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Review: Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.1

Intro UI Basics Apps Cortana Wrap-Up Comments  6  

There's no doubt Windows Phone 8.1 is the most complete and powerful version of Microsoft's smartphone platform to date. It adds a significant number of improvements to the everyday functionality of the OS and also buries in features that will grow in usefulness over time.

I am pleased with the Action Center, the third Start Screen column, the Word Flow keyboard, the three Sense apps, the camera/photo improvements, the updated messaging tools, and browser. Many of these put Windows Phone on a more level playing field with Android and iOS. Android and iOS have completely different design aesthetics, though, and the blockier appearance of Windows Phone may not be for everyone.

The two biggest additions to Windows Phone 8.1 are perhaps the least useful at launch: universal apps and Cortana. Universal apps are a game changer. They will really help Microsoft sell its range of products (phones, tablets, PCs) to more people, especially given the pay-once, install-everywhere ideal for applications. Cortana is surely off to a solid start and launches a whole new way to interact with Windows Phone. Though Cortana needs to learn a bit more, she's got plenty of power over essential Windows Phone apps and functions. We hope she'll grow into the personal assistant Microsoft promises. Like all relationships, it'll take time for Cortana to get to know you.

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Anyone who's been on the fence about Windows Phone no longer has an excuse to sit there. Microsoft's smartphone platform is definitely worth a shot. If you're bored with Android and iOS, or just don't like them, Windows Phone is a worthy option for anyone. If you've made an investment in Microsoft's products, be they PCs, tablets, or even an XBox, Windows Phone platform is an complimentary choice to enhance your ecosystem.

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