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 revealed that it has made some under-the-hood improvements to Bing voice search for the Windows Phone platform. The updates take advantage of advances in Deep Neural Networks technology, which helps computers mimic the behavior of neurons. Microsoft says the result is voice recognition that is twice as fast and results that are 15% more accurate. The improved Bing search is being rolled out in waves. Microsoft said that the improvements carry over to other apps, such as text or email messages, which will be better at transcribing dictated content.
Skype today announced that its video messaging service has graduated from beta status and is widely available for use. The service, which has been in trials since February, allows Skype users to record and send video messages (up to three minutes long) to other Skype users. Skype said that video messages can be viewed on any platform, but in order to record and send messages users must have devices running Android, BlackBerry, or iOS. Microsoft's own Windows Phone platform is not yet able to record and send Skype video messages. The feature is free to use, and Skype said that users can send an unlimited number of messages.
Nokia has manufactured and shipped the very last series of smartphones running its Symbian smartphone platform, reports the Financial Times. Nokia has been transitioning away from Symbian since 2011 in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. The company has not introduced any new Symbian-based models in some time, and the devices that recently shipped are expected to be sold before the end of summer, marking the end for Nokia's once-vaunted smartphone platform. "It took 22 months to get a Symbian phone out of the door," explained Nokia to FT. "With Windows Phone, it is less than a year. We spend less time having to tinker with deep-lying code and more time on crafting elements of the experience that make a big difference, such as around photography, maps, music and apps in general." Nokia is now the world's leading supplier of Windows Phone devices, owning approximately 80% of the Windows Phone market. It's overall share of the smartphone market, however, trails market leaders Samsung, Apple, and others.
Twitter today released a new version of its mobile application for Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. New features of the application center on expanded photo tools. For example, Twitter now supports lens app integration as well as Twitter's photo filters, which are accessible from the tweet composition screen. The new app now lets Windows Phone users view Vine videos, though it does not add Vine's video-recording and -creating powers. Windows Phone users may also now save tweeted photos directly to their phone's camera roll. Twitter for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Qualcomm today announced an addition to its line of Snapdragon 400 processors for high-volume devices. The new 8926 Snapdragon 400 processor boosts output thanks to its support for quad-core configurations. The 8926 also supports multimode 3G/4G LTE, including HSPA+ and TD-SCDMA (for China), and dual SIM cards, dual standby, and dual active functions. Other features include support for Miracast for wireless media and QuickCharge 1.0 for faster device charging. The chipset includes Qualcomm's VIVE 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM, and NFC module, and is compatible with the Android and Windows Phone 8 platforms. The new Snapdragon 8926 will be available to device makers by the end of 2013. Qualcomm also announced a new reference design for high-performance tablets, a new 802.11a/c Wi-Fi module, support for Windows 8.1 RT through its Snapdragon 800 processors, and new 28nm solutions that can be used in pico and other small cells for metro and business applications.
Adobe today released Adobe Reader for Windows Phone. Reader allows owners of Windows Phone devices to open and interact with a wide variety of PDF documents. Some of the supported features include copy-and-paste, search, zoom, bookmarks, links, and quick navigation tools, such as thumbnails and scrolling. Adobe Reader for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today released a new version of the Windows Phone App for Windows-based desktops and laptops. The revised application adds a handful of new features, including better podcast syncing between iTunes and Windows Phones, simplified system update tools, support for multiple music or video libraries, and various bug fixes. The app is compatible with machines that run Windows 7 and Windows 8, and is free to download from Microsoft.
Twitter today released new versions of its mobile application for the Android and iOS platforms. Both apps receive a similar set of updates meant to make composing Tweets and adding photos faster and easier. The app now offers Tweet previews once photos have been added, which show the entire photo plus the username and avatar. Twitter also made it easier to remove or add location details to individual tweets for both apps in the composition screen. The Android app gains richer notifications, while the iPhone app loses the borders that used to appear around timelines. Twitter for Android and iOS is free to download from each platforms' respective app store. Twitter didn't update the BlackBerry or Windows Phone mobile apps.
Nokia today revealed that its LiveSight augmented reality technology is now being in both its HERE Maps and in a new version of Foursquare for Windows Phone. LiveSight is already available in Nokia City Lens, and uses object recognition to provide additional information and details about what the device owner is looking at through the camera. Within HERE Maps, LiveSight acts similar to Google's Street View feature, which gives people an on-the-ground view of locations and points of interest on any given map. It is also able to tag places such as restaurants, shops, and other locations. The same technology has been added to the Foursquare application for Windows Phone, though it is only accessible from Nokia's Lumia devices. The Foursquare app takes advantage of LiveSight to help users seek out and find venues with the help of image recognition.
Yahoo today announced that it has agreed to purchase Tumblr for $1.1 billion in cash. Tumblr is a blogging platform that, by Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer's own admission, "couldn’t be more different" than Yahoo. Despite the differences, Meyer believes the two companies will be complementary to one another in the long run. Yahoo made a distinct promise "not to screw up" Tumblr. It will be operated as a separate company, and its leadership team will remain intact. Tumblr CEO David Karp said, "Our team isn't changing. Our roadmap isn't changing. And our mission – to empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of the audience they deserve – certainly isn't changing." Tumblr is accessible from the web, and also via dedicated smartphone applications for the Android, iOS, and Windows Phone platforms. The Tumblr apps can be used to view the blog, as well as create posts, upload photos, make comments, and more.
Google has sent a letter to Microsoft requesting that it remove from the Windows Phone Store a YouTube application written by Microsoft for its Windows Phone 8 platform. According to Google, the app violates its terms of service by allowing users to download videos from the app, it also disables advertising within videos. Google asked Microsoft to remove the app, and kill the functionality of the app on existing devices, by May 22. Microsoft has yet to publicly respond to Google's request.
Microsoft today announced that it plans to push a system update to devices running Windows Phone 8 this summer. The update brings back support for FM radios, expands the availability of Data Sense to more carriers around the world, and makes it easier to interact with XBox Music, including pinning tunes to the Start screen. The update also brings with it support for CarDAV and CalDAV, which are contact and calendar syncing protocols necessary for Windows Phone 8 devices to play nice with Google Contacts and Google Calendar. The update will be pushed out to the majority of devices that run Windows Phone 8. Timing will depend on region, carrier, and exact handset model.
Nokia today added the Lumia 925 to its lineup of Windows Phone 8 smartphones. It shares many features with the Lumia 920/928, but stuffs them into a much thinner and lighter body that has an aluminum frame with a removable polycarbonate panel on the back and glass on the front. The result is a phone that's 8.5mm thick with a weight of 4.9 ounces (the Lumia 920 is 10.7mm thick and weighs 6.53 ounces). Nokia said that by adding metal to the external frame, it was able to make improvements to the antenna technology inside the phone. Aside from the new design, Nokia took care to add some of its most advanced imaging features to the 925, which has an 8.7-megapixel PureView camera with optical image stabilization, dual LED flash, and a wide-angle 1.2-megapixel user-facing camera. The camera includes improved optics for sharper pictures, and new software that allows people to take 10 quick shots and then use Nokia's on-board software to edit them. Other hardware features are similar to the Lumia 920/928. The 925 has a 4.5-inch AMOLED display with 1280 x 768 pixels, Bluetooth 3.0, NFC, 1.5 Ghz dual-core Snapdragon processor, GPS/GLONASS, and 2,000mAh battery. The Nokia Lumia 925 reaches European markets in June, and will follow in the U.S. later this summer. It will be sold by T-Mobile USA, but pricing and exact release date have not be shared.
Nokia today announced the Lumia 928, a new Windows Phone smartphone for Verizon Wireless. The Lumia 928 features powerful imaging capabilities with Carl Zeiss optics and optical image stabilization to improve image sharpness. The camera rates 8.7 megapixels and has an aperture of f/2 for improved low-light image capture. It also includes a Xenon flash. The video camera, which has its own LED light, will be aided by three microphones that can handle high-volume, high-pressure events, such as concerts, and still offer clear, distortion-free recordings. It captures video at 1080p HD. There is also a 1.2-megapixel user-facing camera that can capture 720p HD video. The Lumia 928 includes a 4.5-inch OLED 1280 x 768 HD Clearblack display that is protected by Gorilla Glass. Nokia says the display as a pixel density of 334ppi and it offers 500 nit brightness. Other features include wireless charging, a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor with 1GB of RAM, LTE 4G, a polycarbonate design, Nokia's HERE suite of location-based apps, and 32GB of internal storage. The Nokia Lumia 928 will be available online and in stores May 16 for $99.99 with a new contract after $50 mail-in rebate. For a limited time, Lumia 928 buyers will get a $25 credit for Windows Phone apps and games with the purchase of the phone.
Huawei today announced that the W1, its first Windows Phone 8 smartphone, will be available at Walmart stores in the U.S. beginning later this month. The W1 is known as the Ascend W1 in other markets. It features a 4-inch LCD screen with 800 x 480 pixels, a dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor, a 5-megapixel camera with 720p video capture, 1.7GB of internal storage, and support for microSD cards up to 32GB. Huawei did not say which carrier will provide service for the W1, but Walmart sells TracFone devices, and the W1 is compatible with TracFone's network. Pricing was not provided, nor was the exact release date.
Nokia indicated today via its U.S. support forums that the Windows Phone 7.8 system update is now ready for the Lumia 900. Windows Phone 7.8 updates the appearance and behavior of the Start screen, but doesn't include the under-the-hood improvements found in Windows Phone 8.
Microsoft today announced major updates to the YouTube and Foursquare applications for its Windows Phone platform. The YouTube application has been completely rewritten to take advantage of WP8's best features. YouTube now lets users pin videos, playlists, and channels to the Start screen as Live Tiles. Those tiles will actively update with new content from the user's subscriptions. YouTube for WP8 has a new design for managing playlists in a filmstrip that is more touch friendly. YouTube videos can play in the background, even when the screen is locked. Last, it is easier to share videos to Twitter, Facebook, and via email and text. Foursquare 3.0 also adds a host of new features, including the ability to pin people and venues to the Start Screen as well as add notifications to the lock screen. The new app also includes voice search for venues and friends. According to Microsoft, Foursquare 3.0 learns user behaviors and will fine-tune venue recommendations over time. Both YouTube and Foursquare for Windows Phone 8 are free to download from the Windows Phone Store. They should become available later today.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop is in the hot seat with investors and took fire at today's meeting from impatient shareholders who are waiting for the company's fortunes to turn around. Elop announced Nokia's plans to abandon Symbian, which he referred to as a burning platform, in February 2011. Elop decided then that Nokia would use Microsoft's Windows Phone platform for its smartphones moving forward. At the time, he predicted that the turn-around would take two years. That time has come and gone, and Nokia's share of the smartphone market is still grim. "You're a nice guy, and the leadership team is doing its best, but clearly, it's not enough," said shareholder Hannu Virtanen to Elop. "Are you aware that results are what matter? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Please switch to another road." Elop defended his decision, citing recent traction with its Lumia Windows phones, but also admitted that there's no Plan B. "We make adjustments as we go," said Elop. "But it's very clear to us that in today's war of ecosystems, we've made a very clear decision to focus on Windows Phone with our Lumia product line. And it is with that that we will compete with competitors like Samsung and Android." Nokia has planned a press conference for May 14, during which it is expected to announce new Lumia smartphones.
A print ad and an official web page reveal an unannounced Windows Phone smartphone from Nokia called the Nokia Lumia 928. The device appeared in an advertisement in Vanity Fair magazine and the ad included a link to Nokia's U.S. web site, which is live and shows a picture of the device. The print ad refers to PureView technology and optical image stabilization as features of the Lumia 928, but no other details were revealed. Last month, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said that the company planned to release a "hero" device with a major U.S. wireless network operator. The Lumia 928 could be that device.
AOL today announced that it has struck a partnership with Verizon Wireless to distribute its content on Verizon's smartphones and tablets. The content will show up in the Verizon Wireless Home web portal and will be bookmarked within the browser on Verizon devices. The AOL portal will feature up-the-minute news headlines, weather, and maps, as well as provide access to video content. The portal will appear on smartphones and tablets running Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone, but not iOS. Customers will be able to customize the type of content that reaches their devices. The AOL content is expected to become available later this summer.
Microsoft today announced a new beta version of Facebook for its Windows Phone platform. The beta app, which Microsoft cautions may not be entirely stable, brings new support for user-requested features, including Timeline, high-resolution photos, and easier post sharing. The beta will not show up in the Windows Phone Store. Instead, it must be downloaded directly from Microsoft. Microsoft said the current version of Facebook in the Windows Phone Store will remain available, and beta testers can use both the beta and current versions of Facebook side-by-side on the same device. Microsoft hopes that those who take a chance on the beta application will be willing to provide feedback about the app.
Nokia recently made a beta version of its Nokia Chat application available to Lumia Windows Phones. The beta application, which Nokia already offers to its S40, Symbian, and Asha platforms, lets Nokia Lumia device owners conduct instant messaging conversations with one another. It also hooks into Yahoo Messenger and lets users easily share their location. The app includes support for Live Tiles, push notifications, lock screen notifications, and voice commands. Nokia Chat Beta is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today announced that Tumblr has just released its first official application for the Windows Phone platform. The free app lets Tumblr users access their dashboard from their Windows Phone handset, as well as post pictures, words, video, and interact with others. According to Microsoft, Tumblr for Windows Phone is compatible with the WP Lenses feature, includes an active Live Tile for the Start screen, and can deliver notifications to the lock screen. Tumblr can be downloaded from the Windows Phone Store beginning today.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop this morning said, "Later this quarter a new Lumia device is anticipated to have hero status with a leading U.S. carrier." The comments were made during the company's call with media to discuss its quarterly results. Elop also said this hero device marks "the beginning of a season of new product introductions." Nokia has not introduced a flagship-grade device since the Lumia 920, which was released about six months ago. Nokia has, however, announced several mid-range and low-end Windows Phone 8 devices, including the 720 and 521 (headed to T-Mobile USA next month). Nokia lost $196 million on revenue of $7.65 billion. Shipments of its Lumia devices improved from 4.4 million during the fourth quarter of 2012 to 5.6 million during the first quarter of 2013. Sales of what Nokia qualifies as "smart devices" (includes Symbian, et al.) dropped quarter-over-quarter from 86.3 million to 61.9 million.
A new version of LinkedIn for Windows Phone 8 adds support for Live Tiles. WP8 owners can put LinkedIn on their Start screen in three different Tile sizes, and it will now update automatically with new content. Other new features in LinkedIn for WP8 include lock screen support for LinkedIn Today imagery; speech recognition support for voice commands; and support for more languages, including French, German, Chinese, and Spanish. LinkedIn version 1.5 for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft has released a new version of Skype for the Windows Phone 8 platform. Skype 2.5 removes the beta tag and turns on message notifications by default. It also fixes a long list of bugs. The update is free.
Nokia recently updated the Nokia Music application for its Lumia smartphones. The most significant new feature of the improved software is the ability to see album artwork for the current track on the Live Tile. Other features let users rewind and fast forward during play back, download mixes without being interrupted by the screen lock, and other general performance improvements. Nokia Music is only available to Nokia's Windows Phone devices. The app is free to download from the Windows Phone Store, but the service itself incurs a monthly fee.
Microsoft today announced that Pandora, the music-streaming service, is available to Windows Phone devices for the first time. The app, which can be downloaded from the Windows Phone Store beginning today, has several features not available to other platforms. First, Pandora for Windows Phone will provide an ad-free listening experience until the end of 2013. This is typically reserved only for paying subscribers. Further, the app takes advantage of Windows Phone 8, and has an adjustable Live Tile that shows the current track. The app is also fully functional within Kids Corner, so it can be used for entertainment while protecting parents' data on the device. Pandora for Windows Phone integrates fully with the web version, and can be downloaded for free.
Microsoft today made an update available to the Windows Phone version of Skype. The refreshed application adds several new features, chief among them support for HD video calls between compatible devices. The new Skype lets Windows Phone owners make use of either the front or back camera, as well as view video calls in either portrait or landscape mode. Skype also once again integrates natively with the People Hub in Windows Phone 8. Skype is free to download and use, though some charges may apply for certain types of phone calls.
Microsoft has revealed through consumer-facing web site that it will support current versions of Windows Phone for a period of 18 months. Support, as defined by Microsoft, applies mainly to security updates for each platform variant. According to Microsoft, Windows Phone 8 will receive updates between December 12, 2012 and July 8, 2014, while Windows Phone 7.8 (which arrived after WP8) will receive updates between February 9, 2013 and September 9, 2014. Earlier versions of Windows Phone (7.0, 7.1, 7.5) are no longer being support with security updates. Microsoft cautions that even this level of support for its smartphone platforms will vary by country, manufacturer, device, and carrier.
CBS today anounced the launch of its own app for iOS, with Android and Windows 8 apps to follow later this year. The app lets users stream full episodes of CBS shows. Prime-time shows will be available eight days after first broadcast, while daytime and late-night shows will be available within 24 hours. The app will merge with the CBS Connect App for live interaction and second-screen experiences with live broadcast shows. Shows streamed via the app will have "reduced commercial interruption" for the first few weeks of the app launch. Shows available include CSI, NCIS, How I Met Your Mother, and The Late Show with David Letterman.
Google today announced a second round of spring cleaning that will see yet more services discontinued. The most significant mobile app being axed is the Google Voice application for the BlackBerry platform. Google recommends that BlackBerry owners still interested in using Google Voice switch to the browser-based HTML5 app, which Google says is more secure anyway. Google will end support for Google Voice for BlackBerry next week. The HTML5 app is compatible with BlackBerry Browsers version 6 and up. Other products that have limited days remaining include the CalDAV API, Google Building Maker (tool to model 3D buildings on maps), Google Cloud Connect (plug-in that helped users save Microsoft Office documents to Google Docs), Google Reader (RSS feed), the Search API for Google Shopping, and Snapseed for both Windows and Mac OS. Google says better alternatives for all these services are available elsewhere.
BlackBerry today announced that WhatsApp, the popular messaging application, is now available to BlackBerry 10 devices, such as the Z10. Similar to Apple's iMessage or Samsung's ChatOn, WhatsApp is an over-the-top messaging service that uses mobile data connections to pass messages back and forth to other users. It allows smartphone owners to cut down on potential carrier-based messaging fees. WhatsApp for BlackBerry 10 integrates with the native contact application and offers push notifications on the lock screen when new messages arrive. It is a cross-platform service, so BlackBerry 10 device owners will be able to use WhatsApp to chat with friends or family who use Android, iOS, or Windows Phone devices. The app is available for free from BlackBerry World.
In recent filing with the SEC, Nokia specifically acknowledged the possibility that "Microsoft may broaden its strategy to sell other mobile devices under its own brand, including smartphones." Such filings with the SEC are legally required to lay out legitimate business risks, so that investors can make informed decisions. Similar filings in the past did not list this risk, indicating that Nokia feels the chances of Microsoft making its own phones have increased. The company may, in fact, have knowledge of such plans. At the very least, Nokia does not seem to have any assurances from Microsoft that they won't offer their own phone. Nokia is dependent on Microsoft for its Windows Phone OS software that powers all of Nokia's new smartphones. The filing explains that Microsoft-branded phones "could lead Microsoft to focus more on their own devices and less on mobile devices of other manufacturers that operate on the Windows Phone platform, including Nokia."
Box has pushed out an update to its Windows Phone application that adds the ability to preview files without opening them fully. The new feature can save Box users time, as it lets them know what each file contains without forcing a separate app to load in order to see it. Additionally, Box for Windows Phone adds support for Office documents and PDFs, which now open directly in Microsoft Office. The app now provides all three Start screen Live Tile sizes, and the largest Tile will display updates to their device owner's Box feed. Last, the new Box app adds the ability to see and edit file descriptions. Box is compatible with devices running Windows Phone 8 and 7.5. Box is free to download from the Windows Phone Store. The cost of storage varies.
Nokia recently published a new version of its Cinemagraph application that is compatible with its older Lumia devices. Nokia first introduced Cinemagraph last year with the Lumia 920 and 820. It allows Nokia Lumia smartphones to create and share animated GIFs, but was limited to devices running Windows Phone 8. The new version works with devices running Windows Phone 7.1, 7.5, and 7.8. After owners have created a Cinemagraph, it can be shared via email, Facebook, Twitter, or MMS. Cinemagraph for Nokia Lumia devices can be found in the Nokia Collection within the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft has confirmed that devices running Windows Phone 8 will be able to receive significant OS-level updates. The same is not the case with Windows Phone 7.x devices, which cannot update to Windows Phone 8. Greg Sullivan, senior marketing manager with Microsoft, said, "We're going to have an upgrade path going forward. Windows Phone 8 can evolve. We have an architecture that enables portability and is fundamentally hardware independent." The base code used in Windows Phone 8 is significantly different from that used by Windows Phone 7, which is why older Windows Phones are stuck on earlier versions of the platform. Sullivan did not provide any more specifics about what forthcoming Windows Phone system updates might entail.
Nokia recently released an application that allows Windows Phone users to read or write any standard NFC tag. NFC tags can be programmed to initiate different tasks, such as automatic social network checkins, send text messages, or turn on/off Wi-Fi radios. Nokia NFC Writer is compatible with all Windows Phones and is a free download from the Windows Phone Store.
Twitter today made a brand new version of its mobile app available for Windows Phone 8. The new app brings the WP8 version in line with the Android and iOS versions in terms of design and features. It now has the Home, Connect, Discover, and Me tabs running across the top, and takes advantage of the WP8 Live Tiles for the Start screen. Users can also pin lists, favorites, and searches to the Start screen for quicker access to specific Twitter features. Twitter for Windows Phone 8 is a free download from the Windows Phone Store.