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Windows Phone 8.1 to feature notification centre, quick settings and personal assistant

Microsoft’s next mobile OS update, Windows Phone 8.1, will reportedly feature several major new features, including a notification centre and a Siri-like personal assistant.

The company is apparently in the process of beta testing copies of Windows Phone 8.1 internally, with the view of unveiling some of these major new features at the Build Conference in April 2014.

That’s according to The Verge’s sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans, at least.

Windows Phone has been steadily improving since its bold reintroduction as Windows Phone 7 in 2010, but it’s still missing a couple of major features that iOS and Android contain. That could all be set to change.

Chief among these missing features is a notification centre, or a way to view your incoming messages and status updates in one easy-to-access menu. Microsoft will finally add this in the form of a familiar long drag down from the top of the screen.

Another feature that’s been missing from Windows Phone is quick settings – that is, the ability to access key settings toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the like without having to wade through the main settings menu.

Android has had this for some time, and Apple finally introduced its own take on the feature in iOS 7. Microsoft’s take in Windows Phone 8.1 will apparently be accessed through a short swipe from the top of the screen.

Finally, Microsoft is apparently working on its own voice activated personal assistant. iOS has Siri, Android has Google Now, and Windows Phone 8.1 will have Cortana.

Console gamers will recognise that as the name of Master Chief’s own virtual assistant in the hugely influential Halo series.

Cortana won’t just be an additional feature for the next Windows Phone – it will outright replace the existing Bing search feature. It will allow you to obtain contextual information through voice input like Siri, and like Google Now it will remind you when an appointment is looming, as well as how long it will take to reach it.

Other smaller additions will include separate volume control for media playback and ringtones, Windows 8.1-style Bing Smart Searches, and VPN support for business users.

Nokia is reportedly working on two handsets to run this exciting new version of Windows Phone.

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