Microsoft this week began pushing a new version of Windows Phone to developers. Microsoft was sure to update a slew of developer tools alongside the new mobile operating system. In addition to the Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 SDK, a new API was found that could signal support for smartwatches in Windows Phone's future.
The updated OS is available to developers as well as those enrolled in the Preview for Developers program. One of the most significant changes for developers is the added support for new screen sizes and resolutions. The Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 SDK and emulators to test against those resolutions can be snagged from Microsoft's developer support site. The new screen resolutions include WVGA at 4 inches, WXGA at 4.5 inches, 720p HD at 4.7 inches, and 1080p HD at 5.5 and 6 inches. The emulators will let developers test their apps with these new supported resolutions to make sure they function properly. The emulators are all compatible with Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 and up.
The update to Windows Phone 8.1 adds a handful of new features for end users, too. For example, the update expands Cortana's availability outside the U.S. for the first time. Microsoft is offering Cortana, its voice-activated virtual assistant, to China and the U.K. as a beta, and Canada, India and Australia as an alpha. Cortana has been improved for U.S. consumers with natural language scenarios, snooze times for reminders and a bit more personality.
The system update makes enhancements to the Xbox Music application, which should see improvements in app load and list scrolling, as well as the return of several features, such as background sync and swipe-to-advance.
The Windows Store Live Tile has been improved to provide dynamic updates concerning new apps. The Tile will automatically change when new content is available in the Windows Store. Users will also have the ability to select multiple SMS messages for deletion and forwarding.
The update to Windows Phone also includes a new feature called Apps Corner, which is aimed at business users. It sandboxes select apps and restricts which ones can be used so businesses can have more control over employee devices.
These changes are all great, but developers should be more excited about what some eagle-eyed coders spotted hiding in the new tools. A developer by the name of Jeremy Sinclair went through the entire update to plot all the new APIs included therein. One of the APIs suggests developers will be able to write apps that handle phone calls, alarms, reminders and notifications on a remote piece of hardware, assumed to be a smartwatch or other wearable. The APIs don't appear to be defined for public use yet. Instead, Sinclair believes they are meant for hardware makers and other OEMs. It's not clear if the APIs will eventually be opened up for third-party developer use.
Until then, the new SDK gives developers plenty with which to keep themselves busy.