Microsoft's BUILD 2014: Major improvements in Windows Phone, great Nokia announcements

I've been tweeting about a lot of things I found remarkable during Microsoft's BUILD 2014 yesterday evening - didn't have time to write a post at the same time. Only hours before it all started, @evleaks managed to get his hands on the Nokia Lumia 930 we all have been hoping for (see my previous post).

So that was one surprise less for Stephen Elop - but there still was enough left, also coming from Microsoft's Joe Belfiore who was extremely proud to show some of the innovations in Windows Phone 8.1 before mr. Elop took the stage.

Windows Phone 8.1
Like using your own shot as a "background" image - the tiles that are normally colored on your phone will become transparent and you'll see your own background image behind them: that simply looks great. I already like the way Windows Phone uses your own images in the Image Gallery, and now you can use your favorite picture to customize the main screen of your phone.

One suggestion could be to let the phone randomly choose from a set of favorite pictures for you to choose, so it will be a surprise which shot you'll see in the background. Or the possibility to enable you to select more shots, so you'll have a different background image at work or home, or during the day or at night. But this is already great and much more fun than just changing the colors of the tiles in your screen.

Cortana sounds fantastic (looks good too, but you won't actually ever see "her" in your phone). Like with Apple's Siri, you'll only be able to use Cortana's services in the US to begin with, and later it will come to other countries as well - China will be next if I understood well. Other major languages will come later, but I wonder if it will ever come to much smaller languages like Dutch or Danish for instance. Good thing most of us know two or even more languages in Europe.

Another improvement is the calendar - you can now finally swype through the days of the week (never understood what took Microsoft to figure that one out). WiFi Sense is an interesting innovation, make it possible for you to allow friends (like from Facebook) access to your WiFi network without the hassle of exchanging passwords. I was impressed as well with a "Skype" button on the phone, that will make it possible to transfer your phone call to a video call without losing contact.

And finally we'll have "Word Flow" on the keyboard - something many of us will know as "swyping" your text on the keyboard of your Android phone and something I've been really missing on Windows Phone so far.

The first Windows Phone 8.1 devices will come to the market within a few weeks even, with the Nokia Lumia 630 and 635. And that's where Stephen Elop comes in.

Nokia
Mr. Elop picked up where Joe Belfiore left, telling that ALL Lumia devices running on Windows Phone 8 will receive the update to Windows Phone 8.1. And that's quite an achievement, not only if you realize how many devices are out there already, but also if you realize that even entry level Lumia's like the 520 will be able to run WP 8.1 with its full functionality as well. So in the US, you'll have Cortana on your enty level device as well (eat that, Apple).

Elop Lumia 930

Stephen Elop didn't start with the first devices bringing Windows Phone 8.1 however, but with the new Nokia flagship. In fact is the international version of the Nokia Lumia Icon I've been looking forward to so much, now called the Nokia Lumia 930 and launched in a great set of striking colors.

Some innovations on the new Lumia were announced as well, like bringing "living images" (animated shots) in the StoryTeller application, and enabling you to share those "stories" with others. Interesting as well is "SensorCore", that will keep track of your movement when carrying the phone, so you can keep track of your fitness using apps like Bing Health and Fitness. The SensorCore SDK will enable others to think of new applications as well

But most importantly to us PureView addicts, is to find the exact same 20MP camera sensor we know from the Lumia 1520 in the new Lumia 930. In fact, a lot of the technical specs are the same as on the Lumia 1520 - Snapdragon quadcore processor 2.2GHz, 32GB internal memory - but no micro-SD slot ccording to the specs on Nokia's site! The pixel density is also impressive with no less than 441 ppi (1920 x 1080 pixels on the 5 inch screen in 16:9 aspect ratio).

So what's all the excitement about for us? Well, not only will the Lumia 930 be a lot more pocketable than the 1520, it will be easier to hold as a camera as well. I've been writing about that I do not only prefer the Lumia 1020 because of its much bigger sensor, but also because it's so much easier to hold. Moreover, the hardware camera button on the Lumia 1520 is relatively thin and pretty hard to get a good grip on: I expect a much better user experience from the Lumia 930 - and hence better shots.

I know some of us have hoped for a new 41MP Lumia PureView device and it's been a while since the Lumia 1020 was launched. Looks like we'll have to cherish that amazing quality for a while, just like many of us here at the PureViewClub have been worshipping the Nokia 808 PureView for almost two years now - lightyears in this industry.

Will 2014 bring a new PureView flagship with a whopping sensor like that? We'll have to wait and see. First, let's enjoy Windows Phone 8.1 on the Lumia 1020 as well - the sooner the better as far as I'm concerned, with or without Cortana :-)

Below you"ll find some videos Nokia has been sharing since last evening - off-topic: completely unexpected I was quite busy with an surprising launch of a new Dutch initiative during BUILD 2014 in the Netherlands, something you'll probably like to find on your PC as well: 22Tracks, offering a selection of new music, 22 tracks in 22 different genres.

On YouTube

On YouTube

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