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.
Google today announced the availability of Chrome Remote Desktop app for Android, a tool that allows Android devices to remotely access Windows and Mac computers. In order to gain remote PC access, users will need to download and install software on their PC as well as the Chrome Remote Desktop app on their Android device. Once configured, users should be able to access PC-based files from their Android device. The service is free to set up and use. Google said an iOS version of the Chrome Remote Desktop app us due later this year.
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.
AT&T, T-Mobile, and MetroPCS all indicated today that they will sell the Nokia Lumia 635 smartphone once it becomes available later this year. The phone features a 4.5-inch screen, quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 5-megapixel camera, LTE 4G, and Windows Phone 8.1
Sprint today said it will update its Windows Phone smartphones, the HTC 8XT and Samsung ATIV S Neo, to Windows Phone 8.1 this summer. It will provide more specifics closer to the availability date.
Nokia today announced two new entry-level Windows Phones. They share most features, including a ClearBlack 4.5-inch LCD screen, interchangeable back panels, dual-camera with 5-megapixel main shooter, and Nokia apps. These new Lumias are powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor and include 512MB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, and support microSD cards up to 128GB. The Lumia 630 is a 3G device with single-/dual-SIM capabilities, and the 635 is an LTE single-sim device. The devices will be the very first to ship with Windows Phone 8.1, and are expected to go on sale in May. The 635 will hit U.S. carriers in July for $189.
Nokia today announced the Lumia 930, a variant of the Lumia Icon. The stand-out feature is the 930's 20-megapixel PureView sensor with optical image stabilization and Zeiss optics. The camera is accompanied by dual LED flashes and Nokia's deep range of dedicated imaging applications. The 930 includes a 2-megapixel user-facing sensor for selfies and video chats. Other characteristics include a 5-inch 1080p HD ClearBlack display that can be used with gloves; NFC and wireless charging; and a 2,420mAh battery. The 930 is powered by a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor. The processor is paired with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of built-in storage. The phone will be one of the first to run Windows Phone 8.1. The 930 will be sold globally starting in June, though Nokia said it will focus on selling the Icon variant with Verizon in the U.S.
Nokia today said that it will update all Lumia Windows Phone 8 devices to Windows Phone 8.1 "this summer." That includes entry-level devices such as the Lumia 520 - which is the best-selling Windows Phone device in the market. The update will be supplied as an over-the-air download.
Microsoft today said that it will no longer require hardware makers to pay a licensing fee for Windows Phones or Windows tablets as long as they have a screen size of 9 inches or less. This means companies will no longer need to pay Microsoft to use its smartphone and tablet platforms in their hardware and devices. Theoretically, this should boost the number of companies interested in making Windows Phone and other Windows hardware.
Microsoft today announced new tools that will make it easier for developers to create web apps that work on Windows, Windows Phone, Android, and Apple devices. The tools rely on a wide range of new functions that are part of Internet Explorer 11. Microsoft believes developers should be able to create web apps that work across all platforms, and this will benefit users of the Windows Phone 8.1 platform once it becomes available.
Microsoft today said it is making it possible for developers to create a single app that will run on Windows Phones, Windows tablets, and Windows PCs. Microsoft calls these Universal Windows Apps. Microsoft is making this possible with new developer tools thanks to user interface code, APIs, app models, and the Windows Store. Universal apps will be available with Windows Phone 8.1, as well as Windows 8.1 tablet/PC hardware.
Microsoft today said that Windows Phone 8.1 will first be available on brand new smartphones in late April or early May. Windows Phone 8.1 will be distributed to existing devices "in a few months," according to Microsoft's Joe Belfiore. As always, the timing of Windows Phone 8.1's release to existing hardware will depend on region, carrier, and device.
Microsoft is working on an update to Skype for the Windows Phone 8.1 platform. The new version of the app incorporates Skype into the native phone app. Users will be able to start a traditional voice call and automatically transition to a Skype call (or video call) thanks to new buttons. Microsoft didn't say when the new version of Skype will be available.
Microsoft today revealed what's in store for the next-generation of its Windows Phone platform, called Windows Phone 8.1. Windows Phone 8.1 adds a number of features that are meant to bring the platform in line with Android and iOS. The first feature revealed by Microsoft is an action center, which mimics the behavior of the notification tray in Android. It provides access to radios, actionable notifications, and other tools. Windows Phone 8.1 adds the ability to personalize the lock screen, which can be interactive and appear in a wide range of styles. Microsoft plans to offer APIs to developers so they can create their own lock screen customization tools. The third new feature is an evolved Start Screen experience. With WP8.1, users can choose a high-density layout that includes three columns for tiles, as well as use custom background images that appear behind all the tiles. Windows Phone also introduces Cortana, a voice-activated search assistant that responds to users' voice commands and questions. Cortana is built on Microsoft's Bing search engine, and can perform searches, schedule appointments, set reminders, and more. Cortana can learn users' most-frequently contacted people, places they prefer to go, and even what music they typically search for. Cortana can be used to set "do not disturb" time, which Microsoft calls Quiet Hours. Like Google Now, Cortana will scan the user's email for things such as flight details, and automatically provide details such as travel times to the airport, flight delays, and more. Microsoft says that Windows Phone 8.1 is also a better choice for business users thanks to new support for secure VPNs, and the ability to read encrypted emails. Devices can be activated by businesses and turned into secure work machines, but can also be stripped of enterprise apps and data if an employee were to leave a company and keep their phone. Windows Phone 8.1 includes significant changes to the Windows Phone Store, such as more personalized recommendations, easier-to-use categories, and quick links. There's a new calendar in WP8.1, which allows users to swipe from day-to-day as well as see "week" views. A feature called Wi-Fi Sense suggests known, good, free Wi-Fi networks that may be available in public spaces - and will automatically connect to them. Microsoft has also added a new keyboard to Windows Phone that allows users to swipe their finger across the keyboard rather than type. Last, Microsoft said Windows Phone includes IE 11 and new synchronization tools that will better share information between the mobile phone and Windows desktops.
Microsoft today said two companies, called Prestigio and Micromax, have agreed to make low-cost Windows Phone devices. Both companies are still in the development stage, but will bring products to market soon.
BlackBerry today indicated that it plans to focus on catering to C-level executives who want high-end smartphones with full, physical keyboards. The company has three such devices in prototype stages being tested and will introduce them over the next 18 months. Speaking to Reuters, BlackBerry John Chen said the company wants to win back the executives who were once its core customers. Chen also indicated that BlackBerry is weighing whether or not to create of version of Blackberry Messenger - known as BBM - for desktop computers. The idea is to allow business and government customers to carry secure conversations from their PCs to their smartphones and vice versa. BlackBerry has already made BBM available to Android and iOS devices, and is working on a version for Windows Phone, as well.
Huawei today indicated it has changed its plans and will no longer bring a dual-boot smartphone with Android and Windows Phone to market. "Huawei adopts an open approach towards mobile operating systems to provide a range of choices for consumers," said the company in a statement provided to FierceWireless. "However, most of our products are based on Android OS, [and] at this stage there are no plans to launch a dual-OS smartphone in the near future." A Huawei executive had earlier said the company would make a smartphone with both Android and Windows Phone on board. The company has effectively cancelled those plans. Huawei noted, however, that it considers Microsoft to be an important business partner and it will continue to support Windows Phone. "As long as the consumers continue to demand Windows, we will continue to supply them."
Pandora said it will make several changes to its fee structure beginning in May. Pandora One monthly customers who already pay $3.99 for ad-free listening can continue to listen at the same price. However, new monthly subscribers will have to pay $4.99 per month, an increase of $1 over today's rates. Customers who chose Pandora's $36 annual fee will be moved to a "discounted loyalty price" of $3.99 per month, which represents a price increase of $12 for the year, or $1 per month. Moving forward, Pandora will no longer offer the annual subscription option. Pandora says these changes are necessary to offset increased costs, such as licensing fees. It claims the changes will affect only 3.3 million of its 250 million registered users. All customers can listen to music with ads for free. Pandora is an internet-based radio station provider that has apps for Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone devices.
Nokia today updated its Refocus camera application and expanded its compatibility to include all Lumia smartphones running Windows Phone 8. Previously, Refocus was limited to only Lumia devices tagged with the "PureView" name. Refocus allows users to adjust the point of focus after the image is taken. Nokia Refocus is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Facebook has made a version of its Messenger application available to devices running Microsoft's Windows Phone. The app, which is free to download from the Windows Phone Store, brings conversations to life in a way the stock Windows Phone messaging app cannot. Facebook Messenger runs independently from Facebook. It lets users send stickers and photos, create and manage group conversations, share location data, and see read receipts. The app includes presence, which shows people who's available to chat via mobile or desktop, as well as adjustable notifications, and persistent log-in to prevent missed messages. Facebook Messenger is for devices running Windows Phone 8 and up.
Microsoft today made its OneDrive cloud storage service available to BlackBerry 10 devices. The app, which is free to download from the BlackBerry World store, provides users with 7GB of free online storage. Customers can choose to pay for more storage if they wish. The service, which was recently rebranded from SkyDrive, is already available to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices.
Nokia today made a new software developer kit available to app writers that will allow them to add more Lumia imaging tools to their own applications. Nokia Imaging SDK 1.1 adds several key functions, such as performance optimizations that allow advanced features, such as Lens Blur, to run on low-end Lumia devices like the Lumia 520. This means app writers can target a broader range of devices with their app and won't be limited to high-end hardware. The SDK also gives developers more tools to dip into editing functions, such as reframing images and crop/zoom. Last, the SDK adds support for Windows 8.1 desktop and RT. Nokia Imaging SDK 1.1 is free to download from Nokia's developer portal.
Julie Larson-Green, who has led Microsoft's Devices and Studios unit since last year, is moving to a new position as Chief Experience Officer of Microsoft's Applications and Services group. There she will manage the look and feel of key Microsoft apps and services as exsperienced on Microsoft devices. The move is being made, in part, because Microsoft is set to close its acquisition of Nokia's handset business. Once the deal closes, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop will be put in charge of Microsoft's Devices and Studios unit, which includes Windows Phone hardware, in addition to XBox, Microsoft Surface, and game development. Elop was a Microsoft executive before being hired by Nokia to turn the company's mobile phone business around. Elop was responsible for ditching Nokia's Symbian platform in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone platform.
Microsoft today announced a handful of features of the next version of Windows Phone. The slate of changes announced center on supporting cheaper hardware and developing markets. The new software will support Qualcomm's newer low-end Snapdragon 200 and 400 chipsets. It will also reduce memory requirements and allow apps loaded on removable memory cards. Microsoft will also remove the requirement for three hardware buttons below the screen and a dedicated camera button. This is designed to allow manufacturers to re-use hardware designed for Android phones. Microsoft will also expand its driver support for common hardware parts used in Android phones, further making it easier for manufacturers to offer a phone in both Android and Windows Phone versions. Microsoft will also support dual-SIM phones in the new version. The company is expected to fully reveal the new Windows Phone OS at its upcoming Build conference.
Microsoft today announced Facebook Messenger app for Windows Phone. The app - previously only available for other OSes - is in final testing and will be available "soon."
Facebook has agreed to purchase WhatsApp, a maker of over-the-top messaging applications for smartphones. The deal is valued at about $16 billion, including $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in stock. The WhatsApp messaging service is available to the Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone platforms and lets users avoid texting fees by sending messages through data networks instead. Facebook said the acquisition will help it "accelerate growth and user engagement across both companies." WhatsApp counts about 450 million users, 70% of which are active each day. Facebook said that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp will be operated separately.
Microsoft today launched OneDrive, a renamed and improved version of its SkyDrive cloud storage service. OneDrive is available to most devices, including Windows Phone handsets, Windows machines, and Android and iOS phones and tablets. OneDrive offers 7GB of storage for free, and allows users to score more storage by recommending friends to the service. Microsoft is releasing new versions of the OneDrive app today, and the Android variant gains automatic photo backups. Microsoft said people who use the automatic camera backup feature will earn an additional 3GB of storage. Microsoft also offers higher storage increments to those who need more than 7GB for small monthly payments. OneDrive is free to download from the Windows Phone Store, Google Play Store, and iTunes App Store.
Microsoft today released new versions of Bing News, Bing Finance, Bing Weather, and Bing Sports for Windows Phone, as well as three new Bing apps. The new apps include Bing Food & Drink, Bing Health & Fitness, and Bing Travel. Bing Food & Drink caters to cooking enthusiasts and ties in content from Epicurious, Bon Appetit, and other recipe sites. It also helps people create shopping lists based on recipes. Bing Health & Fitness offers nutrition, fitness, and medical information, including workouts and a diet tracker, cardio tracker, and GPS tracker. Bing Travel makes it easier to plan and manage trips with destination guides, photos, and more. The app also lets people book travel, including flights, from within the app. Bing Finance has been updated with an investment tracker. Bing News was updated with new sources, including the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. Bing Sports was updated with live event coverage for NBA, NFL, and all major soccer leagues. All the Bing apps are free to download from the Windows Phone Store and seamlessly sync across devices with their tablet and desktop counterparts.
Skype today revealed improvements to its mobile applications that answer common customer complaints. Moving forward, Skype will more reliably sync chat threads across multiple devices, be they smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The service now offers synced read receipts, as well, so users know their messages were delivered and read. The app has also been improved so that it opens faster, resumes quicker, and conserves power better. Individual apps for Windows Phone, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry should become available in their respective app stores over the next few days.
Nokia today announced the Lumia Icon, a flagship Windows Phone for Verizon Wireless. The stand-out feature is the Icon's 20-megapixel PureView sensor with optical image stabilization and Zeiss optics. According to Nokia, the Icon lets users zoom in up to 3x while shooting video and still maintain 1080p HD resolution. The camera is accompanied by dual LED flashes and Nokia's deep range of dedicated imaging applications. The Icon also includes a 2-megapixel user-facing sensor for selfies and video chats. Other characteristics include a 5-inch 1080p HD ClearBlack display that can be used with gloves; support for Verizon's LTE 4G network and HSPA+ networks in Europe and Asia; NFC and wireless charging; and a 2,420mAh battery. The Icon is powered by a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor. The processor is paired with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of built-in storage. The phone runs the latest version of Windows Phone and ships with the Nokia Black system update installed. The Nokia Lumia Icon will be available online and in Verizon stores beginning February 20. Verizon is asking $199.99 with a new two-year contract. The device will be available for preorder from Microsoft stores beginning today. Those who purchase the Lumia Icon from Microsoft before March 16 will receive a free charging accessory.
Nokia plans to announce a smartphone later this month running Google's Android operating system, rather than Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. The device, reports The Wall Street Journal, was already under development when Microsoft made its bid to buy Nokia's handset business, a transaction that has yet to close. Nokia's Android phone is meant to target emerging markets and will run a modified version of Android that will not feature the Google Play Store. Instead, the phone will come with Nokia's own application store and apps, such as HERE Maps, and Mix Radio. The device is expected to make an appearance at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, according to the Journal's unnamed sources. Nokia did not confirm the Journal's report.
Foursquare recently announced a new partnership with GrubHub Seamless that makes it possible to order food from 20,000 different restaurants around the country from within the Foursquare app. Users simply need to click the GrubHub Seamless button in the app to see nearby participating restaurants. The app also makes it easy to search for restaurants that will deliver. GrubHub has been added to the Android and iOS versions of Foursquare, but there's no word if the feature will be made available to the Windows Phone version. Foursquare is free to download and use.
Beats Music today became available to the Windows Phone platform after a slight delay. The app, which was made available to Android and iOS devices last week, is a curated music streaming service that costs $10 per month.
Facebook today announced Paper, a stand-alone application meant to enhance the experience of exploring the newsfeed. Similar to Flipboard, Facebook's Paper app pulls content from the newsfeed and arranges it in a magazine-like design. Users can customize the sections in order to make it more personal. According to Facebook, the app has its own swiping gestures and will automatically expand photos when the phone is tilted to one side. The app can also automatically fill the screen with embedded videos, as well as automatically generate covers for each section to make it easier to find the content within. Paper can be used by smartphone owners to create their own, shareable story, and even preview it before sending. Paper will be available to the iPhone beginning February 3. Facebook did not immediately indicate when versions for Android or Windows Phone will become available.
Nokia today made Cinemagraph 4.0 available for download from the Windows Phone Store. This update offers a few new features, the most significant of which is the ability to export Cinemagraphs as GIF files. The app itself is used to create GIF-like images, but before only allowed sharing through a link to files uploaded to Nokia's servers. The GIF export function makes it much easier to share Cinemagraphs with others. The app also adds location data so Cinemagraphs can be more easily integrated with Nokia Storyteller, and makes general performance improvements. Cinemagraph 4.0 is available to Nokia's Lumia smartphones and is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.