Windows Phone 8.1 rumors as we wait for Amber

When Microsoft introduced Windows Phone, one of the suppositions was that updates would be easier, faster, and free of the headaches that plagued Windows Mobile. However it hasn’t quite worked out that way, and Windows Phone updates, while they’re promoted and promised, still seem to be a bit of a hit or miss operation.

The current update to Windows Phone 8, known by Microsoft as “GDR2”, and at Nokia as the “Amber” update, has long been released for some versions in some locations, but we’re still waiting for it here (in the US on a Nokia 920 on AT&T). That wait, apparently, is about to end, as a posting on AT&T’s Community Forum by an AT&T employee and community manager says to expect the Amber update as soon as tomorrow:

AT&T has completed testing the Nokia Lumia 820/920 Windows Phone software update on our network. We expect Microsoft to make the update available beginning 10/10. When the software update is available for you to download, Windows Phone will notify you so you can download it directly over a Wi-Fi connection. We appreciate your patience

Nokia, to its credit, does have an Amber update page and a country/carrier/model availability page, listing where Amber is already available, and at least a bit of information on the status of the update where it’s not. For what it’s worth, Amber is still listed as “waiting for approval” for AT&T in the US, so we’ll have to wait and see if the update shows up tomorrow or not.

We still have another round of updates to go before we even get to the latest rumored Windows Phone “Blue”, or 8.1, updates. Known as “GDR3”, which was supposed to have landed by the end of the year, although we have our doubts that current phones will get it this year. We do expect this holiday season to begin sales of new phones with GDR3, and we should hear more on October 22nd, when Nokia has a press event planned (although Apple is apparently planning to unveil new iPads the same day, so there goes that news cycle).

But while we’re still waiting for Amber, some 3 months after it was first made available back in August, the rumor mill isn’t waiting. Paul Thurrott published a single-sourced rumor that Windows Phone 8.1 may be losing the back button, will come a lot closer to “API unity”, and will sport fixes for multi-tasking.

Microsoft seems to be inching closer toward a single OS for tablets and phones, and the latest rumors have Windows Phone 8.1 supporting larger screen sizes. At the same time, Windows RT tablets are expected to support smaller form factors, and could be getting LTE support by early next year. This apparent overlap between Windows RT and Windows Phone didn’t make any sense when Windows RT was first announced by Steven Sinofsky before he was shown the door, and still doesn’t to this day, although Microsoft continues to play by the old rules. Why have one OS when you can have two, or three? And why would you want them to work together, when you can settle for “77% API unity”, as Thurrott says is coming with Blue. Woohoo!