With all the attention paid to the strengths and weaknesses of the Android operating system against Apple’s iOS, it’s easy to forget that there’s another operating system around with plenty to offer mobile users. Although Windows Phone only hold a minor fraction of the market share compared to Android and Apple, it is the fastest growing operating system in Europe, and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. It’s time we started taking Windows Phone seriously, and judging it accordingly.
The fact is, both Apple and Microsoft have seriously upped their game this time around when it comes to OS updates. Both Windows Phone 8.1 and iOS 8 (which is not yet running, but should be once the iPhone 6 has hit the market) are launching with major updates and some interesting features. While Microsoft may be trailing behind Apple and Android, the tech giant is clearly aiming to make massive progress in 2015.
These are some of the top new features from both new operating systems to help you decide where to turn for your next upgrade.
Windows Phone 8.1: The Best Bits
Cortana is the new digital assistant from Microsoft, and it’s already looking like a strong competitor to Siri and Google Now. Powered by Bing, Cortana can perform a wide variety of functions, from providing navigation in your car to keeping up with news stories that you’re interested in. Cortana also learns more about you the longer you use it, gathering your personal information to learn to help you out better. With voice controls and plenty of clever features, Cortana is a significant update to Windows Phone.
● Action Centre
Windows Phone had trailed behind Apple and Android in its notifications features up to this point. Now, the updated Action Centre on Windows Phone 8.1 makes phones running this operating system remarkably intuitive and user-friendly. Users can get to their settings immediately from the Action Centre and see all of their notifications at once. You’ll also be able to set your own custom shortcuts, personalising your Action Centre so that it takes you exactly where you want to go quickly and efficiently.
This app comes with Cortana, and is a brand new feature for Windows Phone. The Notebook is where Cortana learns everything it needs to know about you to give you the best possible results for your searches and questions. You control what goes into the Notebook, so if you want particular pieces of information to remain private you’re free to go into the Notebook feature and delete away. This is a great feature that you certainly won’t find on iOS.
● Word Flow Keyboard
The Word Flow keyboard has been a feature of the Android OS for some time now, but Windows Phone and iOS are both getting on board with added keyboard customisation features on this update. Users who are sick of typing the usual way can now swipe their finger from letter to letter, making typing faster and more intuitive than ever before. Windows Phone 8.1 comes with Word Flow built in, so users can choose the typing style that suits them best.
iOS 8: The Best Bits
● Siri Update
Fans of Apple’s digital voice assistant will be happy to hear that Siri has got a revamp, and is now far more car-friendly than before. Users can now activate Siri with voice control by simply saying “Hey Siri”, so it will be easy to navigate on the road without touching your phone. Siri has also become integrated with Shazam, helping you to recognise familiar songs and buying new music from iTunes.
● Predictive Typing
Just like Windows Phone, Apple has made major improvements to its keyboard features on this OS update. The iPhone and iPad will finally have predictive typing through iOS 8’s “QuickType”, and third party keyboard apps are now enabled, so users who prefer the Android-style Word Flow keyboard can access Swype.
Health and fitness tracking software is all the rage right now in the smartphone world, so it’s no surprise that Apple jumped on the bandwagon with iOS 8. Healthkit is Apple’s own health tracking suite, allowing you to integrate all of the data from your health and fitness apps into one central location on your phone. The app can also share information from Healthkit with your doctor, making managing your health simpler and easier.
● Family Sharing
This is one of the most useful new features from iOS 8 and should be a big hit among parents. With Family Sharing, users can now share apps and media purchases from iTunes with up to six different devices, so families don’t have to purchase separate apps or songs for multiple devices. You’ll also be able to share photos with your family members to stay connected, and calendar entries so that everyone knows where they’re supposed to be at what time.