8 hidden Windows Phone 8 settings you’ll actually use

8 hidden Windows Phone 8 settings you’ll actually use

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OK, so none of these are technically hidden. But I know many people treat the Settings section of their smartphone or PC like terra pericolosa—scary territory worth venturing into only when absolutely necessary. If your travels there have been primarily limited to changing your ringtone or theme color, here are eight more good reasons to boldly go.

Besides being some of my favorite levers and knobs for making Windows Phone more personal and useful, these settings are also ones I often hear people asking about. Many are new, others have been around—all are worth knowing.

I know, I know: I’m just scratching the surface here. Watch the blog for more tips. Meanwhile, wow us with your favorite “hidden” Windows Phone setting.

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1. Tell callers you’re tied up with a pre-written text

One recently-added Windows Phone 8 feature that I already can’t live without is the option to politely rebuff incoming calls with a text message. When the phone rings, just tap Text reply (when available) and either pick from one of the stock responses—“I’ll call you back” and “Please text me”—or quickly improvise your own custom excuse.

If two pre-written replies sounds kind of skimpy, I’d agree. It’s a good thing the phone lets you add up to four—a big help when you’re in a meeting or have your hands on the wheel. In Settings, go to Applications>Phone and tap Edit replies and fill in the blanks with alternatives like, “Got a mouth full of pizza. Talk later.” Here’s a video that shows how it works.

2. Create more memorable mailbox names

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I glanced at a friend’s Start screen the other day and noticed the tiles for his various email accounts—he had a bunch—were named “Hotmail1",”Hotmail2",”Gmail2,” and such. In other words, he’d just stuck with the same sequentially-numbered generic names that Windows Phone automatically assigns.

I make life easier by customizing these labels, using the incredibly imaginative “home” and “work” to quickly tell the difference between my two primary in-boxes. In Settings, go to System>Email+Accounts. Tap the account you’d like to rename, then type in something memorable under Account name.

3. Can you read me now?

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My eyes started going bad in fourth grade. Thirty years later, making out tiny letters has only gotten tougher. When I get tired of squinting at my phone, I flick on one of the new accessibility features in Windows Phone 8. Sure, they were designed primarily for visually-impaired users, but they can help out just about anybody.

In Settings, go to System>Ease of Access. Use the text size slider to bump up the font in emails or text messages. Another useful toggle is the screen magnifier. When this is switched on, you can tap the screen with two fingers to zoom in.

4. Switch up your lock screen icons

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Windows Phone 8 gives you much more control over the lock screen that its predecessor. One of my favorite new tweaks is the ability to change the order and line up of quick status notification icons at the bottom of lock.

In Settings, go to System>Lock Screen, then tap on one of the five slots under Choose apps to show quick status. In the list, you’ll see all the usual suspects—missed calls, new emails, and new text messages. But don’t be surprised to see some of your apps there as well, since developers have also taken notice of the new feature. For example, my notification line up includes Skype and Nextgen Reader, a Google News app. Here are even more cool ways to customize lock.

5. Add sizzle to your email signature 

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If you’re bored with the stock “Sent from my” tagline at the end of your emails, you can easily replace it with a pithy Monty Python quote or your new Twitter handle. Just tap on a mailbox, tap open the More menu at the bottom (the one with the three dots), then tap Settings. Notice that Windows Phone allows you to create a different signature for each account, so you can have something a little more HR-friendly for the office and show your true NSFW colors in personal correspondence.

Not into showy signatures? Go minimal and turn it off.

6. Button up the Internet Explorer address bar

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Another nice touch in Windows Phone 8 is the ability to decide what button you want to show up in the web browser address bar—a prime piece of Internet Explorer real estate.

In Settings, go to Applications>Internet Explorer, then tap Use address bar button for and choose an option. Personally, I prefer my tabs toggle front and center. But if your favorites list or the ability to refresh a web page is more important to you, by all means go that route.

7. Cut down on your contacts

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Who’s that guy? While it’s not a new feature, many first-time Windows Phone owners are happy to learn you can selectively hide contacts on your phone. This is especially handy if you work for a big company—ahem—and don’t want random co-workers cluttering up your list of close and personal pals.

To remove them from the mix, go to Settings, then tap Applications>People>Filter my contact list and pick an account from the list. And fear not: these folks will still show up in search results should you ever need them.

8. Keep photos and videos safer

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If your phone is your primary camera, then you can make life easier by automatically uploading the shots and movies you take to an Internet-based storage locker like Microsoft SkyDrive. SkyDrive and similar services make sharing easier and provide fast access to your pics from PCs or tablets. I use the auto-upload feature as a safety net in case I ever lose my phone.

In Settings, go to Applications>Photos+camera. Under Auto upload, tap SkyDrive and you’ll see options for uploading scaled-down images and full-resolution photos and videos over a Wi-Fi connection. If you use Dropbox or some other cloud service, tap Apps to look for an app that supports it. (Note that the quality option isn't available in all markets.)

38 Comments
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  • android has a option to show contact that has phone number.

    Does wp8 do that? I think no!

  • User Interface of windows 8 mobile was detailed excellent for the best use. I recently checked out best social media apps to get integrated with windows 8 mobile, just have a look here www.howlog.in/.../top-5-social-media-apps-for-windows-8.html

  • ceci.12
    0 Posts

    is there any hidden settings to temporarily disable the search button? it's annoying always accidentally hitting the button while watching video. Maybe i should go back to iphone5 if there is no other way to fix this :(

  • Facebook keep on copying my FB contacts to my phone contacts, how can I get rid of this?

  • these features are still not available n Nokia Lumia 800...

  • wahed
    0 Posts

    To see tip#1 when you get a call, you need to have the number of caller stored in your contacts and the number should be tagged as "mobile"... if it reads home or something else you'll never see the option to reply back with text. This is stupid though :)

  • KC Lemson
    19 Posts

    Hey all, KC here from the photos team.  Some of you have asked why full-res photo uploads aren’t available in all markets. The reason is that we wanted to carefully control the roll out to help ensure quality in each market. We plan to gradually add more markets over time, and we’re working with teams across the company to make this happen. It’s very useful to read your comments and see where there’s demand for this feature, so I appreciate your feedback.

  • I have a Nokia Lumia 810 and Tip #1 is not avail. And I have T-Mobile as my carrier...that would be such a useful tip if I could actually use it. All the other tips I know about and can do, but Plz tell me someone can help or give a reason for this.

  • These are powerful little gems... I have the Lumina 920 and ALL of these features work on it. Yes, even Tip 1.... The Text Reply works on incoming calls from mobile phones.... Land-lines I do not believe work with the text response feature...

  • Sheeds
    205 Posts

    Hey Michael. Anything you can share mate? (email sheeds @ wpdownunder dotcom)

  • Opie
    0 Posts

    Hi folks any news about the HTC Windows 8 phone not be able to play .wav files? That how I hear my companys voice mail with I get it in an email....

  • #8

    Oh, so we're still doing this thing where we arbitrarily disable features in some (eg: Australian) markets. Sigh, guess I'll hold on to my Mozart for now.

    Disabling a Wi-Fi feature, it's like... I just don't understand.

  • Sadly you will find that Verizon has turned off many features.  Text Grouping was the killer that made me return my HTC 8X.   Clearly, the alliance between VZW and Google places Microsoft ( and Apple ) at a disadvantage.  Some time spent in a company store will clearly illustrate this. The phones themselves are amazing,

  • jbinaz
    0 Posts

    I'd love to try #1, but $%#*! Verizon won't release the portico update. Thanks, Verizon.

  • Nokia Lumia 610 can b update to 8.0 os..??

  • Hey guys, how about making sure we all have the Portico update before posting something like this. I cant do #1 with my Verizon HTC 8x yet!!

  • thundr51
    14 Posts

    Any chance there is a "hidden" feature to change the lockscreen text color?

  • Thank you for your post....thats helpful...I have top7 apps top7mobiles.com/.../top-apps-for-windows-phone

  • MDDM
    0 Posts

    I have tip # 1 on my Nokia Lumia 920.  Very easy to edit too :)

  • Tip #1    When I go to settings - there is no "application" choice, let alone "phone". ..? And just this morning I got an automatic update to my Nokia 920 phone.

  • IsabelG
    0 Posts

    Could we have .eu added as a suggested domain name in the keyboard in Explorer, at least for European languages?

  • DjiXas
    46 Posts

    #8 option not available on unlocked Lumia 920, Lithuanian region

    Same with Australian region.

    www.wpdownunder.com/.../Skydrive_Region_Photo_Video_upload.png

  • G.R.H.
    0 Posts

    Regarding tip #8, it would be nice if there was a delay (configurable if possible) for synch to SkyDrive; I took 4 or 5 test photos the other day and deleted them from the phone within 10 to 30 seconds, but then found that they had already been uploaded to SkyDrive, so I had to delete them there too. I typically delete 50% of the photos I take, with many being deleted almost immediately, so it takes a lot of time to have to go through photos on both the phone and SkyDrive to delete the unwanted photos in both places.  drankurn was thinking along the same lines.  Perhaps there could be synch options such as: instant, after 1 minute, after 5 minutes, after 1 hour, once a day, and manual synch; allowing SkyDrive to delete photos deleted from the phone would be nice too, as drankurn suggested.  I like to have the photos backed up and accessible on SkyDrive, but I don't usually need instant backup -- I'd love to have a setting for "after 5 minutes" for everyday use, and then "once a day" when on vacation (to allow me to weed out photos at the end of each day before the synch).

  • @drankurn: Good thought. I'll pass it on, thanks.

  • drankurn
    42 Posts

    Micheal,

    Tip 8 - one suggestion is to make this feature into a sync type feature rather than simply uploading, because it will soon be cluttered in the skydrive folder since it uploads all the photos and does not remove any that are deleted from the phone.

    thanks

  • jjbowles
    43 Posts

    ..and you guys really need new TV commercials.

  • jjbowles
    43 Posts

    I really wish the Windows Phone guys managed Windows 8.  WP is so clean, crisp. and easy to use. (Although I could stand some more personalization features in WP like this vhanla.deviantart.com/.../Windows-8-Start-Screen-Customizer-v1-3-beta-337308916 ).  Why is that Win8 borrowed the WP UI but didn't implement fully?  The WP apps are light years ahead of those in Win8. With WP8 you now the three dots are there to help. In Win8 you never know if you swipe up, down, left, blow your nose, or swipe right.  Please go help those guys.

  • Probably a bit off topic, but is it ever likely that MS will enable the hooks for 3rd party keyboards?

    I'd love to get a 920, but I simply can't live with a phone that doesn't have swype; I even try swyping on my surface when I'm tired!

    This is an absolute deal breaker for me - I'll have to stick with Android until WP8 supports it.

  • For tip #1 you must first turn on text reply in Settings-Applications-Phone before edit replies can be seen.

  • I already take advantage of all those tips. But I just saw what Google Now is bringing to Android and I have admit it is more brilliant than ANYTHING that either iPhone or Windows Phone has. And I HATE saying that. Microsoft had better be working FEVERISHLY to leapfrog that sort of DEEP integration or it is all over. This is really tragic.

  • Sheeds
    205 Posts

    Thanks Michael :) Yeah - sorry for not dropping by more. Had some time off the blog since before Xmas - life getting busy and all. Back again now :) Hope you have been well!

    PS - Valentines day here in Aus. Have to think what I can get for my wife - however my Surface RT now has a lovely new protective case ;) Priorities.... lol

  • @Sheeds: Hey, stranger. I'll see if I can learn anything.

  • Sheeds
    205 Posts

    PS - The option I believe is there for all markets - just the " best/highest" quality options which are missing FYI

  • Sheeds
    205 Posts

    Michael,

    Any chance you can please get an answer from MS Corp on when Tip 8 (full best quality video/pic backup to skydrive) will be available in AUS market? Maybe even a reason why it isn't?

    Ta,

    Sheeds.

  • @StefEBear: I don't know the particulars either, but thanks for pointing that out. I added that caveat to the post.

    @Colby: Yes, the update (8.0.10211.204) that includes this feature will be made available at different times depending on country or region, mobile operator, and phone model. The update page I linked to mentions this, but I should've called it out better and have tweaked the copy a little to reflect.

  • caresrg
    5 Posts

    Tip #1 isn't available on my AT&T Nokia Lumia 920 either. :(

  • Colby
    0 Posts

    I have an HTC Windows Phone 8X on the Verizon network in the US and there isn't an 'Edit Replies' option under Settings->Applications->Phone.  I also don't see a 'Text reply' option when I get an incoming phone call.

    Is tip#1 only available on some WP8 phones or maybe carrier specific?  

  • In regards to tip number 8.. The None, Good, Best option is NOT available for everyone. In Australia there is only the Sync/Not Sync option that works like the old windows Phone 7.x. i.e. sends a scaled down image to SkyDrive.

    Why I have no idea. but it SUCKS