Microsoft's next Windows Phone update opens the door for 1080p screens and more powerful processors from Qualcomm.
Microsoft will deliver the new version of Windows Phone 8, called General Distribution Release 3, to existing phones over the coming months, Microsoft said in a blog post on Monday.
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The first smartphones that can take full advantage of the update are likely to be announced next week at the Nokia World conference. Microsoft is in the process of acquiring Nokia's phone division, a deal which was first announced at the beginning of September.
The addition of 1080p screens and support for Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor should help close the hardware gap between the latest line of Android phones and high-end products based on Microsoft's OS.
A new generation of Windows Phone-based devices will have 5- and 6-inch touch screens, according to Microsoft. They will compete with products like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the HTC One Max. The latter device has a 5.9-inch screen and was also announced on Monday.
The higher resolution on Windows Phone will make room for up to six tiles across the Windows Phone start screen instead of four. Other updates include an improved Internet sharing feature; the ability to use customized ring tones for instant messages, emails, voicemails, and reminders; and a new rotation lock option to keep the screen fixed in one place.
Consumers will also be able to close apps from the App switcher and use Driving Mode while on the road, which lets them send automatic replies to people who call or text when sitting behind the wheel, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft also announced the Windows Phone Preview for Developers, which will go live sometime on Monday. The program gives developers early access to Windows Phone updates so they can verify that apps work as expected on the new code, the company said.