As promised, Microsoft has begun rolling out Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 for Developer Preview users. This latest release of the OS will be more generally released in the fall through wireless carriers, and adds new features like Live Folders, Apps Corner, and more.

If you're confused about whether you can get this update—or whether you even should get it—no worries. It is a little confusing, since Windows Phone updates are suddenly flying out of Redmond. So here's the short version of what's happening.

Windows Phone 8.1

Microsoft finalized Windows Phone 8.1 (RTM) in early April and made it available to developers and tech enthusiasts early through the Developer Preview program. This program is free, and is available to anyone, though you need to follow a few simple instructions to make it happen. You can find out more in my article Get Windows Phone 8.1 as Soon as Possible.

There are a few important things to understand about this release. First, it's aimed at users with a Windows Phone 8.0-based handset. Second, it is being made available ahead of the general availability (GA) of Windows Phone 8.1, which happens when your wireless carrier begins testing the update and then allows Microsoft to roll it out to their users. The GA version of Windows Phone 8.1 is slightly updated from the RTM version and can include firmware updates from the device maker as well as wireless carrier updates (usually bundled apps).

If you use(d) the Developer Preview program to upgrade from Windows Phone 8.0 to Windows Phone 8.1 RTM, you will theoretically be able to then upgrade to Windows Phone 8.1 GA whenever your wireless carrier OK's that release. But so far, there have been some issues in doing so, so Microsoft has temporarily halted updates from Windows Phone 8.1 RTM (via Developer Preview) to Windows Phone 8.1 GA. You can read about a workaround for this issue in AT&T Rolls Out Windows Phone 8.1 to Nokia Lumia 1520.

Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1

So now Microsoft has completed (the RTM version of) Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, the first major update to Windows Phone 8.1. At the time of this writing—early August 2014—very few people have gotten Windows Phone 8.1 GA via their wireless carriers, though millions of people have gotten Windows Phone 8.1 RTM though the Developer Preview program. But with Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 rolling out to Developer Preview users today, there are questions.

This is understandable. Here's what's up.

If you are on the Developer Preview program—again, check out Get Windows Phone 8.1 as Soon as Possible for details—but have not gotten the GA version of Windows Phone 8.1 through your wireless carrier—and, again, remember that this version includes both firmware updates (from your phone maker) as well as software updates (from your wireless carrier)—then you may be wondering if you need to wait for GA before going to 8.1 Update 1 via the Developer Preview.

You do not need to wait. Those firmware updates (like Nokia's Lumia Cyan update) and carrier updates are separate from the Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 RTM update that is now available. So you can upgrade to Update 1 RTM today and then get the firmware and carrier updates for Windows Phone 8.1 GA whenever your carrier OKs those releases. Again, the firmware and carrier updates are separate from the core OS updates.

If you did already get Windows Phone 8.1 GA—which, again, also includes firmware updates (like Lumia Cyan) plus whatever carrier updates are available—you can likewise get Update 1 RTM today if you would like. Just join the Developer Preview program if you haven't already—again, instructions are available in Get Windows Phone 8.1 as Soon as Possible—and then check for updates. The update(s) are now available.

I'm updating my phones as I write this—despite being in Barcelona, I'm still getting offered the Update 1 RTM courtesy of the Developer Preview program—so I'll be looking at individual Update 1 features in the days ahead. But what I can tell you now is that I'm seeing this update on all of my 8.0+ phones, regardless of whatever firmware, carrier or exact OS update versions they're currently on. All you have to do is join the Developer Preview program and check for updates and you can get it now.

So what are you waiting for? Go nuts!