Got a Nokia Lumia running Windows Phone 8? In case you haven’t already heard, there’s a new update coming your way some time in the coming weeks. According to Nokia, they expect it to be rolling out to everyone by the end of September. So if you don’t have it yet, you should soon. Once you have the update, there’s a number of new features that you can start to enjoy. Some of the features are coming from Microsoft in their GDR2 release, while others are tied to Nokia’s Amber update (both are being delivered to your phone at the same time). Here’s the highlights of what you can expect:
- Data Sense – while it’s not a new feature, it’s nice to see that this is getting a slightly wider audience. Data Sense allows you to track how much data you’re using and even prevent applications from using data in the background if you’re getting close to your limit. If you’re carrier supports it, there’s also a feature that lets you compress web traffic and greatly reduce overall data consumption. Because this compression feature requires that the carrier implement a backend server that connects into the carriers billing and accounts system. And this is where a good feature like Data Sense can go horribly wrong. Carriers that have no implemented the backend services, are choosing not to deploy the Data Sense component. Which results in no way for you to track your data usage. I have a Lumia 920 on Rogers, after updating this device to the GDR2/Amber release, it now has Data Sense. Adversely, I have a brand new Lumia 1020 on AT&T that shipped with the GDR2/Amber release pre-loaded, but no Data Sense.
- Configure camera button action – Thanks to the camera advancements that Nokia has brought to the world, we now get the ability to select which camera app runs when you press the physical camera button. Right now, I only see Nokia’s Smart Cam and Pro Cam apps listed. I wonder how long it will be before an enterprising developer finds a way to list their app in that list?
- Call and SMS Filter – Pretty much exactly what it sounds like, this feature lets you block calls and text messages based on numbers. In order to block a number, you need to find it in your recent calls list, tap and hold the item and select “block number”. The same process works with text messages. The advanced settings also allow you to block calls from numbers that are withheld. I haven’t had the need to block anyone on my mobile number yet. But it’s good to know I’m covered if the situation ever arises.
- Nokia has added a new page under the Display+Touch app called “Glance”. Glance shows the time and charge status when the device is sleeping. You can choose from Peek – which lets you wave your hand over the screen to have the time displayed, Timed – will display the time while the phone is inactive for up to 15 minutes, and Always On – which will continually display the time when the device is sleeping. You can also define a time range for night mode, so the screen won’t be a bright during that time. Another small but awesome improvement is under the Display tab. Look for the checkbox that says “Double tap to wake up phone”. Selecting this means you can double tap on the screen to wake up the device and then proceed with unlocking and using the device. It’s a small feature, but I’ve already grown attached to it.
- Hidden under the Audio section of settings, swipe to the enhancements page and you’ll see a new “Flip to Silence” feature that Nokia was kind enough to add in. This functionality is pretty straight forward, flipping the phone over will silence the call. Enjoy!
- FM Radio – For some, the addition of FM Radio was a big part of Windows Phone 7, or even their Zune. This latest update brings FM Radio back for devices that support it. You can find it under Music + Video’s, swipe over to Collection, and then tap on Radio. Again, only if your device has the hardware under the covers.
- If you’re a Gmail user, you’ll be happy to hear that the GDR2 update brings support for Google’s decision to drop support for Exchange Active Sync and instead focus on CalDAV and CardDAV for syncing contacts and calendars with Windows Phone.
- Xbox Music – Microsoft has made a number of fixes and enhancements to the Xbox service. You should notice less skipping and pausing of streamed music because it will now fetch the next song before the current song ends. Also, there’s improvements to the playback of DRM’ed songs, removal of duplicates when syncing between cloud and PC, and lots more. Overall, your Xbox Music experience should be significantly better.
- If you’re one of the people that has their voice mail sent as an attachment in an email, you will be happy to hear that Microsoft has improved the codec support for audio playback of WAV files.
And there’s lots more tweaks and improvements like – Group Messaging has been improved to support Verizon Wireless, improved Bluetooth support for more vehicles and devices, improved VOIP functionality for clients like Skype and Lync, improvements to media playback in Internet Explorer, and of course underlying support for new and improved hardware. And while it’s not actually part of the update, once your Nokia device is updated you can start taking advantage of Nokia’s awesome Pro Cam and Smart Cam apps. The Pro Cam app gives you the ability to control a lot more of the camera settings like white balance, and ISO from an easy to access interface. Of course, it still supports the auto mode in case you just want to point and shot. Smart Cam will take a burst of images and then show you which image is the best, or it can highlight the motion in the image, swap faces, remove moving objects from the background, or even produce awesome action shots. Both apps are something you need to play with.
If you haven’t received the update yet, don’t’ worry because Nokia is expecting all supported devices to get this update before the end of September. If you don’t have a Nokia device, some of you have already received the GDR2 update, and for others it should be coming soon. Unfortunately, you won’t be getting any of the extra goodness that Nokia has added in their Amber update.