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WP8 gets bigger Start screen, quad-core support in new update

Windows Phone 8 is getting new features, including -- finally -- a rotation lock.

Windows Phone 8 is getting a slew of new features as part of a major software update -- including a bigger Start screen and, at last, a screen rotation lock.

The new software, dubbed Update 3 by Microsoft, will be winging its way to Windows Phone 8 devices "in the coming weeks", the software giant says, with the roll-out set to continue over several months. Read on for the new features the update brings, and what it will mean for future Windows Phone gadgets.

New features

The update has a 'bigger' home screen, that lets you see more of your Live Tiles on screen at once. Also new is a Driving Mode, which limits the notifications you see on the lock screen until your car is parked, to avoid distractions at the wheel.

This feature can automatically text anyone who calls or texts while you're driving, to let them know you'll give them a ring later on.

A new suite of accessibility features include a screen reader app, which should make Windows Phone 8 easier to handle for the blind or visually impaired. A screen-rotation lock meanwhile will make it easier to read websites when dozing off, lying on your side.

New storage management settings are in place, to make it easier to clean out your phone, and you can assign custom ringtones to contacts for texts. Custom tones will now also work for IMs, emails, voicemails and reminders, Microsoft says. You'll also be able to close apps from the app switcher.

Microsoft has also removed the need to enter a password when pairing your smart phone as a mobile hotspot with Windows 8.1 PCs or tablets over Bluetooth. 

Bigger, more powerful future-phones

The update will bring support for new smart phone tech, too. 5 and 6-inch displays are supported with the new software, as are 1080p screens.

That's a step up from the 720p displays we're used to seeing on Windows Phone, and should make for some crisper displays on new mobiles from the likes of Nokia.

Update 3 also brings support for quad-core processor tech, specifically Qualcomm's 8974 four-core chip. Windows Phone devices are currently limited to dual-core.

Windows Phone devices aren't generally sluggish, but the potential for a speed bump could mean new mobiles have a longer shelf-life, as they're more likely to be able to handle new, advanced software and apps in the future.

Are there any new features you'd like to see added to Windows Phone 8 as soon as possible? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook wall.