We’re still waiting on another round of updates to come in Windows Phone 8(s msft), but that hasn’t stopped the WP 8.1 rumor mill from churning. Paul Thurrott of the reliable Supersite for Windows is reporting a number of new rumors, perhaps the biggest of which is that Microsoft is getting rid of the physical back button in Windows Phone 8.1.
According to Thurrott’s source, Microsoft is doing away with the back button because, quite simply, people don’t use it. Instead they navigate away from an app by pushing the start button, much like they do on iOS(s aapl) phones. Additionally, many users don’t understand the concept of the “back stack.” But while this could make Windows Phone feel more accessible to iOS users, it will undoubtedly upset many current Windows Phone users that like the back button.
Another change said to be taking place is support for bigger screens. Microsoft is expected to introduce support for 5 to 6-inch “phablet” screens in GDR3, the next update to Windows Phone 8, but Windows Phone 8.1 is believed to extend support all the way up to 10 inches. Still, with Windows tablets like the Surface 2 already out there, it is unclear why Windows Phone would need to support such a large spec.
Multitasking is believed to see some improvements as well. While Microsoft will likely introduce the feature to close apps in GDR3, Windows Phone 8.1 could bring a whole Notification Center, which Windows Phone is sorely lacking.
Finally, support for universal binaries could allow developers to create a single app that runs on Windows Phone and Windows RT. We’ve actually already heard that one before, and it’ll be interesting to see if Microsoft goes forward with it.