Microsoft has added lots of different features to its Xbox One video game and entertainment console over the last year or so, but none of them will likely have as large an impact as the feature the company is adding this week. Soon Xbox One users will get voice messages functionality very similar to what is available on the Xbox 360.
Microsoft announced the features in its second Xbox One update for Xbox Preview Program members late Thursday in a post on its MajorNelson blog. All told, the update includes just two real features for anyone living in the United States. There’s a third feature coming for those who live abroad.
The new voice messages feature coming in the Xbox One update works similar to how the Xbox 360 does. Xbox One owners can now use their Xbox One Chat Headset or Kinect 2 sensor to record small audio messages and pass them on to friends. It’s a feature that the Xbox 360 offered for years, but didn’t make it to the Xbox One for some reason. Voice messages are directly integrated into the Messages app, meaning users will need to snap the app to the side of their screen to record and send a voice message. Certainly, sending a voice message beats trying to type out messages with the Xbox One’s on-screen keyboard.
Interestingly enough, Microsoft seems to be tying the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One together with Xbox Live when it makes sense. Voice messages are cross-platform meaning, Xbox 360 and Xbox One users can exchange voice messages with no problem. That’s a huge upgrade. It appears that the Xbox One connects to a different version of Xbox Live that the Xbox 360 simply doesn’t have access to. The Xbox 360 can’t see the video clips recording by Xbox One and Windows 10 users.
It does understand Xbox Live Friends, but has no concept of followers. There’s no Activity Feed and no upgraded reputation system. Skype isn’t available on the Xbox 360 at all. The Xbox 360 remains frozen in time, a relic of how gaming was back in 2012. Whether Microsoft plans to address this with a future software update is anyone’s guess, but it does seem counterintuitive for the Xbox 360 to not have access to some features that aren’t hardware dependent. The company did unveil an Xbox 360 Preview Program around a month ago.
Besides voice messages, this new Xbox One update adds dedicated servers for Party Chat. That’s a short way of saying that Microsoft has engineered the Party app so that it offloads some functionality to Xbox Live instead of hosting it locally on the Xbox One. The change should mean that chatting with friends and family in the Xbox Live Party app is stable and works correctly the first time. Previously, the Party app connected two Xbox Ones together for Party chat. Sometimes the system worked great and other times someone’s router setup makes the Party app a bit of a hassle.
With this update Xbox One owners in the United Kingdom and Canada now see the What’s On area on their Xbox One home screen. What’s On is where Microsoft surfaces popular YouTube videos, Twitch gaming broadcasts and popular video purchases from the Xbox Video Store. The area launched in the United States last year.
Again, only members of the Xbox Preview Program will get these features in the next few days. If the company stays true to form, Xbox One owners who aren’t members of the Xbox Preview Program will get voice messages and improved Party chat sometime in April.
To check for updates, go into the Xbox One’s Settings app and look for an available update in the System area. If you have low-power mode enabled on your Xbox One – and it is by default – your Xbox One will download the update when it’s ready.