updated 09:15 am EST, Sun December 15, 2013
Windows Phone 8.1 could ditch capacitive buttons in update
Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Phone 8.1 software update may add on-screen navigation buttons in the vein of some implementations of Google's Android system, according to new images. Serial tech leaker @evleaks posted a partial screenshot from Windows Phone "Blue" - a codename for Windows Phone 8.1 - and the on-screen buttons are featured in that shot. The move toward software buttons could allow for different types of Windows Phone form factors, as Microsoft had previously required that manufacturing partners have capacitive buttons on their devices with the release of Windows Phone 8.
Adding the option for software buttons would allow manufacturers to produce devices without those capacitive inputs. The removal of that requirement could make for cheaper devices, helping Microsoft to make its devices more attractive cost-wise in developing markets.
The next update to Microsoft's smartphone operating system is scheduled to arrive some time in 2014. In addition to the new software buttons, Windows Phone 8.1 may see the addition of a voice-controlled assistant in the vein of Apple's Siri and Google's Google Now. That assistant, currently believed to be named Cortana could work across Windows Phone 8.1, Windows 8, and Windows RT.