It hasn’t been so long sine Windows Phone 8.1 was released and now Microsoft has made official the first major update. The very first update to Windows Phone 8.1 will be available in preview form for developers next week. It brings some really useful new features to users around the world. Let’s have a look at which these are.

Cortana extends to more countries

Cortana has generated a lot of excitement when it was released in Windows Phone 8.1 and that’s why many are looking forward to new languages being added. With this update, Cortana will become available for people in China and the UK in “beta” form and in Canada, India, and Australia as an “alpha” release.
China is a huge market and one of the fastest growing, so this is a much welcome update. For Chinese users, Cortana has been nicknamed “Xiao Na”) and you can use it in the same way as the one for folks in the US. It also comes with some additional features specifically for China, such as an alternative with a different visual appearance, animations, and sounds.

Cortana supports Chinese Mandarin in voice, text, and speech and has specialized suggestions, like air quality information in weather cards, information about driving restrictions, and the ability to track local TV shows and celebrities.

For those in the UK, Cortana has been modified to support UK spellings and pronunciations. The voice and accent, and even Cortana’s personality in the UK has been tweaked to be more relevant.

A new “alpha” Cortana program has been started in Canada, India, and Australia, which means new languages might be added to Cortana in the future. Cortana for U.S. residents has also been improved, bringing new natural language scenarios, snooze times for reminders, and a number of additions to Cortana’s personality. It’s now also possible to invoke Cortana hands-free in your car for phones connected to car Bluetooth kits that are integrated with your contacts list.

Live Folders

live-foldersIn Windows Phone 8.1, it’s now possible to organize apps into folders on the Start screen. The live tiles of apps appear in the tile of the folders, hence the name of the feature – live folders. Thus, by grouping apps in a folder, you won’t miss any tile updates. So, in order to create a Live Folder, you just need to drag a tile over another on and then name the folder. After that, you can open the folder to change the folder name and change the size and arrangement of the tiles asyou want.

Xbox Music improvements

xbox-music The Xbox Music app for Windows Phone now loads and scrolls faster than before. It brought back such features as background sync of your collection and swipe to advance. The app will be updated with a “quickplay” of recent playback activities, and support for Kids Corner.

Apps Corner

apps-cornerWith the new Apps Corner, users can specify which apps are displayed in a special “sandboxed” mode that restricts which apps are being used. This is a useful new feature for businesses users, as they can allow access to select apps. You can alos use Apps Corner to boot straight to an app.

Store Live Tile

store-live-tileBy using the Store Live Tile, you can now see the latest information about the latest apps and games available in the Windows Phone Store. So, if you have the Store pinned to your Start screen, you’ll get updates on the newest titles as well as to those apps and games that you have downloaded. This feature is similar to what Windows 8.1 Update brought for desktop and tablet owners.

SMS merge & forwarding

sms-mergeThe ability to select multiple SMS messages for deletion and forwarding has been added. This a minor change, but one that makes it easier to manage your text messages in Windows Phone 8.1.

Enhanced privacy and security

The Windows Phone 8.1 Update comes with improvements to keep your data and identity more protected on public networks. You can now send and receive data through a virtual private network (VPN) when connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots. You can do the same thing when you are at home to browse anonymously.

Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 will be made available next week to those who have enrolled in the Preview for Developers program, and will be officially available to regular users starting in the “coming months”.

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was the Managing Editor of Technology Personalized. He now writes about Windows 10 apps and reviews them on WindowsReport. Believes that technology is the main engine of civilization. Send him a tweet or make him your Facebook friend