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 released another new build of the Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview. Build 10149 adds features and resolves several bugs from the previous build. Microsoft released build 10136 earlier this month, but it required users to backtrack to Windows Phone 8.1 first. Microsoft says testers who stayed on build 10080 will be able to update directly to 10149, skipping over build 10136 completely. Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview 10149 brings new branding to the Microsoft Edge browser, which relocated the address bar to the bottom and added the ability to view web sites in desktop or mobile views. Edge replaces Project Spartan, which was in previous builds. Build 10149 makes improvements to Cortana and the flashlight, as well as general user interface tweaks. Microsoft says the UI should be more responsive. The new build features an updated photos app that adds support for GIFs, and the camera can now be set to automatically upload images to OneDrive. Microsoft fixed a range of bugs impacting call and SMS filtering, text notifications, Podcast performance, and app installs. Microsoft listed a number of known issues still plaguing the preview. The Technical Preview is not meant for general consumers and shouldn't be installed on anyone's daily device. These builds are pre-beta status for the mobile OS, which won't be offered in final form until the fall months.
Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri said the company will tackle the mobile phone industry again once its non-compete clause with Microsoft expires next year. Nokia no longer owns any manufacturing facilities and will not make its own phones. The company did something similar with an Android-based tablet it released in December. "We will look for suitable partners," said Suri in an interview with the German magazine Manager Magazin. "Microsoft makes mobile phones. We would simply design them and then make the brand name available to license." Microsoft bought Nokia's handset business in 2014 for $7.2 billion. Just this week, Microsoft reshuffled its executive deck and removed two former leaders from Nokia, Stephen Elop and Jo Harlow. Neither Elop nor Harlow has said what their next steps will be. Microsoft's Windows Phone platform and Lumia-branded handsets continue to struggle in the market against Apple's iOS and Google's Android. The company is releasing a new mobile operating system, Windows 10 Mobile, this fall. Suri did not say if Nokia will use Android, Windows Phone, or some other platform for its future devices.
Verizon Wireless today announced the Microsoft Lumia 735, a low-cost Windows Phone. The 735 includes a 4.7-inch HD screen, 1.2GHz quad-core processor, and 16 GB of storage. The main camera has a 6.7-megapixel sensor and the user-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The phone supports memory cards up to 128 GB and includes a 2,220mAh battery. In addition to Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana and the Lumia Denim update, the Lumia 735 offers owners a free year-long subscription to Office 365 as well as 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage. The Lumia costs $192 at full retail or $8 per month for 24 months with a Verizon Edge plan. It is available online today, but won't reach stores until July. Verizon also is offering $100 bill credit to customers who port their number.
Microsoft has confirmed that Jo Harlow, head of the company's mobile phones, will leave alongside device chief Stephen Elop in the weeks ahead. Harlow began at Nokia in 2003 and played a role in Nokia's switch to Windows Phone in 2011. Harlow joined Microsoft when it later acquired Nokia's handset business. Harlow was often seen on stage during device introductions. Microsoft did not say what Harlow intends to do next.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has moved around some of the top executives at the company and some are leaving Microsoft. Among those headed out the door is Stephen Elop, who helmed the company's device business. Elop was the former CEO of Nokia and played a large role in selling Nokia's handset business to Microsoft. Terry Myerson will assume many of Elop's responsibilities and now leads the Windows and Devices Group, which includes Lumia, Xbox, and Surface, as well as Microsoft's core Windows products. Other departures include Mark Penn, Eric Rudder, and Krill Tatarinov. Exec Scott Guthrie is picking up some responsibilities, include Microsoft's Dynamics business. Guthrie already runs Microsoft's cloud business, including OneDrive. Executive Vice President Qi Lu will continue to lead the Applications and Services Group, which is focused on reinventing productivity services for digital work. "We are aligning our engineering efforts and capabilities to deliver on our strategy and, in particular, our three core ambitions," said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. "This change will enable us to deliver better products and services that our customers love at a more rapid pace." Microsoft's fiscal year ends June 30.
AT&T today said it will begin selling the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL on June 26. The phone runs Windows Phone 8.1 with the Denim update and includes Cortana. It has a 5.7-inch HD screen, 13-megapixel camera, 3,000mAh battery, and a Snapdragon 400 processor. The 640 XL costs $8.34 per month with 30 device payments on Next 24, $10.42 per month at 24 payments on Next 18, or $12.50 per month at 20 payments on Next 12.
T-Mobile has made the Lumia 640 smartphone available via its web site for $130. Customers can pay full price or $5.41 per month for 24 months. This inexpensive Windows Phone has a 5-inch screen, 8-megapixel camera, and LTE.
Microsoft today made available a new build of its Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview. To start, the new build requires users to downgrade from the previous technical preview (10080) to Windows Phone 8.1 due to a bug. People not interested in downgrading for the new build (10136) can choose to wait for the next build of the technical preview. The new build includes a large number of improvements to the fit and finish of the operating system, especially with respect to the user interface. Microsoft says the newest build of Cortana is very close to the final version. Microsoft also made changes to the camera and photos apps, as well as one-handed use. Microsoft says devices with screens larger than 5 inches should offer more configurable control options to improve usability. Microsoft said it resolved a number of bugs compared to the previous build, but a handful of issues still remain. The final build of Windows 10 Mobile is not expected until the fall months.
Opera today said its Opera Mini web browser is now available as a stable release for Windows Phone. The browser had been available as a beta for several months. Opera listened to user feedback in order to prepare today's full release. The browser lets users gauge how much mobile data they are conserving in daily, weekly, and monthly views. The download manager provides more granular control over when and where the browser downloads files. Opera made it quicker to reach the Speed Dial and bookmark functions, as well. Opera Mini for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Instagram has redesigned its mobile and desktop web sites, placing a greater emphasis on the photos. Images are now much larger on the site, which will display users' image feed when they sign in with their account. The design does away with the out-dated motifs of the outgoing site and has a more modern, minimalist appearance. People can scan for hashtags as well as perform searches. Instagram is owned by Facebook and has mobile photo-sharing apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
Facebook has updated its Graph API and the change will impact the Facebook Connect feature on Windows Phone handsets. The Facebook Graph API is what lets Microsoft connect users' Facebook accounts to their Microsoft accounts for the purposes of populating the People app with current contact data and newsfeed updates. The changed API breaks functionality most dramatically with handsets running Windows Phone 8.0 and earlier. This means the People app and others (photo gallery, movie maker, and OneDrive) will no longer be updated with content from Facebook. The change doesn't have such a large impact on devices running Windows Phone 8.1, but the People app will still cease updating Facebook content on WP8.1 handsets. Microsoft said the Facebook application for Window Phone will continue to function properly.
Facebook today altered the way it handles location sharing within Messenger. Previously, Messenger allowed users to set their location-sharing status to on or off. Now, it provides more granular controls. Users can choose to share their location directly with message recipients through new, and more specific tools. For example, people can search for basic locations, such as cafes or restaurants, and send those coordinates to recipients. Alternately, users can send maps of their exact location to others. Facebook says users now have "full control" over when and how they share their location information. Location details can be sent as a separate message even if the sender has not yet arrived at the indicated spot. Facebook says Messenger will not see users' location data unless it is actively shared, and the app will not suss out users' location in the background. Messenger is free to download for Android, iOS, and Windows devices.
Nokia today updated its HERE Maps products for the Android, iOS, and Windows Phone platforms simultaneously. Nokia says there are "millions of changes" to the maps, but calls out a few specifics. To start, several countries in Africa have much more accurate road maps and can now support navigation between points. In the U.S. and other regions, Nokia has worked to more accurately depict where train and subway lines run. HERE Maps no longer simply connects the stations with straight lines; instead, transit lines are shown exactly as they run along the ground. Nokia said it also improved its business-grade maps product for corporate customers. Nokia said customers should update the main map app, as well as any countries they may have downloaded for offline access. Nokia HERE Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store, iTunes App Store, and Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today announced that Windows 10 will be available as a free download to PCs and tablets on July 29. Most hardware running Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 should be able to upgrade to the new operating system. Microsoft recommends people reserve a copy online. Microsoft did not provide an update concerning the availability of Windows 10 Mobile. Earlier this year, Microsoft indicated the smartphone version of Windows 10 would not arrive until after the desktop version. Windows 10 Mobile is expected to arrive in the fall months, though Microsoft has not specified exactly when. Windows 10 for desktops, tablets, and phones share many features and apps. A technical preview of Windows 10 Mobile is available for testing purposes, but it is far from its final form.
Microsoft said it plans to more effectively enforce rules in the Windows Store in order to rid it of duplicate and questionable apps. The company will focus on four main areas: eliminating app clutter; ensuring apps are appropriately priced; distinguishing informational apps; and ensuring relevant app titles and keywords. Microsoft plans to strip away app clones that don't offered differentiated features, such as the myriad flashlight apps in the store. Microsoft will be checking to be sure developers price their apps in line with similar apps, and will also make sure developers describe them appropriately so people know what they're getting. Microsoft also wants informational apps to be more differentiated from functional apps so users know when they're buying a game and not a game guide, for example. Microsoft believes these enforcements will improve the Windows Store for both developers and consumers.
Microsoft today said Android and iOS users will soon be able to use Cortana, its virtual assistant, on their smartphones. The Android and iOS Cortana app will work in coordination with Cortana on Windows 10 PCs, according to Microsoft. A Phone Companion app for Windows 10 PCs will help Android and iOS device owners install Cortana on their handset so they can access Microsoft's virtual assistant wherever they go. The Android and iOS version of Cortana will include most features available to the Windows 10 and Windows Phone versions, such as setting reminders, alerts, and alarms; tracking flights and managing travel details; and accessing Cortana's Notebook function for search preferences. Changes made in one version of Cortana will be reflected across all devices. Microsoft said the Phone Companion app will function with Windows Phone handsets, too, to help sync Cortana functions across devices. In order to test Cortana on Android and iOS smartphones, users will need to enroll in Microsoft's Windows Insider program and install the Windows 10 Technical Preview for PCs. Microsoft said the Cortana Companion App will be available for Android phones at the end of June and for iPhones later this year. Microsoft also mentioned that the updated Xbox Music app for Android and iPhone will be available in late June or July with the beta label in tow to stream OneDrive music content. Google's own personal assistant, Google Now, is available for Android and iOS devices, but not Windows Phone. Apple's Siri is only available to iOS.
Spotify today introduced new features to its streaming music service on the desktop and on mobile devices. The biggest change involves how people discover music and create playlists. A feature called Spotify Now purports to know what listeners want to hear at different times of the day and can automatically generate playlists for different activities, such as commuting, working, and relaxing. The service is also adding video content, which will come from a variety of sources, such as Comedy Central, Vice, ESPN, NBC, Adult Swim, TED, and others. Much of the video content will focus on music and will be short-form clips rather than long shows or episodes. The company is also targeting runners with new music controls that make it easier to select and control playlists while exercising. Spotify is placing an emphasis on discovering the songs that match tempo to the runner's pace. Spotify uses on-device sensors to determine pace and can do so very quickly. The company thinks this can help runners improve their workouts. Spotify has apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. The new apps will reach consumers in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and Sweden today, with other regions following over time.
MixRadio today made its customized radio service available to Android and iOS devices for the first time. Microsoft acquired MixRadio when it purchased Nokia's handset business, but later divested it to a messaging company called Line. Due to its relationship with Nokia and Microsoft, MixRadio has been exclusive to Windows Phones until today. The new Android and iOS apps, which are available from the Play Store and iTunes, include thousands of free, curated radio stations similar to how Pandora operates. The service lets users create and listen to personalized radio stations, and can be cached on devices for offline playback. The app is supported by ads, but MixRadio may launch an ad-free version later this year. It is available in 31 countries, including the U.S. In addition to announcing the new apps, MixRadio said it has partnered with HTC to provide music-related news stories for HTC's BlinkFeed application.
Microsoft said it plans to take a more active role in making sure the existing base of Windows 10 smartphones has the latest code. The company is taking a page from Apple and will not rely on carriers to deliver operating system updates. Microsoft said, "We take our responsibility to keep Windows secure seriously. We [will] proactively update supported devices with necessary updates to address issues. And today, we're announcing this continuous update process applies to all Windows 10 devices, including phones." Microsoft confirmed to ZDNet that it will deliver security, performance, and feature updates to Windows 10 Mobile handsets itself, and the code will be pushed to all users simultaneously. The statement appears to apply to handsets that ship with Windows 10 Mobile, and not older devices. With Windows 8.1 and earlier, Microsoft relied on its carrier partners to approve and distribute system updates and it will continue to do so. As ZDNet points out, however, consumers with older handsets can join the Windows Insider program to maintain early access to new OS versions. Apple uses this same master distribution method for keeping its iOS devices up to date. Google still relies on its handset and carrier partners to update their individual devices to newer versions of Android.
Microsoft today released build 10080 of the Windows 10 Technical Preview for phones. The updated operating system adds a number of features and resolves a wide number of known bugs. To start, the new technical preview introduces the Windows Store beta for phones. Users will be able to browse through the new content store for apps. Thanks to the store's presence in the build, Windows Phone previewers can now download the universal app versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, and Xbox. The operating system includes the music preview and video preview apps, too, which will let testers look at how Windows 10 Mobile will handle media playback. Microsoft also added the new camera app. Microsoft recommends users read through the "known issues" bullet points before installing the operating system preview on their phone. The technical preview is in pre-beta status and not meant to be used as a daily driver.
Microsoft today released an application for Windows Phone and Android handsets called Hyperlapse. The app can be used to stabilize shaky footage or to create fast-moving time-lapse videos. The app supports multiple playback speeds (between 1x and 32x) and can import existing video files from the phone's camera roll. Microsoft says the user interface takes only a few moments to master. The app is available to Windows Phones from the Windows Store, though the Android version is officially being labeled a beta. Microsoft also made Hyperlapse available to Windows PCs. There are a number of competing time-lapse apps in the market, including one from Instagram called Hyperlapse. Instagram's app is limited to the iPhone. Microsoft's Hyperlapse app is free.
Verizon Wireless today announced the LG Lancet, the first Windows Phone handset to support Verizon's Advanced Calling 1.0 service. Lancet owners will be able to make high-definition voice calls via Verizon's LTE network. The phone runs Windows 8.1, but carries over some features from LG's Android handsets, such as KnockOn for waking the phone and Quick Memo for capturing screen shots. The Lancet features a 4.5-inch screen, 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, 8-megapixel main camera, 8 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 128 GB. The Lancet is a budget-friendly phone. The full retail price is $120, though Verizon is offering the phone for $5 per month with a Verizon Edge plan. The LG Lancet is available online starting today, and it will reach Verizon stores May 21.
Cricket Wireless today said the Lumia 640, which goes on sale May 15, will cost $129.99. Early buyers of the phone will be rewarded with a one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal for use on the phone as well as on a tablet and on a PC. The phone also offers 1TB of OneDrive storage for a period of one year, and 60 minutes of free Skype Unlimited Worldwide calling each month. The phone has a 5-inch HD screen, 8-megapixel camera, LTE, Bluetooth, WiFi, and GPS. The Lumia 640 will ship with Windows 8.1, but can be upgraded to Windows 10 Mobile later this year. Cricket does not require contracts.
Microsoft today said it will offer seven versions of Windows 10, including one tailored specifically for mobile phones. The versions are called Windows 10 Home, Pro, Mobile, Enterprise, Education, Mobile Enterprise, and IoT Core. Each version caters to a specific user-base. The mobile version of Windows 10, says Microsoft, "is designed to deliver the best user experience on smaller, mobile, touch-centric devices like smartphones and small tablets." Windows 10 Mobile includes all the same universal apps available to other versions of the platform, such as productivity tools, security, and management capabilities. One of the biggest features is Continuum, which will let people use their smartphone as a full PC when connected to peripherals such as a screen, keyboard, and mouse. Microsoft said the full versions of Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Mobile, and Windows 10 Pro will be a free upgrade for one year to compatible Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 devices. Some versions of Windows 10 will reach 190 countries this summer. The timing for the mobile version of Windows 10 has not yet been defined.
BlackBerry today made an update available to its Windows Phone BBM app that adds support for Channels. BBM Channels foster conversations around specific topics, brands, or products. Organizations can use BBM Channels to interface with the public and their users and/or fans. Channels have been available to the BlackBerry, Android, and iOS versions of BBM for some time. BBM for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Yahoo today announced a significant round of updates to its Flickr online photo service. To start, the online site has a new camera roll and improved search tools to make browsing through albums more enjoyable or locating specific moments much easier. The refreshed web site is joined by new desktop uploaders for finding and automatically uploading photos from Mac and Windows PCs to the service. Last, in order to make Flickr more consistent across platforms and devices, Yahoo updated the Android and iOS Flickr apps. The new mobile apps have improved photo uploaders, as well. Flickr users should enjoy the same experience no matter what device they choose to access the service. Flickr is free to use and offers 1 TB of online storage.
Documents on the FCC website recently revealed an unannounced handset from Microsoft intended for Verizon Wireless. The FCC notes the device supports Verizon's LTE and CDMA networks, but reveals little else. The device appears to be a standard slab handset with a camera and flash visible on the back surface and large screen on the front. The phone has a design similar to previous Lumia devices. Neither Microsoft nor Verizon has announced any such device.
Microsoft today said it has acquired digital pen technology from N-Trig. Microsoft has worked with the Israeli company for years, as N-Trig created the Surface Pen stylus for Microsoft's Surface tablets. "Digital pens have a ways to go to be as good as pen and paper on some dimensions, and we'll get there. But more importantly, adding the ability to capture and share the work you do with a digital pen opens up possibilities that traditional pen and paper just can't match," said Microsoft in a blog post. In the past, N-Trig created the DuoSense Pen for using with Android and Windows Phone smartphones. Terms of the technology deal with Microsoft were not disclosed.
Microsoft has shied away from saying exactly when Windows 10 will launch other than to say "this summer." Speaking at Microsoft's Build developer conference this week, executive Joe Belfiore said the phone-specific version of Windows 10 won't arrive until after Windows 10 launches for PCs and tablets. "Our phone builds have not been as far as long as our PC builds," said Belfiore. "We're adapting the phone experiences later than we're adding the PC experiences." Belfiore didn't provide specifics, but the implication is that the revised OS for mobile phones won't arrive until the fall months. Microsoft has already released two preview builds of Windows 10 for Phones. The company is expected to seed a new build of the fledgling OS in the next couple of weeks.
Microsoft today demonstrated how Windows 10 on phones will be able to serve as full PCs thanks to the Continuum user interface idea. Continuum helps keep the UI approximately the same as users move from PC to tablet to phone. Continuum on Windows 10 phones will let users turn their phones into full computers with apps, data, and accessories such as a keyboard and mouse. According to Microsoft's Joe Belfiore, new hardware is required to power this vision. The Windows 10 platform is expected to arrive later this year, but Microsoft has not announced new Windows Phones just yet.
Microsoft today said Windows 10 devices will be able to run Android applications. According to Microsoft, developers will be able to reuse Java and C++ code to run Android apps in an Android subsystem on Windows 10 devices. Further, Microsoft said Windows 10 will support iOS and Objective C, so developers can port iOS apps to Windows 10 easily thanks to new tools in Visual Studio. Adding support for Android apps and making it possible for developers to port iOS apps to the Windows 10 platform will help Microsoft close the app gap it faces with competing platforms. BlackBerry has a similar idea in place on its BlackBerry 10 devices, which can run Android apps. Windows 10 isn't expected to arrive until later this year.
Microsoft today said Windows device owners will soon be able to purchase apps using their wireless account rather than a credit card. Carrier billing, as the practice is called, makes it more convenient for people to purchase good and services from mobile devices by removing the credit card barrier. Purchases are simply added to the user's monthly bill. Microsoft said it will launch carrier billing with 90 carriers around the world, but didn't specify which ones. Carrier billing will be possible across all Windows 10 devices, including phones, tablets, and PCs. Windows 10 is expected to arrive later this year.
Microsoft today pushed out a minor update to the Windows 10 Technical Preview for phones. Build 10052 resolves a number of performance issues and makes a few other tweaks. For example, users can now enable flight mode again, as well as disable all data connections if so desired. Microsoft fixed an MMS-related bug that saw some users lose their settings. It also resolved an issue that prevented some from downloading keyboards for additional languages. Last, Microsoft repaired a bug that caused the viewfinder in the camera app to display incorrectly. Build 10052 of Windows 10 Technical Preview for phones is available to Microsoft Insiders.
Microsoft today said the Universal Maps app for the Windows 10 platform is now available to phones running the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Device owners can download the Universal app via the Windows Insider program. As with all Universal apps, Maps works across phone, tablet, and PC form factors. It is responsive to touch input and includes satellite images, local search data via Bing, live traffic, and voice-guided navigation. It also supports downloadable maps, which are accessible even when the device is offline. According to Microsoft, it takes the best from both Bing Maps and HERE Maps and puts them together in a single application. Microsoft has also updated the Maps app for the desktop version of Windows 10, which now includes more 3D city renders and streetside panoramas. Maps for Windows 10 Technical Preview is free for Windows Insiders to download.
Microsoft today said Office Universal apps will be available to the Windows 10 platform for phones by the end of the month. The Office Universal apps work across desktop, tablet, and handset form factors. Microsoft only recently expanded the number of handsets able to run the Windows 10 Technical Preview. The preview will be required to install the early look at Office Universal. According to Microsoft, the Office Universal apps were built with touch-first usability in mind for phones and tablets. The Universal apps adapt to the smaller screens of phones and move the commands and controls to the bottom of the display for better one-handed editing and creating. The Universal apps produce documents, spreadsheets, and presentations that are fully compatible with the tablet and desktop versions of Office, which now share most features. Microsoft expects the preview of Office Universal for Windows 10 to go live within a few weeks.
Nokia today said it has agreed to acquire Alcatel-Lucent for $16.6 billion. The combined companies would be a giant in the telecom equipment space with more than 100,000 employees. The terms of the deal will see Nokia acquire all of Alcatel-Lucent's stock, as traded in both France and the U.S. The companies' boards of directors have approved the deal, though shareholders have yet to vote on the acquisition. The deal will also require regulatory approval. The companies expect the deal to close during the first half of 2016. Once combined, the companies will streamline redundant operations, but believe the 40,000 research and development at its disposal employees will be able to make the company a world leader in the connected IP space. Nokia-Alcatel-Lucent will specifically target the development of 5G wireless networks. The largest competitors remaining are Ericsson and Huawei, though ZTE, Samsung, and others make telecommunications equipment, too. In addition to announcing the Alcatel-Lucent deal, Nokia said it has begun a review of strategic options for its HERE Maps business. Nokia acquired Navteq's mapping business in 2007 and turned it into a competitive global company. Nokia's HERE Maps are available to the Android, iOS, and Windows Phone platforms, as well as online, and provide robust driving, walking, and transit directions. Nokia said its review of HERE Maps may or may not result in a transaction.
Following up an announcement it made last month, Microsoft today made an updated version of the Windows 10 technical preview available to a much wider range of Lumia smartphones. Microsoft delivered an early build of the technical preview to just a few handsets in February. However, due to the way most handsets' partitions were created, the preview couldn't function properly on the vast majority of devices. Microsoft has completed a process called partition stitching, which allows devices to adjust the partition dynamically. Microsoft has finished testing this new version of the technical preview on a wide variety of Windows handsets. The preview is available through Microsoft's Windows Insiders program. Some of the handsets now able to install the beta operating system include the Lumia 1520, 1320, 1020, 920, 925, 928, and a smattering of handsets from the Lumia 500, 600, 700, and 800 series. According to Microsoft today's build includes an early version of the Project Spartan browser, the new Windows 10 universal Outlook and calendar apps, and new phone and messaging apps. The People Hub has a new visual design, and the Maps app has been updated to the universal windows version. Microsoft also refreshed the app switcher tool, which now supports a new grid for faster selecting. Microsoft said it fixed a number of performance problems compared to earlier builds, but warned that there are still a number of known problems with the technical preview.
Microsoft today said that Cortana on devices running Windows Phone 8.1 will soon be able to recommend movies based on user interests. Windows Phone owners will need to activate the film concierge service by turning the feature on in Cortana's Notebook settings. According to Microsoft, after a few days Cortana will begin to make recommendations. If users are interested in a recommended movie, clicking on it will bring up details such as synopsis, reviews, cast list, and trailers, and even allow users to purchase tickets. Cortana's movie concierge service is free to use.
Vine today released a major update to its application for Windows Phones that brings the app more in line with the versions for Android and iOS. The app now has more ways to import video, including from the camera roll. Users can edit their Vines by moving various clips around, as well as save draft Vines for later editing. The Windows Phone app supports private Vine Messages, which are short video snippets users can send to one another. The app now displays loop counts, showing how many times each video has been viewed, and lets users customize their profile with new background colors. Last, the Vine activity feed has been redesigned with notifications about views, likes, comments, and friend activity on Vine. Vine, which is owned an operated by Twitter, is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Skype today pushed out significant improvements to its Android, iOS, and Qik mobile applications. The Android version of Skype gains new bubble-style conversations similar to the iPhone, as well as access to an expanded range of animated emoji. The Android app will no longer auto-scroll to the latest message as new ones come in; allows users to change and view avatars for group chats; and forces users to re-enter their password if they actively sign out of the app. The iOS version of Skype now supports more languages, including Croatian, Slovak, Catalan, Vietnamese, Thai, Hindi, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Malay, Turkish, and Estonian. Skype's Qik app for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone now supports multiple effects at once. The Android and iOS Qik apps now let people access these features by touching the magic wand, but the Windows Phone version uses a viewfinder to cycle through the different effects. Skype for Android and iOS, and Qik for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone are free to download from the platforms' respective app stores.