Windows Phone is the smartphone platform and OS from Microsoft. Like Google does with Android, Microsoft only makes the software, allowing various hardware manufacturers to make the phones that run Windows Phone. Windows Phone replaced the older Windows Mobile (Professional and Standard editions.) Windows Phone competes directly with iOS and Android, offering most of the same OS features.
Microsoft today indicated its branding transition from Nokia Lumia to Microsoft Lumia is progressing as planned. Microsoft has slowly been rebranding apps, services, and web sites from Nokia to Microsoft. The company has now reached the point where its Windows Phone hardware will make the same change. The last smartphones announced to wear the Nokia brand are the Lumia 830 and Lumia 735 Windows Phones, which were announced in September. The company said the first Microsoft Lumia device will be announced soon, though it didn't share any details. Microsoft will, however, continue to sell Nokia-branded feature phones, such as the Nokia 130. Microsoft has licensed the Nokia name from Nokia for such devices. All its smartphones will use the Microsoft name moving forward.
Microsoft today revealed Garage, a collective of Microsoft employees that is encouraged to tinker with apps and services for a wide range of platforms and products. Microsoft describes the Garage as "a community of interns, employees, and teams from everywhere in the company who come together to turn our wild ideas into real projects." Along with its public unveiling, Microsoft announced several Android apps created within the Garage that are available from the Play Store today. For example, Torque is an app for Android Wear that lets owners of such devices twist their arm to launch Bing (not Google) Voice Search. Another, Next Lock Screen, lets Android device owners see their missed calls, messages, and calendar appointments without unlocking their device. The apps are free to download starting today. Microsoft indicated more apps and products may emerge from the Garage, not just for Android, but for iOS, Windows Phone, and Windows, too.
Microsoft indicated that it is prepared to drop the Nokia brand from its line of Windows Phones. Moving forward, the company will use the Microsoft Lumia name to refer to its phone hardware. Microsoft purchased Nokia's handset division earlier this year, but Nokia still exists as a separate company selling HERE Maps and telecommunications gear. Microsoft could not continue to use the Nokia brand indefinitely. Microsoft has already rebranded many of the old Nokia apps with the Lumia name, and told The Verge that it plans to begin rebranding its remaining Nokia properties in the weeks ahead.
Microsoft today issued an update to its Skype app for Windows Phone 8 and 8.1. The app has been refreshed with several new features, the foremost of which is the ability to create drawings within messages. Users can create their own pictures with the drawing tool, or annotate existing images and Bing Maps. The update makes it possible for users to select between their Microsoft account and their Skype account more easily. The app also improves resume times and adds support for HD screens. Skype for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.
Nokia today released an update to its Creative Studio photo editing app and added several features. First and foremost, Nokia returned Color Pop back to Creative Studio. Color Pop allows Lumia owners to turn their photos black and white with only select colors highlighted. The app also adds new support for PNG files and screenshots, and locks photos rotated 90 degrees to the new orientation. Creative Studio 6.3, which is an extensive on-device photo editor, is free for Lumia devices to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today said it has added several features to Cortana, the voice-activated assistant built into Windows Phone 8.1. One of the new capabilities is called Daily Glance Evening Edition. At the end of each day, Cortana will show users the travel time to home and upcoming items on their calendar. Cortana will also begin to offer concert recommendations within 100 miles of the phone's location based on the owner's artists and Bing searches. Cortana will now more actively create and make available cards with flight information based on travel itineraries and Bing searches. Last, Bing adds location-based app recommendations. For example, Cortana might suggest visitors to Disney World in Florida download the Disney Expedition App. Some of these features need to be turned on in Cortana's Notebook before they'll function.
Twitter today announced a new feature that will allow users of its Android and iOS apps to listen to music/sound clips directly from their timeline. According to Twitter, the new Twitter Audio Card can be docked and allow users to listen to the songs or clips even as they continue to browse through their timeline. SoundCloud is the first third-party company to add support for the Audio Card, but Twitter said it expects to add more services over time. Twitter hopes more parters, artists, and creators will adopt the feature for sharing purposes. The feature is free to use within the Android and iOS versions of Twitter. Twitter didn't say if or when the feature might reach other platforms, such as Windows Phone.
Skype today announced a new video messaging app called Qik. The service, explains Skype, is to give smartphone users a fun way to interact with others and maintain conversations that have more personality than standard text messages or video calls. Qik users can record and send up to 42 seconds of video to recipients who can then respond with video messages of their own. Skype says videos remain live for just two weeks, and can be erased by the creator at any time. Qik also lets users prerecord five-second Qik Fliks, which Qik describes as canned video responses to use when there's no time to record a new video. Qik used to exist as a stand-alone messaging service, but was purchased by Skype in 2011 and later shuttered entirely. Skype Qik is available to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. The app is free to download from each platform's respective app store.
Microsoft today announced Xim, an app and service that allows people to share photos with select groups of people. Xim was created by Microsoft Research's FUSE labs and is compatible with Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Users can select up to 50 photos to share and create a Xim. Users can pluck photos from their camera roll, Facebook, Instagram, Google Drive, or OneDrive. The Xim can then be viewed by whoever the user invites, including those who don't have the app (viewed via the browser). The app includes a group chat feature that allows everyone invited to a Xim to chat with each other. Xims are impermanent, sort of like Snapchat, and expire after a short period of time. The Xim app should be available in the iTunes App Store, Google Play Store, and Windows Phone Store today.
Flipboard today relaunched its mobile app for the Windows Phone platform after aborting its launch late last month. Flipboard version 2.4 is now ready for all Windows Phones running 8.1. Flipboard is a social news reader.
Cricket Wireless today announced it has added the Nokia Lumia 530 to its lineup of low-cost smartphones. The 530 is Nokia's entry-level smartphone, which includes a 4-inch display, 5-megapixel camera, quad-core processor, and Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana. The Lumia 530 will be available online and in select stores beginning October 3. It costs $50. Cricket also noted that it plans to roll out Windows Phone 8.1 to the Lumia 1320. Owners of the 1320 can expect to see the update arrive in the coming weeks.
Microsoft today announced the next version of Windows will be called Windows 10. According to Microsoft, Windows 10 will encompass "one product family, one platform, one store." Windows 10 will run on desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. Microsoft says the operating system will offer users a seamless experience across multiple different form factors with varied input types (mouse, pen, touch). One of the key components will be the shared code so developers can create apps that run on any of the supported form factors with little customization. Microsoft shied away from sharing too many specifics as far as features go, but noted that preview builds of the desktop platform will reach consumers in early 2015. The company didn't make any commitments as to when then next version of Windows Phone will be available.
Microsoft today re-launched its MSN web portal. The site has been redesigned from the ground up and provides one-click access to many tools, such as OneDrive, Outlook email, OneNote, and Skype. Microsoft says the new MSN will look and behave the same across all devices, be they PCs, tablets, or smartphones. Microsoft said it is pulling in content from a wider range of sources in order to appeal to as many users as possible. It is also localizing news content, so people in the US will have content that differs from the content offered in Japan, India, and other regions. The new MSN is free to visit on the web. Along with the reboot of MSN, Microsoft said it is updating a handful of its apps for Windows Phone, including Health & Fitness and Weather. Both apps gain new lock screen features. Health & Fitness, for example, will be able to provide GPS data and a step counter on the lock screen so users won't have to launch the individual app to see their workout stats. Similarly, the new weather app will offer real-time weather updates on the lock screen. Both apps are free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Flipboard recently shed its beta status and launched as a full app in the Windows Phone Store. The app was promised more than a year ago and arrives without the "flipping" gesture that made the app so popular with iOS and Android users. It is a socially-connected newsreader that creates digital magazines on the fly using web content. Flipboard is free to download, but requires Windows Phone 8.1.
Microsoft has launched a limited promotion that will double OneDrive users' free storage to 30GB. Microsoft already offers 15GB of online storage for free. Those who sign into their OneDrive accounts between now and the end of September will see their free storage jump to 30GB. The offer is good for all users of OneDrive, including people using Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and Windows Phone devices. Microsoft also offers incremental amounts of additional storage (usually 3GB) when smartphone/tablet owners choose to backup their camera roll to OneDrive. Users who already have more than 30GB of free OneDrive storage will receive the additional 15GB of storage, too.
Microsoft today updated its OneNote application to support Google's Android Wear platform. The app allows Android Wear owners to wake their device and use OneNote to dictate notes that are saved on the host Android smartphone. In addition to Android Wear compatibility, Microsoft also updated OneNote for both the iOS8 and Windows Phone platforms. The iOS8 version of OneNote adds extensibility, which allows users to save files to OneNote without leaving the app they are currently using. The Windows Phone version of OneNote was updated to allow users to convert photographs into PowerPoint or Word files. The updated OneNote apps are free to download from the Play Store, iTunes App Store, and Windows Phone Store.
Skype today announced an update to its app for Windows Phone devices that introduces location sharing for the first time. Skype version 2.22 is compatible with Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1. The sharing feature permits users to transmit their location data to others within IM conversations. The recipient can then pinpoint the sender via Bing Maps. The update also makes it easier to save photos and adds more granular controls for notifications. Skype for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.
Opera Software today released a beta version of its Opera Mini browser for Windows Phone devices. Opera has long offered versions of its data-saving browser to Android, iOS, and other platforms. Opera Mini for Windows Phone carries over the same basic design and features from other versions of the app, which includes the Speed Dial start screen, Smart Page social networking updates, easy-to-control tabs, and data compression to reduce mobile internet use. The beta is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
AT&T today said the Windows Phone 8.1 system update is now available to the Nokia Lumia 920 and Lumia 820. Both devices gain Cortana and a host of other features with the new operating system. It is free to download and install.
Nokia debuted two new smartphones in Berlin today, both of which focus on providing a better camera experience. These Windows Phones are solid addition to Nokia's lineup. Here are our first thoughts.
Nokia today revealed the Lumia 735, a device that features advanced self-imaging tools. The 735 has a 5-megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens and dedicated "Lumia Selfie" app. The app automatically launches the user-facing camera and has its own editing features, such as filters, toning, and even slimming down faces and whitening teeth. The rear camera has a 6.7-megapixel sensor, Zeiss optics, f/1.9 aperture, and a tool that helps users center their face in the frame for higher-quality selfies. The phone has a 4.7-inch 720p HD display, 2,220mAh battery, 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, and 8GB of storage. The Lumia 735 runs Windows Phone 8.1 and will come with the Denim system update preloaded. The device will ship with a free, three-month trial of Skype International unlimited. The device costs 219 Euro, or about $290.
Nokia today announced the Lumia 830, what Nokia calls a flagship device that doesn't have a premium price. It runs Windows Phone 8.1 and the just-announced Lumia Denim system update. It is smaller than the 930, but offers many of the same features, such as the design. It includes a PureView 10-megapixel camera with Zeiss optics and optical image stabilization. A new Rich Capture mode snaps a series of images with and without the flash so users can later choose to add light to their image for more balanced results. The HDR mode has been improved, too, so high-contrast images can more properly exposed to get all the details. The front-facing camera rates just 1.0 megapixels and captures 720p video. The 830 has a removable rear cover and has wireless charging built in to power the 2,220mAh battery. With the 830, Nokia is showing off a new charging plate. The charging plate is "smart" in that it includes NFC and customized notifications when it senses that the device's battery requires charging or an incoming call. The plate comes in the same orange, green, and white colors. The 830 itself measures 8.3mm and it contains a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 5-inch 720p display, 16GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 128GB. The Lumia 830 is priced at 330 Euro, or about $435. It ships globally starting this month.
Microsoft's handset division, Nokia, today announced Lumia Denim, the next update to its Windows Phone platform for Nokia-branded hardware. Lumia Denim's chief improvement is making Cortana is easier to use. It introduces a "Hey, Cortana" catchphrase that can be used to launch Cortana for filing reminders and other actions. Denim brings geofencing powers to Cortana, too, which can recognize geographic areas for assisting in reminders and tasks. Lumia Denim also makes improvements to the camera application. For example, the start-up process has been sped up so the camera launches faster. The camera is quicker to capture individual shots, as well, and adds a quick-capture mode that records 4K video with 8.7-megapixel images. The software can then pull out individual shots from the video to make for more compelling images. Lumia Denim will first be available on the Lumia 930, 1520, and Icon, with others to follow in the fourth quarter. The separate camera app will also be made available during the fourth quarter to just the 930, 1520, and Icon.
Broadcom today announced the BCM4358, a high-end Wi-Fi radio for flagship smartphones and tablets. The BCM4358 employs an 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO configuration for improved throughput and speeds, which Broadcom says can reach 650Mbps. Broadcom says the combo chip makes significant improvements with respect to Bluetooth performance, too. In addition to the wireless speed bumps, the BCM4358 is much more accurate at determining location. Broadcom says it is accurate down to one meter. The BCM4358 has integrated power and low-noise amplifiers, as well as beamforming and Low Density Parity Check Codes. It supports the Android, Windows, and Chrome operating systems. The BM4358 is already in mass production and Broadcom says it will appear in high-end devices before the end of the year.
Nokia is preparing to release versions of its mapping application for the Android and iOS platforms. Nokia executive Sean Fernback told The Wall Street Journal the apps will offer features not available to Google Maps and Apple Maps. For example, Nokia Maps users will be able to download maps of cities, regions, or states so they may be used when offline. This is a hallmark feature of Nokia's HERE Maps for Windows Phone. Nokia believes its offline maps will draw users away from Google and Apple's alternatives. The offline maps will support searches, as well. "I'm convinced people are looking for alternatives," said Fernback. "Google Maps is a good solution for many, their maps work very well, but it has looked the same and done the same for a long time." Nokia released a version of its HERE Maps for iOS back in 2012, but later pulled the app after it received poor reviews. Nokia plans to release the new Android and iOS mapping apps before the end of the year. Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft earlier this year, but retained ownership of its mapping business.
T-Mobile today voiced support for the HTC One for Windows on its web site. The company will sell the device in the weeks ahead. It is already sold by Verizon Wireless, and will also soon be sold by AT&T. The One for Windows runs Windows Phone rather than Android.
Microsoft today announced it is making changes to the Windows Store in order to improve the quality of the apps therein. To start, it has established three main criteria apps need to pass in order to be certified for sale through the store. App names need to clearly and accurately reflect what the app does; the app must fall into a category so it is easier to discern the app's function and purpose; and app icons must be sufficiently differentiated from other apps to avoid confusion. Microsoft said many of its developers were receptive to making changes so their apps fall in line with the new policy. Some developers, however, did not, and Microsoft has removed 1,500 apps from the Windows Store. Microsoft said it will continue to review apps currently in the store to make sure they adhere to the new policies.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law that will mandate all smartphones to come with a kill switch by July 2015. The law's goal is to curb smartphone thefts. Lawmakers believe that allowing smartphones owners to render their device unusable after it is stolen will reduce the appeal to thieves, who won't be able to use or sell them. Minnesota enacted a similar law earlier this year, and the CTIA Wireless Association said all carriers will support kill switches by July 2015, too. Apple already added a kill switch functionality to iOS, and Google and Microsoft are working on similar tools for Android and Windows Phone.
Huawei recently said it has no plans to release a Tizen-based smartphone, and also said it will no longer make smartphones using Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system. "Some telecom carriers are pushing us to design Tizen phones but I say 'no' to them. In the past we had a team to do research on Tizen but I canceled it," said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer business group, to The Wall Street Journal. "We feel Tizen has no chance to be successful. Even for Windows Phone it's difficult to be successful." Tizen is a Linux-based platform created by Samsung and Intel. Samsung, Tizen's primary backer, has delayed plans to realize a Tizen phone indefinitely as it builds up the app ecosystem. Huawei remains a member of the Tizen Association, but its new stance on the platform further clouds Tizen's potential. As for Windows Phone, Huawei complained of losing money on the platform for two years. "We have tried using the Windows Phone OS. But it has been difficult to persuade consumers to buy a Windows phone," said Yu. "It wasn't profitable for us. So for now we've decided to put any releases of new Windows phones on hold. We have worries about Android being the only option, but we have no choice. And we have a good collaboration with Google." Google's Android platform holds about 85% of the global smartphone market, with Apple's iOS holding 11% and Windows Phone holding 2.5%. BlackBerry's share of the market is less than 1%.
AT&T chimed in this evening to say it, too, will carry the HTC One for Windows. AT&T said pricing and availability will be announced at a later date. Verizon is selling the phone starting tomorrow.
HTC gives Windows Phone fans what they've always wanted: A premium device with Microsoft's operating system. Here are our initial thoughts on HTC's latest device.
HTC today announced the One for Windows Phone, a variant of the One (M8) that swaps Google's mobile platform for Microsoft's. The One for Windows Phone runs the latest operating system from Microsoft and carries over a few HTC apps, such as Blinkfeed, the HTC duo-camera, SenseTV, Video Highlights, and BoomSound. The One for Windows Phone adopts some of the M8's motion gestures, such as double-tap to wake, but also loses a few. Apart from the operating system, the hardware is identical to the One (M8) with Android. It has the same 5-inch 1080p HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, Ultra-pixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera, and premium aluminum design. The HTC One for Windows Phone is exclusive to Verizon Wireless. It is available online from VerizonWireless.com beginning today and reaches Verizon stores August 20 for $99 with a new contract or $30 with Verizon Edge.
BlackBerry today updated BBM for the Windows Phone platform to version 1.01. The app has officially graduated from beta status. The update, though minor, squashes a number of bugs in the app, as well as boosts performance, such as start-up time. BBM for Windows Phone is free.
AT&T today said owners of the Lumia 1020 can download and install the Windows Phone 8.1 update. The improved operating system adds Cortana, Action Center, the Word Flow keyboard and other features. The system update is free.
Microsoft today made available the Live Lock Screen application for Windows Phone 8.1. The Live Lock Screens were first announced as a WP8.1 feature back in April. The app, which is being offered as a beta, lets users change the way the clock is displayed and adds more image options for wallpaper. The app also adds the ability to set just an accent color or make use of the preloaded Lock backgrounds as your wallpaper. Last, wallpaper images can be set to change every hour, every four hours, every 12 hours, daily, or never. Live Lock Screen Beta is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Facebook recently rolled out an update to the Facebook Messenger application for Windows Phone devices. The update introduces one new feature, the ability to record and send voice messages to other Facebook users. The update also cuts down on data usage. Facebook Messenger for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store. The app is now necessary for messaging Facebook users, as Facebook is pulling the messaging capabilities from its main Facebook mobile app.
Microsoft today announced the Nokia 130, a simple, inexpensive handset meant for first-timers and emerging markets. The candybar-style phone runs the Series 30 platform and includes a 1.8-inch screen, stereo headphone jack, Bluetooth 3.0, and support for memory cards up to 32GB. According to Microsoft, the Nokia 130 supports both video and audio playback, and includes an FM radio. The phone has a flashlight, but no camera. The Nokia 130 will reach select markets this quarter. Pricing is expected to be about $25 and it will be sold in single- and dual-SIM variants. Microsoft Devices Group includes the handset division of Nokia, which Microsoft acquired earlier this year. Microsoft's Jo Harlow said though the company is killing off Nokia's Android/X devices, it still believes there is a good market opportunity for entry-level phones in addition to its Lumia Windows Phone devices.
Microsoft recently indicated it will cease to support Skype on devices running Windows Phone 7 and Symbian. The company said it will retire the official Skype app for WP7, as well as any ancillary apps that support it over the next few weeks. "We want everyone to experience the best Skype has to offer – from enhanced quality to better reliability to improved security – and the newest version of Skype is the way to do that. So everyone can benefit from the latest improvements, we sometimes retire older versions of Skype across all platforms, including mobile devices," explained the company. Of Symbian, Microsoft said, "Symbian wasn't built for the cloud-connected world, so we are retiring the Skype for Symbian app and focusing on bringing the best possible experience to the most popular mobile platforms: Windows Phone, iOS, and Android." Symbian is Nokia's old smartphone operating system and was among the first to support Skype years ago.
AT&T today added a bright green option to its lineup of Lumia 1520s. The green 1520 ships with Windows Phone 8.1 preinstalled, which is the latest version of Windows Phone and includes Cortana. AT&T is offering the green 1520 for $24.28 per month with AT&T Next 18 or $29.95 per month with Next 12. Alternately, the 1520 costs $200 with a new two-year contract or $585 at full retail. The red, black, yellow, and white versions are also available.
Skype today updated its mobile application for devices running Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1. The new version of Skype makes it possible to send photos to one or more contacts at a time, as well as receive photos from other Windows Phone and iOS devices. Photos shared to desktop or Android machines will instead send a link rather than the actual file. The app also makes it possible to see more chat view history; supports text mark-up (asterisks for bold, etc.); adds favorites to the chat view; and makes several performance improvements. Skype said it continues to work on its mobile app across platforms and hopes to share these features with them soon. Skype is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.