10 things you need to know about the Lumia Denim update

Microsoft is updating Windows Phone 8.1, with a few Lumia-exclusive features as well

Microsoft is updating its Windows Phone 8.1 mobile operating system with a range of new features that the Redmond company hopes will boost its fortunes in the fight against iOS 8 and Android 5.0.

Along with the updates that will reach every handset that runs Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft is also releasing the Lumia Denim update. This will bring even more features exclusively to Microsoft's Lumia smartphones.

Here are the 10 things you need to know about the upcoming Lumia Denim update.

1. Release date

The Lumia Denim update for Lumia devices was first announced last year, with Microsoft promising that its customers would get it in the fourth quarter of the year.

Microsoft has since announced that the Lumia Denim update is rolling out to Lumia devices right now, so you should be able to get the upgrade pretty soon.

You can check to see if the update is ready for your Lumia device by going to the settings menu, opening up 'phone update' and then selecting 'check for updates'.

If it's not there, don't worry, you should be getting the update soon.

2. Cortana virtual assistant

Cortana is Microsoft's answer to Apple's Siri virtual assistant, allowing you to to launch apps, set reminders and more through simply speaking to your Windows Phone.

Cortana's natural language feature lets you talk as if you were speaking to a human, which means we shouldn't have to memorise a range of clumsy phrases to operate our phones.

Cortana

Originally Cortana (whose name is taken from the AI character in the Halo series of video games) was only available in the US but with the Denim update it will be available in the UK, China, Australia, Canada India, France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

3. Voice activation

As well as Cortana coming to Windows Phone 8.1 devices, Lumia 930, Lumia Icon and Lumia 1520 owners will get an exclusive voice activation feature with the Lumia Denim update.

If you have one of those devices all you need to do is say "Hey Cortana" to launch the virtual assistant, even if the phone is in an idle state, so there's no need to press any buttons to get started.

4. Live Folders

Windows Phone's Live Tile interface has been pretty popular since its introduction in Windows Phone 7, with its simple yet elegant design making it easy to use.

However its simplicity has also been a source of frustration for many users, especially when they install lots of apps on their devices. The good news is that Lumia Denim update will allow Windows Phone owners to finally group together their apps into folders such as "games" and "social".

Lumia Denim

This feature has been in demand for a while now, so it's good to see its inclusion and it should lead to a lot more organised Start screens.

5. Glance Screen

The Glance Screen is a handy feature that's exclusive to Lumia handsets. Important information such as notifications, times and calendar appointments can be displayed while the smartphone's screen is locked, and a recent update lets users display their lock screen photos as well.

Lumia Denim

The Glance Screen is getting even more love with the Lumia Denim update as it will now be able to show fitness and health stats from the MSN Health and Fitness app as well as weather updates from Bing Weather.

The idea behind this feature is that you'll get all the important information without having to turn on or unlock your device.

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