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.
The U.S Federal Trade Commission today approved Microsoft's proposed $7.2 billion purchase of Nokia's handset business. Microsoft first announced the plan in early September. With the U.S. government on board, Microsoft is one step closer to absorbing Nokia's phone-making capabilities. Nokia's shareholders have already approved the deal. Nokia switched to Microsoft's Windows Phone platform in 2011 and has since become the world's foremost supplier of Windows Phone handsets. Nokia will continue to run its networking business and will retain rights to the Nokia brand.
Nokia today announced a major update to its HERE Drive navigation application. HERE Drive, which is available to all Windows Phone 8 devices, offers step-by-step, voice-guided navigation. When planning routes, the app now shows a list of all the turns before the driver begins navigating. The app now also provides an overview of the entire route with real-time traffic included, so drivers can see ahead of time whether or not they should take an alternate route. The live traffic feature is available in all views of the map. HERE Drive is now better at calculating estimated time of arrival thanks to the more accurate, real-time traffic data. Last, Nokia has added a feature that automatically geotags the driver's parking spot when they complete a door-to-door route. The driver can then use HERE Maps' LiveSight feature to find their car, or view it on a map. HERE Maps is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Verizon Wireless and Nokia today announced the availability of RedBox Instant for Verizon's Lumia Windows Phones. The app will be exclusive to Verizon for two months, after which it will be available to all WP8 devices. RedBox Instant lets users browse and watch movies, reserve new releases at local Redbox stores, and rent and buy movies digitally, on demand. The first month is free, but thereafter it costs $8 per month.
Twitter recently made a new version of its Windows Phone app available to smartphones running Microsoft's operating system. The app adds several new features, including notifications when there are new tweets from favorited accounts. The app also makes it possible to delete individual direct messages and makes various other bug fixes and performance improvements. Twitter for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Instagram today made a version of its picture-taking and -sharing application available to the Windows Phone platform. Instagram lets WP8 device owners take pictures, apply filters and frames, and share them with friends. The app also lets people follow and view the photos of others, as well as make and respond to comments. Instagram is calling the app a beta for now, as it does not include all the features available to the Android and iOS versions. Instagram is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Nokia today published a new version of its music application and rebranded the service Nokia MixRadio. MixRadio builds on the Nokia Music service, which lets users create radio stations and stream music to their Lumia smartphones. More than 18 million tracks are available and Nokia has 150 curated radio stations, all of which can be streamed for free. The application was updated with a number of new features including Play Me, a personalized mix inspired by each user's music profile; thumbs up/down ratings to help users refine their profile; and the ability to share mixes through Facebook, Twitter, email, and SMS. Premium features, such as unlimited downloads to devices, require a $3.99 per month subscription. The new app can be downloaded from the Windows Phone Store.
Nokia today said that an update is available for its Nokia Camera application that adds support for RAW imaging. The feature was first announced last month and is available only to the Nokia Lumia 1520 at the moment. RAW imaging support will be available to the Lumia 1020 in early 2014, bundled together with the Lumia Black system update. Once 1520 owners download the Nokia Camera update, they'll have to select the DNG capture mode in the settings tools. Nokia warns that RAW image files will be much larger than standard JPEGs. Windows device owners can use the Windows Explorer desktop tool to download RAW images, but Mac users will need to download the latest version of the Nokia Photo Transfer app. The photo app was recently updated to support RAW files. Nokia Camera is free to download for Lumia smartphones.
Nokia today added LiveSight to its HERE Transit application in order to make public transportation stations easier to find. LiveSight uses the device's camera and augmented reality technology to overlay mapping, location, and other data on a live image through the camera viewfinder. LiveSight is already built into the base Nokia HERE Maps app, and is now part of Nokia HERE Transit thanks to an update that's available today. Nokia also said that HERE Transit offers a wider array of traveling options. For example, travelers can choose between different train, bus, and other routes, as well as how many transfers they're willing to make to reach their destination. HERE Transit now runs in 52 countries and in 792 cities. It is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Nokia's shareholders today approved Microsoft's proposed acquisition of the company's handset business, according to the Financial Times. About 80% of Nokia's shareholders sided with management in favoring the deal, which will see Nokia's phone-making unit sold to Microsoft for $7.2 billion. Microsoft believes the deal will strengthen the footing of its Windows Phone platform. Nokia's Lumia-branded smartphones represent the lion's share of Windows Phones sold throughout the world. Nokia will still hold onto its networking business. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop is expected to run the new hardware division from Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond. The deal still needs to meet regulatory approval.
Microsoft today announced a new application for Windows Phone 8 devices called Office Remote. The app lets any WP8 device control a PowerPoint, Word, or Excel presentation. The app requires a Bluetooth-enabled computer with Office 2013 and a desktop plug-in. With all the components together, WP8 device owners will be able use their smartphone to advance slides, view thumbnails, jump between slides, access speaker cues, and more. Office Remote for Windows Phone 8 is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Google today pushed out a modest refresh of its search application for the Windows Phone platform. According to Google, the app now displays voice commands faster, supports account sign-in, improves Google image viewing, and fixes bugs. Google Search for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today announced that developers will be able to add support for Facebook Login to Windows and Windows Phone 8 applications. Apps that use Facebook Login allow device owners to sign in using their existing Facebook credentials rather than force them to create a separate account for that particular app. This often increases consumer engagement with apps, as it removes a roadblock for some users who might seek to minimize the number of accounts they own across the web. Developers will also be able to tap into the Facebook social graph to improve the performance of their applications, and their relevancy to end users. The feature is being rolled out in Facebook beta 5.2 and Microsoft provides detailed instructions for developers on how to add Facebook Login to their apps.
Jolla today indicated through one of its Twitter accounts that its first handset running the Sailfish operating system will go on sale November 27. The Jolla smartphone was previewed earlier this year with the promise that it would be available before the end of the year. The Jolla device features a 4.5-inch qHD display with Gorilla Glass; a dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage; support for LTE 4G networks; an 8-megapixel autofocus main camera and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera; and a user-replaceable battery. The Jolla also features exchangeable shells, which allow owners to customize the appearance of their device. Last, the Jolla's Sailfish operating system will be able to run Android applications, and supports Nokia's HERE Maps. Sailfish is based on Nokia's discarded MeeGo platform and offers a modern, touch-based user interface. Jolla hopes that Sailfish can eventually compete with Android, Windows Phone, and iOS. The device will debut in Jolla's native Finland. The company hasn't yet announced plans to sell the device outside of Finland.
Nokia today made the Nokia Imaging SDK 1.0 available to developers. The SDK, which was released in beta form in July, lets Windows Phone developers add a wide range of camera functions and features to their own apps. It is compatible with all Windows Phones, not just those made by Nokia. The SDK gives developers access to filters, effects, and on-screen rendering options. There are more than 50 filters included with the SDK, as well as the tools needed for developers to create their own filters. It also includes features such as arbitrary cropping regions, free rotate, and resizing images for online sharing. According to Nokia, the SDK uses the Random Access JPEG (RAJPEG) format, which helps it manipulate large files without requiring too much drain on the CPU or battery. The Nokia Imaging SDK 1.0 can be downloaded from Nokia's developer portal.
Nokia today made its Refocus application available to its Lumia PureView smartphones. Refocus, which Nokia announced last month, is similar to Lytro in that it allows owners to adjust the focal point in an image after the picture has been taken to change the depth of field. The app makes use of Scalado's imaging technology, which Nokia acquired in 2012. The app is compatible with the Nokia Lumia 920, Lumia 925, Lumia 928, and Lumia 1020 - as long as the Amber system update is already installed. Refocus is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Vine today launched its first application for Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. Vine, which is owned by Twitter, lets users record six seconds of video that can then be shared through various social networks online. Vine first launched in December 2012 for the iPhone and earlier this year for Android. Today marks the first time it is officially available for devices running Windows Phone 8. Unique to Windows Phone, Vine users can pin their favorite Vine accounts to the WP8 home screen. Vine is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
AT&T today began accepting orders for the Nokia Lumia 1520. According to AT&T, the device will ship to those who preorder it on November 19. It will reach AT&T retail stores November 22. Earlier this week, Microsoft said the release date would be November 15. AT&T is charging $199.99 for the 1520 when purchased with a new contract. The 1520, which has a 6-inch full HD display and 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, runs Windows Phone 8.1 and features a 20-megapixel PureView camera. AT&T is offering a $20 gift card to the Windows Phone Store, which can be used to purchase apps and games. AT&T is also offering 50GB of storage in its cloud-based AT&T Locker service.
Microsoft today announced that it is combining the registration processes for its Windows and Windows Phone developer programs. Any developer that has registered for either the Windows or Windows Phone developer programs will automatically be enrolled in the other. Further, it now costs less to join Microsoft's Windows/Windows Phone developer organization. Despite the unified registration process, developers will continue to use the separate Windows Store and Windows Phone Dev Center Dashboards to submit and manage their applications. Microsoft is offering some incentives, such as cash prizes, for developers who submit apps for both Windows and Windows Phone. Developers can learn more by visiting Microsoft's developer support site.
Huawei today announced the Ascend W2, a new Windows Phone that takes a page from Nokia with vividly colored shells. The Ascend W2 is being offered in black, yellow, red, and blue, and has 20 colored homescreen themes to mix and match with the handset's exterior. Huawei says that matching color choices are offered across the phone's keyboard backlights and user interface themes, as well. The phone has a 4.3-inch WVGA LCD screen with what Huawei calls "Magic Touch" technology. The screen is sensitive enough so that it will work when the user is wearing gloves. The W2 is powered by a 1.4GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm. The device runs Windows Phone 8 and includes 7GB of free SkyDrive cloud storage. It can shoot 720p HD video. The Huawei Ascend W2 is already available in Huawei's home market of China, and will reach Russia and The Netherlands in November, with other markets to follow. Huawei didn't reveal any specific plans to sell the device in the U.S.
Microsoft has requested that European antitrust regulators approve its proposed acquisition of Finland's Nokia. Microsoft announced its intent to purchase Nokia's handset business for $7.5 billion last month. The European Commission said that it will device no later than December 4 on whether or not it will approve the deal. The deal needs to be approved by U.S. regulators, as well. Nokia is the world's largest purveyor of Windows Phones, Microsoft's smartphone operating system.
AT&T today announced that it will sell the Samsung ATIV S Neo smartphone beginning November 8. The S Neo will cost $21.00 per month with AT&T Next or $99.99 with a two-year contract. The S Neo runs Windows Phone 8 and includes a 4.8-inch display, 1.4GHz dual-core processor, 16GB of storage, 8-megapixel camera, and LTE. It is also being sold by Sprint.
Nokia today made available a new application called Nokia Camera. This app combines the best features of the Nokia Smart Camera and Nokia Pro Camera applications into one app that the company says is easier to use. The app has an advanced auto mode for quick photos taking, but still offers refined controls over settings such as ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and so on. It also includes a burst mode that takes a collection of shots so you can pick the best option. The application is free to download from the Windows Phone Store and is compatible with Lumia devices running Windows Phone 8.
Nokia today announced its first modern tablet, the Lumia 2520. The 2520 runs Microsoft's Windows RT 8.1, rather than Windows Phone, though many apps are compatible with both platforms. The device features a 10.1-inch full HD display with Gorilla Glass 2, an 8,000mAh battery, stereo front-facing speakers, and Microsoft Office/Outlook. The 2520 shares most other specs with the Lumia 1520, including the same 2.2Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and connectivity options (including LTE). The Lumia 2520 has a 6.7-megapixel main camera with Zeiss optics and a 2-megapixel, wide-angle user-facing camera. The Lumia 2520 will reach the U.S. during the fourth quarter and will cost $499.
Nokia today announced several new applications that will appear on devices such as the Lumia 2520 and Lumia 1520. The new apps are meant to make the most of Windows Phone 8 Release 3 and the new hardware revealed by Nokia. Nokia Video Director, which is only being offered to the Lumia 2520 tablet for the time being, lets owners create, edit, and share customized videos. Nokia Beamer is a sharing tool that can be used to project the content from a Lumia smartphone screen to any HTML5 enabled screen. According to Nokia, this includes documents, maps, location details, and the camera viewfinder. Last, Nokia's Storyteller app automatically pairs pictures from the phone with HERE location data and creates a chronological picture journey on a map. Nokia Beamer and Storyteller will be preloaded on the Lumia 1520 and 2520. Nokia didn't say if or when these apps might be made available to older Lumia devices.
Nokia today announced that a handful of popular applications will soon be available to the Windows Phone platform, including Instagram. Instagram is a photo-sharing service that is widely used on Android and iOS devices that has until now been unavailable to Windows Phone. Nokia did not provide an exact timing on its release. Some of the other apps headed to Windows Phone devices include Flipboard and Vine, Papyrus and Temple Run 2, and ESPN F1 and XBox Video. Many of these apps will be updated with support for high-resolution screens, such as that of the Lumia 1520, and will be able to take advantage of the third column on the home screen. The applications will become available over the course of the next few weeks.
Microsoft today announced Windows Phone 8 Update 3, a revised version of its smartphone platform that adds a handful of new features. Chief among the new capabilities is support for 1080p HD screens and quad-core processors, such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800. Support for bigger screens means Windows Phone displays will be able to fit six apps across the Start screen instead of just four. It also puts Windows Phone on an even playing field with Android devices, which already support 1080p screens. Support for quad-core processors means Windows Phones can offer even more performance. WP8 Update 3 adds a new Driving Mode, which can be used to limit incoming notifications when the phone senses that it is in motion. The update also improves internet sharing with Windows 8.1 devices; adds customizable ringtones; adds screen rotation lock; adds better storage management tools; adds the ability to close apps from the App Switcher; and improves Bluetooth functionality thanks to tweaked connection quality with accessories. The update will begin rolling out to Windows Phones in the weeks ahead, though timing will depend heavily on the device and carrier in question.
Twitter for the Windows Phone platform was updated today with a handful of new features. The app now lets people use a Twitter-based lock screen that highlights "interesting" tweets to the home screen. The app also adds a new dark theme, the ability to pin keyword searches to the home screen, and the ability to select which Twitter account pushes notifications when they arrive. Twitter for Windows Phone makes finding content easier thanks to improved search/discover functions, and adds support for 13 new languages. Twitter for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today announced that a new version of the Facebook application is available to Windows Phone devices. The updated app adds a number of new features, including the ability to attach photos to messages and upload them in batches. Windows Phone users should see inline tagging improvements and faster check-ins. Last, Facebook for Windows Phone now allows users to unfriend people and unlike things. Facebook 5.1 for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Nokia today said that it has pared down the size of HERE Maps updates to reduce the amount of network usage. Nokia offers offline maps for countries, states, and cities around the world. Individual maps vary in size, but many are more than 100MB. Downloading such large files is often impractical or not allowed over cellular networks. With incremental updates to HERE Maps, Nokia is now pushing only the new and updated data to its individual maps, rather than requiring users to re-download the entire map. Nokia says this reduces the size of most updates by 85-90%. HERE incremental updates are being rolled out for all Windows Phone 8 smartphones with the latest firmware, which means Nokia Amber for Lumia devices and GDR2 for all others.
Skype today announced in a blog post that it will no longer develop updates for its Windows Phone 7 application. The WP7 app will remain available for download, but Skype does not plan to support it any longer through bug fixes or improvements. Skype says this is a necessary step so that it can better manage its resources. According to Skype, the vast majority of its mobile app users have already adopted Windows Phone 8.
Jolla today announced that its still-in-development smartphone operating system, called Sailfish, is compatible with the Android ecosystem. Specifically, Sailfish can run most Android applications without the need to modify the apps or use a runtime environment in the OS. Further, Sailfish itself can now run on most Android hardware, including smartphones and tablets. Jolla says this will be a boon to its mobile operating system, as hardware manufacturers will be able to put Sailfish on existing hardware with little additional investment on their part. Last, Jolla announced that it sold through its initial batch of preorders for the first Sailfish OS device, but it will offer a second batch of preorders to people in Finland (where Jolla is based) in the weeks ahead. Sailfish is based on Nokia's discarded MeeGo platform and offers a modern, touch-based user interface. Jolla hopes that Sailfish can eventually compete with Android, Windows Phone, and iOS.
Microsoft today announced that it is extending its XBox Music service to Android and iOS devices. The XBox Music Pass, which costs $9.99 per month (or $99.99 per year), gives users on-demand access to a catalog of more than 30 million tracks on their PC, tablet, or smartphone, whether it runs Windows, Mac OS, Android or iOS. The service also lets owners of the XBox 360 watch tens of thousands of music videos. Microsoft said the service is launching with basic listening tools for Android and iOS at first, but will continue to expand over the coming months, gaining features such as Radio, web-based playlists, and offline listening. XBox Music is available beginning today.
Qualcomm recently announced AllPlay, its own solution for streaming media from devices such as smartphones to home theater equipment. The technology behind AllPlay is Qualcomm's Alljoyn software framework. It will offer an SDK to hardware equipment makers and app developers so that phones can talk to receivers, speakers, and other products via Wi-Fi. Qualcomm is offering tools for the Android and iOS platforms, but not Windows Phone yet. AllPlay supports two different speaker zones with their own, independent volume controls, and will feature native integration with popular music services' mobile apps, such as Rhapsody. It also supports both local and cloud-based content streaming. Qualcomm expects to make the AllPlay SDK available by the end of the year. The technology will compete with Apple's AirPlay and Google's Chromecasting.
Skype today updated its Windows Phone app and added the ability to make and receive video messages. The feature has been available to Android devices and the iPhone for several months. Skype says video messaging is ideal for sharing short moments with others.
Microsoft today announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire the Devices and Services division of Nokia for approx. $7.2 billion. Microsoft will also gain the Lumia and Asha brands, as well as Nokia's patent licensing agreement with Qualcomm. Nokia will continue to exist as a separate company, focusing on networks via its NSN division, mapping via its HERE division, and and Advanced Technologies division. Nokia will retain its brand and patents, but license them to Microsoft. Microsoft has recently moved to refocus itself on devices and services; this move advances that goal for the mobile devision and Windows Phone. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop will move to Microsoft. Nokia has worked closely with Microsoft on Windows Phone devices since 2011, when the company ditched its troubled Symbian platform. Competing mobile OS makers Apple and BlackBerry have always made their own hardware. Google purchased Motorola in 2012 to shore up its Android strategy. The Microsoft-Nokia deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014, subject to shareholders and regulatory approval.
Nokia today introduced HERE Auto, its connected car in-dash navigation software suite. HERE Auto is meant to take car-based navigation to the next level and takes advantage of an internet connection so that the data is always up to date. The software offers voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions in 95 countries with live traffic, re-routing, and fuel prices. The system provides helicopter views when traveling on the highway, but will zoom in to street level when the driver approaches their destination. It also provides information such as parking availability and indoor maps. Beyond the car-based software, Nokia also introduced a companion application for Android and Windows Phone devices that can interact with HERE Auto. The HERE Auto Companion App lets users find their car (via LiveSight), monitor in-car sensors, such as fuel level, as well as remotely lock or unlock the car. HERE Auto is being made available to car makers along with APIs so they can add the software to their vehicles. Nokia didn't say with the companion app would become available.
Nokia today announced that a new version of its Nokia Music application is available from the Windows Phone Store. The updated app adds several features, including concert notifications, which will let the owner know when tickets are about to go on sale for shows in their area. The app also adds the ability to "like" favorite artists. Users will then receive automatic updates about any artists they've liked, such as new albums. Last, the Nokia Music Live Tile now shows artist news and information in addition to album art. The Nokia Music app is free to download, but requires a monthly subscription to use.
AT&T is now delivering a minor system update to the HTC 8X. The update, known as Windows Phone GDR2, adds several new features to the 8X. The update improves the performance of Internet Explorer, XBox Music, and Skype on the 8X, as well as adds an FM radio, and Data Sense. The update can be installed over the air.
Google has once more blocked the Microsoft-developed YouTube application for violating YouTube's terms. "Microsoft has not made the browser upgrades necessary to enable a fully-featured YouTube experience," said Google, "and has instead re-released a YouTube app that violates our Terms of Service. It has been disabled. We value our broad developer community and therefore ask everyone to adhere to the same guidelines." Microsoft said it is working with Google to resolve the issue. Google blocked Microsoft's YouTube app for Windows Phone earlier this year for a similar reasons. Google did not spell out exactly how the new app is violating YouTube's terms.