The 10 minute catch up of Technology and Gadgetry – Windows 8.1, Nokia Devices and Windows Phone

One of the biggest things to happen recently is the (free) release of Windows 8.1. This is the eagerly awaited release previously code named Windows Blue. It brings many features that really seem to complete Windows 8 and fill the void of missing features so often pointed out by various reviews and comments.

So what’s new and why is it so good?

  • Windows 8.1 bring a new browsing experience with options to pin the tabs rather than having to hover or swipe to see them each time. It also brings the ability to open a tab in a new window, giving you the flexibility to drag and dock various web pages to the side or middle of a screen which really makes a difference when using multiple screens. I use 3 screens at work and run Windows 8.1 of an ASUS Taichi 31. Being able to split off tabs and move them around is invaluable for making IE Modern useful in a business context. One thing I do miss though is the ability to re-dock a tab back to the main window although I am sure this will coming in future updates.
  • The search experience has changed with a more flexible and unified search. The search charm now allows you to search everything at once; programs, documents, web links and settings all in one place. The search charm is no longer done under the running app context. It is a system search and includes the app you are running but also everything else. Searching within apps is now for the most part relegated to the app itself. For example to search for an email, you’d click the search box within the Mail app. (more on the great new mail app coming up)
  • There are more options on how to organise your start screen and not to mention the return of the start button. There is a lot of hate for Windows 8 out there but if you realise it really is the familiar old Windows 7 with a fancy new start menu then things start to make much more sense. (even more so of course with the touch experience) Three icon sizes are now available much like the Windows Phone 8 update. The all programs menu is now accessed by swiping or clicking the little arrow on bottom left.
  •  The mail app. This is a huge change and in my honest opinion, makes the mail app a viable alternative to using Outlook. With the ability to snap three (or 4 depending on your screen resolution) apps side by side you can make a very useful display. See example below. The mail app brings folder management, favourites to pin to your side bar, searching, flagging, pop out emails to view side by side with your other emails, junk email control and more.
  • SkyDrive is now more integrated and optimised.
Nokia have released both a Phablet and a Tablet in the 1520 and 2520. The 2520 is reviewed by CNet here and has been drawing much praise http://reviews.cnet.com/tablets/nokia-lumia-2520/4505-3126_7-35829245.html while the 1520 has been announced http://www.nokia.com/global/products/phone/lumia1520 featuring a 6 inch display sporting 1920×1080 full HD resolution on a the amazing Nokia ClearBlack display technology, a Quad core 2.2 Ghz processor from Qualcomm and 32Gb storage expandable by microSD card. The phablet also sports a 3400mAh battery for long battery life.
Microsoft have announce a Windows Phone Developer preview program to allow developers early access to updates such as the GDR 3 update. The update brings, much like the 8.1 update for Tablets and PC’s, new features that have been missing from Windows Phone. The features include, driving mode, better storage management, screen rotation lock, Bluetooth hotspot, more flexibility with custom tones such as text and alert tones as well as assigning specific text tones to contacts, better app switching and the ability to close running apps from the app switcher. Nokia will also be bringing even more features via the Nokia Black update. http://www.windowsphone.com/en-US/how-to/wp8/basics/windows-phone-8-update-history
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