Yeah, it's nice

First Look: Windows Phone 8 GDR3

wp_ss_20131014_0012eWe’ve seen Windows Phone 8 GDR3 already through low-res pictures or highly JPEG compressed pictures. Since Microsoft is letting third parties in on GDR3, here’s a proper first look at what’s coming to the table. One thing to note is that this is an incomplete first look. The Lumia 1520 with its 1080p screen isn’t out yet, so I can’t judge how well the new three-column Start Screen works and there are no Windows Phones out there with Qualcomm’s quad-core CPU at this time so I can’t judge performance. Not even Nokia’s Bittersweet Shimmer update is out yet so I can’t even take a look at that. What I can look at is what’s been given to me from the halls of Redmond. So let’s get started after the break.

wp_ss_20131014_0005To enroll in the developer preview program, all you have to do is get your phone developer registered, install this app and hit a few buttons. That’s it. When you do this, GDR3 will be unlocked and will install through the phone update control panel which is a quick and painless procedure as it should be.

wp_ss_20131014_0006When you first install GDR3, there’s nothing immediately obvious to tell you that you’re running it. The Start Screen looks and acts the same way it always has. This then is another relatively small update to Windows Phone. Let’s not dismiss it, however, there’s still several new things in here that make it worthy of this sort of post.

wp_ss_20131014_0007The most obvious tip-off you’re running GDR3 is when you hold the back button in to bring up the task switcher. App icons are now displayed next to their name but perhaps even more important is the fact that it’s now possible to kill any running app. The one minor thing I don’t like about this is that the close button only shows up on one thumbnail at a time and you have to scroll through the entire list to get the close button where you want it. The actual annoying thing about this is that the close button fades in and out as you scroll through and the fading is not smooth. This is only a minor point and won’t really make or break the whole update.

wp_ss_20131014_0002There is a new driving mode present in the control panel. To put it simply, the driving mode disables notifications for calls and texts while you’re in the car. This feature is one I wish other phones had; there’s no telling how many times I’ve nearly been hit because someone on the other side of the road had their eyes on the screen instead of the road. I was not able to test the driving mode as it requires a Bluetooth device to work and the only other device I have that’s Bluetooth capable is my old Samsung dumbphone.

The screen rotation lock is also present here in the control panel. It functions exactly as advertised. Tilt your phone in the direction you want it locked, flip the software switch and it stays there. While it works, I’d prefer an iPhone-like way of doing things – that is, having a hardware rotation switch that I can simply flip with my finger to turn the rotation on and off.

wp_ss_20131014_0009Phone Storage also gets a bit of a facelift. There are more colors in the different categories, which is a nice touch. You may also notice that the “Other” category is gone from the Phone Storage page and that’s nice since the Other category was simply a catch-all for anything they couldn’t be bothered to categorize, which isn’t the case anymore.

Overall, GDR3 is a nice update. It’s small and we haven’t even seen the 1080p support or what Bittersweet Shimmer will bring. But for what it is, GDR3 is nice and polished. Trust Us.