(Pocket-lint) - Microsoft has already unveiled its flagship operating system update in Windows 8.1, and now its younger sibling Windows Phone Lumia Black has been unleashed. We go hands-on to see if it's a big improvement.
Look and feel
From the outset you can see this is a new operating system as more tiles have been crammed on the Start screen - although in the case of the large screened Lumia 1520 they're less crammed and more suitably placed. Immediately you feel like the Windows Phone world is more open as you have access to pretty much all the apps and services you could want, at a glance.
Now that the OS has been optimised for quad-core chips it is able to run faster than ever. Those transitions are still present, but more as an attractive extra rather than a load screen as they seemed previously. Now everything, even the browser, is able to keep up with you and is limited only by the quality of your internet connection.
But unlike iOS, which has everything right in front of you to link into, this OS has improved its one-up on Apple even further - live tiles.
You are now able to enjoy automatically updated information at a glance right on your Start screen for People, Photos, etc. This means you don't need to cram everything into your tiny notifications bar at the top as Apple and Android are currently stuck doing.
This, they say, let's you focus on the real world. First Nokia has added notifications to the Glance screen along with the time, you can even let your most important apps send details to that screen. A step counter is on its way soon to let you see them too, at a glance. And, finally you can have your choice of background picture on the Glance screen.
The new Driving mode still offers all the usual guidance while on the road but now also takes care of your safety. Or at least, it sort of forces you to be safe. Now messages or calls are held on the phone without letting you know so that you can drive with full focus on what you're doing. Great for road safety - not so good when you need to be called by your child's school if they've fallen ill. It's clear why this option is here but whether anyone choses to enable it, and effectively cut themselves off from the world, is another matter.
At long last you're able to view all your open apps and, in one fell swoop, close them all at once too. This is a great option for saving power by stopping background apps where previously you'd have to hit back a million times and close everything manually if you wanted to close the first app opened. Now you can also cherry pick which ones to close and which to leave open - ideal if you want to keep a map handy but not the browser window you used to find the location. Take note Apple, this is something every operating system should offer by now.
The ability to use your mobile as a Wi-Fi hotspot when on your paired Windows 8.1 device is easier now. No more clicking through into settings to turn sharing on and off as WP Lumia Black is now smart enough to switch it on and off for you as and when you need it.