Windows Phone 8.1: Top 3 Business Features
Windows Phone devices will soon get a productivity-boosting virtual assistant. / Credit: Nokia

The upcoming version of Windows Phone looks ready to make you more productive. Windows Phone 8.1, set to make its official debut in April, will add features to put the platform more on a par with the Android and iPhone operating systems. That includes the addition of a voice-activated personal digital assistant, as well as a comprehensive notification center so you can check your alerts at a glance. Microsoft has yet to confirm a full list of features for the OS refresh, but here are three features that could make it a boon for business users.

1. Cortana

Reports indicate that Microsoft is ready to update the Windows Phone platform with an application similar to the iPhone's Siri and Android's Google Now, code-named Cortana. The addition of a productivity-boosting virtual assistant on the platform could help Windows Phones compete as top-tier business devices.

Like Siri and Google Now, Microsoft’s virtual personal assistant would enable business users to be more productive with context-sensitive voice commands. The app reportedly would be powered by Microsoft's Bing search engine to deliver on-demand search results and answers to queries. On Android and iPhone, the feature gives business users a convenient, hands-free way to set reminders, access transit directions, make calls and much more.

2. Notification Center

Both Android and iOS feature a single unified notification center where users can see all their alerts in a single location. The feature makes you more productive by letting you check your notifications quickly and easily. It also ensures that you won’t overlook an important message or alert when it arrives. Up until now, Windows Phone has relied on Live Tiles to deliver notifications; when users check their home screen, a number appears next to the messaging or phone app to indicate a new message or missed call. It seems a more unified approach to notifications is on the way when the next version of the Windows Phone OS arrives.

3. Actionable notifications

In addition to letting your check notifications more quickly, the next version of Windows Phone will deliver an easier way to respond to them, according to rumors. When a notification for a new SMS message arrives, for example, a pop-up notification will appear with options to respond or ignore, without launching and navigating through your messaging app. The feature could streamline the process of responding to incoming notifications so you can get back to work quicker.