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Microsoft launches Windows Phone ‘Update 3’ ahead of new Full HD phones

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Microsoft has released its third major update for the Windows Phone 8 smartphone operating system today; the aptly dubbed ‘Update 3’.

This update has previously gone by the name of ‘GDR3’ in tech circles and is now official just over a week ahead of Nokia’s rumoured Lumia 1520 9phablet and Lumia 2520 tablet launch in Dubai.

Update 3 adds a wealth of new features and improvements to Windows Phone 8, though its main purpose is to add compatibility with a new breed of more powerful and impressive hardware. If a device runs Update 3 then it can rock a Full HD display, for example, or a much larger 6-inch display, so the update will bring Windows Phone alongside Android in terms of screen quality in this department.

The Nokia Lumia 1520, a 6-inch phone previously known as the Nokia ‘Bandit’, is likely to be the first Windows Phone to sport a Full HD screen when it launches next Tuesday.

More power quad-core processors will also be supported by Update 3, including the excellent Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip which we’ve seen in Android powerhouses such as the LG G2 and soon the Nexus 5.

To make the most of the incoming wave of new Windows Phones utilising larger, higher res displays, Microsoft has added support for a third column of tiles and also larger Live Tiles to really make use of the extra screen space on offer. Apps such as Hubs, Music and Videos are “carefully scaled” to suit the new display, with Microsoft’s Greg Sullivan noting that the company hopes “to use that increased screen real estate wisely”.

The first phone to run Update 3? The Lumia 1520, on the right

Those already using Windows Phone will no doubt be happy to see some of the much wanted features from Microsoft’s Windows Phone feature suggestion site added in Update 3. Additions include screen rotation lock, custom notification sounds and a new Driving Mode which limits the notifications you’ll see on the lock screen so as to limit distraction when driving.

Perhaps the biggest update, and certainly the most requested change on Microsoft’s WP8 feedback site, is the ability to close apps directly from the multitasking window. Previously you could do this by double tapping the back button continually to exit each app one by one – now there’s a simple cross on each app window which closes the application with a simple tap.

So when can you get it? The update will arrive on all Windows Phone 8 devices, including Nokia’s ever-expanding Lumia range of course. Microsoft can’t say just yet when the update will roll out, though it looks likely that we’ll be spared the extra wait where networks are concerned as the company is bypassing usual procedure and rolling the update out itself.