14/04/2014 - Microsoft offers early download of Windows Phone 8.1
We get it. You want to download Windows Phone 8.1 as soon as possible just to see if Cortana is really as cool on a mobile device as she is in the Halo series. Or, perhaps it's the new Action Center and swipe keyboard that strike your fancy. Whatever reason you have for wanting to play with the latest version of Windows Phone ASAP, now's your chance. Microsoft has just announced that a developer preview of the new update is finally available for download, but as the name of the build implies, this is meant for third-party developers so they can get a good head start in prepping their apps ahead of widespread release. That said, you can still get in on the action, even if you've never written a line of code in your life -- there's just a few risks involved.
It's been a long time coming, but Skype's revealed that folks can finally sign up for service using a Microsoft account. Skype believes this feature is perfect for users who perhaps want the least amount of logins possible, and it also points to Microsoft's two-step verification as a benefit for having such an account. Meanwhile, the Windows Phone app has been updated with a number of security improvements, plus an indicator which lets you know when the person on the other side is typing. As part of the integration with its parent company, Skype will now require a Microsoft account (like the one used to set up your WP device) when registering for a new account through the application. This new version is only available for Windows Phone 8, however -- as you might recall, support for the app on earlier versions of the OS was cut off months ago.
Via: The Next Web
23/02/2014 - Microsoft: Windows Phone 8.1 will come with more hardware support and is backwards-compatible
Microsoft has made a few announcements related to Windows Phone 8.1 this afternoon in Barcelona. While we don't expect to see the new update in its entirety until April, we got at least a few satisfying nuggets of info today. First, we're going to see a lot more flexible support for hardware: 8.1 will be able to support more Qualcomm chipsets, such as Snapdragon 200, 400 and 400 LTE; it will come with TD-LTE, TD-SCDMA and SGLTE support, the ability for phones to use dual-SIM, apps on microSD and virtual softkeys instead of capacitive keys. Devices won't be required to have a hardware camera shutter key anymore, either (but it's still offered as an option anyway). Additionally, we've been told that devices currently on Windows Phone 8 will be able to get an update to 8.1, so it's fortunately backwards-compatible to some degree.
With the new update, Microsoft is going to introduce support for dual SIM devices, which is huge in developing areas of the world. As part of this support, WP8.1 will offer Live Tiles for each SIM, as well as the option to link messaging tiles together for both. Microsoft is also going to be compatible with Qualcomm's Reference Design (QRD), and VP Joe Belfiore brought a Snapdragon 200-powered Windows Phone reference device to show it off. Unfortunately he couldn't show it off to us personally, since there were a few things he didn't want us to see, but it's refreshing to see such sweeping hardware opportunities; this opens up more ability for growth in global market share.
With each new update, Microsoft's Windows Phone platform resolves more and more concerns that we've had ever since its initial launch three years ago. According to Tom Warren at The Verge, Microsoft has a new update in the works -- currently known to us as Windows Phone 8.1 -- that will implement a new Notification Center as well as a personal assistant that will be closer to Google Now and Apple's Siri technology. This new version of Windows Phone will reportedly be revealed at the company's BUILD conference in April.
So how exactly will the new Windows Phone Notification Center work? Reportedly, it'll be accessed the same way iOS and Android users are accustomed to: by swiping down from the top of the screen. Not necessarily the most original idea, but if this is true, it would at least be much more familiar to anyone looking to switch to Windows Phone from one of its competing platforms. That's not to say it will be identical, however, as a short swipe would bring up Quick Settings, while a long swipe would display your full history of notifications.
Also, WP8.1 is where Microsoft's Cortana feature would finally come in handy. This will offer much more interaction and personalization than the current Bing Search, in that it will feature more of a contextual learning experience based on location and other personal data. These new features will help make the new WP assistant more competitive with Google Now and Siri.
Source: The Verge
There are plenty of of high profile names currently being bandied about as potential successors to Steve Ballmer's Redmond throne. Stephen Elop's name has been on the tip of a lot of tongues, thanks in no small part to his past Microsoft experience. And just about a month ago, Reuters noted that Ford CEO Alan Mulally's name had been added to the shortlist. Today Bloomberg's usual stable of "people familiar with the matter" note that Qualcomm's COO Steve Mollenkopf has also joined the elite ranks. Certainly the chipmaker has the sort of mobile expertise Microsoft's board is looking for during this ever-important transitional period. Of course the company isn't talking about whether it's considering asking the exec to leave sunny San Diego.
23/09/2013 - Surface and Surface Pro 2 buyers get 200GB SkyDrive storage for two years, free international Skype calls for one year
Need another reason to pick up Microsoft's latest iteration of the Surface tablet, the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2? How's 200GB of free SkyDrive storage for the first two years, plus what Microsoft's calling "the best of Skype" (free international calling and WiFi hotspot access) for the first year? Because that's exactly what you'll get when you plunk down the $450 / $900 for the new Windows tablet line later this year.
Both of Microsoft's services -- SkyDrive for cloud file saving and Skype for online phone / text / video chat -- are part of the purchase price apparently, though that comes with a limited time plan. But is it enough to entice consumers who were already burned once by the first Surface line? That's a question that only time can answer, but we sure don't mind the bonus stuff!
Update: Microsoft's official PR says the deal applies to both versions of the new Surface (RT and Pro) and we've updated our post accordingly. Additionally, that free Skype international calling works for "calling to landlines in more than 60 countries," and the Skype WiFi deal offers unlimited access for that first year.
Follow our liveblog for all of the latest from Microsoft's Surface event!
There are two ways to deliver bad news: an overlong, meandering apology or the 'pull no punches' route. Microsoft, in explaining away future Skype support for Windows Phone 7, went with option number one. You see, it's not you, it's Windows Phone 8. And besides, according to Microsoft, there aren't even really that many of you left on WP7 to merit continued updates. Please understand, this is about the future; it's about integrating Skype into every (viable) Microsoft platform and product and you, forlorn WP7 user, aren't part of that picture. Chin up, though, you can still download the app from the Windows Phone Store. Now don't say Microsoft never gave you anything. Buh bye.
File this one in the "Well, yeah," department. Stephen Elop may have stepped down from his CEO gig at Nokia, but Microsoft's former head of its Business Division may still harbor C-level dreams. In an interview with The Seattle Times, Redmond's soon-to-be-former CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed that Elop is in the running for his gig, stating, "Stephen will go from external [candidate] to internal." So the personable mobile exec will be keeping his name badge either way -- time will tell, of course, which washroom he ultimately gets the key for.
Source: Seattle Times
Got an itchy update trigger finger? If so, your Windows Phone is patiently awaiting. Skype for WP8 just been refreshed to version 2.9, which offers up a couple UI enhancements that should be pretty useful. First, you'll now be able to filter your People list so that you can choose to view only Skype contacts if you prefer; there's also a new contact layout within the app that lets you see more people on one screen. On top of this, you'll also benefit from the obligatory bug fixes and speed improvements -- after all, who doesn't love fewer bugs and getting things done faster? If you do, head straight for the Store and get up to date.
04/07/2013 - Microsoft OneNote Updated
06/06/2013 - Official Twitter app for Windows Phone updated with photo filters, lens app integration
Windows Phone users may be recovering from their Jetpack Joyride ecstasy yesterday, but Twitter is giving its official app some much-needed love today. The latest update, which came down the pipeline this morning, adds such enhancements as lens app integration and the ever-popular photo filter feature complete with eight options to choose from. But that's not all, our WP8-loving friends: you can now also view Vine videos directly within tweets, save tweeted images directly to your phone and refresh lists on-demand. Considering it's been a few months since the last update, this is a solid improvement over the last version.
Hot on the heels of an update to the Windows Phone desktop app for Win 7 and 8, the Modern UI version is now getting a solid refresh of its own. Enhancements include the benefit of browsing documents and adding them directly to the phone from the app, and the opportunity to open files stored on your phone with other programs. It's not the meatiest update, but it's available now in the Windows Store, and adding the document sync feature to the app -- which was already capable of handling most other types of files -- is still some pleasant news.
Source: Windows Store
Slashtop has a proven track record of bringing the full desktop experience to mobile devices, and now its expertise has come to Windows Phone 8 with the launch of the Splashtop 2 app. The remote desktop client for Redmond's latest mobile OS is free to download until August 31st, and promises to connect you with any PC or Mac running its Splashtop Streamer software. If you want to access computers on your home network, then a Slashtop account and the right software is all you need, but if want to get at your desktop from the road, it'll cost $1.99 per month for the privilege. We had a brief tinker with the app running on a Lumia 720, so jump past the break for our impressions.
23/04/2013 - Windows Phone gets an official Tumblr app
You can now scratch one more big name off the list of apps not available on Windows Phone. Tumblr has just released its official app for Microsoft's mobile platform (the latest version of it, at least), offering all the key features found in its iOS and Android counterparts with a distinct Windows Phone flavor. That includes the ability to swipe left and right to switch between the dashboard and "explore" options, and the option to add the latest images from your dashboard to your lock screen or live tiles. You can also rest assured that animated GIFs will remain animated while you scroll.
In response to a customer's question about Windows Phone plans, US Cellular used its official Facebook page to proclaim its intent to launch a WP8 device in the near future. While the representative specifically mentioned Windows 8 (sans "Phone"), we reached out to US Cellular for clarification. A company spokesperson confirmed our suspicions, stating that a device running the mobile platform will indeed be launching. We'll have to wait until next month to get additional details about it, but USCC customers biding their time for a WP8 smartphone will soon have the opportunity to grab one for themselves without making the move to a different carrier.
[Thanks to everyone who sent this in]
We just witnessed the arrival of Pandora on Windows Phone last week, and sometime this week users will be able to enjoy another large title: Temple Run. The flee-from-evil-monkeys thriller has long been available for iOS and Android, but its arrival adds another popular app to Microsoft's arsenal. We've confirmed that the 99-cent title is in fact the original version, with no official word on when or if the sequel will land in the Windows Phone Store. The game is just one of six that plan to debut in conjunction with the Game Developers Conference. The list of the other five includes 6th Planet, Propel Man, Orcs Must Survive, Fling Theory and Ruzzle, and most (if not all) will be available as early as today.
21/03/2013 - Official Pandora app coming to Windows Phone 8 today
At October's Windows Phone 8 launch event, Microsoft's Joe Belfiore stood on stage and eagerly announced a laundry list of popular apps that were confirmed to be coming to the platform in the coming months. To the delight of many, Pandora was on the list -- and to top it all off, the music streaming service would come ad-free for the first year. The question then shifted to when it would actually make it to the Windows Phone Store, and we finally have an answer: today.
The free app will take advantage of a Live Tile in all three possible sizes, the two largest showing which song is currently playing, along with its album cover art. Pandora's arrival also marks another milestone: not only will it be available on Kids Corner, it's also the first app capable of automatically filtering out explicit content when the feature is activated. The service will only be available for Windows Phone 8 devices, but anyone accessing Pandora through alternate apps on Windows Phone 7.x can continue to do so.
Historically, Microsoft has been fairly transparent about its plans to support older versions of Windows -- and it tends to give users a nice, long heads up, too. Until now, though, that hasn't always been true of Windows Phone -- remember how long it took Redmond to confirm you couldn't upgrade to WP8? In any case, Microsoft seems to be taking a more direct approach going forward: the company posted a brief table on its site, explaining when it will end support for Windows Phone 8 and 7.5. In short, each OS gets a total of 18 months of support, and that period has of course already begun, as both operating systems are shipping on various hardware. Support for WP8 will end first, on July 8th, 2014, while 7.5 "Mango" will hit the end of the road on September 9th of that year.
Either way, if you purchased your device on a two-year contract, you might not mind the abrupt end to system updates, as you'll probably be eligible for a new handset by then. And besides, those of you who took a chance on 7.8 surely did so with the understanding that it can't be upgraded to WP8 anyway. What we're really curious about is whether Windows Phone 8 devices can simply be updated to the next version of the OS, entitling owners to another 18 months of support. We'll just have to cliffhanger you on that one.
A new job listing over at Microsoft has revealed when the outfit is planning to serve up the next iteration of its smartphone OS. According to the post, work on the current version is being finished up and they're "getting ready for our next release targeting the holiday of this year." Presumably, the update will be part of the wider Blue umbrella of tweaks for Windows. Though a vague "next release" doesn't offer any details in terms of features, it's likely the OS will carry a significant set of changes as the team in need of a developer is responsible for the Start screen experience, the shell, first party apps and more.
08/02/2013 - Spotify beta now available on Windows Phone 8
It's true, folks: Spotify is finally available as a free download on Windows Phone 8, which should come as a happy surprise for users who have been sorely missing the perks of the music streaming service on their brand new devices. Until now, the app was only available for legacy Windows Phone users, but it's finally made its way to WP8. If you don't see it available in your phone's store, hang on for a few hours; the app just barely started rolling out, so it may take a little while to reach everyone.
The Windows Phone 8 deluge is slowly starting to taper off. HTC and Nokia have made their presence known with loud, bold statements and even Huawei has gotten in on the action. Meanwhile Samsung has already blessed the market with its flagship ATIV S, a respectable rehash of the Galaxy S III with a Microsoft soul. Nokia and HTC even have their respective mid-range models on the market. Which leaves just one slot to be filled: a budget offering from Sammy. With the debut of the ATIV Odyssey it's safe to assume that the Windows Phone landscape won't be changing too dramatically in the immediate future. (Of course, Mobile World Congress could make a liar out of us in short order.)
The ATIV S simply doesn't have the pomp and flash (though, it has the guts) to run with the Lumia 920 and HTC 8X. But in the mid-range, where gimmicks and style often take a backseat to functionality, perhaps Samsung can carve out a space for itself among the Redmond faithful? Last year's Focus 2 and 2011's Focus Flash struck a winning combination of price and functionality by offering comparable specs to their higher-end competitors. Just over a year later, the question is whether that's still a winning combination in a market that's significantly broadened its horizons. Gallery: Samsung ATIV Odyssey review
Gallery: Samsung ATIV Odyssey review
When Microsoft and Nokia married at the temple of Windows Phone last year, the dowry was nothing if not complicated. Nokia had to pay a minimum amount in software royalties to Microsoft regardless of how many Lumia smartphones it sold, but the financial hit was more than cancelled out by "platform support payments" coming back the other way. At some point, however, the net flow of cash was always bound to switch direction, as the cost of the software royalties exceeded Redmond's $250 million quarterly support payments and the whole thing started to mature as something closer to a zero-sum transaction. According to Nokia's latest financial report, that turning point has now been reached and the company's accountants will have to start writing a minus where there used to be a plus. That makes it doubly fortunate that Nokia has just returned to profitability -- at least if future quarters prove it really has.