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.
Uber today made available a version of its mobile application for the Windows Phone platform. Uber lets Windows Phone users request rides through its on-demand taxiing service. The Windows Phone app supports credit card payments and provides rate comparisons, allows users to set pickup locations, see the progress of their pending taxi, and receive emailed receipts. Uber runs on all Windows Phone 8 and 8.1 smartphones. The application itself is free to download from the Windows Phone Store. The app was available last year, but was yanked from the store in August 2013.
Skype today announced version 5.0 for the Android platform and added one big feature: the ability to cross-integrate contacts between Skype and the phone. Skype 5.0 can scan the local phone address book for other registered Skype users and will then automatically add them to the Skype app's people list. Skype will also be able to sync the Skype address book with other Microsoft services to make sure it finds and adds all possible Skype users. Android users will be able to turn this feature off if they wish, or pick and choose which contacts are added to Skype. Users' actual phone number will not be shared as part of their public profile. Skype said similar features will soon appear in its apps for other platforms, such as iOS and Windows Phone.
Microsoft today revealed the Lumia 530, a new entry-level Windows Phone that succeeds last year's 520. The device features the same colorful design language common to Lumia models and includes interchangeable rear shells for personalization. The Lumia 530 runs Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana, MixRadio, and HERE Maps. The 530 features a 4-inch 854 x 480 display, is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200 processor, and includes a 5-megapixel camera. Connectivity is limited to HSPA at 21Mbps, but it includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and aGPS. System memory is limited to 512MB and storage is limited to 4GB. The Lumia 530 supports microSD cards up to 128GB and will be sold in a dual-SIM variant in select markets. The Lumia 530 will be available globally and begins shipping in August. The target price point is about $130. T-Mobile is the only U.S. carrier to voice support for the 530, which it said will go on sale later this year.
Microsoft today announced a sweeping company-wide re-organization that includes major changes to the mobile device business acquired from Nokia. Of Microsoft's 18,000 layoffs today, 12,500 are within the former Nokia units. Microsoft will combine the smartphone and feature phone units, with the feature phone operations continuing "for maximum efficiency with a smaller team." Nokia's Android-based Nokia X lineup will be abandoned. Select future models will be reworked to run Windows Phone to address new low price points for Lumia. Existing Nokia X phones will be supported, but the software will not appear in any new phones. The company will focus primarily on Windows-Phone-powered Lumia phones, and tablets. In an open email to employees, Stephen Elop explained that "the role of phones within Microsoft is different than it was within Nokia. Whereas the hardware business of phones within Nokia was an end unto itself, within Microsoft all our devices are intended to embody the finest of Microsoft’s digital work and digital life experiences, while accruing value to Microsoft’s overall strategy."
Nokia today began rolling out automatic updates to Windows Phone 8.1 for all Lumia devices that currently have Windows Phone 8. The update includes all new Windows Phone 8.1 features from Microsoft, plus several new enhancements specific to Lumia devices. Lumia devices will gain updated Nokia Camera apps, plus Nokia Device Hub, which intelligently tracks accessories used with the device. The Lumia 1520 and Icon phones will gain Nokia Rich Recording and Dolby surround sound video capture, plus Screen Share. Standard Windows Phone 8.1 features include a more customizable home screen, Action Center quick settings, Wi-Fi Sense for automatically connecting to free hotspots, and the Cortana voice assistant. The update will roll out to all eligible devices "in the coming weeks."
BlackBerry today followed up on its promise from earlier this year and released a beta version of BlackBerry Messenger for the Windows Phone platform. The app covers the BBM basics, which means it can be used to chat with individuals or groups, as well as share pictures, voice notes, contacts, and location. The app also supports group chats, in which users can discuss shared calendars, files, and photos. BlackBerry said the beta is limited for now ahead of a wider release. The company will work to add features, including stickers, BBM Voice, BBM Channels, and Glympse in future releases. BBM is already available for Android, iOS, and BlackBerry devices.
Cricket Wireless, which is owned by AT&T, today announced the availability of the Nokia Lumia 630 smartphone. The 630, which is a variant of the Lumia 635 (being sold by T-Mobile and MetroPCS), will reach Cricket stores on July 11. Cricket is offering the Lumia 630 for free with a $50 mail-in rebate card. The device is an entry-level Windows Phone with a 4.5-inch screen and 5-megapixel camera. Cricket is also offering discounts ranging from $20 to $50 on a wide selection of handsets, including the ZTE Sonata 4G, Prelude, and Overture 4G; the Moto G; the Nokia 520 and 1320; and the Samsung Galaxy Express 4G. Cricket is the new brand name being used by AT&T's former Aio Wireless unit. AT&T is transitioning Cricket's CDMA customers to its GSM network so it can eventually repurpose Cricket's spectrum. All the devices covered by Cricket's new promotion operate on AT&T's GSM network.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella today sent an email to employees outlining his thoughts on the company's future. Much of the email centered on what Nadella believes should be a renewed focus on improving productivity through software and services. Nadella did spare a few words, however, to discuss the company's hardware strategy. "Our Windows device OS and first-party hardware will set the bar for productivity experiences. Windows will deliver the most rich and consistent user experience for digital work and life scenarios on screens of all sizes – from phones, tablets and laptops to TVs and giant 82-inch PPI boards," said Nadella. He suggested the company continue to invest in new technologies, such as speech, gesture, and pen input, as well as entice developers with greater opportunities across is range of products. "Our first-party devices will light up digital work and life. In addition, we will build first-party hardware to stimulate more demand for the entire Windows ecosystem. It also means we will responsibly make the market for Windows Phone, which is our goal with the Nokia devices and services acquisition." Microsoft closed its purchase of Nokia's cell phone business earlier this year. The company's latest Windows Phone device is the Lumia 635, which reaches T-Mobile later this month. Further, Windows Phone 8.1, the company's latest operating system, will begin to see widespread distribution to existing devices in the weeks ahead. Nadella didn't announce any specific new hardware or features for Windows Phone.
Microsoft today released a video-editing application for the Windows Phone platform. Video Tuner, which requires Windows Phone 8.1, lets budding Christopher Nolans fine-tune their videos with a wide range of tools. Video Tuner includes filters, supports music soundtracks, and offers basic edits such as trim, crop, rotate, mirror, and flip. Video Tuner also lets users adjust playback speed, as well as adjust exposure, contrast, saturation, and volume. The app includes dedicated publishing tools for Vine and Instagram, too. Video Tuner is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Twitter pushed out an update to its mobile application for Windows Phone for the first time in seven months today. Twitter 3.2 makes significant improvements to how the app handles photos. For example, users can now upload multiple photos in a single Tweet, as well as tag friends in photos shared through the social network. Further, the app now lets people share photos through Direct Messages, and offers previews of photos and Vines embedded in Tweets. Last, the app makes it easy to reply, follow, favorite, or retweet others directly from the timeline. Twitter 3.2 for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.
T-Mobile and MetroPCS today announced the pending availability of the Nokia Lumia 635. The device will see a gradual rollout that takes place over the course of several weeks. The Lumia 635 will first be available to T-Mobile's prepaid customers starting July 5 via the Home Shopping Network. T-Mobile's web site will then offer the 635 beginning July 9, followed by T-Mobile retail stores July 16. Finally, the Lumia 635 will reach MetroPCS' web site and select stores July 18. T-Mobile customers can purchase the Nokia Lumia 635 for $0 down followed by $7 per month for 24 months with a Simple Choice plan. MetroPCS customers can purchase the device for a promotional price of $99. The 635 is an entry-level Windows Phone handset that replaces last year's 521. It runs Windows Phone 8.1 and includes a 4.5-inch screen.
Skype today updated its mobile application for the Windows Phone platform and added support for Cortana, Microsoft's virtual assistant. Windows Phone 8.1 users can now use voice commands to launch Skype conversations. The updated app also adds notifications to the Action Center, jumps from 19 languages to 51 languages, adds message editing, and improves fast-resume times when multitasking. Skype is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today announced the Nokia X2, a low-cost smartphone that runs its modified version of Android. The device follows three other Android handsets announced by Nokia in February. The X2 has a 4.3-inch ClearBlack display, dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200 processor with 1GB of RAM, 5-megapixel main camera and VGA user-facing camera. Microsoft said the X2 will have three basic home screen configurations, including one that resembles Windows Phone with colorful, resizable tiles; one called Fastlane, which prioritizes access to recent apps and calendar events; and one that incorporates Windows Phone's ability to pin select items to the home screen. Though the X2 runs Android, it ships with Microsoft services on board, including Outlook email, Bing search, Skype, OneDrive, and OneNote. The Nokia X2 will be offered in a wide range of colors, and features interchangeable rear shells. Its target price is about $135. It will initially be sold in emerging markets with support for two SIM cards. Microsoft didn't say if or when a single-SIM version would become available.
Microsoft recently began accepting preorders in the U.S. for the Lumia 635. Microsoft is asking $99 for the AT&T model and $129 for the T-Mobile model, both off contract. The 635 is an entry-level Windows Phone 8.1 handset.
Microsoft has released a new version of the Nokia Camera application for its Lumia-branded smartphones. The revised app carries over several features previously seen in the beta version, including continuous autofocus for faster focusing. The app also adds surround sound in video capture mode; revises the camera roll, which now supports inline playback of videos, cinemagraphs, smart sequences, and Refocus images; and integrates more tightly with Creative Studio and Nokia Video Trimmer for editing photos and videos. Last, the app includes support for Living Images, which adds motion to photos when viewed in the camera roll and Nokia Storyteller. Nokia Camera is free to download, but requires Windows Phone 8/8.1 and the Cyan system update. The continuous focus and Living Images features are limited to the Lumia Icon, 1520, and 930.
Google and Microsoft today indicated they will add theft deterrent tools to their respective mobile platforms. The commitment comes after major cities, including New York and San Francisco, saw significant drops in iPhone thefts during the first few months on the year. Apple added kill switch tools to the iPhone when it introduced iOS 7 last September. Google has yet to spell out the specifics of its kill switch feature, but Microsoft said it will add a kill switch to all devices running Windows Phone 8 and up. The Windows Phone tool will allow owners to: remotely wipe personal data from the phone; render the smartphone inoperable; prevent reactivation without the owner's permission; reverse the inoperability if the phone is recovered; and restore user data if the phone was erased. These functions will be added to Windows Phone's Find My Phone tool. Microsoft said it will have the tool ready before the July 2015 deadline set by the CTIA for implementing such features. Lawmakers have been urging phone makers and carriers to add these tools for well more than a year. The CTIA Wireless Association, which lobbies for the wireless industry in Washington, voluntarily set up a timeline for theft deterrent tools which are to be added to all new phones by next year. The commitments from Google and Microsoft should help speed up those efforts. The long-term goal is to reduce the number of smartphone thefts, which are popular targets due to their value.
Parallels today made it possible for Android smartphones/tablets and the iPhone to remotely access Windows and Apple computers. Parallels previously offered a version of its Parallels Access app to the iPad. Parallels Access lets smartphone/tablet owners log into their home or work PC using Facebook. Once logged in, Android users can launch desktop apps directly on the screen and control them through their phone. A file browser for the iOS variant of the app lets iPhone users browse and open files and apps. Parallels Access supports use of the smartphone's microphone for voice-controlled apps on the desktop machine, and allows users to alter screen resolution for the best performance on their device. The app costs $20 for a one-year subscription or $35 for a two-year subscription, which allows an unlimited number of iPhones/Androids to access and control up to five PCs. Parallels will charge only $30 for a two-year subscription to those who download the app before June 30. Parallels Access requires iOS7 and Android 4.0 and up. It is compatible with Windows computers using Win7, 8, and 8.1, and OS X machines running 10.7, 10.8, and 10.9.
Microsoft today made a third system update available to devices running the Windows Phone 8.1 preview. The update tweaks battery life, improves device compatibility, and adds APIs. The update is free to download over the air.
Nokia today announced its HERE Maps division has agreed to acquire a Seattle-based company called Medio. Medio provides real-time predictive analytics based on mapping, navigation, and location data. Nokia will uses Medio's data to create contextual maps that provide user-relevant data or suggestions. The data will be incorporated into HERE Maps, which is the base mapping product installed on all Windows Phone devices. Nokia believes the contextual information will provide users with a richer and more personal mapping and searching experience. Nokia expects the acquisition to close in July. Terms were not disclosed.
Cricket Wireless today announced the pending availability of the Nokia Lumia 1320. The device, which Nokia announced last year, has a 6-inch 720p display with Nokia's ClearBlack technology and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for protection. It is powered by a 1.7GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. The 1320 also has a 5-megapixel main camera and a VGA user-facing camera; a large 3,400mAh battery; and Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, LTE, and Wi-Fi radios. The 1320 ships with Windows Phone 8.1, which includes the Cortana personal assistant and Nokia apps such as HERE Maps, StoryTeller, and Camera. The Nokia Lumia 1320 will cost $279, though Cricket is offering a $50 gift card to those who mail in a rebate. It goes on sale June 18.
Microsoft today announced the availability of a new version of Facebook Messenger for Windows Phone. The revised application adds a couple of new features, including support for groups. The app lets Windows Phone owners create, name, and organize groups, as well as set group photos and pin them to the Start screen. The app reduces the complexity of sending photos within messages, which Microsoft says now requires but a single tap. Messenger offers quick access to the photo gallery, as well. The application received some stability improvements, too, and optimizations so it consumes less mobile data. Facebook Messenger for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.
Microsoft today announced the immediate availability of Files, a file management application for Windows Phone handsets. The application lets Windows Phone owners access files stored on their phone's internal memory and SD card; browse, search, and launch files; share single or multiple files at a time; create folders; and copy, move, rename, and delete files. Files for Windows Phone can be downloaded for free from the Windows Store. It requires Windows Phone 8.1.
Microsoft recently pushed out a small update to OneDrive for Windows Phone devices. The newest version of the app makes it possible to open files from OneDrive in other apps. OneDrive, Microsoft's cloud storage app, is free to download and use.
Google recently published a mobile-friendly version of the Play Store web site. Now that it is optimized for devices with small screens, Android, iOS, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone users alike can surf the Play Store. The site lets visitors not only purchase apps - which can be pushed to Android devices for installation - but also allows visitors to purchase hardware and manage their devices. The stand-alone Play Store application doesn't allow for hardware purchases and device management. The Google Play Store is free to visit.
Digia today announced the availability of Qt 5.3, a cross-platform application and user interface framework for developers that lets them more easily create applications for a wide range of operating systems. According to Digia, Qt 5.3 makes a wide number of improvements to the platform, such as the QQuickWidget to help developers migrate their apps, and allows them to develop C++ and Qt versions at the same time. Qt 5.3 includes a number of new APIs for both the Android and iOS platforms, including a Positioning API for GPS features and Bluetooth API for improved connectivity. A new Purchasing API powers in-app purchases from both the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store (support for Windows Phone on the way). Qt 5.3 also offers a WebSockets API to let developers make better use of cloud-based services. Last, Qt 5.3 adds new enterprise and security tools to make apps secure and business-ready. Developers are encouraged to download and use the new tools directly from Digia.
Microsoft today issued a small update to the developer preview of Windows Phone 8.1. According to Microsoft, the update makes a handful of changes based on developer feedback and improves the overall performance and stability of the operating system. Microsoft didn't specify if any new features were added, or what exactly was fixed. Those who've installed the developer preview of Windows Phone 8.1 can download and install the system update beginning today.
Microsoft began selling the Nokia Lumia 630 today, marking the official availability and launch of Windows Phone 8.1. Both the Lumia 630 and Windows Phone 8.1 were revealed by Microsoft and Nokia during the former's Build developer conference in April. The 630 is for sale in Asia first, with Europe and the U.S. to follow. It replaces the Lumia 520 and will be sold as the Lumia 635 in the U.S. The timing of the Lumia 635's arrival in the U.S. is unknown at the moment. Windows Phone 8.1 adds a wide range of new features to Microsoft's smartphone platform, including the Cortana virtual assistant, space for more Start screen Live Tiles, and a notification center. Most existing Windows Phone 8 devices will be upgraded to Windows Phone 8.1 this summer, though a developer preview of Windows Phone 8.1 is available to download for free.
Microsoft may launch Windows Phone 8.1 as soon as June 24, according to support documents published by the company. Microsoft's Windows Phone support site suggests June 24 will be the in-service date for Windows Phone 8.1, or the first date the new operating system becomes available to the general public. The company said it will support the operating system with updates for a minimum period of 36 months following its release. Exact availability for the new operating system will depend on device, carrier, and region. Microsoft has already made a developer preview of the operating system available for free. Windows Phone 8.1 adds support for more Live Tiles on the Start screen, the Cortana virtual assistant, a notification center, and the Word Flow keyboard.
Vine today expanded the availability of its content from mobile devices to the web. It relaunched Vine.co in order to make it simpler and more enjoyable to discover new content. Just as in the mobile app, the web site includes an Explore page, with tabs such as Places, Animals, Trending Tags, and Popular Now. Vine says it has some new sections with curated content, as well. According to Vine, the main Explore function works even when users aren't signed into their account and it is where users can see editor's picks, featured Viners, and playlists. Vine.co is free to access and use, as is the Vine mobile app for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices. Vine is owned by Twitter and lets people capture and share short video clips.
Microsoft today said the company has not yet decided what it will call its new smartphones now that it has absorbed Nokia's Devices and Services business. Answering questions today, Microsoft's device chief Stephen Elop said, "Microsoft Mobile is not a brand that will be seen by consumers." He explained that particular name was created for legal purposes only. "The Nokia brand is available to Microsoft to use for its mobile phone products for a period of time, but Nokia as a brand will not be used for long going forward for smartphones. Work is underway to select the go forward smartphone brand." Nokia's networking business and HERE Maps businesses remain a separate company still in Finland. To-date, Nokia's Windows Phone devices have born the Lumia brand name. "Now that we are One company, the marketing and product folks will lay in the plans for the shift to a consistent brand. We are being thoughtful to do it in a way that accrues benefit to Microsoft and to Lumia." Microsoft completed its $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia's handset business, including 25,000 employees, on April 25. In addition to developing the Windows Phone 8.1 platform, Microsoft will now also make its own smartphones.
Microsoft today released a beta application that will let Windows Phone 8.1 devices remotely access and control Windows computers. Windows Phone 8.1 itself has not been widely distributed to new and existing hardware, but it is available for free to registered developers. Anyone can register for the developer preview edition of Windows Phone 8.1 and install it on their Windows Phone 8 device. With the WP8.1 preview and the Microsoft Remote Desktop app installed, users can connect to a remote PC and access and interact with their Windows machines. The app includes support for Windows 8 touchscreen gestures, and can be used to open files, run apps, and more. According to Microsoft the app is secure, so it can be used by businesses, and connections can be managed by a simple dashboard. The app also supports high-definition video streaming and sound streaming from the PC to the smartphone through the network. Microsoft Remote Desktop is free to download from the Windows Phone Store. Microsoft has offered a similar tool to Android and iOS devices since last year.
Microsoft today announced the availability of WinJS 2.1, a tool developers can use to help port their Windows apps to Windows Phone 8.1. Microsoft says it should be painless for most developers to recreate their full Windows apps for the Windows Phone platform thanks to WinJS 2.1's familiar set of technologies, APIs, and other resources. WinJS 2.1 ties into recent changes made to Visual Studio, which includes templates for Windows apps, Windows Phone apps, and universal apps that run on both platforms. Microsoft hopes the allure of universal apps will entice developers into supporting Windows Phone.
Microsoft has begun allowing developers to post responses to reviews of their application in the Windows Phone Store. For now, Microsoft is limiting this feature on a trial basis, though it will expand soon. The responses are emailed to the review author through Microsoft. Microsoft does not provide the developer with reviewer contact data. Microsoft thinks the ability to respond to user reviews will help developers improve their apps over time. Developers will be able to respond to reviews posted from devices running Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1 only. The feature will be limited to the U.S. from the onset. Microsoft didn't say if it will expand review responses to more countries.
Microsoft today made available a preview version of Windows Phone 8.1. The operating system is in its penultimate form and available to developers for testing purposes ahead of the general release. Members of Microsoft's developer community may download the preview for free. It includes all the features that are part of the revised operating system, including Cortana, the personal assistant, new Start screen, and Action Center. Microsoft warns that the update may void device warranties. Carrier and manufacturer software updates are not included in the developer preview. Microsoft expects to release Windows Phone 8.1 to the general public over the summer.
Facebook today confirmed plans to remove Facebook Messenger functionality from within the Android and iOS mobile apps for smartphones. Facebook hopes users will instead use its stand-alone, dedicated Facebook Messenger application. Messaging will remain within the Windows Phone Facebook app, and tablet versions of the Facebook app. Further, Facebook told The Verge that low-end smartphones with memory constraints may still be able to run Facebook with Messaging intact. Facebook said this change will happen across all countries in the near future, but didn't spell out exactly when. Facebook believes the stand-alone app provides a better messaging experience.
Nokia today announced a new app called Pocket Magnifier. The application uses the camera on Nokia Lumia smartphones to enlarge small and difficult-to-read text on real-world items such as pill bottles, timetables, magazines, and so on. Pocket Magnifier lets people pinch-to-zoom in order to make the text larger, as well as adjust the background and font colors to ease readability. The app can also make use of the camera's flash to provide lighting in environments where it is too dark to read. Nokia Pocket Magnifier is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Verizon Wireless recently made the previously unannounced Samsung ATIV SE available for preorders on its web site. The SE is a high-end Windows Phone that features a 5-inch full HD display protected by Gorilla Glass and offers three columns for Live Tiles on the home screen. The phone clearly draws its design inspiration from Samsung's Galaxy-branded Android devices. The SE is powered by a quad-core 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The device supports microSD cards up to 64GB for additional storage. The SE includes a 13-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. The phone supports Verizon's LTE network in the U.S., but can also roam onto HSPA networks in more than 200 countries around the world. Other radios include Wi-Fi (with support for mobile hotspot), Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, and NFC. The SE includes several Samsung apps and services, such as its WatchOn television remote control, Samsung Link for sharing content across devices, a photo editing app, and ATIV Beam, which can be used to send files to other smartphones via NFC pairing. The ATIV SE runs Windows Phone 8 and includes the usual set of apps from Microsoft, such as Office and XBox Live. Verizon is selling the Samsung ATIV SE for $199.99 with a contract or $599.99 without a contract. Verizon is accepting preorders, and currently says the phone will ship by April 12.
Following the revelation of Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft has released the related set of tools that developers need to adjust their apps for the new operating system. Registered developers can download the Windows Phone 8.1 SDK and emulators from Microsoft's developer support site. Windows Phone 8.1 includes a number of new features that developers can take advantage of, such as customizable lock screens and integration with the Cortana personal assistant. Windows Phone 8.1 will be made available to consumers in several months.
Here are our first impressions of the Nokia Lumia 630 and 635. This entry-level Windows Phone replaces the 520 and offers a lot of smartphone for the buck. It runs Windows Phone 8.1 and adds support for LTE 4G networks, including those run by AT&T and T-Mobile.
This is a video tour of Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.1. The new operating system closes the gap with rivals Android and iOS, and fine tunes the user experience, as well. In this video, we take a look at features such as the notification center, transparent live tiles, and new calendar.