesn’t come equipped with a screen that they can prod with their fingers. We include ourselves in that!
Along with new mouse-driven improvements, Microsoft’s updated Windows 8.1 will also apparently support devices with low specifications. The update will mean that hardware with as little as 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage will be good to go when it comes to Windows 8.1, with Microsoft hoping to bring Windows to devices that have shipped with a build of Android thus far.
Beyond what Belfiore has said there isn’t a great deal of information known about this update, but Microsoft is keen to stress that its new focus on mouse-powered computers isn’t a sign that it is stepping back from the touch-based world that it has tried to create. Windows went all Metro with Windows 8, but subsequent updates have seen Windows become more mouse-friendly and the Desktop make a somewhat triumphant return to the fore. With the Start button also showing up once more, we might be finally getting back to a Windows that we can get on board with!