Today, Microsoft announced the third developer update to Windows Phone 8, which brings support for larger screens, and 1080p display resolution. This also means a larger start screen, going from 4 to 6 live tiles of horizontal space (on larger screens), but otherwise maintaining similar start screen design. GDR3 also brings support for the 8x74 SoCs, better known as Snapdragon 800.

There are also some other usability features added to the phone, such as driving mode, which disables many types of notifications and turns on an auto-respond feature to prevent distractions. It seems to work automatically based upon a paired Bluetooth device that is remembered.

Accessibility is also improved, with a screen reader similar to Talkback on Android. The internet sharing feature finally brings Bluetooth tethering. Other feature additions include custom ringtones for more items like IMs, and personalized call/text ringtones based upon contacts, autorotation lock, native management of the “Other storage” files and better file management in general, a tap to close application function similar to iOS 7, WebOS, and Android 4.x, although differing in UI implementation, immediate WiFi connection setup on first start, and general improvements to the Bluetooth stack.

While many features have been implemented in this update, many such features have been significantly delayed in implementation when compared to Android or iOS. While iOS seems to be staying in the 300 PPI range for mobile displays, Android is in a race to ever greater resolutions, as seen by the rapid spread of 400+PPI displays. Windows Phone seems to be stuck in the middle of this because while it may make sense to stick with ~300 PPI from a battery life perspective, due to the approximate 20% jump in power draw on the display from the increased backlight requirements, it seems that Windows Phone is mostly compared against Android devices, not iOS. This also seems to make things more difficult for Microsoft, as the update cadence simply doesn’t stack up when compared to the rate at which Google iterates Android, and the design of the OS is simply not well suited to widely varying screen sizes and pixel densities, a trait shared by iOS, but not by Android, which has proven to be extremely important as displays have taken five notable jumps in resolution in the past four years, with a huge number of variations when it comes to screen size.  It remains to be seen whether Microsoft will amp up the pace when it comes to the Windows Phone update cycle, specifically in the areas of SoC support, resolution/DPI support, and general UI additions, but for now, this update seems to be a continuation of previous strategies and with  little change in the execution of said strategies.

Source: Microsoft

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  • AngryNil - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    It reads like the new features are old in comparison to other platforms, which is true. While Microsoft is moving at a faster pace now, it's still chasing feature parity with these releases. We may start to see some interesting things come Blue, but the GDRs have done little more than add a subset of long-requested functionality.
  • JoshHo - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the feedback, it will be incorporated in future pieces.

    In many ways, while Microsoft seems to be getting faster, they're still behind in many regards. The move to 1080p has lagged approximately a year behind Android, 8064 was skipped completely, and most feature additions are merely playing catch-up.

    The same story played out with the initial release of WP8. The move to 720p lagged approximately a year behind Android, MS skipped dual core Scorpion platforms entirely, and most feature additions are playing catchup in comparison to other platforms.
  • takeship - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    The update pace is certainly a valid concern, especially in light of the Nokia acquisition and what affect that will have on the additional development that Nokia has done with the Lumia ecosystem. I think it's fair to say that the Portico/Amber/coming Bittersweet Shimmer additions on top of MSFT's GDR updates, and the Nokia Collection apps, are a big part of why Nokia holds 80+% of the WP8 market.
  • kyuu - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    1080p support may be a year late compared to Android, but on other hand, what's the actual market uptake on 1080p devices to date? 1080p on smartphone screens really isn't a killer feature. Also, Apple is still stuck at a sub-720p resolution.

    In any case, I'm genuinely curious: what are all these features that WP8 is missing compared to iOS and Android? Off the top of my head, I can only name three: the inexplicable lack of individual volume controls for media/phone/etc., lack of a quick-access screen for switching wi-fi on/off and other common functions, and no support for HID (keyboards, gamepads, etc.) in the bluetooth stack.
  • a5cent - Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - link

    You've failed to consider that skipping the S3 and 8064 SoCs may have been intentional, and not at all a result of being unable to "keep up", which is how you seem to be framing it. This isn’t a matter of agility, but of platform strategy. MS has always stated that WP’s hardware chassis specs are designed around the notion of a standardized hardware platform, with limited hardware variability. That is very good for developers, as it limits the hardware configurations they must program against and maintain compatibility with. Admittedly, not being the predominantly targeted mobile OS for app development limits that strategy’s usefulness, as many apps come to WP through porting efforts rather than being specifically targeted, but it is beneficial regardless. My point is, that limiting hardware fragmentation serves a purpose, and you seem to be rating this from a very one sided point of view. It's not any more negative than Apple doing the same. The average quality of an iOS app is undisputedly higher than that on Android, and that is, amongst other things, also a direct result of limiting hardware fragmentation.
    If Microsoft has a problem in this area, you've completely misjudged what it is. The problem is not that WP has and will continue to occasionally skip an incremental SoC improvement, but that WP isn't ready to support the selected SoCs right out of the gate when they become available, i.e. 8x74 support is being achieved at least six months too late.
  • JoshHo - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    I understand that Microsoft may intend on skipping "minor" platform updates, but when devices are branded "outdated" for running a ~6 month old SoC, enforcing a full year between platform updates means any OEM that isn't launching devices at the same cadence that MS is releasing these platform updates will risk irrelevance.

    At any rate, 8x74 support in Android has existed since around June or so, since the launch of the GS4 LTE-A variant. That's a four month lag time. For 8x60 platform, MS was approximately half a year late to the game.
  • Klug4Pres - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    Brusque, but valid criticism. The comment on the increased power draw of the 1080p LCD displays is interesting, and linked to a helpul source, but it would be even more helpful to have a link to analysis of the way different mobile operating systems handle high pixel density displays.
  • maximumGPU - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    just a small correction. It's not swipe to close (unfortunately), but more tap the "X" to close apps.

    on a seperate note, i certainly appreciate the faster cadence and the early access.
  • JoshHo - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    Thanks, it has been fixed.
  • BMNify - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    Good to see they honoured enthusiast program promise, anyone get latest updates for free by registering for the free app studio account and is a excellent option for bypassing carriers who sit on updates for months.

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