Denim Update is essentially Windows Phone 8.1 with Update 1 with some Nokia-exclusive features. It brings features like Live Folders, Cortana support (alpha) for Canada, SMS merge and forwarding, consumer VPN and Internet Explorer improvements.
You can now organize apps or games by grouping them into folders similar to iOS and Android. You can press, hold and drag an app over another to create a new folder on the Start screen. Folders can be renamed by tapping on the text field above the open folder. The implementation is good, so, better late then never!
You can now select individual text messages to either delete them out of a messaging thread, or copy and past them into a new message to forward them. One can also customize snooze time in the alarm app and configure a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection to access a work network or use a VPN service to bypass geo-restricted website or service.
Another interesting feature is Apps Corner. It lets you create a customised Start screen, where only specific apps or games are accessible. This could be particularly useful in the workplace if you’re issuing Windows Phones to employees or if your kids use your phone for games. You can even choose if you want to give access to Action Center and Settings.
The key highlight of the Denim update is the enhanced camera app now known as Lumia Camera. It comes with features like speedy shooting that instantly fires the camera as one presses the hardware camera key. There’s a new Moment Capture feature activated by a long press of the camera button, and instantly starts recording the subject in full-HD (high-end Lumia phones will be able to capture in 4K). Each of the frames captured in the video is a 2MP shot that can be saved as an individual photo.
The best part is Rich Capture that allows capturing and merging multiple images together simultaneously, and applying auto HDR with dynamic exposure steps and flash settings. This means that the camera automatically detects if you need a flash and captures a few images with flash and some without it. After the shoot, it lets you merge the best pictures and control the amount of lighting with a slider. The auto-HDR feature works in a similar manner.
The Denim update also comes with improved image processing algorithms for clearer low light photos. It also offers “Hey Cortana” voice activation similar to hands free versions of Siri and Google Now and allows users to say “Hey Cortana” while the phone is idle to activate it.The feature is powered by the phone’s SensorCore technology. It didn’t work for us as it reportedly supports phones with Qualcomm Snapdragon 80x processors.
Cortana now works in Canada if you activate and select UK English in the speech settings. It worked fairly well and was able to detect our speech most of the times. It is not as good as Google Now when it comes to localization but is slightly better than Siri. The feature is still in alpha so we’ll not discuss it at length.
The Glance Screen feature has also got an update and now shows more information at a glance on the lock screen including Bing Weather, or Bing Health & Fitness data, in addition to time and date, notifications and application data.