Windows Phone 8.1 review

A huge improvement on Windows Phone 8, this OS finally gives Windows Phone handsets the flexibility and user-friendly interface they deserve

Our Rating 
5/5

CALENDAR

Another problem we had with Windows Phone 8 was its impractical Calendar app. There was no week view available and the month view only showed when you had appointments, rather than when the appointments were. Even the individual day view didn't really show very much information, as the day was split into hours and only showed a small proportion of the day unless you scrolled up and down. The Agenda was by far the most useful aspect of the Calendar app, as it listed every event coming up during the week, but one of the most important things a calendar can do is show you when you're actually free, rather than simply showing you the appointments you have coming up.

Windows Phone 8.1

There's finally a week view in the calendar app, among some other much-needed improvements

It was so unhelpful that we ended up buying the excellent Chronos Calendar app from the Windows Phone Store. Much to our relief, though, all this has been rectified for Windows Phone 8.1. There's now a much more useful week view to replace the Agenda, and tapping on individual events in the week view brings up a description of the event in the middle of the calendar, without switching to a different screen.

This also works in month view. Organising multiple meetings and appointments is far simpler, as everything is done on the same screen. The hour-by-hour day view is still not particularly useful, but on the whole this is a huge and long-overdue improvement to the calendar.

SENSE APPS

Windows Phone 8.1 also has some new apps to help you see how your phone's storage and internet data is being used. Alongside Data Sense, which was introduced in Windows 8 and which details your overall internet usage and helps you spot nearby Wi-Fi hotspots, Windows Phone 8.1 has Storage Sense.

This app shows you how much space is being taken up on your phone's internal storage and gives you a breakdown of where those files are being stored. You can also choose where to store your music, photos and apps if you have an SD card installed. This is particularly handy if you like to download a lot of music or large video files, as these can automatically be set to download onto your SD card without taking up space on your phone's internal storage. If you'd rather keep an eye on how much storage you have left, you can pin Storage Sense to your Start menu as a Live Tile, which will keep track of how much space you have on both your phone and SD card.

There's also Wi-Fi Sense, which will automatically connect you to any available Wi-Fi hotspots to save on your mobile data usage. It's not technically an app like Storage and Data Sense, but it can be accessed through the main Wi-Fi settings. When you connect to a hotspot, Wi-Fi Sense can automatically accept any terms of use for you, or provide your name, location, email address and phone number if the hotspot requires these details to log in.

Wi-Fi Sense also lets you share Wi-Fi networks with your contacts, so they can get online without having to enter a password. However, this only works if they have Wi-Fi Sense enabled on their Windows Phone, so friends with Android and iPhone users won't be able to take advantage of this.