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Windows Phone 8.1 review

Our Rating :

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



The Windows Phone Store has been redesigned, too. The Store’s live tile now displays important updates about all the latest releases available in the Store and popular apps are now much more prominent when you first land on the Store’s home page. On the first page alone, there was a huge range of apps on show, including games, entertainment apps, live tile showcases and several featured collections.

This is a huge improvement on the Windows Phone 8 storefront and really shows off the available apps, but the best thing about the new Windows Phone Store is just how easy it is to find additional apps to download. Instead of just three main categories – apps, games and music – Windows Phone 8.1 has many categories to choose from to help you narrow down the choice of apps before you dive into alphabetical lists.

Windows Phone 8.1

The latest version of the Windows Phone Store makes a much better job of showing off the apps available

The categories are very similar to those in Android’s Google Play Store, but we think Windows Phone 8.1 goes one better by including another list of simple, sensibly named categories covering more specific topics. These include Games, Lifestyle, Children + Family, Travel + Navigation, Sport, Business and Photos to name just a few, and they mirror the same kind of categories you’ll find on the PC version of the Windows Store. There’s also a personalised app page that uses your Microsoft and Facebook accounts to recommend apps relevant to your interests.

Of course, a good-looking Store is nothing if it doesn’t have anything good to buy or download, but the Windows Phone Store has come on leaps and bounds since Microsoft first launched it. It still has a way to go before its range of apps are as extensive as the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store, but it has all the essentials, including BBC iPlayer, 4oD, Netflix, Spotify, TuneIn Radio, BBC News and Google Maps.


The Windows Phone Store isn’t the only app to take some design cues from its PC counterpart, as the Xbox Music and Video app has also been refreshed to look more like its PC equivalent. Whereas Windows Phone 8 combined the two services into one, Windows Phone 8.1 gives each service its own app, and both have much cleaner interfaces.

Xbox Music is largely the same, as you can still organise your music files by artist, album, song, genre, playlist or listen to the radio. This time, though, the Xbox Music Store has been fully integrated into the app, and you can browse by top music, genre or featured songs without leaving Xbox Music. We were a little disappointed it couldn’t pick up any music in our cloud-based OneDrive, but at least there’s the dedicated OneDrive app for this instead. The latest Developer Preview update also lets you see what’s currently playing straight from the Xbox Music live tile and lets you swipe the screen to advance the track. 

Videos, on the other hand, are now handled by the new Xbox Video app. On top of being able to play video files from your phone, you’ll also find a Film and TV store where you can buy or stream content directly to your phone. This essentially mirrors the Xbox Video Store on PC, so you can buy or rent movies, check out the cast, read reviews or browse through related content. This was completely absent on Windows Phone 8, so it’s great to see Microsoft extending its storefront to make it just as versatile as on a PC or laptop.

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