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Windows Phone 8.1 update advances many features to match competition

NEW YORK--Microsoft's new Windows system for smartphones addresses many of the shortcomings in previous versions.

Before, voice search lacked the natural language interactions of Apple's Siri and Google Now. The updated Windows Phone system has Cortana, which combines Siri's personality with Google Now's knack for anticipating what you need before you even ask.

Meanwhile, Windows Phone's lack of a central hub for checking notifications from Facebook and other services has been addressed with a new Action Center.

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