The Other Windows Phone 8.1 Features

  • Apr 17, 2014 at 2:31 AM
  • Shawn Wildermuth

cortanaA lot of blogs have been showing off and talking about new Windows Phone 8.1 features that are the big picture features I love like Cortana, Action Center and even the new Calendar views.

Well, I have the new build and I have to say I’m loving it too. These features are great, but I’ve noticed a bunch of smaller features that I also adore. Let’s talk about these smaller, but very cool features:

Internet Explorer 11 Reader View

My phone ends up being one of my main news source. I wake up to my GooNews app as well as the Bing News app (now just called News). Because of this, I end up in the browser reading quite a few articles. On Windows Phone 8, the reading experience was annoying if the website didn’t make sure the site was responsive. Most notably sports news websites seem prone to this (I’m a baseball fan).

In IE11 on Windows 8.1, they now support a reading mode for sites it can discern how to format the page. This is much like many page optimizers out there but it being built-in makes it much easier to work with. If the page can be determined to support reader mode, you’ll see this icon in the address bar:


When you tap on this icon, the page is reformatted in a read mode:


You can set the size of the text in read mode in Internet Explorer settings. Click Advanced settings and you’ll see the font size slider::


My Apps

A lot has been made of the change to add the games to the app list. What I am actually impressed by is the list of apps you own! If you open the Store, you’ll see a new option on the bottom called “My Apps”:


Ironically, this doesn’t actually show you all your apps, but the apps that aren’t installed on the phone (as well as apps that aren’t supported any more):


Don’t forget to click on the appbar to enable multi-select the apps to install. To mass-install a bunch of apps at once, it works just great!

WiFi Sense

I wonder whether Microsoft is going to get in trouble for this feature. It’s that magical. If you spend any time at restaurants and coffee shops (like I do), you’ll have a lot of open wifi connections that require you to provide your email or at least click “OK” to get access to the magic Internet. What WiFi sense does is automatically handle this for you. If it can detect that it is necessary, it just makes it happen. You can turn this on via the WiFi settings:


Here you can enable it and specify what data to pass to the WiFi Access Point:


Quiet Hours

Inside the Cortana settings you can also specify that there are hours of the day to have people not bother you:


The quiet hours allows you to specify a group of people (called Inner Circle) that can break through the quiet hours so your close friends and family can still get in. There is also a feature to specify if someone calls twice in a short period (in case of emergencies) it’ll notify you too. I love this feature…mostly because I hate phones…but I digress.

Pinning Cortana

While a lot of blogs have talked a lot about Cortana, one of my favorite features is to pin Cortana to the home screen:


This does two things, first Cortana will take your interests and have the top interest (e.g. news) and put it on the back of the tile for quick access. But more importantly, if you click on the pinned version of Cortana (instead of hitting the search button), it will take you to a quick view of your interests:


You can still search from here, but for me this is a quick dashboard of my interests. This ends up being the first view I see in the morning so I can catch up on quick headlines, sports scores and weather.

You specify what your interests are in the Cortana settings (the hamburger icon). Here you can add new interests that will show up on the Cortana page as well as help Cortana with searches:


There are many more little nice touches to the operating system, but these are some of the first things that I felt were being underappreciated!

Do you have favorite features no one is talking about?




Kamran Ayub Thursday, April 17, 2014

The stuff you can do with Cortana is impressive. In the short time I've had the update I've asked her:

* To remind me to do stuff when I get home
* To remind me to do stuff next time I talk to someone
* To tell me when the next Queens of the Stone Age concert is
* To tell me how the traffic going home is
* To tell me a joke
* To tell me a story
* To tell me if it's going to rain tomorrow
* To make a reservation at a restaurant (she won't actually, but it'll bring up the restaurant)
* To convert Euros to US Dollars
* To translate something into French
* To tell me what my next meeting is
* To send TXTs to my friends

I was pretty impressed with the concert. She told me when the next upcoming concerts were, so I was easily able to know when the next one in my city was.

The one thing I hope they add soon is reminders when you're *nearby* something. I tried to have her remind me to drop off checks at the UPS store, and she appropriately asked me which store, but it was only "when I arrive" not "when I'm nearby." With Geofencing and the ability to know your "nearness" to a location, I don't see why they didn't add that from the get-go. That would be very useful, since most of the stores I have to go to are in a single area but I tend to forget to do stuff when I'm already near there.


Donald Chodeva Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thanks very much for this post. I wasnt aware of these additional nifty features


Vitor Canova Thursday, April 17, 2014

There are so many things I still didn't expore them all.

Never had tapped the "MyApps" links. Saw many apps there. But some of them are listed as unavailable but I can click and install. Maybe a hiccup.

This is my litle list:

Tapping shift when word select changes the case of the word. It even supports Pascal Case (or Camel, never remember).

In Hotmail using "as items arive" if you read an item it mask as read on the server too. Before the update I needed a manual refresh.

Possibility to automatically sign in in WiFi provided by my carrier. I think it is called AES-SIM (or something else -SIM).

When you are read an email the nome of the person pops up on the screen.

Games are listed in the main app list so now you can share them.

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