Windows Phone 8.1 will include notification center and Cortana personal assistant

Windows Phone 8 - Nokia - Various colors

New report confirms that Windows Phone 8.1 scheduled to appear sometime in 2014 will include at least two big changes: the highly requested notification center and “Cortana”, a new personal assistant very much like iPhone’s Siri.

According to a new article from The Verge, unnamed sources familiar with the project unveiled that the software giant is already testing Windows Phone 8.1 with the new features and apparently there will be a full demo during next Build Developer Conference in April, 2014, in San Francisco.

How the notification center looks like, we still don’t know, but the details suggests that it’ll very similar to the same feature in Android and iOS. “New quick settings are exposed by a short swipe from the top, and a longer swipe will display a full notification history in current beta versions of Windows Phone 8.1.” The Verge notes.

Cortana, name which originates from the Halo game, is finally coming. Although we’ve known for a while that Microsoft was working on a personal assistant, now we know the feature is being tested and it’s also seems that it’ll replace Bing search in Windows Phone to let users search and interact with the phone via natural voice conversation or text. This also means that your Windows Phone will at last be able to talk back in the same way Android users can do today with Google Now and Siri with the iPhone — I can only hope Microsoft includes the same Cortana voice from Halo –. Similar to Google Now, Cortana will be able to keep tabs in your daily schedule, it’ll remind you the next meeting in closing in and it will tell you how long before you need to leave to get there on time.

Along with the big changes other less significant features are also coming to Windows Phone 8.1. For example, Microsoft is planning to include Bing Smart Search similar to Windows 8.1, VPN support, and also a separate volume control to configure ringtone volume and media playback independently. Furthermore the People Hub in Windows Phone 8.1 will ship with better integration for Facebook and Twitter, and finally the software maker is planning to remove the music hub from the operating system and it will ship Xbox Music and Xbox Video separately in Windows Phone 8.1.

Although most of the time new features can enhance the user-experience, I’m still wondering if users only want the notification center to get a quick access to the options to change brightness, enable/disable Wi-Fi, turn on power saving mode, GPS, and navigation on/off, and other settings; and not just to get apps notifications, which I think it defeats the purpose of Live Tiles that are there to give users live updates and notifications at glance.