Cortana has come

One of the star features of Windows Phone 8.1 is the Cortana voice assistant.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Cortana front and center

Microsoft made sure to place a shortcut to activate Cortana right from the Start Screen.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Information overkill

Think Android has the monopoly on information-dense home screens? You might want to check out the new Windows Phone 8.1 Start Screen with smaller, closely-packed tiles.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

The background is up to you

You can now add personalized backgrounds to the Start Screen.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Fresh lock screen designs

New to Windows Phone 8.1 are fresh and funky lock screen designs.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Go diagonal if you dare

One of the new lock screens uses a wild diagonal design.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Add extra textures and patterns

You can now graft eye-catching colors and textured patterns to the once static Windows Start Screen.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Cortana can learn your name

Within Windows Phone 8.1's options menu, you can train Cortana to say your name.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Off the grid but reachable

Train Cortana to only let the ones you care for most get a hold of you.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Shut down the chatter

Similar to the "Do Not Disturb" mode on the HTC One M8 and night mode on BlackBerry 10, Cortana can turn off all communication when in "Quiet Hours".

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

An eye on your interests

Cortana and Windows Phone 8.1 will make note of your personal interests in the Notebook feature.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

You control Cortana

Here's a top-level look at what Cortana's Notebook section keeps track off.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Reminders set around people

Cortana can create reminders around specific people.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Time you reminders

In addition to having Cortana remind you of things to do when certain people call, you can also set alerts for traditional time triggers.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Notifications are important

Windows Phone 8.1 now brings Android-style notifications to the table.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Hunt down local eats

Cortana can search for nearby restaurants that you might find to your liking. For instance it might learn Mexican spots or Pizza parlors are your weakness and adapt accordingly.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Cortana on many Windows phones

Microsoft says Windows Phone 8.1 along with Cortana will hit current WP8 handsets (like the HTC 8X shown here) in the next few months.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Catch the word flow

Similar to Swype and Android's gesture typing keyboard, Windows Phone 8.1 uses Word Flow for one-handed text entry.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Choose your Start Screen theme

Pick your accent color and style of your Start Screen.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Add a dash of color

Bring a little color to your settings and notifications screens.

Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:
Hot Galleries

CNET's Holiday Gift Guide

'Tis the season for a gadget upgrade

Check out these 8 tablets you'll want to bring home for the holidays.

Hot Products