Jolla today added another chapter to its resurrection story by announcing a brand new smartphone and device community. The Jolla C is a simple handset that runs Sailfish OS 2.0. The phone has a 5-inch 720p HD screen; 1.3 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 212 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage; 8-megapixel main camera and 2-megaixel selfie camera; and a removable 2,500mAh battery. The phone includes the typical batch of radios, but LTE support is limited to bands 1, 3, 7, and 20, which makes it incompatible with U.S. networks. Further, Jolla has created a new community around the Jolla C meant for developers and enthusiasts. The program includes access to support sessions, developer materials, and invitations to community events. Jolla is limiting the Jolla C smartphone to just 1,000 units, and is reassuring those interested that the device is already being manufactured and will ship in July. (Jolla reneged on some hardware shipments last year.) Jolla was created by former Nokia employees and Sailfish OS was born from the Ashes of Moblin/Maemo Linux.
Microsoft today said it plans to further streamline its smartphone business, an action that includes job cuts and restructuring charges. The company plans to cut 1,350 jobs from its facilities in Finland, as well as another 500 jobs globally. The company expects to take a charge of about $950 million, of which $200 million will be used for severance packages. "We are focusing our phone efforts where we have differentiation — with enterprises that value security, manageability, and our Continuum capability, and consumers who value the same," said Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO. "We will continue to innovate across devices and on our cloud services across all mobile platforms." Microsoft says it expects to complete most job cuts by the end of this year and all cuts by July 2017. Sales of Windows 10 Mobile phones began in late 2015, but the platform has lost more ground since then, accounting for just 1% of smartphone sales during the first quarter, according to Gartner. Microsoft recently sold its feature phone business to a Foxconn subsidiary, and Nokia recently gave that same subsidiary the rights to use its brand on mobile devices. This paves the way for Nokia to make a return, of sorts, to the mobile phone business.
Nokia and Microsoft today put in motion a series of deals that will eventually lead to Nokia-branded handsets returning to the market. Microsoft has agreed to sell its feature phone business to FIH Mobile Limited, a subsidiary of Foxconn, for about $350 million. The deal will include the transfer of select assets, such as manufacturing facilities and about 4,500 employees. At the same time, Nokia has agree to license its brand to Finland-based HMD global Oy, which has partnered with FIH Mobile to make smartphones and tablets. HMD expects to spend $500 million over the next few years to increase its ability to make and market mobile devices. Nokia said in addition to branding rights, it will supply HMD with cellular standard essential patent licenses in return for loyalty payments. Nokia itself will not invest in HMD. FIH Mobile's parent company, Foxconn, manufacturers the iPhone for Apple.
The FCC and FTC today asked carriers and phone manufacturers how they handle security updates for their devices. The FCC sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and other carriers, while the FTC queried Apple, Blackberry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, and Samsung. In particular, the agencies want to know: the factors carriers/OEMs consider in deciding whether to patch a vulnerability on a particular phone; data on the specific phones sold in the U.S. since August 2013; the vulnerabilities that have affected those devices; and whether and when the company patched such vulnerabilities. The government said the line of inquiry is to help it further understand how these companies do or do not protect consumers. "Consumers may be left unprotected, for long periods of time or even indefinitely, by any delays in patching vulnerabilities once they are discovered," said the FCC. "To date, operating system providers, original equipment manufacturers, and mobile service providers have responded to address vulnerabilities as they arise. There are, however, significant delays in delivering patches to actual devices — and that older devices may never be patched." Google provides monthly security updates to Nexus-branded Android devices, but individual phone makers lag badly. Apple provides occasional updates.
Microsoft recently demonstrated new touchscreen technology that can anticipate users' actions and call up different controls, options, or menus to suit the current task. Pre-touch sensing helps the phone determine how the user is gripping the phone, as well as where the user's fingers are approaching the display. Using these cues, the device is able to provide adaptive user interfaces that are specific to the context of how the phone is being held and used. In a video, Ken Hinckley, principal researcher at Microsoft, shows how users can access video controls that vary depending on if the phone is being held in one or both hands. Pre-touch sensing can also help better differentiate between flicking gestures, selecting text, and highlighting content. The technology is in a developmental stage and Microsoft hasn't said if or when it may bring pre-touch sensing to consumer devices.
Nokia today said it plans to acquire Withings for about $192 million in cash. Nokia hopes the acquisition will help it make a stronger push into the markets for wearables and the internet of things. Withings, based in France, has a wide range of connected products, including scales, activity trackers, thermometers, home monitors and more. The company also has a robust platform in place to manage these products and a larger ecosystem of compatible devices. "We are now starting a new chapter as a company," said Ramzi Haidamus, President Nokia Technologies, "this one focused on connecting you to better health through technology." Nokia has changed dramatically over the last few years. It sold its handset business to Microsoft, sold its HERE Maps division to a consortium of German car makers, and acquired Alcatel-Lucent to shore up its core networking business. Nokia expects to close its acquisition of Withings during the third quarter of the year.
Microsoft is looking to clear inventory of the Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 950 smartphones, which means consumers can buy one at full price and get the second one for free. The deal is available via Microsoft's U.S. web store. Specifically, people who purchase the 950 XL at $649 will receive a Lumia 950, valued at $549, for free. Both devices are being sold unlocked with support for GSM carriers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. The promotion is available while supplies last through May 2. Microsoft reported shipments of about 2.3 million Lumia phones in its most recent financial documents, which represents a steep drop from the 8.6 million it shipped in the year-ago period. The company admitted it is sitting on a lot of excess inventory of its flagship Windows 10 Mobile devices. Moreover, the company expects "year over year revenue declines to deepen as we work through our Lumia channel position." Cricket Wireless is expected to launch Microsoft's mid-range model, the Lumia 650, early next month. Microsoft has recently pushed a significant update to its Windows 10 Mobile platform and updated core apps such as email, Groove Music, and the Edge browser.
Cricket Wireless today announced plans to sell the Microsoft Lumia 650. The prepaid carrier will offer the phone beginning May 6 for $130. The phone runs Windows 10 Mobile and features a metal-frame design with a 5-inch HD OLED display, 8-megapixel camera, memory card slot, and removable battery. Cricket says people who switch from another carrier will be eligible for a $50 bill credit. T-Mobile customers who switch to Cricket will be eligible for a $100 bill credit. Cricket's prepaid plans start at $40 per month.
Microsoft today said an update to Outlook for Android and iOS will allow users to add calendars from Facebook, Evernote, and Wunderlist. The integration supports events, notes, and reminders. Individual calendars can be color-coded for easy visibility. The features comes from the Sunrise email service, which Microsoft purchased last year. Microsoft believes integrating more calendars with Outlook will help people better plan their work and personal lives. Outlook for Android and iOS are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Microsoft is giving Skype a boost of intelligence thanks to Cortana and Skype Bots. With Cortana integration, Skype users will be able to do things such as manage their calendar and contacts without leaving the Skype app. Cortana will also be able to interact with bots, which Microsoft said will allow people to perform tasks such as book hotels and order pizza by conversing with the app itself. Bots are available in preview form within the messaging part of Skype, but will eventually be added to audio and video calling, too. A new version of Skype for Android, iOS, and Windows enables the bots. Companies will be able to create their own bots for Skype via Microsoft's developer program. People will be able to add the bots they want to their contact list. Microsoft revealed the bots are part of its larger vision for voice-activated computing.
Microsoft has begun making Windows 10 Mobile available to older smartphones running Windows Phone 8.1. Microsoft first expected to release the platform in November or December of last year, but pushed the update to the first quarter. The new operating system is available to the Lumia 430, 435, 532, 535, 540, 635, 640, 640 XL, 730/735, 830, 930, and 1520. Owners of these phones must first download the Upgrade Advisor app from the Windows Store and accept the terms and conditions of the upgrade. Once this proactive step is taken, the phone is prepared for Windows 10 and Microsoft will deliver it as an over-the-air update. Microsoft hasn't said if handsets other than this initial batch will be able to install Windows 10 Mobile. There are some significant omissions, such as the Lumia 520, 920, 1020, 1320, HTC One M8 for Windows, and the Lumia Icon. The refreshed platform makes improvements to Cortana and Office, and puts the mobile experience in line with Windows 10 desktop machines.
Microsoft today expanded Skype's calling and messaging functions to the online versions of Office and OneDrive. People will be able to initiate Skype conversations when using the web-based Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and OneDrive apps. Microsoft imagines the feature will be useful for people who need to collaborate on files in real time. Microsoft recently gave these same tools to the mobile versions of Office and OneDrive. Skype, Office, and OneDrive are free for Android, iOS, and Windows, but some Office functions require a subscription to Office 365.
WhatsApp plans to cease supporting a handful of older mobile operating systems by the end of the year. WhatsApp will stop working on devices running Android 2.1 and 2.2; all BlackBerry OSes, including BlackBerry 10; Nokia's S40 and Symbian S60 platforms; and Windows Phone 7.1. "While these mobile devices have been an important part of our story, they don't offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app's features in the future," explained WhatsApp in a blog post. WhatsApp suggests people relying on devices that run this operating systems upgrade to newer hardware if they wish to continue using WhatsApp. Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014 for $16 billion. Facebook says WhatsApp has more than 1 billion users worldwide.
Jolla today announced that Intex Technologies has licensed Sailfish OS and put it in the Aqua Fish handset. The Aqua Fish is the first handset to run Sailfish OS outside of the phones made by Jolla itself. Intex said the phone will include Super Apps, which are accessible by swiping the home screen. These apps include the Gaana music service and Snapdeal. Intex plans to sell the Aqua Fish in India before the end of the second quarter. Jolla and Intex didn't provide any details about the hardware. Jolla also struck a deal with mi-Fone, which said it plans to bring a Sailfish OS handset to select African countries during the second quarter of the year. Last, Jolla said Fairphone is considering using Sailfish OS in the Fairphone 2. Fairphone is an ethical company that makes handsets responsibly with conflict-free minerals. Jolla is composed primarily of former Nokia employees and Sailfish OS is based on the Meego Linux platform. Jolla no longer intends to make its own hardware and is instead licensing Sailfish OS to phone makers as an alternative to Android, Tizen, iOS, Windows Phone, and others.
Microsoft recently updated its Next Lock Screen app for Android devices with support for fingerprint readers. Now, people who own Android handsets that are equipped with fingerprint sensors can use the fingerprint scanner to unlock the phone and bypass the Next Lock Screen. The app also gains smart contacts, which learns and displays the names of people called or texted. The smart lock feature lets users set rules for whether or not a passcode is needed when at home or work. The update also restores location-based wallpapers and fixes bugs. Microsoft's Next Lock Screen for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri today reiterated that the company would like to return to the phone business, but said it is in no rush. Speaking at the Mobile World Congress trade show, Suri noted that Nokia will not manufacture its own handsets, but will instead license its brand to an outside manufacturer. The company wants to play a role in designing the phones to ensure the Nokia brand is well represented, but so far is still just looking. "For us the business model is one of no traditional manufacturing, no channel or nothing we are just basically licensing our brand," said Suri. "The partner will have to pay us an IP license for it and royalty on the brand use, and we want to be in a position to design the devices in question with appropriate control measures should the partner not work to our standard. This takes time. We need to find the right partner." Suri had originally said such a deal might be struck late this year, but stepped back from that timeline, suggesting Nokia may not re-enter the phone market until 2017 or beyond. Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft, which divested the manufacturing facilities. Nokia no longer has the capacity to manufacture phones. Its primary focus remains its telecommunications and networking business.
Line today said it plans to close its MixRadio streaming music service. MixRadio was initially developed by Nokia for Windows Phone, sold to Microsoft, and later sold to Line. Line later released MixRadio to the Android and iOS platforms. Line says the music service simply isn't viable. Line's core product is a mobile messaging service. "After a careful assessment of the subsidiary's overall performance, the financial challenges posed by the music streaming market, and priorities of Line, Line has determined that future growth would be difficult to ensure and decided to discontinue the MixRadio music streaming service," said the company in a blog post. The company, which focuses its efforts in is Asia, had hoped the music service would help it expand. Moving forward, Line will remain focused on Asia.
Microsoft's web site suggests the Lumia 650 will be sold by Cricket Wireless, though Cricket has not confirmed that. The U.S. support page for the Lumia 650 mentions a Cricket variant, and includes a user manual for the 650 that names Cricket throughout. Additionally, documents spotted on the FCC web site confirm at least one version of the Lumia 650 supports U.S. LTE bands, including 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, and 17, which means it can operate on the networks run by AT&T / Cricket and T-Mobile / MetroPCS. Neither Cricket nor Microsoft have officially said if or when the phone might be sold to U.S. consumers.
VAIO has unveiled a smartphone running Microsoft's Windows 10 platform for its home market of Japan. The VAIO Phone Biz is a stylish handset with aluminum unibody construction and mid-range specifications. It includes a 5.5-inch full HD screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, 16 GB of storage, 3 GB of RAM, and a 2800mAh battery. The Phone Biz offers a 13-megapixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera. It can run Microsoft's Continuum software, which allows it to act like a full Windows 10 PC when hooked up to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. VAIO will sell the phone in Japan for approximately $424 beginning in April. VAIO is Sony's former PC business, which it spun off several years ago. The VAIO Phone Biz won't be sold in the U.S., but is notable due to its design and the fact that it is the first VAIO-branded Windows smartphone. The VAIO Phone Biz isn't as capable on a spec basis as Microsoft's own Lumia 950 and 950 XL phones, but it is more stylish and less expensive.
Microsoft today said it has acquired SwiftKey, a company that develops software keyboards for Android and iOS devices. SwiftKey has strong word prediction capabilities, and is often able to suggest not only the word being typed, but what word might come next. Microsoft said SwiftKey's technology aligns with its own vision of "personal computing experiences that anticipate our needs versus responding to our commands." Microsoft also finds SwiftKey's use of artificial intelligence and prediction interesting. SwiftKey employees will be added to Microsoft's roster, where they will continue their work and enhance Microsoft's own Word Flow software keyboard for Windows. Microsoft said the SwiftKey app will continue to be available to Android and iOS devices. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Turing Robotics Industries today informed those who preordered its smartphone that the device will ship with Sailfish OS instead of Android. The Turing Phone was first announced last year. Turing Robotics pitched the phone as an ultra-secure handset for those seeking private communications. When first announced, Turing said the phone would run Android 5.1 Lollipop. In a newsletter emailed to supporters, however, Turing confirmed plans to drop Android for Jolla's Sailfish OS. Turing says its phone "will still be able to run Android Apps on the Sailfish OS without issue" and "an Android application store will be available for you to download your favorite apps." A Turing representative could not tell Phonescoop if the Android app store referenced in the newsletter is the Google Play Store or some other Android app store. Turing claims the phone runs very quickly with Sailfish OS on board and the company expects the phone to ship in April. Sailfish OS was created by Jolla, composed chiefly of former Nokia employees. Sailfish is based on the discarded Meego Linux platform. Late last year, Jolla ran into financial difficulties and laid off a significant portion of its staff. The company also cancelled its hardware plans, including a phone and tablet. Jolla now exists to license Sailfish OS to other OEMs. Turing is one of the first companies to voice support for the fledgling platform.
Nokia today said it has reached an agreement with Samsung over the licensing of its wireless patents. The companies have been disputing the value of Nokia's patents since Nokia sold its handset division to Microsoft. Samsung said the sale violated the terms of the existing licensing agreement between the two. The firms have finally set new licensing terms, but did not disclose the financial details. Nokia is facing a similar issue with LG, and is expected to renegotiate licensing terms with Apple in the next few years. Even though Microsoft owns Nokia's former handset business, Nokia maintained ownership of its patent portfolio, which it continues to license out to other companies. Nokia's core business, however, is now its telecommunications networking equipment division. Nokia is currently integrating its telecom gear business with Alcatel-Lucent.
Microsoft has updated Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Apple's iOS platform with a handful of new features. Most significantly, the Office productivity suite now supports 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, which can be used to call up actions such as opening or creating files. All three apps also gain support for the Apple Pencil for use with the iPad Pro, and compatibility with iOS 9's Spotlight Search tool. Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are free to download from the iTunes App Store, though some features require a subscription to Office 365.
Cricket Wireless is looking to entice people to switch to its network by offering discounts on a number of smartphones. Beginning January 22, consumers who port their number to Cricket can buy the Samsung Galaxy S6 for $399.99, a savings of $100 over the normal retail price. Cricket is making similar discounts, ranging from $20 to $50, available to a dozen other devices, including the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 ($109.99), ZTE Grand X Max ($99.99), HTC Desire 626s ($89.99), and Microsoft Lumia 640 ($79.99). The promotion runs for a limited time. Cricket's service plans start at $40 per month. Wireless carriers are competing for customers fiercely. With most Americans already carrying a smartphone, the only way for carriers to score new customers is to steal them from rivals.
Nokia today said it has officially taken the reigns of Alcatel-Lucent after its public exchange offer for Alcatel-Lucent was accepted by the French stock market authority. Nokia expects to merge the two companies in order to form a telecommunications powerhouse to compete against Ericsson, ZTE, and others. "We will move quickly to execute our integration plans," said Rajeev Suri, President and CEO of Nokia. "Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent will offer a combined end-to-end portfolio of the scope and scale to meet the needs of our global customers. We will have unparalleled R&D and innovation capabilities, which we will use to lead the world in creating next-generation technology and services." Nokia already divested its handset business to Microsoft and its HERE mapping business to a consortium of automakers. The telecommunications business is now Nokia's core focus.
Microsoft has removed the Hey, Cortana catchphrase from the Cortana app for Android devices. Uttering the phrase within earshot of an Android handset could launch Cortana. A bug, however, locked up Google Now on some users' devices an in some instances impeded the ability to make phone calls. A recent update to the Android Cortana removes the Hey, Cortana feature and makes several other tweaks, such as improving calling and messaging actions. Microsoft did not say if or when the feature might return. Cortona is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Jolla today said it has secured new financing and will thus continue operations. The company recently laid off a large percentage of workers after it appeared the funding wouldn't go through. Jolla didn't name its new investors, but said it has secured enough cash to move forward with a somewhat altered business model. "This investment enables the continuation of Sailfish OS development, the community activities, and other company operations," said Jolla co-founder and chairman Antti Saarnio. "It's clear that this recent struggle hit us hard and left some battle wounds, but most importantly this means that the development and life of Sailfish OS will continue strong." Jolla will now focus the bulk of its energy on improving and advancing Sailfish OS, and licensing the platform to hardware makers. Saarnio said good licensing opportunities exist in Russia, India, and China. Jolla will soon determine how best to resolve issues with its tablet. Jolla invested the bulk of the capital generated by crowd-funding efforts in the software, rather than the hardware. This has left Jolla unable to complete the tablet. Jolla wants to take care of its supporters, but hasn't yet figured out how. Jolla firmly believes the world needs an alternate mobile operating system to today's market leaders. "The mobile OS landscape is currently going through a very interesting phase. While many OS projects are fading, the need for alternative OS's is strong," said Saarnio. Sailfish OS is based on Linux, with code pulled from Nokia's discarded Maemo platform. The company, based in Finland, is chiefly composed of former Nokia employees.
Microsoft today released Windows 10 Technical Preview build 11082 to members of the Windows Insider program. According to Microsoft, this preview chiefly impacts the OneCore, which is the heart of Windows across all platforms. The updated OneCore code improves stability and performance for phones, tablets, and PCs. The changes to the OneCore will also make sure developers are able to code and check their own apps for Windows 10 devices. Microsoft says Windows Insiders can expect to see more frequent updates beginning January 2016.
Microsoft is delivering a significant update to its Groove music app for Windows 10 Mobile. The company is also updating the Movies and TV application. Groove for Windows 10 Mobile now automatically sorts songs by the date they were added, though it is easy to view by song, artist, and album as well. The secondary menu can be accessed by swiping from the left for improved one-handed use. A long press will scramble tracks within a playlist. The app shows download progress in the title bar and lets users access the download manager from the left navigation menu. Groove interacts with Cortana, which will respond to requests such as "Play Rock" to start listening to shuffled rock songs. The update also improves how Groove music performs through Continuum (when connected to monitors). The artist gallery now has better spacing and alignment, and the artist detail pages are improved with larger resolutions. Search results now look better at higher resolutions, too. The update to Microsoft Movies and TV applies to the universal app, which means smartphones, tablets, and PCs. It now shows cast and crew information, queues up sequential TV episodes, and features a better downloading experience. Groove music and Movies and TV are free to download from the Microsoft Store.
Microsoft today said its affordable Windows 10 Mobile handset, the Lumia 550, is now available in select markets. The 550 offers a 4.7-inch HD display, 4G LTE, 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture, and 2-megapizel front camera. It uses a 1.1 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor and includes 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. Microsoft hasn't announced a U.S. version of the Lumia 550, and it's unclear if it will ever be made available here. It costs $139.
Nokia today said it has closed the sale of its HERE Maps business to a consortium of automobile manufacturers, including Audi, BMW, and Daimler. The sale leaves its telecommunications equipment unit as Nokia's core concern moving forward. The company already divested its handset business to Microsoft, and expects to close its acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent early next year.
Microsoft has given its business customers a new tool by integrating its Power BI product into Cortana. Power BI provides access to company-specific data, such as financial filings and performance reports. Together with Cortana, Power BI allows Windows 10 users to ask Cortana for information such as average sales prices of core products, or recent revenue numbers. Microsoft says the idea is to make it easier and more natural for people to ask for and receive data about their company. Microsoft is offering Power BI to Windows 10 desktop users as a preview. Microsoft didn't say if or when Power BI integration might reach Windows 10 Mobile.
Jolla today said the company is restructuring its finances and laying off the bulk of its employees. Jolla was launched by former Nokia employees and created Sailfish OS and several phones and tablets. The idea was to offer an alternative to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Sailfish was built from Nokia's old Moblin and Maemo Linux platforms. Jolla Chairman and Co-Founder Antti Saarnio says Sailfish OS is commercially mature and ready to be licensed to other hardware makers. Jolla has burned through most of its cash, however, and needs to take time to regroup. The company will let go of the majority of its employees while restructuring its debt, although it insists the layoffs are temporary. "In Finland we have very good laws for corporate restructuring. These enable the continuation of businesses through debt restructuring, which gives a company more time to take care of its financial liabilities," said Saarnio. "I believe that through this program Jolla can turn its business to be profitable in the future. Sailfish OS is a very valuable asset and worth fighting for." Saarnio claims Jolla has several large and small OEMs considering Sailfish OS for their own hardware. He did not suggest how long it might take for Jolla to get its finances back in order, nor when it might re-hire its employees.
Cricket Wireless today kicked off a promotions to entice consumers to port their number to Cricket. People who switch to Cricket between today and Dec. 6 will earn a $100 Cricket Shopping Card. The card can be used for monthly service, handsets, and accessories at Cricket stores. Cricket said it will let new customers combine this deal with existing mail-in rebate promos on select phones to save even more money. For example, Cricket is offering the LG Risio, Motorola Moto E, Nokia Lumia 635, and the ZTE Overture 2 for free after rebates. The rebates are available to all customers through Jan. 7. The $100 gift card is only available to new customers.
Microsoft has made Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview build 10586 available to Windows Insiders. This build focuses on cleaning up bugs, according to Microsoft. For example, Microsoft resolved an issue that corrupted the Start screen. It also made it possible to set memory cards as the default storage location and cleaned up corruption issues that renamed memory cards. Messaging and Skype have been improved with conversation-loading fixes. The camera button on phones that have them should be working once more. Last, apps and games should download from the Microsoft Store more reliably. There are still some known issues in the preview, but Microsoft says the build performs well. Windows 10 Mobile is nearing public readiness. Microsoft has said the operating system will reach consumers in December. This week also marks the launch of the first Windows 10 Mobile smartphones. Microsoft has made the Lumia 950 and 950 XL available from its web site, and AT&T is selling the Lumia 950 in stores starting Friday.
Microsoft has dialed back efforts to port Android apps to the Windows 10 platform, reports Windows Central. In April, Microsoft announced plans to allow app writers to port iOS, web, Win32, and Android apps to the Windows 10 platform. The Android tool, called Project Astoria, is an emulator and not an actual port. This means Android apps would run in a software container on Windows devices, rather than on the device natively. Windows Central says Project Astoria forums have been silent for several months and Microsoft hasn't responded to Astoria-focused questions for some time, even to those under NDA. Moreover, recent Windows 10 Mobile Technical Previews have stripped out the Android subsystem. When asked for comment, Microsoft said, "We're committed to offering developers many options to bring their apps to the Windows Platform, including bridges available now for web and iOS, and soon Win32. The Astoria bridge is not ready yet, but other tools offer great options for developers." Microsoft didn't expressly say Project Astoria has been cancelled, but the Android port is clearly no longer a priority. The idea behind all these app-porting tools is to get more apps onto Windows-based handsets. One of the major critiques of Windows mobile phones has been the poor app experience when compared to Android and iOS devices.
Microsoft today released another technical preview of Windows 10 Mobile. Rather than stuff the release with new features, Microsoft said it focused on cleaning up bugs and improving performance. Chiefly, build 10581 will allow people to upgrade from earlier preview builds without first reverting to Windows Phone 8.1; testers can go straight from 10549 or 10572 to 10581. Microsoft resolved an issue that prevented "Hey, Cortana" from functioning on the Lumia 930 and 1520; made it possible to select photos for sharing through third-party messaging apps; and tweaked text prediction and auto-correct. Microsoft says battery life should be improved, as should video recording and visual voicemail syncing. The Windows 10 Mobile technical preview is not for consumers and is for testing purposes only. Microsoft is expected to release Windows 10 Mobile to the general public in December.
Microsoft is weighing what to do with the mobile wallet app that's part of the Windows 10 Mobile platform. The operating system already has a basic wallet app (since Windows Phone 8) for storing credit card and loyalty card data, but it stops short of making mobile payments. Joe Belfiore, corporate VP of Microsoft's operating systems group, said, "Windows is going to have a wallet concept. You've seen it on phones before. We're going to continue to iterate it. We're going to think about the range of payment scenarios." Belfiore did not say if or when any type of mobile payment service might launch, nor what technology it might rely on. However, the spec page for the recently announced Lumia 950 says the smartphone includes "secure NFC for payment." When asked exactly what that referred to, Microsoft told Phone Scoop, "We have nothing to share." Belfiore admitted that mobile payments are not easy to implement. "[Mobile payments] is just one of these things that is a massive network of complexity," Belfiore said. "I think the biggest challenge is, what effect will cause enough of the right things to align that you’ll get a good experience with all the places that you want it to happen in?" Apple, Google, and Samsung all offer mobile payment platforms that vary a bit in how they function. Despite support from handset makers, carriers, retailers, and financial institutions, mobile payments have yet to go mainstream. Even so, it would behoove Microsoft to make sure its smartphone platform can compete with the industry leaders.
Nokia's attempt to acquire Alcatel-Lucent has cleared another hurdle now that it has won approval from China's Ministry of Commerce. The anti-monopoly body will allow the proposal to move forward under certain conditions, which mostly pertain to licensing standard essential patents. The deal has already won approval from most governmental bodies around the world and is awaiting only for approval from France, Alcatel-Lucent's home country. Nokia expects to close the deal during the first half of 2016.
Microsoft today made Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview build 10549 available to testers in the Windows Insider program. Microsoft says a bug in the new preview mandates that devices first downgrade to Windows Phone 8.1, rather than install from the most recent technical preview (10536). People already using one of the technical previews can revert to Windows Phone 8.1 using the Windows Recovery Tool. Once WP8.1 is loaded and the Windows Insider app is re-installed, Fast Ring subscribers can update to 10549. The new build makes improvements to Cortana and the messaging application, and adds a more diverse set of emoji. Microsoft said it has resolved some bugs impacting the previous build, such as the camera, notifications, screenshots, and apps stored on memory cards. Microsoft also notes that pinch-to-zoom should work properly within maps, and some ringtone behaviors have been smoothed over. As always, the technical preview includes some known issues, and Microsoft warns that the build is for testing purposes only and not meant for consumers. Microsoft is expected to release Windows 10 Mobile to the general public in December.