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Windows Phone 8 Update 3 now available for developers (hands-on)

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Windows Phone preview
Windows Phone preview

Microsoft promised it was planning to release Windows Phone 8 Update 3 early to developers, and it's now available to download. The software maker has published the required application in the Windows Phone Store, allowing Windows Phone 8 General Distribution Release 2 (GDR2) users to update to Update 3 immediately. Microsoft's "Preview for Developers" app simply changes a flag in Windows Phone 8 to allow access to Update 3 and the regular update process will download and install the update.

If you wish to access Windows Phone 8 Update 3 you'll need to be a registered app developer, have an unlocked Windows Phone, or be registered for Microsoft's App Studio program. If you're an App Studio participant then you won't need to pay the $19 fee to be a Windows Phone developer, and you'll still be able to get early access to Update 3. Windows Phone 8 Update 3 adds rotation lock, multitasking improvements, Driving Mode, and more. The required application is available at the Windows Phone Store.

We've had a chance to install the update on a Nokia Lumia 1020 and experiment with the new feature additions. Driving Mode works as promised, allowing you to set a custom message reply for missed calls and texts while you're connected to a Bluetooth device. The multitasking changes simply allow you to close apps by tapping the corner of them during the task switching, but there's no gestures to swipe up or down to kill apps. Rotation lock is fairly basic, only allowing you to switch it on or off in the settings pane. Overall, the changes are welcomed but basic additions to Windows Phone 8.

If you're worried about updating an existing Lumia device, our initial tests show that the Pro Camera, Glance, and other customizations and additions still work fine on Windows Phone 8 Update 3. Microsoft says any future Nokia updates will also be delivered to devices running the developer preview version of Windows Phone 8 Update 3.

Read more: Windows Phone 8 'Update 3' adds top requested features ahead of 1080p devices