Microsoft updated the Windows Phone store on Thursday to allow users to install Windows Phone 8 apps from an SD card, among other new and improved features.

The Windows Phone store update came on the heels of the first update to the Windows Phone 8 OS, called Portico, which improved the HTC Windows Phone 8X's SMS capabilities.

The latest Phone web store update also added easier app reinstallation, improving the functionality already available in the store's "My Phone" section.

In addition, the Windows Phone web store is now available in 37 more countries, bringing the total number up to 112 countries worldwide (the Windows Phone Store - the one you access on your device itself - is available in 191 countries).

New freedoms and old limitations

Windows Phone 8 users whose devices support SD cards will now find it easy to install apps even when Wi-Fi and data connections aren't available.

Apps can be downloaded to a computer from the Windows Phone web store (using the new "download and install manually" option at the top of an app's details page), then copied over to an SD card and installed to a Windows Phone 8 device manually.

Unfortunately, those apps can't be run from the SD card, only stored there and installed directly to the phone; those with storage space issues won't find a solution here.

Luckily, thanks to the changes Microsoft made to the "My Phone" section of the web store, users' purchase histories now include a "reinstall" button next to each downloaded app, making it easier to delete apps when you need the space and reinstall them later.

Universal search and more

In addition to the new SD card and re-installation functions added to the web store this week came a new universal search function, which allows users to discover apps, articles and more types of content with a single search query.

Microsoft Partner Group Program Manager Mazhar Mohammed described the Windows Phone web store update in a blog post on Thursday, writing, "The team worked hard this year to expand the Windows Phone Store to new markets and add improvements making it easier to find and download great apps and games."

"Our focus on improvement won't change in 2013, so please keep the suggestions flowing: we're listening, and looking forward to making the Store even better next year, " he added.