A quickly deleted page on the Windows Phone 8.1 web site suggests that this version of Microsoft's smart OS was originally going to have a folders feature, similar to what's currently available in Android and iOS. The good news? It may appear in a future update.
In many ways, the most interesting thing about Windows Phone 8.1 is how transparent the whole release has been, not just from a feature set perspective, but also in how the OS rolls out to users. We've never had this kind of insight into the process so early in the game, and it's fascinating to watch Microsoft issue post-RTM updates—even mostly innocuous updates with no new features—as wireless carriers build up to the general release.
And this week, revelations about a folders feature builds on a number of other features that were originally supposed to be included in Windows Phone 8.1, including Kinect-like gesture support called 3D Touch. My suspicion is that we won't need to wait for Windows Phone 9/Threshold to see these and other features that didn't quite make the 8.1 cut: Instead, they'll ship via the 2-3 major update releases Microsoft plans between now and 9.0.
News of a folders feature for Windows Phone 8.1 comes courtesy of @ebin_5 on Twitter, who noted documentation for the feature on the Windows Phone web site. This was quickly removed, but it's cached by Google, so we can still see it. (Thanks to Tom Warren for that one.)
The documentation notes that you can now create folders on your Windows Phone Start screen.
"Folders help you keep your Start screen organized by letting you group Tiles the way you like. For example, you might have a folder with all your games or one with your favorite apps. It's completely up to you. Your phone might even already have a folder on the Start screen, such as a Music + Videos folder. After you create a folder, you can name it, move it, resize it, and add or remove Tiles from it whenever you want."
Creating a folder will work as it does on Android and iOS: Just tap and hold on a tile to select it, and then drag that tile on top of another tile. To name the folder, tap Name folder, and then type whatever name you like.
It's not clear from the description what an open folder will look like. But it appears that they won't be full screen since you have to tap outside the folder—again, as you do on Android and iOS—to close it. Likewise, you will remove an app from a folder as you do on the other platforms: Tap and hold to select and then drag it outside the folder.
The documentation notes that you must have the Windows Phone 8.1 Update to use the folder feature. But we already know this feature isn't included in Windows Phone 8.1. This is why I'm wondering about a future update.
And if you're really pining for folders now—it is a fairly obvious and necessary feature—you could of course use the Nokia App Folder app I wrote about back in January. It's not great, but it will get the job done.