Microsoft announced the first update to Windows Phone 8.1 at an event in China on Wednesday. The update, which will be available in preview form next week for developers, comes with a bunch of new features, including a new way to pin folders on the Start screen and updated versions of Microsoft apps like Xbox Music.
The reason Microsoft announced the news in China is because the company’s voice assistant Cortana is going international — Windows Phone users in China and the U.K. will soon be able to talk to their Lumia and hear it talk back to them in a region-appropriate voice. Canadian, Indian, and Australian users are getting Cortana too, but users in those countries will need to use the English-speaking U.S. or U.K. versions.
Other feature improvements include something called “SMS merge and forwarding,” which will let users delete multiple texts at once. There’s also an apps list tweak called Apps Corner, which is intended for retailers and businesses who want to use Windows Phone but also limit its capabilities to a small number of apps. The Windows Phone app store got a live tile.
There are a few new options that power users might appreciate, like support for HTC’s Dot View case and cases like it — just in time for HTC to release its rumored high-end Windows Phone. Microsoft also turned on Qualcomm Quick Charge, which allows Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-equipped phones to charge up to 75 percent faster. And if you poke around, you’ll find this update has support for currently unseen screen resolutions, including 1280 x 800 and 540 x 960, probably intended for low-cost Windows Phone devices which are the platform’s best chance for growth.
If you’d like to grab Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, you’ll need to enroll in Microsoft’s Preview for Developers program, which is free.