Windows Phone 8.1 for Developers–Overview

This blog series will go into the details of the new version of Windows Phone from a developer’s perspective. This series is a collaboration between Microsoft and Jayway. This blog post will provide a high-level overview and is written by Peter Bryntesson (@petbry57).

Windows Phone 8.1 is here!

As you probably saw, Windows Phone 8.1 was announced at the BUILD Conference. We are excited to finally have the chance to talk about this, and this blog post will give a high-level overview over what’s new. Subsequent blog post will dive deeper into the details.

This is a huge update and it has three main focus areas:

  • Convergence with the Windows 8.1 platform. Great strides have been taken to unify the developer platforms.
  • App & platform compatibility with previous Windows Phone versions.
  • Delight end-user with new features. This blog post will not go much into this.

Convergence with Windows 8.1

The amount of convergence with Windows 8.1 achieved in this version is just astonishing. Here are some examples.

  • The entire XAML stack from Windows 8.1 is now in the Phone as well, which will let you share even XAML between platforms.
  • Most of WinRT is now on both platforms, making it super easy to develop for both platforms.
  • The Windows 8.1 application model is also used on the Phone.
  • The API for working with live tiles is now exactly the same.
  • Background tasks now works the same way as in Windows 8.1.
  • Phone apps are now packaged as appx packages, the same as on Windows 8.1.
  • You can now write Phone apps in C++ and XAML, just as you can on Windows 8.1.
  • You can even write native Phone apps in HTML/Javascript, just as you can in Windows 8.1.
  • DirectX has now full API compliance with Windows 8.1, including Direct2D and DirectWrite.

In addition to this, there is a lot of convergence in the services as well. For example:

  • Windows Phone 8.1 now uses Windows Notification Service (WNS) as the service to push notifications. This is the same service Windows 8.1 uses, and it’s a lot more robust then the old Microsoft Push Notification Service (MPN) used in Windows Phone 8.0.
  • You can now roam settings between Phone devices, and also share this roaming area with Windows 8.1 devices as well.
  • You can, if you will, have the same app identity on your Phone and Windows 8.1 app, enabling scenarios where the user purchases your app on one platform and it will be available on the other platform for free.

From a Tools perspective, Visual Studio 2013 has been updated, and now it’s possible to create Universal apps. A Universal app is a new kind of Project that has two apps, a Phone and a Windows 8.1 app, and a Shared folder where you put code and files that you want to access from both apps. Here you can put everything, including XAML, code, resources etc.

You can have Universal apps in all major languages: C++, C# and HTML/Javascript.

App & Platform Compatibility

In addition to all this new Windows 8.1 convergence goodness, Every app that works on Windows Phone 8 should work on Windows Phone 8.1. If you want to target Windows Phone 8.1 you can choose between two models: Either continue using the Windows Phone Silverlight model or use the new Windows Runtime model.

Delight End Users

There is a lot of new functionality in Windows Phone 8.1. Of most interest for developers is the new Action Center and the new possibilities with Bluetooth LE protocols.

Drive Down System Requirements

[UPDATE] Due to misinterpretation and error on my part I have decided to remove this section since it was factually incorrect.


Windows Phone 8.1 is major new version that goes a long way in converging with Windows 8.1. The development experience writing Universal apps is very good. In addition, you can now write apps an C++ and HTML/Javascript in addition to C#/VB. Great care has been taken to be compatible with all apps on Windows Phone 8. Lots of new features has been added to delight end users. The future has never looked so bright for Windows Phone and Windows.

Other posts in the series