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Windows Phone 8.1 Update Adds Live Folders, Cooler Cortana

After a few months in the wild, Windows Phone 8.1 is about to get its first major update. Available next week for developers and rolling out in the coming months for the public, Windows Phone 8.1 Update will add new features such as Live Folders and Apps Corner, while beefing up voice assistant Cortana and sending her to new markets like China and the U.K.

Stateside users can look forward to new Cortana features, including snooze times for reminders and the ability to activate the assistant hands-free, if your Windows Phone is connected to your car. Microsoft promises new "natural language scenarios" for Cortana, and says that the team has made some fun personality additions to the A.I., such as the ability to do an impersonation (no word yet on who it will impersonate). 

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Cortana has been localized for China as Xiao Na, touting the same features as her U.S. counterpart with the option for an alternate, yellow appearance and unique animations and sounds. The A.I. will also be optimized for the U.K., complete with local spelling, pronunciation and a tweaked accent and personality. 

As far as new UI features go, Live Folders lets you finally bunch apps into folders on your Start screen, much like you would on an iOS or Android device. The Store app has been updated to Live Tile status, meaning that the Store icon will provide regular updates on the latest apps you can download. Trashing or forwarding big chunks of text messages will get easier, as 8.1 Update will allow for batch SMS selection. 

Xbox Music gets a boost too, with faster load times, a Quickplay feature that lets you revisit your most recently played tracks and support for Kids Corner mode, which keeps your Windows handset safe to use for little ones. Speaking of optimizing your phone for other users, the new Apps Corner feature will let you create a customized Start screen experience, which Microsoft says is ideal for work phones or retail display units. 

Microsoft has yet to provide a firm release date for a consumer version of Windows Phone 8.1 Update, but look out for it within the next few months.