Critical Feature Updates Included in Windows Phone 8 GDR 2

Also known as the General Distribution Release 2, the GDR 2 is the latest software update for Windows Phone (WP) 8 operating system. For Nokia handsets, this was called the “Lumia Amber update,” which included few system enhancements and software add-ons such as the Smart Camera App, FM Radio, and Nokia Glance Screen. It started rolling out this Q4 of 2013 in some regions and selected handsets over-the-air. If you are thinking of upgrading your handset to this new update, yet you’re curious about its key features, read on below as we list down all the details you need to know about the WP8 GDR 2.

Inclusion of ‘Data Sense’ Internet Usage Tracker


[Image Credit Windows Phone Central]

Similar to Android and iOS devices, the Data Sense tracks your mobile internet usage by displaying your real-time amount of data transfers via Wi-Fi or cellular network (3G/4G LTE). You can also set your monthly data limit to compensate your existing subscription and avoid unexpected charges. For instance, if you’re in the UK and you have a base tariff subscription with 100 MB data from O2, you can set the system to prevent internet transfers if you exceed beyond the specified cap. It will automatically block your online activities such as web surfing, mobile streaming, and app downloading.

Google Account Support

Last year, the search engine company dropped a bombshell that it would stop supporting its Gmail and Google calendar services via Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync (EAS), starting in January 2014. This will prevent users from accessing  events, emails, and contacts associated to their Google accounts. With GDR 2, users can now overcome this threat by actually integrating the support into their WP handsets. Although as of the moment, there’s still no news if the developers are working on a solution to bring the search engine’s Cloud Drive services into the WP ecosystem.

HTML 5 Runtime for Internet Explorer


[Image Credit]

The native Internet Explorer mobile is not supported by Flash, which restricts users to play video and audio files embedded in websites. With the HTML 5 browser add-on included in the GDR 2 update, it’ll enable media runtime in your WP Internet Explorer app, similar to the experience you get in PCs.Just to give you an idea, the browsers found in iOS and Android platforms are HTML 5 runtime-capable.

Smart Application Management


[Image Credit]

Since the Windows Phone 7 version, the system allows you to multitask by holding down the back arrow soft key on your handset. But, it only allows you to switch from your actively running applications, and doesn’t give you the ability to close a program. In this system update, you’ll be given an (x) virtual button on the upper right side of each of your apps from the multitasking panel. It may be a minor and unnoticeable improvement, but having the power to close a running application will save you battery.

Enhanced Messaging and Voicemail

In the past, you can’t directly play WAV audio files sent to you via email or multimedia messaging, since it only supports MP3 formats. That has been fixed with this OS update as they’ve included more codecs associated with messaging and voicemail that supports WAV files. The GDR 2 will also improve issues regarding the inability to send group messages.

Knock-Knock Screen Gesture


[Image Credit]

Similar to the LG G2’s ability to wake the screen by double-tapping the display, this software update has included the same gesture. This will result to better user experience and will save your phone’s sleep/wake button from getting over used. However, some users might struggle with this option as they need to tap the exact region of the locked screen quickly to bring out the slide-to-unlock display.

Fix for the Secondary Storage Bug

The update also resolved the issue with the micro-SD card support through an easier option of transferring files from internal to the secondary storage (and vice versa). Moreover, you can now delete your temporary and hidden files from the internal and secondary memory to free some space. Unfortunately, Microsoft still doesn’t allow you to move your installed applications on your micro-SD card just like the Android.

These are the seven features packaged on the GDR 2 update. It may be minor improvements, but overall, it will make your mobile computing seamless and more efficient. Have you noticed other features we’ve missed?

About the Author


Jennifer Birch is a British tech writer and a proud power user of Windows Phone. She sports a Nokia Lumia 1020 and she’s in love with its superb imaging power. Follow her at @WrittenByJenni and read her feature stories on Techie Doodlers.



  1. Imran

    I run a Lumia 720 with GDR2 –
    1) GDR2 does not show call usage with Data sense
    2) The double tap gesture does not work

    • jenniferbirch06

      Hmm I suggest you check for updates again. But it’s best to have an expert take a look at your phone. 🙂

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