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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  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    Wait, what? So Microsoft DOES let you update any phone directly from them, but by default it goes through a carrier?
  • BMNify - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    Yup, just like samsung galaxy S4 or HTC One, carrier-locked phones get updates quite late but it is better than Android because Microsoft updates all the phone models even the cheapest models. Factory-Unlocked models which are more popular outside USA get instant updates, anyway Windows Phone is more popular outside USA.

    This, Developer/Enthusiast program makes sure that you can get instant updates bypassing carriers in the process.
  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    This sounds like a great update. My understanding is it has to come through the carrier though, and people are still waiting on the LAST update on some AT&T phones? *ugh* Well hope that's not true. Otherwise the update itself looks great!
  • BMNify - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    It is quite clear that you have not used a Windows phone and are just making negative assumptions here, ALL AT&T phones have already received the last GDR2 update.

    This latest GDR3 update was just announced and can be installed by ANYONE for ALL windows phones for free directly from Microsoft without waiting for carriers by registering for a free App studio account.
  • abrowne1993 - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    He's not far off. I got GDR2 three days ago. I just heard about the enthusiast /developer program so I'm sure there are plenty of other people who haven't.
  • Comdrpopnfresh - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    Can't wait for this update- I will be compulsively checking for the update (hopefully not) for the next month and a half.
  • Alexvrb - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    The last bit of the article made me roll my eyes. Will you be satisfied once we hit 1000 PPI? After a certain point... you can't tell the difference by pixel density alone. There are other, more important factors that determine the quality of a display! Otherwise we wouldn't need to test displays at all, ever - you'd just pick the one with the highest PPI and declare it the winner. :/
  • Zink - Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - link

    MS is too slow. They want to gain market share but it will be very hard when they lag behind Android and iOS to get the latest hardware. The iPhone 5s and Android Snapdragon 800 flagships are out now, why are we still waiting on Microsoft? Flagship phones are important because they are what developers and people who care about technology buy and those are the platforms everyone else sees are awesome and jumps on the bandwagon with.
  • jasonelmore - Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - link

    as stated in the article, this update brings support for the SnapDragon 800 SOC. The 800 has only been out 6 months, so yeah they are a little behind but not by much. Manufacturer's no doubt, have had access to this build for sometime so WP SD 800 phones should be coming to market very soon.
  • hrrmph - Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - link

    Joshua posted at least two articles on AT that contained mostly facts. Further, he made pretty good attempts at analyses and gave clear and bold conclusions, whereas unfortunately few other authors at AT, other than Anand himself, dare do that.

    The lack of analysis in some of the AT articles lately is notable, and Joshua's efforts look like a welcome move away from that blandness.

    Although his conclusions in both articles were unpopular, including with me, I will be the exception here and admit that they will likely prove to be true. As much as I wish that they weren't true, based purely on my emotional hopes for a better future, it would be naive to think that they aren't true.

    First off, Joshua, other AT tech writers, and the broader tech media in general have made it pretty clear that Samsung will use its overwhelmingly dominant global market power to lie (on benchmarks), and further, where it is presumably convenient in helping them gain contracts with telecoms, trample on users' rights (by blatantly putting regional locks on phones sold in the legitimate 'unlocked phones' global market).

    This doesn't make me happy. That's because Samsung is the only manufacturer that I can rely on to make phones with the combination of unlocked, Dual-SIMs, removable batteries, Micro-SDXC storage slots, the exFAT file system, 1080P video, WMA-Lossless and FLAC audio file support, along with an OS that isn't going to fall off of a cliff at any moment. As long as Samsung is the only one making such devices, the prices will be high (around $1100 on 'Day 1' for each new flagship offering) and I won't be able to buy as many devices as I would like to, as often as I would like to.

    Now what Joshua seems to have just told us with this most recent article is that Microsoft will continue to be a marginally successful third player in the market with a marginally successful third OS. As I understand the article, the only thing that will help Microsoft on this 'steady as she goes' course is if the two market leaders get tired and slow down, or Microsoft and partners cut prices faster than the leaders can, or Microsoft outmaneuvers its competitors with marketing fluff that conceals the platform's weaknesses, or somehow manages to unify the desktop and mobile world before everyone else does and that somehow this makes everyone so happy that they ditch their Android and iOS devices.

    This makes me equally unhappy because that means that, in the short-term at least, there is no real chance that the Microsoft flagship phones will be competitive with the Samsung flagship phones. Which means prices will remain high on the Samsung flagship phones. Should I be surprised?

    So it with that understanding that I come to the conclusion that just because what Joshua tells us is 'unpopular' doesn't mean that it is 'wrong.'

    Keep going Joshua. Don't get sucked into the minutia and drivel in the Comments section. It's a morass of emotion down here, and it's not going to help you to worry too much about the background static unless a whole bunch of readers suddenly provide SIGNIFICANT counter arguments to your articles, analyses, and theories.

    As it is, the facts and arguments that are being kicked around down here today don't change much: Samsung still wins the global market for now, Microsoft still gains a bit at the bottom and mid while going long for convergence, and nobody except for Samsung will give consumers user replaceable batteries. Ohhhh, and Apple makes nice jewelry that runs software too - as long as you don't mind going without much local storage and don't mind not being able to reset or recharge your device by removing or replacing the battery yourself, when in need.

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