Microsoft's latest Windows Phone 8 update gives the ailing operating system another chance against Apple and Google, with support for larger screens and faster CPUs.
Windows Phone 8 is in line for an update, adding support for 5- to 7-inch "phablet"-sized smartphone displays, newer and faster processors and a swathe of minor design tweaks.
The latest Windows Phone Update 3 means Microsoft's operating system, which is playing catch-up with Apple's iOS and Google's Android, will be able to be released on smartphones equally as powerful as those running on its competitors' platforms.
The update means that larger screens will be capable of showing more Live Tiles, which are Windows Phone 8's interactive app icons, at once, and first-party apps, like Photos and Contacts, will be able to show more information. 1080p support for Full HD smartphone display resolutions is also included in the update, removing one of the major pitfalls that plagued every previous Windows Phone handset.
Windows Phone 8's upcoming update includes support for Qualcomm's newest Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor, which powers current smartphone heavyweights like the Sony Xperia Z1. The majority of other updates are tweaks to visual styles and minor adjustments to features like ringtones and storage management. The full list is available on Microsoft's Windows Phone blog.
Microsoft is also touting a new "Driving Mode" feature, which activates when a handset is paired to a pre-registered Bluetooth device, like a car stereo or hands-free speakerphone. Driving Mode can disable notifications for incoming calls or texts and can be set up to respond with an automatic reply message.
The update adds a number of minor new features and adjustments to existing settings, including a one-touch Wi-Fi hotspot mode to sync the phone with a Windows 8.1 PC or laptop and accessibility improvements, like a screen reader, that should make the phone easier to use for people with visual impairments.
Windows Phone 8 Update 3 is already available to anyone registered in its new Developer Preview Program. The latest Windows Phone update will begin rolling out to the general public in a couple of weeks, and according to Microsoft, "will continue over several months", presumably as specific versions are finalised for customised Windows Phone handsets on carriers like Telstra and Optus.