I installed the Windows Phone 8.1 Preview on my Lumia 720 as soon as it was out and the new features bring it up to par with Android and iOS. While the overall experience was pretty positive, there were a few downsides. Most notably, the battery life seemed to take a hit. Previously, the phone used to last 2 days comfortably on a single charge, but the 8.1 update had me reaching for the charger well before the end of the second day. That said, the 2000 mAh battery on the Lumia 720 ensures that you can comfortably use it heavily throughout a single day and not worry about running out of juice even with the 8.1 update.
The 8.1 update also pretty much nullifies the utility of the notification centre. So, if you were accustomed to using the notification centre to view facebook notifications without installing the facebook (as buggy as ever), then you’re out of luck. Of course, since the final Windows Phone 8.1 update is not rolled out for most of the phones, we can expect the situation to improve once the apps are updated to take advantage of the action centre and better integrate with the 8.1 update.
Apart from this, I also noticed issues with the kid corner feature. There were times when the phone used to freeze on the kid corner after bringing it out of my pocket and only a soft reset would fix the issue. Disabling the kid corner seemed to fix the issue. There have also been issues with the Exchange mail not updating properly and showing error messages within the mail app. Whatsapp also has issues with the action centre, and the clearing the notifications did not update the live tile or glance\home screen counter. In fact Whatsapp was temporarily pulled from the Windows Store, but is again available albeit showing a warning if you are on Windows Phone 8.1.
Cortana is also a pretty useful addition and speech recognition is certainly better than Siri for Indian accents, and almost as good as Google voice. The only odd bit is that the quiet hours feature is available only when Cortana is enabled, and that requires you to switch the phone region and language to US.
At the end of the day, the Windows Phone 8.1 update is a solid one and the new features outweigh the hiccups which are sure to be fixed in the final build and Nokia’s Cyan update. Moreover, the 8.1 update also takes care of limited storage space on Windows Phones as it allows you to use SD cards as an extension of internal storage and install apps, download content and store music, images & videos on it. It is interesting to see Microsoft take the very opposite approach of Google who opted to practically nuke the utility of external storage with the KitKat update. Plus, with the developer preview program, WIndows Phone users can get the latest OS releases without depending on OEMs or carriers a la iOS, and very much unlike the situation with Android.
Microsoft has in fact leapfrogged Android and iOS in a few key areas with the 8.1 update, and the future sure looks interesting with iOS 8 loosening a lot of restrictions.