Projecting your phone to your PC or TV screen is surprisingly simple. Select Settings > System > Project My Screen. Your phone will automatically start searching for any devices near you that can take advantage of wireless screen projection. However, if your TV or PC monitor does not support this, it’s still possible to project your screen via USB on a Windows PC. First, download the Project My Screen app from Microsoft’s official Windows Phone website, install it on your system, restart, open the app, plug your phone into your PC and navigate to Project My Screen as before. This is great for showing off your videos and photos on a much larger screen.
1. Glance settings
Glance settings allow you to adjust your time and lock screen content when your phone is on standby. Select Settings > Glance Screen to see the full range of options, which are pleasingly extensive. Particularly useful options include glance screen timeout settings. Consider keeping it at “peek” or turned off completely if you’re worried about battery life. An interesting function called Night Mode allows you to set a timeframe – such as 10pm to 6am – during which your phone’s lock screen will change colour to a dark red, green or blue, in order to save your eyes from any intrusive glare that the standard white may cause. The blue is particularly effective.
2. Battery Saver
Battery Saver, found by heading to Settings > Battery Saver, will give you extensive control over your battery usage. The opening screen will give you a good indication of which apps are using the most power, which at a glance allows you to locate which apps you might want to shut down or uninstall. Swipe right and you’ll get more detailed information, such as exactly how long your battery will last and whether you would like to enable Windows Phone’s Battery Saver, which can conserve energy when your battery is low.
3. Data Sense
Data Sense (Settings > Data Sense) finds more efficient ways to use mobile data and displays your usage. With this powerful feature, it’s possible to set very specific data limits – for example, if you’re on a monthly plan with 1GB of data, you can set the date your data resets, assign the monthly data limit and Windows Mobile will only allow you to use the specified amount unless the settings are overridden. You can also restrict background data usage while roaming and instruct your phone to compress images and adverts in Internet Explorer automatically if you’re reaching the end of your data limit.
4. WiFi Sense
In a nutshell, WiFi Sense takes the hassle out of connecting to public WiFi hotspots and allows you to securely share your WiFi details with friends on Outlook, Facebook and Skype. Head to Settings > WiFi > WiFi Sense and you can tell your phone to automatically accept terms for use when required. Additionally, under Edit Info, you can tell your Windows Phone to automatically provide a fake name, email address and phone number if you’re concerned about privacy while using a public network.
5. Word Flow
Word Flow is built into Windows Phone 8.1, allowing for fast and accurate shape typing. Instead of typing each letter individually, you can glide your finger across the letters instead. No need to hit space after each word, just lift your finger and begin gliding again and Word Flow will enter the spaces for you. To quickly add a full stop and a space, tap space twice. What’s more, Word Flow is quite clever – for instance, it will automatically add accents to words that commonly use them, or capitalise proper nouns, such as “England” or “Tom Selleck”’. The more you use it, the smarter Word Flow will become.
6. Set up a mobile VPN
A Virtual Private Network allows for remote secure connections to private networks using a public internet connection. This is now an in-built feature for all Windows 8.1 phones and is especially useful if you work on the go and need access to your company’s network when you’re catching up on emails at the airport or a coffee shop. Go to Settings > VPN and tap the plus symbol at the bottom to set up the VPN. You may need to ask your IT department for your specific VPN settings, which they should be able to supply easily.
7. Set Quiet Hours
In Settings > Quiet Hours you can outsource your calls and texts to Cortana, Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant, leaving you completely undisturbed for as long as you wish. Quiet hours can be turned on for specific hours (say 10pm to 6am) and/or when you have a calendar event marked busy. You can also set “breakthrough rules” for your “inner circle”. This means specific individuals will still be able to contact you, even during your quiet hours if you so wish.
8. Automatically backup photos and set default camera app
In Settings > Applications > Photos+Camera you can change your default camera app. This is particularly useful if you enjoy using the hugely popular Instagram a lot or if you’re keen on using more sophisticated camera applications that provide a greater range of options and features. From here you can also ensure that your phone automatically saves your images and videos to the cloud, or turn this feature off/limit it to WiFi only if you’re worried about data usage.
9. Action Centre/customise quick access options
The new Action Centre introduced with Windows Phone 8.1 – accessed by swiping down from the top of your screen – is highly customisable. If you’re not happy with the default quick actions provided, head to Settings > Notifications+Actions and you can change the four shortcuts to whatever you desire. Additionally, you can edit the behaviour of banner alerts as well as app and phone notifications.
10. Personalise your start screen
You can personalise your Start Screen by going to Settings > Start+Theme. Options include changing your phone’s background as well as the “accent colour”. You’re not simply limited to a dark or light background either, it’s now possible to choose a photo from a pre-installed list of backgrounds, your camera roll, Facebook or the cloud.
11. Stay in sync
If you have several Windows devices, you’ll really appreciate Windows Phone 8.1’s synchronisation settings. Go to Settings > Sync My Settings where you can effortlessly sync your themes, apps, web browser and passwords across all your devices. This is great for those who like to keep the look of their devices consistent as well as those who regularly move from one device to another, perhaps working from a phone, PC and tablet in a single day and therefore need seamless device switching.
12. Volume control
In Windows Phone 8.1 it’s possible to take control of two individual volume levels – your standard ringer and notifications volume, and your media and apps volume. In other words, if you’d like to listen to your music or games at a lower or higher volume than your ringer, you can. To access this, tap the small arrow in the top right of the screen when you adjust your phone’s volume. A new window will open and from here you can change the levels individually.
13. Narrate your phone
If you’re visually impaired you’ll want to head to Settings > Ease of Access and try out Windows Phone 8.1’s new Narrator feature. Turn this on and your phone will read out loud any text on your phone. This feature is only available in the States for now, but bypassing this is easy. Go to Settings > Region and change your region to the US. Unfortunately this will give you US-style dates and currency, but it’s a small price to pay for a great feature and it will undoubtedly be incorporated in the UK in the near future.
14. Storage Sense
Managing your storage on Windows Phone 8.1 is a breeze thanks to the new Storage Sense feature. Go to Settings > Storage for a quick breakdown of what’s taking up the most room on your phone and SD card (if you have one). Tap through the menus to remove any bloated software, apps, video or audio files that you no longer need. You can even choose where your store your music, photos and apps – for instance, you can tell your phone to automatically store all your music on your SD card, but keep your apps stored on your phone’s internal storage.
15. Never lose your phone
Find My Phone allows you to ring, lock, erase, locate or send apps to your phone remotely from WindowsPhone.com. You can set your device to always use push notifications to send commands and apps to your phone as well as commanding your phone to save its location moments before the battery runs out, so as to more easily locate it when lost. Go to Settings > Find My Phone to edit these options.
16. Edit Cortana’s brain
Cortana is perhaps one of the most advanced intelligent personal assistants around at the moment, with the exception of Google Now. This nifty AI learns a lot about you thanks to its notebook, stored locally on your phone. Information is gradually collected here over time as users continue to take advantage of Cortana’s features, but it’s possible to add more data manually or to remove data that you’re not comfortable sharing. Tap Cortana on your home screen then tap the three horizontal bars in the top right-hand corner to enter the notebook. From here you can add or remove interests, reminders, places, quiet hours and edit your settings.
17. Customise your lock screen
For some reason “Show artist when playing music” is turned off on the lock screen by default. This a handy feature and there are no doubt many people who are unaware it exists. Go to Settings > Lock Screen to enable it. You can also change your background image or even set it to display the weather or your latest health and fitness statistics. Notifications, screen lock passwords and screen timeout settings can also be modified here.
18. Download maps
This isn’t a new feature, but it’s hidden deep within Settings > Applications > Maps > Download Maps and is occasionally missed – a shame, as this could be very useful if you plan to go somewhere with little to no data coverage or as a backup if you’re not sure. The options provided are pleasingly extensive. You can download maps for offline viewing by continent, country and even region. For instance, you can download all of the UK to your phone for a mere 535 MB (about the same size as four albums at a standard compression rate) or select England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales separately.
19. Disable auto updates
Before Windows Phone 8.1, apps did not update automatically. Instead, a notification would appear on the app store icon, reminding users that various apps needed attention. However, you may have preferred the old system, which is now turned off by default. Perhaps you’re worried about data usage, even over WiFi. Perhaps you fear change. If you’d like to go back to installing your updates manually, tap Store > Settings and uncheck “Update apps automatically”.
20. Bin bothersome Bing
Almost all Windows Phone 8.1 devices limit users to using Microsoft’s less than desirable search engine, Bing. Unfortunately there’s no way to change your default search engine to popular alternatives. If you truly detest Bing you can slightly work around it by heading to the app store and downloading Google’s official search app. You can’t make it your default search engine, but you can pin it to your start screen, making Googling something a little easier and quicker than firing up Internet Explorer and heading to Google.com.