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Bing for iPhone Let's You Search via Pictures

Today, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has updated its Bing search application for the iPhone and added the ability to search for images captured by the camera. The tool, similar to Google Goggles, lets users take a picture and then use the picture to perform a search. Bing will examine the image and return results that include more pictures of the same thing, as well as information about it. The updated search app can now also provide alerts about movie availability, and help find bus routes and schedules. Microsoft took time to improve the app's launch time, too, and stomped out several bugs. Bing search for the iPhone is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Acer Liquid M330 Runs Windows 10 for $100

Apr 27, 2016, 7:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently added the Acer Liquid M330, a low-cost handset running Windows 10 Mobile, to its U.S. web store. The M330 includes a 4.5-inch screen with 854 by 480 resolution and is powered by a Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and support for 64 GB memory cards. The phone has two 5-megapixel cameras. The rear-facing camera includes autofocus and a flash, while the front-facing camera is fixed focus. It includes a standard batch of radios, such as Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi, and limited LTE support including bands 2, 4, 7, and 12. This makes it somewhat compatible with the 4G networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. The M330 supports two SIM cards. The phone is available directly from Microsoft for $99.99 It is sold unlocked.

Gmail for Android Gains Microsoft Exchange Support

Apr 25, 2016, 12:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 25, 2016, 1:40 PM

Google today said the global Android Gmail app is set to add support for Microsoft Exchange. "Whether you're on Google Apps or Exchange, you can use the Gmail app on any Android device to send and receive mail," said Google in a blog post. Gmail will also be able to support Exchange-based calendars. Gmail has long supported the IMAP and POP email protocols, including Microsoft's Outlook and Hotmail services. Google added Exchange to Gmail back in November 2014, but only Nexus handsets running Lollipop had access to the feature. Providing Exchange support to all Android users is a big win for businesses that rely on Microsoft's email management product. Google says the updated app will be made available from the Google Play Store over the next few days.

Microsoft Rolls Out Lumia 950 BOGO Offer

Apr 25, 2016, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.

Microsoft Sending Invites for Word Flow Keyboard

Apr 25, 2016, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has begun inviting people who registered to test its Word Flow keyboard to download the app from the iTunes App Store. Microsoft had been testing the alternate keyboard in a closed beta, but started accepting signups earlier this month. One the iPhone, Word Flow will support custom backgrounds, one-handed typing, and swiping gestures to spell words. The keyboard was developed by Microsoft's Garage unit, which heads up projects for Android and iOS. Word Flow for the iPhone only supports English at launch. It is free to download and use.

Google and Microsoft Make Nice, Drop Regulatory Complaints

Apr 22, 2016, 12:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft and Alphabet, parent company of Google, have agreed to cease all ongoing regulatory fights between them. Microsoft has complained to US and European Union antitrust regulators often and loudly with respect to Google's search practices and other behaviors. Microsoft said it has changed its legal priorities and would rather compete against Microsoft in the open market for business and for customers. Google said the change in legal strategy is partly due to the firms' dismissal last year of patent lawsuits. "Our companies compete vigorously, but we want to do so on the merits of our products, not in legal proceedings," said Google. Rather than file complaints with governmental bodies, Microsoft and Google will reach out to one another directly if business-related problems arise.

Cricket to Sell Microsoft Lumia 650 Starting May 6

Apr 20, 2016, 9:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 20, 2016, 4:12 PM

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 Beta Testing Word Flow Keyboard for iPhone

Apr 15, 2016, 7:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is one step closer to releasing its Word Flow keyboard to the iPhone. The company is testing the keyboard in a closed beta, but is now allowing consumers to request invitations. Microsoft first announced plans to release the keyboard back in January. One the iPhone, it will support custom backgrounds, one-handed typing, and swiping gestures to spell words. The keyboard is being developed by Microsoft's Garage than, which heads up projects for Android and iOS. Microsoft didn't say when invitations for the keyboard will go out.

Microsoft Releases Hub Keyboard App for iPhone

Apr 8, 2016, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft's Garage team has made a productivity-minded keyboard available to Apple's iOS devices. The keyboard, says Microsoft, works in tandem with an Office 365 account for tapping into OneDrive, Office, and other Microsoft account information. Microsoft suggests users toggle between the standard iOS keyboard and Hub Keyboard when needed, using Hub to grab and share URLs of Office documents or contact details from the phone or associated Office 365 account. It also has an enhanced copy-paste function for doing text between apps, documents, and files. The Hub Keyboard is first available in English for the U.S. and will expand to more languages and countries over time. Microsoft's Garage team focuses on creating apps for Android and iOS devices. It released Hub to the Android platform in February. The app is free to download.

Microsoft Brings Facebook Calendar to Outlook Apps

Apr 7, 2016, 10:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Now Selling the Lumia 650

Apr 1, 2016, 10:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made the Lumia 650 available for purchase from its U.S. web site. 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. Microsoft is selling the phone unlocked for $199. It is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile.

Microsoft Brings the Power of Cortana and Bots to Skype

Mar 30, 2016, 1:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Revises Its Skype Strategy

Mar 24, 2016, 2:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today charted a new course for its Skype platform as realized on mobile devices, tablets, laptops, and PCs. Late last year, Microsoft announced its intent to offer a universal app for PCs and tablets, with separate apps targeting Windows 10 smartphones. After digesting feedback over the last few months, Microsoft has had a change of heart and will offer a universal app for all platforms. This will let people invested in the Windows ecosystem enjoy the same experience across different form factors. However, the company still intends to offer the separate mobile apps for calling, messaging, and video because it says phone users often prefer task-based apps. Microsoft will release the universal Skype app for Windows 10 PCs soon, with a version for phones to follow later.

Latest Windows 10 Preview Targets Browser and Maps

Mar 18, 2016, 7:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made a new build of Windows 10 available to mobile phones and PCs alike. Build 14291 makes significant changes to several important features. First, the Edge browser now supports extensions. Though this feature is limited to PCs, it makes the browser more competitive with Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari. The Edge browser also makes it possible to pin tabs within the app to anchor specific web pages, and adds more options when copying and pasting URLs. This Windows 10 update also heralds big improvements to the Windows Maps app for handsets and PCs. Maps is now more consistent between phones and PCs, and has a lightweight user interface. Some of the features added to Maps include one-tap access to search and directions, Cortana turn-by-turn directions, and quick access to cities rendered in 3D. Microsoft says the new Maps lets users view multiple searches and directions at the same time, minimize search results and directions during navigation, and see labels more clearly. Turn-by-turn navigation is easier to understand at a glance, and now supports landscape orientation. There are a number of other changes to the platform, such as a revised alarm clock app, support for various Japanese text entry modes, and the addition of the Feedback Hub for Windows Insiders to share their thoughts about Windows 10. This build is available to Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring for the Lumia 550, 650, 950, 950 XL, Xiaomi Mi4, and Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL. Microsoft says these devices are on deck for more previews in the weeks ahead.

Windows 10 Mobile Arrives for Some Older Handsets

Mar 17, 2016, 11:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 20, 2016, 10:12 AM

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.

Twitter for Windows 10 Overhauled for Mobile and PCs

Mar 16, 2016, 10:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter for Microsoft's Windows 10 platform has been given a significant update, putting it more in line with the apps available to Android and iOS devices. For example, Twitter now includes the Moments tab for summaries of current events and support for inserting GIFs into tweets. It also adds muting and group chat. As a universal app, these features are available to Windows 10 phones, tablets, and PCs. Twitter is free to download from the Windows Store

Here Maps to Ditch Windows Platforms

Mar 15, 2016, 10:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Here Maps today said it is dropping support for Windows 10 and Windows Phone. The company plans to pull all Here-branded mobile apps from the Windows Store by March 29, as the apps will cease working on handsets by June 30. "We made the Here apps compatible with Windows 10 by using a workaround that will no longer be effective after June 30," explained Here's Pino Bonetti in a blog post. "To continue offering the Here apps for Windows 10 would require us to redevelop the apps from the ground up, a scenario that led to the business decision to remove our apps from the Windows 10 store." This means Here Maps will no longer be available to Windows 10-based smartphones, tablets, and PCs; instead, Here says Windows 10 devices will need to use the Microsoft Maps product. Microsoft Maps relies on Here's mapping data, but doesn't have the robust feature set of the Here Maps apps. Phones running Windows Phone 8/8.1 will still be able to use Here Maps on their devices, but Here will limit any future updates to critical bug fixes. Here Maps, Nokia's former mapping division, is now owned by a consortium of German auto makers including Audi, BMW, and Daimler. The consortium plans to focus efforts on other platforms, including Android and iOS.

Skype for Web Now Supports Calling Mobile Phones

Mar 14, 2016, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has improved the browser-based version of Skype with new several tools. To start, users can now call mobile phones and landlines from the web, including international numbers (Skype credit required). The web client also gains the ability to view YouTube videos directly in message threads, rather than force users to open a separate window. YouTube support includes standard playback controls, such as volume and play/pause. Skype for web makes it easier to invite non-Skype users to join conversations with an improved sharing tool, and new notifications mean web users won't miss incoming messages or calls when signed in. Skype for the web is free to use and is compatible with mobile Skype apps, such as those for Android, iOS, and Windows machines.

Microsoft Tweaks Phone and Email Apps In Newest Win10 Build

Mar 10, 2016, 1:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made Windows 10 Techincal Preview Build 14283 available to Windows Insiders in the fast ring. This build of Windows 10 Mobile makes changes to several core communications apps, including the phone and Outlook Mail. In the phone, for example, Microsoft added missed call and voicemail waiting indicators to the tabs to make spotting them easier. Outlook Mail now allows users to turn off the message preview text in the message list, which adds a bit of privacy. Users can also more swiftly dump junk from their inbox. Outlook's calendar tool can now be used to send alerts, such as "I'll be late" to other meeting attendees. Microsoft is preparing to merge the Windows Feedback app and Insiders Hub into the Feedback Hub to streamline user feedback tools. Build 14283 also resolves a lot of bugs. This Windows 10 Mobile Techincal Preview is available to the Lumia 950, 950 XL, 650, and 550.

Skype Brings Messaging to Office and OneDrive Online

Mar 7, 2016, 12:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.

ZTE Runs Afoul of Commerce Dept., Facing Export Ban

Mar 6, 2016, 9:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE has allegedly violated export rules to Iran and the U.S. Department of Commerce is prepared to restrict what American-made components ZTE is allowed to acquire. The Commerce Department says ZTE "planned and organized a scheme to establish, control, and use a series of 'detached' companies to illicitly re-export controlled items to Iran in violation of U.S. export control laws." Internal documents seen by Reuters suggest ZTE did in fact consider such tactics to get around the ban. Setting up shell companies, explained ZTE in one document, would make it "harder for the U.S. government to trace it or investigate the real flow of the controlled commodities." The company recognized that its behavior put it at risk. Some of the products in question came from Microsoft, Oracle, Dell, and IBM, all of which claim they had no knowledge of ZTE's plans to ship their gear to Iran. The U.S. has long banned the export of certain products — including telecommunications gear — to Iran, Sudan, North Korea, Syria, and Cuba. The Commerce Department's restrictions will require all ZTE's suppliers to apply for an export license to ship U.S. products to ZTE. Beginning Tuesday, those applications will be generally be denied. ZTE's export practices have been under investigation since 2012. What's not clear is if or how the Commerce Department's actions, which chiefly target ZTE's telecommunications gear, will impact the company's handset business. ZTE sells handsets directly online to consumers, as well as through partnerships with U.S. carriers.

SoundHound Releases Hound Voice Assistant to Compete with Siri, Cortana, Google Now

Mar 3, 2016, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

SoundHound has made a voice assistant of its own available to Android and iOS devices in the hopes of providing an alternate to Google-, Apple-, and Microsoft-made assistants. Hound works similarly to Google Now, Siri, and Cortana in that it listens to natural language voice requests and performs select actions in response. It can be used hands-free by stating the "Ok, Hound" catchphrase. Users can ask about the weather, search for local restaurants and their Yelp ratings, plan routes between points, seek out hotel rooms, hail Uber rides, make phone calls and send messages, perform general web searches, and even ask for mathematical calculations. SoundHound claims Hound is able to handle specific requests, such as "Show hotels in Seattle that are pet-friendly, have a gym, and cost less than $275", as well as follow-up questions. Hound is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

Microsoft Makes Latest Win 10 Build Available to More Phones

Mar 2, 2016, 1:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released Windows 10 Mobile build 10586.122 to Windows Insiders in the Slow and Release Preview rings. Microsoft made the same build available to Fast Ring Insiders last week. It mostly fixes bugs.

WhatsApp Ending Support for Blackberry and Symbian OSes

Feb 28, 2016, 11:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.

Microsoft, Google, Facebook Back Apple

Feb 25, 2016, 4:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

More tech companies are backing Apple's position in the locked phone case against the FBI. Google and Facebook have said they'll file motions in support of Apple with the court, while Microsoft said it will file an amicus brief with the U.S. Department of Justice. Apple is refusing to help the FBI unlock a phone owned by the terrorist in the San Bernardino shootings. Apple believes doing so will put all iPhone owners at risk. A court has ordered Apple to unlock the device. The matter will reach court on March 1.

Microsoft Bags Windows Bridge for Android Apps

Feb 25, 2016, 4:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today provided an update on the tools it offers to developers and said it has canceled plans the Windows Bridge for Android (project Astoria). The Bridge was meant to help Android developers re-use their code and port their apps to Windows. Microsoft released the Windows Bridge for iOS last summer and keep that Bridge up and running based on the positive feedback it has received from developers. Microsoft also announced that it has purchased a company called Xamarin. Xamarin offers tools to developers so they can build mobile apps using C# and deliver native mobile apps to all major devices, including iOS, Android, and Windows. The Xamarin acquisition will help make up for, in part, the loss of the Windows Bridge for Android, as it lets developers use .NET and C# along with a full set of APIs for each platform. Microsoft believes it now has a more robust set of tools for developers to use to write apps not only for the Universal Windows Program, but also for Android and iOS.

Microsoft Delivers Windows 10 Build to PCs and Phones

Feb 24, 2016, 1:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today is making a fresh build of Windows 10 available to both PCs and phones at the same time. Build 14267.1004 for phones is nearly identical to the build Microsoft released last week, but resolves two important bugs. For example, it fixed an issue that prevented the Lumia 550 from charging, and returned the "history" function to the People app. The build also introduces one new feature: visual voicemail for dual-SIM devices. Windows 10 Build 14267.1004 is available to Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring. Microsoft will push the build to devices in the Slow Ring later.

Gmail for Android Earns Rich Text Formatting

Feb 24, 2016, 12:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Gmail app for Android devices and gave the communications tool several useful features. Gmail users can now add rich text formatting to emails, such as bold, italic, or underlined text. The app also gains one-click RSVPs to calendar appointments when invited through Google Calendar or Microsoft Exchange. The updated Gmail app will reach Android phones over the next few days.

Microsoft Adds Fingerprint Support to Android Lock Screen

Feb 22, 2016, 7:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.

Skype to Kill Off Qik Messenger

Feb 22, 2016, 6:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today said it will discontinue its Qik video messaging service. Microsoft bought Qik and relaunched the mobile app as a way for people to send quick video clips to one another. Microsoft learned, however, that most people already do this within the main Skype application. Microsoft said it has ported some of Qik's most-used features to Skype and will turn Qik off entirely March 24. Microsoft suggests Qik users save any videos they might want to keep.

Hands On with the Microsoft Lumia 650

Feb 22, 2016, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft announced the Lumia 650 ahead of Mobile World Congress and we had a chance to take a look at it on-site here in Barcelona. This mid-range Windows 10 handset is far more impressive than the entry-level Lumia 550, and almost outshines the high-end Lumias 950 and 950 XL. Here's why.

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Nokia Dishes More On Possible Phone Plans

Feb 21, 2016, 6:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.

HP Debuts Windows 10-Based Elite x3

Feb 21, 2016, 12:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HP today announced the Elite x3, a Windows 10 Mobile handset that can take advantage of Continuum to stand in as a laptop or desktop computer. It is a ruggedized handset that meets mil-spec 810G for protection against abuse and IP67 for protection from water and dust. It is compatible with a 12-inch screen/keyboard accessory to serve as a laptop, or can plug into a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to serve as a full desktop. The Elite x3 is a phablet boasting a 5.96-inch quad HD screen with Gorilla Glass 4. The phone is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 processor (2.15 GHz octa-core) with an Adreno 530 GPU and support for Quick Charge 3.0 for rapid charging. The Elite x3 boasts a 16-megapixel main camera at f/2.0 and an 8-megapixel user-facing camera. It runs Microsoft's mobile operating system complete with Office and built-in security tools for business users. Other hardware features include 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, and support for external memory cards; full suite of wireless radios, including LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi; as well as a built-in 4,150mAh battery that supports wireless charging. HP didn't say when the Elite x3 will go on sale, nor what it and its accessories may cost.

Microsoft Outs New Windows 10 Mobile Preview

Feb 19, 2016, 5:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced the availability of Windows 10 Mobile technical preview build 14267. This marks the first release of Windows 10 Mobile from the main development branch this year, putting Windows 10 Mobile on par with Windows 10 for PCs and tablets. This release is initially being made available only to the Lumia 950, 950 XL, 550, and Xiaomi Mi4 — all devices that shipped with Windows 10 Mobile preinstalled. This build makes it easier to search for music using Cortana, allows the WordFlow keyboard to function in the Edge browser address bar, makes InPrivate Tabs simpler to open from mobile phones, and improves download prompts within the browser. Microsoft says there are some known bugs in this build, including one that impacts voicemail. Build 14267 is being distributed to Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring, and will be pushed to other users over time.

Line to Shutter MixRadio

Feb 16, 2016, 8:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Reveals Lumia 650 Headed to Cricket Wireless

Feb 15, 2016, 11:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 15, 2016, 12:14 PM

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.

Lumia 650 Fills the Middle of Microsoft's Windows 10 Range

Feb 15, 2016, 8:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 15, 2016, 12:01 PM

Microsoft today announced the Lumia 650, a $199 Windows 10 handset that bridges the gap between the entry-level Lumia 550 and the pricer Lumia 950 / 950 XL. The Lumia 650 boasts an aluminum frame, slim profile, and high-quality glass. The phone has a 5-inch 720p AMOLED panel with ClearBlack technology and wide viewing angles. The phone is powered by a quad-core, 1.3 GHz Snapdragon 212 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The Lumia 650 includes an 8-megapixel main camera and 5-megapixel wide-angle front camera for enhanced selfies. Both lenses have an aperture of f/2.2. The main camera has an LED flash, but video capture is limited to 720p HD. The Windows 10 platform includes Microsoft Office, OneDrive, OneNote, Cortana, and business-grade security features, as well as Xbox compatibility. The Lumia 650 packs Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, and WiFi. The published spec sheet suggests LTE support is limited to bands 1, 3, 7, 8, and 20, meaning it isn't necessarily compatible with US networks. Microsoft's web site does, however, link to a user manual for a Cricket-branded version of the Lumia 650. Microsoft expects to ship the Lumia 650 to select European markets beginning February 18 for about $199.

Microsoft Makes Fresh Windows 10 Preview Available

Feb 10, 2016, 1:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a new technical preview of Windows 10 Mobile for Windows Insiders. Build 10586.107 is a cumulative update and only makes some bug fixes and performance improvements. Microsoft called out adjustments to missing Start screen tiles, narrator behavior, and the reset experience. Microsoft also noted it will release technical previews in three stages moving forward, rather than two. Before today, it offered updates first to Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring followed by Insiders in the Slow Ring. Now, it has added the Release Preview ring, which Microsoft says is "best for Insiders who enjoy getting early access to updates for the Current Branch, Microsoft applications, and drivers, with minimal risk to their devices." The latest preview will hit the Lumia 950 and 950 XL first. Microsoft is still working to bring Windows 10 to existing Windows 8.1 handsets, which it was expected to do late last year.

VAIO Trots Out A Windows 10 Handset

Feb 4, 2016, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Buys SwiftKey Software Keyboard Maker

Feb 3, 2016, 8:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 3, 2016, 8:30 AM

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.

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