There’s no official launch date yet, but Microsoft has finally revealed some details surrounding the forthcoming Windows Phone 8.1 update.
Windows Phone 8.1 isn’t far away, but we still don’t have a complete picture of what it will offer and when it’ll hit. Mobile World Congress, currently taking place in Barcelona could have served as the ideal platform for such an announcement, but Microsoft has kept schtum on the nitty-gritty.
That being said Windows Phone’s CVP Joe Belfiore has partially spilled the beans on WP 8.1 to The Verge and it looks like it’ll focus on broadening Windows Phone’s horizons.
Allowing support for a greater selection of hardware is key to attracting more OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in order to build a wider array of handsets, which in turn will reach a broader range of consumers. It would appear that a key target for Microsoft is Android smartphone makers and Windows Phone 8.1 might allow such companies to simply reuse Android hardware to keep costs down.
One way it’ll achieve this is by offering support for on-screen controls. Up until this point, every Windows Phone device comes with three capacitive keys beneath the phone’s display. More chipsets will be supported too, with the likes on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 200, 400 and 400 LTE on the list, no doubt destined for more entry-level and mid-range devices. Allow apps to be installed onto the microSD card will reduce the amount of inbuilt storage an RAM a handset will require and dual-SIM support with “total user control” (think Live Tiles for each SIM) will appeal to handset makers who operate in developing markets.
Although carriers might have different plans, Microsoft is also promising update compatibility with all current Windows Phone 8 handsets out there, a significantly better promise than the one made amidst the chaos of moving from Windows Phone 7.5 to Windows Phone 8.
Expect to see new Windows Phone devices appear internationally from manufacturers like HTC, LG, Lenovo, Samsung, ZTE and of course, Nokia, all sporting Windows Phone 8.1.
As we mentioned to begin with, there’s no set launch date for Windows Phone 8.1, but Microsoft’s Build conference in April is our best guess.