Phone Scoop

printed February 28, 2015
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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.

by:  Microsoft


OneDrive for Windows Grabs New Security Features

Thursday, 12:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a modest update to its OneDrive application for Windows Phone handsets. OneDrive now allows users to sign in with multiple Microsoft accounts on a single device. It also adds PIN code protection to prevent people from intentionally or inadvertently accessing, changing, or deleting files. Last, the app adds the ability to create and manage photo albums (different from folders) directly on the handset. Microsoft says the albums can contain photos from any folder in OneDrive and can be easily shared with others. OneDrive for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.


Google to Kill Windows Phone Softcard App

Wednesday, 1:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Softcard today indicated that the Windows Phone version of the Softcard mobile payment application will be discontinued. "The Softcard for Windows Phone app will be terminated. A specific termination date will be provided soon," said Softcard in a statement on a new FAQ web site published today. Softcard was developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Supported devices, including a handful of Windows Phones sold by AT&T and Verizon, can use Softcard to make tap-and-go mobile payments at participating retailers. Google purchased Softcard's assets from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon earlier this week to bolster its own Google Wallet application. The three carriers have agreed to preload Google Wallet on their Android handsets moving forward. Wallet competed with Softcard. Softcard didn't indicate how soon the Windows Phone app will be deactivated. Without it, Windows Phone handsets won't have the same mobile payment options available to Android and iOS devices.


Microsoft to Let Developers Add OneDrive to Their Apps

Tuesday, 1:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released an API for its cloud-based OneDrive storage service. The API will allow third-party app developers to add OneDrive access and features, such as file retrieval and uploads, to their own applications. The API is compatible with Windows, Android, and iOS devices, in addition to desktop web browsers. Microsoft said it will use the API internally with its own apps to "ensures that everyone is building on the platform with the same set of tools." When Microsoft adds new features to the API, developers will have immediate access to them. Microsoft has spent the last year expanding the availability of its core apps and services across platforms. This is the latest step in its more open strategy.


Microsoft to Close the Door On Windows Phone's 'Rooms'

Feb 17, 2015, 5:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has begun informing owners of Windows Phone handsets that it will discontinue the Rooms feature in March. Users will still be able to see their rooms, as well as use existing photo albums, calendars, and notes, but users won't be able to create new rooms or change permissions in existing rooms. The chat function will be disabled, as well. Rooms were added to Windows Phone 8 as a way for small groups to communicate and share information. Microsoft noted that Rooms will not be available in Windows 10, including the technical preview, which is already available to select devices.


iPhone Users Can Now Store Office Documents In iCloud

Feb 17, 2015, 10:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced several new features for its Office suite of productivity apps. First and foremost, third-party cloud providers can now integrate their own services into the "locations picker" in the iOS Office apps. This means mobile device users can open, edit, and save their documents to any cloud service. Apple's iCloud is the first to receive this support, so iPhone and iPad users can store their mobile Office documents in iCloud. Microsoft said it plans to bring this feature to the Windows and Android versions of Office soon. Further, Microsoft is making it possible for cloud storage providers to weave Office Online into their own mobile applications. Microsoft's vision here is to let people open, view, and edit their online documents from any browser on any device. Microsoft said Box, Citrix, and Salesforce are already working on this level of integration. Microsoft has dramatically increased the availability of Office to mobile devices in recent months with the hopes that people and businesses will continue to use its productivity suite rather than competing products from Apple and Google.


Windows 10 Preview for Phones Now Available

Feb 12, 2015, 12:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 12, 2015, 1:27 PM

The technical preview for Windows 10 on smartphones is available beginning today, according to Microsoft employees. "Okay, Windows Insiders, you've all been patient enough. Today is the day for Win10 Technical Preview for phones," tweeted Gabriel Aul. Aul's comments were echoed by Microsoft's Joe Belfiore. He said, "Who's ready!? Who's ready!? Now remember, these bits are early! Still lots of work to do, but still, this will be fun." In order to access the technical preview of Windows 10 for phones, interested parties will need to be part of the Windows Insider program (free to join). According to the documentation available through Windows Insider, the Lumia 630, 635, 636, 638, 730, and Lumia 830 are compatible with the technical preview. At the moment, Microsoft's flagship handsets, the Lumia 1520 and Lumia 930, cannot install the Windows 10 preview. Owners of these handsets will need to have the Windows Insider app installed on their phone before they can proceed. Microsoft's Belfiore said the company will add features and more handsets to the technical preview over time. The Technical Preview is not for everyday people. It is an unfinished version of the operating system meant for testing purposes. Microsoft isn't expected to deliver the final version of Windows 10 to PCs, tablets, and smartphones until the summer months.


Nokia Updates HERE Maps for Android and Windows

Feb 11, 2015, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today announced sweeping updates to its HERE Maps application for the Android and Windows Phone platforms. The chief goal of this update was to improve the accuracy of maps worldwide with new/changed roads. HERE now more accurately represents inland water, such as ponds, rivers, and lakes. Nokia says the maps for Cyprus, Mayotte, and Zimbabwe have been updated in their entirety and are now navigable via turn-by-turn directions. Nokia took pains to increase the accuracy of how transit lines are mapped, as well. Specifically, the cities of Kaohsiung, Taipei, Curitiba, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Singapore now more accurately show where subway, train, and bus lines pass. Nokia said the updated version of HERE Maps is rolling out worldwide over the course of the next few days. Nokia HERE Maps is free.


Qik Makes Sharing Videos Across Social Networks Simpler

Feb 10, 2015, 4:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced updates to its Android and iOS video messaging applications that simplify sharing. In earlier versions of the app, users needed to save videos to their camera roll before they could be shared outside of Qik. Moving forward, users will be able to record from within Qik and then share to whatever other social networks/services they might have accessible from their phone through the phone's native sharing tool. The update is available today to Android and iOS devices, but not yet to Microsoft's own Windows Phone platform. Microsoft said a new version of Qik for Windows Phone is still several months away.


Low-End Lumias to Get Stripped Down Windows 10

Feb 9, 2015, 8:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore said on his Twitter account that entry-level Windows Phones may not get all the features of Windows 10. "We are working on Win10 for 512MB, including 520. Our ambition is to make Win10 available for these devices, but features may vary," wrote Belfiore. Many of Microsoft's most popular Lumia devices are entry-level handsets such as the 520, 530, 625, and 630, which are all limited to 512MB of RAM. Belfiore didn't say which features will or won't be included in the system update for low-spec'd phones. Microsoft had previously said all Windows Phone 8.1 phones would updated to Windows 10. Microsoft is expected to release a preview version of Windows 10 for phones this month.


TileArt App for Windows Phone Encourages Creativity

Feb 3, 2015, 1:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently released a new app called TileArt that lets Windows Phone owners fully customize the appearance of their home and lock screens. With TileArt, people can create their own custom tile layout and upload transparent images to use with the layouts. Users can create their own lock screens and share their home screen layout with friends. The app provides access to some free TileArt, too, to help people get started. The TileArt gallery showcases backgrounds from professional animators, illustrators, and designers. TileArt is free to download from the Windows Phone Store. The app requires Windows Phone 8.1.


Bank of America to Drop Windows Phone Support, Too

Jan 28, 2015, 3:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Following Chase, Bank of America today indicated that it will cease to support the Windows Phone platform come March. According to the Windows Store listing for Bank of America's Windows Phone app, the app will cease to work in early March. Bank of America said its Windows Phone users will be able to access their account through their mobile browser once the app is disabled. Chase bank made a similar announcement earlier this week. Bank of America is the second-largest bank in the U.S., while Chase is the largest.


Chase Pulls Mobile App from Windows Phone Store

Jan 26, 2015, 3:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Chase has removed its mobile banking application from the Windows Phone Store. The company recently notified users that its app would be pulled and eventually shut down. Today the company followed through. Chase customers who've already downloaded the app to their Windows Phone will be able to use Chase Mobile until March 22, after which it will no longer be supported for account access. Chase based its decision on the lack of users. Chase still offers mobile banking apps to the Android and iOS platforms. JPMorgan Chase is the largest bank in the U.S.


BlackBerry CEO Weighs In On Net and App Neutrality

Jan 22, 2015, 8:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen penned a blog post concerning net neutrality. Chen does not think the FCC should reclassify broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. He believes the FCC can come up with other ways to ensure an open, competitive market. Perhaps more interesting, however, are Chen's thoughts on "application neutrality." Chen believes application developers and content providers should be required to make their apps and services available to all mobile devices, including BlackBerries. "Not all content and applications providers have embraced openness and neutrality," wrote Chen. "Unlike BlackBerry, which allows iPhone users to download and use our BBM service, Apple does not allow BlackBerry or Android users to download Apple's iMessage messaging service. Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them. Many other applications providers similarly offer service only to iPhone and Android users. This dynamic has created a two-tiered wireless broadband ecosystem, in which iPhone and Android users are able to access far more content and applications than customers using devices running other operating systems. Therefore, neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet. All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer's mobile operating system." Both the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store are home to more than one million apps each. The number of apps available to BlackBerry and Windows Phone devices is much, much less.


DropBox Lands On Windows Phone

Jan 22, 2015, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Dropbox has released an app for the Windows Phone platform for the first time. The app gives Windows Phone owners 2GB of free cloud storage for saving documents, files, and photos. Users can easily share their files by sending a link to others. Dropbox competes with Microsoft's own OneDrive. Users can pay to upgrade their storage to higher amounts, but the base app is free. Dropbox is already available to Android, iOS, and desktop platforms.


WhatsApp Expands to the Web

Jan 21, 2015, 2:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

WhatsApp today made it possible for people to send messages from their Chrome browser in addition to their mobile device. The Chrome-based service is compatible with Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone devices, but not iOS due to "platform limitations." In order to launch the web-based functionality, users need to scan a QR code from within the WhatsApp application on their handset. They are then able to unlock the Chrome-based desktop client, where they'll be able to message their WhatsApp contacts.


Microsoft Reveals Details About Windows 10

Jan 21, 2015, 12:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 21, 2015, 1:55 PM

Microsoft today offered an early first look at its forthcoming Windows 10 operating system, which will run on PCs, tablets, and phones. Microsoft said it is taking a new, more user-centric approach with Windows 10. It is incorporating the feedback it received about Windows 8/8.1 and is making sure to add user-requested features, such as the old Start menu. The company now views Windows more as a service and it will provide continual updates. Microsoft said Windows 10 will be a free upgrade during its first year of availability, for example, to all devices running Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1. Windows 10 for PCs and tablets will gain features from Windows Phone, including the Action Center and Cortana, Microsoft's voice-activated personal assistant. Windows devices with screens 8 inches and larger will include the "desktop experience." Smaller devices will have an altered experience more suited for phones. A rough build of the phone-centric version of Windows 10 features a revised settings menu that has new graphics. Windows 10 also allows users to move the keyboard around on the screen if they so wish. The entire Windows 10 platform will include Skype more firmly entrenched across apps. Further, full versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that closely match the desktop variants will be included in Windows Phone 10. All Windows 10 devices will have a new Outlook client, which has been revised with the Word engine. Other major app re-writes include the calendar, photo gallery, and Internet Explorer, which is based on Project Spartan, a complete overhaul of the browser. Last, the entire platform will more broadly support Xbox gaming, including PC-to-Xbox play. Microsoft said the first preview of Windows 10 for phones will be available to "insiders" beginning in February.


Twitter for Windows Phone Earns New Features

Jan 20, 2015, 1:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today updated its mobile app for Windows Phone devices and took the opportunity to add new functions. For example, Twitter now integrates with the People Hub for saving Twitter profile data. The new app also makes it possible to share web links from Internet Explorer and to send Tweets with help from Cortana. Twitter says it fixed some bugs, too. Twitter for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.


Facebook Working On Its Own Voice-to-Text System

Jan 20, 2015, 8:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook plans to add voice-to-text transcription to its Facebook Messenger application, said David Marcus, Facebook's vice president of messaging products. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Marcus said the company is already testing the system using machine-to-machine learning, though he declined to say when the feature might be added to the app. Facebook expects the feature to be popular across Asia and other regions where typing various languages on mobile devices is more of a chore. Apple, Google, and Microsoft already provide their own voice-to-text services, which are built into the iOS, Android, and Windows Phone operating systems, respectively. Marcus didn't say how Facebook's transcription service will differ from what's already available to consumers. Marcus said 500 million people use Messenger monthly and it hopes to grow that number to 1 billion. Marcus indicated Facebook is exploring ways to monetize Messenger, but the company wants to avoid advertising. Facebook also owns WhatsApp and Instagram, which have 700 million and 300 million monthly users, respectively. Facebook said it will monetize Messenger before WhatsApp. Facebook has an "ambitious" roadmap for Messenger, and will add other features over the course of the year.


Microsoft Commences Denim Rollout to Lumia Phones

Jan 15, 2015, 1:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made good on a promise it made last month and began to distribute the Lumia Denim system update to devices running Windows Phone 8.1. The Denim update adds live folders, improves the Internet Explorer browser, adds SMS merging, and makes vast improvements to the imaging tools. More specifically, the Lumia Icon, 1520, 930, and 830 will also get an updated Lumia Camera. The update is being rolled out to specific devices in phases. Most Lumia phones running Windows Phone 8.1 will eventually have access to the Denim system update, but U.S. carriers haven't said when they'll push the update to their Windows Phone lineups.


Microsoft Debuts Two Low-Cost Lumias

Jan 14, 2015, 8:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced the Lumia 532 and Lumia 435, two entry-level Windows Phones. Both devices run Windows Phone 8.1 with the Lumia Denim update and include core software features such as Microsoft Office, Skype, OneDrive, HERE Maps, and Cortana. Shared hardware features include 4-inch WVGA displays, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, 1,560mAh batteries, and support for memory cards up to 128GB.

  • Lumia 532: This handset (pictured) has a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor, a 5-megapixel main camera, and a VGA user-facing camera. It costs about $93.
  • Lumia 435: The 435 is Microsoft's least-expensive Lumia device ever at just $81. It has a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon 200 processor, 2-megapixel main camera, and VGA user-facing camera.
The Microsoft Lumia 532 and 435 go on sale in select markets beginning next month. Both handsets will be available in single- and dual-SIM configurations.


PayPal Reaches BlackBerry 10 Devices

Jan 9, 2015, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

PayPal has made a version of its mobile application available in the BlackBerry World app store for devices running BlackBerry OS 10.x. With this new app, PayPal is available to Android, BlackBerry, Fire OS, iOS, and Windows smartphones. PayPal for BlackBerry allows owners to send/request money, check balances, see activity, redeem offers, and even check-in to pay at select retailers that accept PayPal. The app works with the Z10 and Q10, as well as newer phones including the BlackBerry Passport and Classic. PayPal for BlackBerry is free to download from BlackBerry World.


Alcatel OneTouch Pixi 3 Can Run Android, Firefox, or Windows

Jan 2, 2015, 11:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 2, 2015, 11:41 AM

Alcatel OneTouch today announced the Pixi 3 series, an affordable selection of smartphones that is among the first to run one of three different operating systems. The Pixi 3 series can be loaded with the Android, Firefox, or Windows Phone platforms. Consumers won't be able to switch/load the operating system themselves; rather, the devices will be programmed by carriers. Further, the series comes with four different screen sizes (3.5, 4.0, 4.5, and 5.0 inches). With the variety of operating systems and screen sizes available, consumers can find the perfect device for their needs. The Pixi 3 series also supports 3G and LTE 4G for many regions around the world. Alcatel did not provide more details about the Pixi 3 series, such as specs, pricing, or availability. Alcatel OneTouch also launched its foray into wearables today with a new smartwatch. The Alcatel Watch Series promises to offer elegant and affordable wearables that undercut the competition. According to Alcatel, the Watch Series is packed with sensors and apps that can monitor daily activities. It connects to Android devices and can be used to control music, take photos, and receive notifications. Alcatel did not say what platform the Watch Series runs, nor did it provide any specs or other details. Alcatel OneTouch has more news planned for the days ahead during the Consumer Electronics Show.


Verizon Pushing Windows Phone 8.1 to Lumia 928, 822

Dec 19, 2014, 11:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Dec 19, 2014, 11:28 AM

Verizon Wireless today made Windows Phone 8.1 with the Denim update available to the Lumia 928 and Lumia 822. Windows Phone 8.1 adds Cortana, adjustable home screen columns, and other features. The update is free. Microsoft said WP8.1 for the Lumia Icon is on deck for early 2015.


Microsoft Targeting January for Lumia Denim Update

Dec 18, 2014, 1:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said that it will begin pushing the Lumia Denim system update to its Windows Phones en masse beginning next month. The update is already trickling out to a few phones in select markets, but all Lumia smartphones running Windows Phone 8.1 will see the update at some point next month. According to Microsoft, improved imaging is the most significant new feature of the update. Notably, the camera app should function much faster, especially on devices such as the Lumia 930, 830, 1520, and Icon. In addition to speed, the camera will gain a feature called Moment Capture, which records 4K video at 24 frames per second with each and every frame saved as an 8.3-megapixel image. Users can snag a single frame from the video as a stand-alone image if they wish. Another new camera function is called Rich Capture. With it, the camera takes over settings such as auto HDR, dynamic flash, and dynamic exposure so users can focus on getting the shot and not on futzing with the camera app. Microsoft also notes the camera app makes use of new algorithms to improve focus and exposure. The Denim update also adds live folders, SMS merging, and other improvements. Microsoft first announced Lumia Denim in September.


Microsoft Expands Xim's Sharing Abilities to TVs

Dec 18, 2014, 9:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently updated its Xim app and added compatibility with a wide range of media streaming devices. Microsoft first released Xim in October. It's a cross-platform app that allows people to easily share photos without requiring them to physically hand their phone to someone else. People use Xim to create a connection directly between devices for sharing photos from sources such as the camera roll, Instagram, and Facebook Today's update allows people to share photos not only with other phones, but with streaming media devices, including Chromecast, Apple TV, Xbox One, and Amazon Fire TV. Xim users need only connect to the WiFi network associated with the streaming media device for it to show up in the list of sharing options within the Xim app. Xims are impermanent, sort of like Snapchat, and expire after a short period of time. The updated Xim app is available from the iTunes App Store, Google Play Store, and Windows Phone Store.


Sprint to Sell Nokia Lumia 635

Dec 16, 2014, 10:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Dec 30, 2014, 9:57 AM

Sprint today said fans of Windows Phone will soon have the option to buy the Lumia 635 through several different Sprint brands. Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA will begin selling the Lumia 635 online on Dec. 23 and in stores Jan. 9 for $99. Sprint postpaid customers will have a shot at the Lumia 635 starting on Jan. 16, though pricing for the postpaid version has yet to be determined. Sprint says the Lumia 635 is the first Windows Phone 8.1 handset to grace its retail shelves. Moreover, it's the first Lumia Windows Phone to be sold by Sprint's prepaid brands. Microsoft first announced the Lumia 635 in April. It features a ClearBlack 4.5-inch LCD screen, interchangeable back panels, 5-megapixel shooter, and Nokia's two camera apps. There is no user-facing camera. It is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor and includes 512MB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, and support microSD cards up to 128GB.


More Banks and Retailers Sign Up to Support Apple Pay

Dec 16, 2014, 10:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple Pay has garnered more support from banks and retailers around the country, according to the New York Times. SunTrust, Barclaycard, and USAA have already agreed to support Apple Pay with their cards, and 10 more banks, including TD Bank North America and Commerce Bank, are adding support for Apple Pay beginning today. With the new financial institutions on board, a significantly larger percentage of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners can use Apple Pay to make mobile payments at participating retailers. More retailers are interested in Apple Pay, too. Staples will begin accepting Apple Pay at its 1,400 stores beginning today, and Amway Center, where the Orlando Magic basketball team plays, will begin accepting Apple Pay at concessions stands during games. Apple Pay uses an NFC radio embedded in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to power tap-and-go payments at more than 220,000 retail outlets around the U.S. iPhone owners use their fingerprint to approve purchases, which are secured thanks to unique codes assigned to each transaction. Apple Pay launched Oct. 20. Competing services, such as Softcard, are available to select Android and Windows Phones sold by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.


Microsoft Testing New Gestures for Windows Phone

Dec 15, 2014, 8:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently made a beta app available that permits Windows Phone users to control their devices without touching them. The new Lumia Gestures Beta app lets users: answer a call by picking up their phone and putting it to their ear; mute their mic during a call by placing the phone on a flat surface with the display facing down; put the call on speaker by placing the phone on a flat surface with the display facing up; and silence incoming calls by flipping the phone display down. Some of these gestures have been available to devices from other OEMs, such as HTC, for more than a year. Microsoft didn't say if or when they will be added to Windows Phone handsets on a permanent basis.


BlackBerry Adds Message Retraction to Windows Phone App

Dec 15, 2014, 9:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today made BBM 2.0 available to the Windows Phone platform. The updated app is now more in line with the Android, BlackBerry, and iOS versions of BBM thanks to several new features. For example BBM for Windows Phone now includes timed messages (which expire after they're seen/read) and message retraction (for recalling unread messages). BBM for Windows Phone also added a wide number of stickers for enlivening conversations. BBM 2.0 for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.


Skype's Qik App Now Lets Users Save Videos to Camera Roll

Dec 12, 2014, 1:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today announced a minor update to its Qik app for the Android and Windows Phone platforms. With the update installed, users will be able to save their Qik videos from the app to their device's camera roll if they wish. Videos can also be sent or deleted. Skype Qik is similar to Snapchat in that it allows users to send semi-ephemeral videos to one another. The videos are limited to 42 seconds in length and expire after two weeks. Qik also lets users pre-record five-second Qik Fliks, which Qik describes as canned video responses to use when there's no time to record a new video. The Skype Qik update is available to Android and Windows Phone devices today, and will be available to the iPhone in the near future.


Microsoft Offers Its MSN Apps to Android and iOS Devices

Dec 11, 2014, 9:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today expanded the availability of its MSN-branded apps beyond Windows Phone, adding them to the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. The apps, which have evolved on the Windows Phone platform this year, include MSN Food & Drink, MSN Health & Fitness, MSN Money, MSN News, and MSN Sports. These five are available to both Android and iOS today. The MSN Weather app is available to Android today, too, and will be available to iOS soon. Of note, Microsoft said its MSN Health & Fitness app makes use of Apple's HealthKit tools, which will allow iPhone owners to track steps and other fitness goals. Microsoft has targeted Android and iOS aggressively this year with its own applications and services, including MS Office, its core productivity suite, and other utilities such as OneNote and OneDrive. All the apps are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Sprint to Preload Uber on Most Android Phones

Dec 10, 2014, 4:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said it plans to install the Uber application on most of its Android smartphones moving forward. Uber is a ride-seeking app that lets people discover and request rides. Sprint and Uber are offering new customers $20 toward their first ride when they create a new Uber account. Uber requires payment via credit card, but customers can use the app to keep track of their driver as he/she approaches, as well as see estimated costs for their ride. Sprint customers who don't have Uber preinstalled on their device are still eligible to receive the discount. Uber is available from the Google Play Store, the iTunes App Store, and the Windows Phone Store.


AWS-3 Auction Slows as Bids Near $42 Billion

Dec 9, 2014, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today made another change to how participants in the AWS-3 spectrum auction place their bids. Before round 68, interested parties had to make bids on 80% of the licenses for which they were eligible. Now, companies have to place bids on 95% of the licenses for which they are eligible during each round. This change is in addition to one implemented last week, which divvied rounds into six 30-minute windows per day rather than four 60-minute windows. Total provisional winning bids for the auction have reached $41.954 billion, with most action now occurring for small and mid-sized markets. The highest single bid is for a 10x10MHz license covering New York City and Long Island, which totals $2.76 billion. The same spectrum block covering Los Angeles has garnered a high bid of $2.11 billion. The FCC's latest alterations signal again that the auction is winding down. Winners will be announced after the auction is complete.


Nokia Updates HERE Maps for Windows Phone

Dec 9, 2014, 8:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today announced an update to its suite of HERE navigation apps for the Windows Phone platform. HERE Drive+ gains 18 new languages with the update, including Algeria, Iraq, Cyprus, and Libya, making for a total of 118 supported languages. Nokia said HERE Maps, HERE Transit, and HERE City Lens also received updates, though they are limited to performance improvements and bug fixes. Nokia's HERE apps are free to download from the Windows Store. Nokia, and not Microsoft, makes and distributes the HERE apps, which are also available to Android devices.


Silent Circle Says Blackphone to Gain App Store

Dec 9, 2014, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Silent Circle today announced a forthcoming update to its Blackphone that will add a privacy-focused app store. The storefront will only be available from the Blackphone and will feature apps to help users manage and maintain their personal or professional data. The updated PrivatOS operating system will also add a feature called Silent Spaces, which makes it possible for device owners to create multiple user profiles on a single device. Similar to Kid Mode in Windows Phone, Blackphone users can use Silent Spaces set up segregated user modes to make it safer to pass the device around to different people. Silent Circle said it will distribute the update to PrivatOS beginning in January. Silent Circle is run by security-minded firms. PrivatOS is based on Android, but is more secure. The Blackphone is the only device that operates PrivatOS. It offers encrypted calling, messaging, and email services for secure communications.


Cortana Says 'Hello' to Four New Countries

Dec 5, 2014, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made Cortana available in four more countries. Cortana is the voice-controlled personal assistant built into Windows Phone 8.1. Cortana only spoke English when launched earlier the year. Microsoft later extended Cortana to China. Now, the developer preview version of Windows Phone 8.1 offers Cortana in French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Microsoft is offering Cortana as a preview so developers in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain can add Cortana capabilities to their own apps. Not all of Cortana's features will be available overseas, says Microsoft. For example, flight tracking and transit data for smaller cities are missing. Microsoft was sure to adjust Cortana's personality for each of the four languages, so it feels more natural to native French, German, Italian, and Spanish speakers. Windows Phone users in those countries can try Cortana by installing the developer preview of Windows Phone 8.1. Microsoft said it will add more features to Cortana over time.


Sprint Says New Windows Phones On the Way

Dec 4, 2014, 7:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint reaffirmed its commitment to Microsoft's Windows Phone platform today after the HTC 8XT vanished from its web site. The 8XT and Samsung ATIV S Neo are the only Windows Phones Sprint has sold this year. Sprint said the phones are still available at a limited number of retail stores, but are no longer listed online. Sprint has not been Windows Phones' strongest supporter, but the carrier isn't ready to give up on Microsoft's mobile platform. "We do expect to bring new Windows Phone devices to our customers in the near future, and Sprint is committed to offering a variety of operating systems to our customers," said Sprint in an email to Phone Scoop. Sprint didn't say which Windows devices it will sell, nor when they might reach stores.


FCC Changes AWS-3 Auction Pace As Total Surpasses $40B

Dec 4, 2014, 2:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today altered how it is conducting the auction for AWS-3 spectrum as fewer bids arrive for each round. Before today, the FCC offered four one-hour bidding windows per day. Moving forward, the FCC is offering six 30-minute bidding windows, giving bidders less time to react to each round. Total bids for the auction now exceed $40 billion. The auction, which began Nov. 13, had an initial reserve of $10.56 billion. With the number of new bids slowing down, it is possible the auction could end soon. AT&T, Dish Networks, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and dozens of other entities are participating in the bidding.


Skype for Windows Phone Gains Granular Improvements

Dec 4, 2014, 2:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today announced the availability of Skype 2.25 for the Windows Phone platform. The newest version of Skype adds several features, including giant emoticons and the ability to delete either individual messages or entire message threads. Skype says chats should load faster, and group chats should always show the most recent group avatar, even if the avatar was changed on another platform, such as a desktop. Skype also updated its Qik app for Windows Phone, which lets people send prerecorded video messages between phones. Skype and Qik are free to download from the Windows Store.


Microsoft Hands Off Nokia Phone App Store to Opera

Nov 18, 2014, 9:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced that Opera Software will soon provide the default app store for older Nokia handsets. Beginning in the first quarter of 2015, the Opera Mobile Store will replace the Nokia Store on devices running the Series 40, Series 60, Symbian, Asha, and Nokia X operating systems. The Nokia Store itself will close once all handsets are transitioned to the Opera Mobile Store, which is expected to be complete by July 2015. According to Opera, it has over 300,000 applications for Nokia's legacy devices. Old apps are updated often, and Opera says its 40,000 developers constantly produce new apps, too. Microsoft purchased Nokia's handset business earlier this year. It has committed to selling entry-level feature phones, but would rather concentrate on managing one app store (the Windows Phone Store) instead of two.


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