Microsoft readies Windows Phone 8.1 update with smart covers and big-screen support

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Michael Homnick

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Microsoft is taking a few more cues from Android in the next update for Windows Phone.

With Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, phone makers will be able to sell smart screen covers that reveal certain information when closed. The new feature was revealed in developer documents, discovered by WPCentral and Nokia Power User.

Samsung, LG, and HTC all offer these types of covers for their Android handsets, letting users peak at e-mails and other notifications while leaving most of the screen protected from dirt and dust.

Smart cover support could make it easier for phone makers to offer Windows Phone variants of their Android handsets. Now that Windows Phone supports on-screen buttons, phone makers can swap the operating system with no modification to the hardware, and The Verge reports that HTC may be doing just that for its HTC One (M8).

According to the developer documents, Windows Phone may also support screen sizes up to seven inches, at resolutions of 1280-by-768 (or 1280-by-800 with on-screen buttons). Again, Android has been charting this "phablet" territory with devices like Asus FonePad 7 and the Huawei MediaPad X1. It's unclear why Microsoft isn't supporting 1080p or other higher resolutions, but the company may be trying to maintain some separation from Windows tablets proper, at least until the platforms merge.

Other potential features for Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 include Voice over LTE support, custom lock screens for phone makers, and folders on the Start screen. The update is expected to arrive later this year, but exact timing is unknown. Don't expect Update 1 to arrive too soon, however—while Windows Phone 8.1 itself is finally being rolled out to Nokia owners, most Windows Phone users have still yet to receive the feature-filled OS upgrade. 

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