Has WP lost it's soul?

Having spent only two days with WP8.1, I still think that's enough to give a reliable evaluation.

Any my feelings are extremely split. Soul & uniqueness vs brute force?

The positives:

  • action center

Very useful. And it will become more so with time. While I also love live tiles, problem is when I miss a toast notification. This way, that will not be happening. Also toggles are extremely useful, obviously.

  • third row of tiles

I love it. Though my lowly 520 only has a 4" screen, I still much prefer this denser tile layout. It makes for a lot les swiping.

  • start screen background

Also love it. I have absolutely no problem with clutter it makes. It looks awesome.

  • universal apps

Obviously not as great right now as it will be, but having purchased Halo SA on my tablet, and now being able to install it on my phone brought a smile to my face. It will definitely be a deciding factor for me and it will, with fair pricing, make me purchase more stuff, for sure.

The negatives:

  • cortana not available

I can not change my region because my credit card does not work than. And my carrier does not support carrier billing. So I will have to wait 1 year + to actually maybe be able to use Cortana. Why is it not global? Just allow it to be used with certain languages? Similar to shape keyboard. I just change the keyboard (btw, the keyboard is seriously awesome)

  • extinction of hubs

This causes me most grief. Hubs were the single brightest highlight of WP from me. From the moment WP was unveiled, hubs were the one thing that made me crave for WP so much. Beautiful, fast, smooth. I could writhe pages of praises. And now ALL of them are gone. And replaced with what? Seriously crappy applications.

- xbox music is very, very, very disappointing. Music+videos was short a few features like gapless playback, scrubbing, EQ, easier playlist management. Features that were easy to add (I have no idea why they never have been added). Even if the decoupled music and videos, they should have just copied the UI to the xbox music. What they ended up with is shockingly bad. And I'm not even talking about speed, just the UI. It regressed sooo much. Not even a live tile yet!

- Pictures hub is another part of WP that was unique and beautiful. And what we got now? A plain barebones gallery (UI wise). I just cannot imagine possible causes in thought process of the ones responsible that led to this.

Undecided:

  • performance

Before I also get a firmware update I can not judge this. But for now, it seems to me MS promised to much. My admittedly outdated and weak 520 is ever so slightly slower after updating. I don't mind it much, but I was expecting some improvement.

RANT

I will most probably remain faithful to WP for the foreseeable future. But mostly because I like Lumia hardware.

Other than start screen, I no longer see anything special about WP compared to android. There are no standout features. There is no more soul. I guess it started with 7.8/8 getting rid of that negative space on the right side. But that was for good reasons and it was a fair trade. Functionality improvements were bigger than slight impact to aesthetics. Getting rid of the whole hub concept.. I just do not see what the benefits are. Before someone says that now updates will be more frequent, they could just made hubs separate apps. Just slap the same (or refined) UI.

How does the tribe feel? Am I just being a crybaby first worlder? Has WP lost it's soul (for the lack of the better world)? Is soul overrated?