Windows Phone 8.1 now available to developers, but you can download it, too

Windows Phone 8.1 is here, and if you’re a developer — or at least pretend to be — you can download it right now.

This is one of the most important software updates Microsoft has ever released, on both PC and mobile, as it jumps over a few important hurdles to reach feature parity with iOS and Android. While consumers will appreciate Cortana, the sassy voice assistant, and Action Center, there are a number of business-focused updates, including Enterprise VPN and S/MIME support, that will make the OS more attractive to corporations.

To download the update on any Windows Phone 8-based device is fairly straightforward, though you cannot return to your previous installed version once it’s complete. It will, however, upgrade to the carrier-released version of Windows Phone 8.1 — if and when it arrives — later this year.

To do so, you need to pretend that you’re a developer by registering as a developer for the free App Studio program, which allows non-devs to create simple Windows Phone apps with ease. It’s a two-step process, as you first have to register for the program with the same username and password as your Windows Phone itself, and then download the Windows Phone App Studio app from the Store. After that, you open the app on device, agree to the terms, and head to Settings/Phone Update to begin downloading Windows Phone 8.1 itself.

The update doesn’t take too long to download, but app migration takes about half an hour to an hour depending on the speed of your device. There’s also a small chance you’ll void your warranty with the update. If you manage to install it, let us know how you like it, and on which device you installed it.