Dubbed Denim, the latest update to Windows Phone 8.1 for Lumia devices adds several new camera functions and expands the alpha availability of Cortana, Microsoft's smart, voice-controlled assistant.
With Denim, Microsoft is touting multiple camera improvements, in terms of both ease of use and image quality. The delay between shots has been reduced to 1.5 seconds, and users can now control the intensity of the flash and exposition levels after a shot has been taken, whether in HDR or standard mode.
For owners of the Lumia 830, 930, 1520 and Icon, Denim also replaces Nokia Camera with Lumia Camera, which offers a host of advantages including the ability to take HD photos in burst mode.
Denim also adds the ability to shoot 4K video at 24fps and to create HD stills from these sequences.
Finally, Denim expands the availability of Cortana, Microsoft's smart voice-controlled assistant, which can now be accessed in the beta version in China and the UK and in the alpha version in Australia, Canada, India, France, Italy, Germany and Spain, in addition to the US where it was available previously.
When Cortana is activated for the first time, it asks its owner's name and remembers how it is pronounced. As the assistant gradually gets to know its owner, it begins to offer relevant suggestions based on personal interests and location. Users can interact with Cortana through natural voice commands or through text.
Introduced in spring 2014, Cortana was developed to compete with Apple's Siri, Google Now and Samsung's S Voice.