Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 now available

Last week in China, Joe Belfiore announced that Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 would be available to “developers” soon, and indeed today, it’s here. The update includes significant updates to IE 11 for Windows Phone, a new take on “Live Folders”, additions to SMS and VPN management, and brings Cortana to more markets (specifically China and the UK, with Canada, India, and Australia coming on board under an “Alpha” status).

In case you haven’t been following along at home, Microsoft “solved” the problem of having to wait for mobile carriers to release updates to Windows Phone (something they have been reluctant to do in any timely manner, causing all sorts of angst among Windows Phone users) by releasing new versions of the Phone OS as “developer previews”, and making it easy and free for anyone willing to take the time to sign up for a Windows Phone App Studio account to bypass the carriers and get the latest bits for their devices.

One minor downside of this nod to early adopters is that phones may need to be reverted back to their carrier “original” state before doing an “official” upgrade, and all of this updating and backtracking has come to a head in the past couple of weeks as the Nokia “Cyan” official update to Windows Phone 8.1 is coming online just as this new Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 package is being made available. If you want to remain as “official” as possible, you will want to, as we did, revert back to the official Cyan update and go from there, but if you’re on the WP8.1 Dev Preview currently, you can update directly to the latest bits. So, just to go through all the steps:

  1. If you don’t have one already, you’ll need access to the Windows Phone Developer preview. The easiest way is to create a Windows App Studio account, although you can also register as a Windows Phone Developer ($19/yr), or dev unlock your phone if you’re planning on creating Windows Phone apps.
  2. (Optional): Make sure you’re on the latest carrier-approved update for your phone. The Nokia Cyan update is rolling out for Nokia phones, you can check the official update status page from Nokia for the latest on availability, then update your phone to Cyan (if it’s available for your phone and carrier).
  3. If you’ve been on a previous developer preview (for Windows Phone 8.1), you may have to roll your phone back to get the latest carrier update. For that, you can use the Nokia Software Recovery Tool (US version / UK version).
  4. Once you’ve rolled back your phone, updated to the latest carrier approved update, and installed the Windows Phone Developer Preview app from Windows App Studio, then you can just check for an update using Settings>Update my Phone, and update to the latest build.

If you have the Developer Preview installed and don’t mind installing a beta on top of a beta, just check for the latest updates, and install Windows Phone Developer Preview 8.1 Update 1. Remember to back up your phone before updating, especially if you use the Software Recovery Tool.

Are you up to date with your Windows Phone? Are you still waiting for Cyan, or on a non-Nokia phone? What are your first impressions, and impressions of the whole process?