This morning at 8 AM ET, Microsoft officially pulled the veil off of the highly anticipated General Distribution Release 3 (GDR3), the third and final OS update for Windows Phone 8 before next year’s 8.1 overhaul.
Windows Phone 8 GDR3 8.0.10512, expected to begin delivery to current devices in the coming weeks, will bring many new features to current and future Windows Phones, including:
- Support for 1080p display for new devices like the Lumia 1520
- Support for new processors including Qualcomm’s Snapdragon MSM8974 quad-core CPU
- Close apps by tapping on the X on top right in multitasking view. The icon of the app appears below.
- Custom tones for text or IM, voicemail, email and reminders (confirmed earlier by Windows Phone Central)
- Better storage management: New storage settings make it easier to free up space on your phone and manage temporary files. A new category view shows what’s taking up space at a glance.
- Screen Rotation lock: When auto-rotate screen is off, your screen will stay in the current orientation when you rotate your phone.
- Driving Mode: Turns of all notifications except texts and phone calls when you’re driving. You can also turn calls and texts off completely or set Driving Mode to text and automatic reply like “Hey, I am driving right now. I’ll reply you later.” Driving Mode can start automatically when your phone connects to a Bluetooth device.
- Connect to Wi-Fi in OOBE when switching on your new phone for the first time or after you your reset your phone, so you can restore your data even before connecting to a cellular network.
- Attach Office files (.doc, .xls, .ppt) and .pdf files in email.
Microsoft detailed the new OS update on their official Windows Phone blog, noting that a lot of the new features were driven by user requests.
Back in late 2012 and early 2013, GDR1 (also known as ‘Portico’) was released. That update brought new texting features, improved Wi-Fi and messaging improvements. Starting later in the summer, Microsoft and their OEM partners delivered GDR2, an update that included fixes for Xbox Music, ‘Other Storage’ and more.
In addition to the OS updates, Microsoft’s partners also deliver accompanying firmware updates that allow the OEM to further customize the OS and improve hardware support. Nokia has prominently lead these updates with their colorfully named firmware including ‘Amber’ (GDR2) and ‘Bittersweet shimmer’ (GDR3). Nokia’s firmware has enabled new features such as Glance screen, call + SMS blocking, flip to silence, double tap to awake, new camera options and more.
Microsoft expects GDR3 to launch in the “coming weeks” and to continue delivery in the coming months.
You can get it now
Although the program is designated for “developers” in reality, any current Windows Phone user, including the “enthusiast” crowd, can participate. That’s because in addition to registered developers (who’ve paid the previous $99 registration fee, or the more current $19 offer), anyone who is also signed up for the free Windows Phone App Studio program (apps.windowsstore.com) can also participate.
While the $19 registered developer program allows you to unlock up to three devices, the free App Studio program allows you to unlock just one. So if you only have one Windows Phone, then you can participate in the Windows Phone 8 GDR3 update preview like anyone else.
There are only a few caveats users face by participating
- This only includes the OS update, not device specific firmware i.e. this is not Nokia’s Bittersweet shimmer’; users should remain with their current firmware and will not lose it
- You can only move forward, there is no “going back” to earlier releases
- You need at least OS version 8.0.10322.71 to participate
- You will continue to receive the official update (and firmware) when they become publicly available, so there is no missing out of features, nor will you ever be behind
- This will void your device warranty
It’s important to note that there are no new API changes for GDR3, so developers won’t have too much work to get their apps ready for the new OS. Things like optimizing for 1080P displays is really the only big changes for developers.
We’ll of course cover this program as it goes live later today.
All in all though, Microsoft has seemingly delivered on their promise of a method for enthusiasts to never miss an OS update.