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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  • thedragon18 - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    It's rather annoying the file management. When will a proper file transfer from phone to sd card be implemented? I have the htc wp 8s, when dl wifi at 2mb/s, the phone storage gets full from...junk, i guess, buffer errors and r/w delays. Sure, photos and music is moved fast, to sd card, but with 1gb free just as a fresh reset is made, its not so needs more flexibility!
  • lilmoe - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    An accessible file system on WP would be great. It would allow for much more robust apps. In fact, that's the only thing setting me back from using a WP device. It's implemented in Windows RT while maintaining the walled-garden thing, I don't understand why they can't do that for WP. I hope it'll be implemented in 8.1
  • YoshoMasaki - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    Joshua - Your statement "immediate WiFi connection on startup" is unclear. They are specifically talking about OOBE. While you previously had to have a cellular data connection in order to activate and provision a brand new device (mandatory MS account setup included), in GDR3 they launch the Wi-Fi setup wizard *before* activation. So, for example, this morning I hard reset a gifted Lumia 920 running GDR3 and was able to make it mine without even having a SIM on hand. I'm not sure I would call that "immediate WiFi connection on startup."
  • JoshHo - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the comment, I'm correcting it now and I will keep this in mind for future articles.
  • Sttm - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    I got a Lumia 520 to hold me over until a Nexus 5 came out. I enjoy a lot of Windows Phone, namely how much smoother and snappier it feels then my ICS HTC Rezound was. Even though this phone has a slower SOC and half the ram.

    But its not a lack of Apps that will get me buying a Nexus 5, its the lack of simple things in apps. For instance I loaded up an Anandtech podcast in its music app, and it doesn't let you skip ahead in the song by touching the progress bar. You can't fast forward and move back. LIKE WTF.

    Then the back button is annoying. I go into IE, browse some sites, I get out of IE load up email, I go back into IE, and I hit the back button in IE to get back to the site I was on before in IE and I end up in the email app.

    I look at this update and I dont see the improvements to basic stuff that I feel is necessary.
  • newBgeek - Saturday, November 2, 2013 - link

    It is hard to get used to Windows phone when you are coming from Android, but you mostly can get a good user experience once you learn how it works.

    In the music app, you fast-forward or rewind by holding down the next or back key. Oddly, this works better in the standard music app than the Nokia music player. I never found the progress bar in Android as a very precise method of selecting a position.

    The back button is the most confusing part for most users coming from Android. It basically treats the entire OS as a browser, and the back button goes to where you were before. Instead of re-launching IE from the start menu, hold down the back button and task switch to IE and you should be back to where you were before.
  • UsernameAlreadyExists - Sunday, October 20, 2013 - link

    "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"

    What is the basis for this? The UI layout uses device independent pixels. The OS and apps are not dependent on pixel or device sizes. Perhaps they shouldn't have locked the screen resolutions to specific sizes as I bet we'll soon be having 4K screen on 5" mobile phones while I work on a couple of 24" 1920x1200 screens...
  • stevekgoodwin - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    Quality wise, WP8.1 is worse than 8 is worse than 7.8. I experience a freezes and a weird top two-thirds screens mostly black once or twice a day. All in my experience on a Lumia 720. YMMV.

    Having said that, I'd rather usable but slightly buggy updates than the glacial update pace we've seen.
  • stevekgoodwin - Monday, October 21, 2013 - link

    WP8.1 = GDR3. Whoops!
  • YankeesWin - Friday, November 1, 2013 - link

    If less frequency = more usefulness then I'm fine with their update cycle the way it is. Time will tell.

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