Microsoft announces Windows Phone 8 GDR3 update

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Microsoft has officially announced its Windows Phone 8 GDR3 update on the Windows Phone Blog, revealing that the software will rollout “over the next several months”.

The post explained some of the key features of the new build. The two most prominent changes will be of benefit to as-yet unreleased handsets rather than existing models. GDR3 adds support for quad-core processors with some specific tailoring for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 chip, so expect to see this hardware in a lot more Windows Phone devices going forward. The second major tweak is support for both larger touch displays and higher resolutions, meaning Windows Phone devices will be able to keep up with all the 5-inch plus phablets and full HD 1080p resolutions on a range of Android handsets.

As well as supporting sharper and bigger displays, GDR3 will enable bigger devices to make better use of the expanded screen real-estate with an additional column of regular sized Live Tiles (that means an additional two of the mini Live Tiles across the screen’s width). Basically, you can cram way more information on your Start screen now.

The rest of the changes are slightly underwhelming, surely disappointing news for owners of existing Windows Phone 8 hardware.

The list includes things which should’ve been onboard from the start and which rival platforms have had for donkey’s years – for example, the ability to close active apps, Wi-Fi configuration during initial setup, the ability to assign ringtones and alerts to specific contacts or message types and, wait for it…a rotation lock. Yes.

There are some other enhancements too with the built-in storage menu getting a bit of an overhaul to make it more user-friendly (still no file manager), improved Bluetooth support,  better Wi-Fi hotspot and internet sharing (still no VPN), a dedicated driving mode and more accessibility options for users with disabilities.

Microsoft says there are “hundreds of under-the-hood performance tweaks and enhancements,” to improve the overall experience, but on the whole the update does much to show how many holes there are in Windows Phone’s functionality in urgent need of patching up.

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