Did Windows Phone just get Windows Pho-nomenal? The third update to Windows Phone 8 was announced Monday on Microsoft's Windows Phone blog, bringing with it a number of features that help put the OS more on a par with the competition. Although Windows Phone is often criticized for its lack of software and restrictions on hardware, the update opens the door for much better Windows Phone devices down the line.
The biggest changes won't be immediately apparent to current Windows Phone owners, but they will help push the operating system's device ecosystem in the direction it needs to go. Update 3 adds support for larger and sharper displays, including "phablets" and tablets. The update also adds compatibility with quad-core processors, paving the way for Windows Phones with better battery life and better-looking games. Windows Phone, like the iPhone, has never really been about cutting-edge specs, but the bump in power and screen resolution could prove appealing to people on older Android phones looking to jump to a platform with slightly less lag.
A new Driving Mode has been added that's less about helping you navigate and more about helping you drive safely. When enabled, Driving Mode silences your phone and auto-responds to messages to help eliminate distractions while driving. It's similar to the T-Mobile Drive Smart app that launched on Android phones two years ago. You can even automate the function so that it turns on when you connect the phone to a car via Bluetooth.
Other improvements brought by the update include a screen orientation lock, custom ringtones, accessibility improvements, improved Internet sharing, and the ability to close apps in the multitasking view. There's still no notification center, but there's always the chance it'll appear in the next version of Windows Phone 8.
Update 3 is expected to roll out to all current Windows Phone 8 handsets over the next couple of months. Microsoft didn't have any new hardware to announce, but the company teased that we would see some interesting new devices coming this holiday season. With Nokia rumored to be announcing a 10-inch tablet sometime next week, the holidays may come early for Windows fans.