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printed February 8, 2016
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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


VAIO Trots Out A Windows 10 Handset

Thursday, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

VAIO has unveiled a smartphone running Microsoft's Windows 10 platform for its home market of Japan. The VAIO Phone Biz is a stylish handset with aluminum unibody construction and mid-range specifications. It includes a 5.5-inch full HD screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, 16 GB of storage, 3 GB of RAM, and a 2800mAh battery. The Phone Biz offers a 13-megapixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera. It can run Microsoft's Continuum software, which allows it to act like a full Windows 10 PC when hooked up to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. VAIO will sell the phone in Japan for approximately $424 beginning in April. VAIO is Sony's former PC business, which it spun off several years ago. The VAIO Phone Biz won't be sold in the U.S., but is notable due to its design and the fact that it is the first VAIO-branded Windows smartphone. The VAIO Phone Biz isn't as capable on a spec basis as Microsoft's own Lumia 950 and 950 XL phones, but it is more stylish and less expensive.


Microsoft Buys SwiftKey Software Keyboard Maker

Feb 3, 2016, 8:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 3, 2016, 8:30 AM

Microsoft today said it has acquired SwiftKey, a company that develops software keyboards for Android and iOS devices. SwiftKey has strong word prediction capabilities, and is often able to suggest not only the word being typed, but what word might come next. Microsoft said SwiftKey's technology aligns with its own vision of "personal computing experiences that anticipate our needs versus responding to our commands." Microsoft also finds SwiftKey's use of artificial intelligence and prediction interesting. SwiftKey employees will be added to Microsoft's roster, where they will continue their work and enhance Microsoft's own Word Flow software keyboard for Windows. Microsoft said the SwiftKey app will continue to be available to Android and iOS devices. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.


Microsoft Pushing Windows 10 Build 10586.71

Feb 1, 2016, 1:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released technical preview build 10586.71 for Windows 10 Mobile Insiders. The new platform build mostly fixes bugs, such as performance and stability, SD card detection, Edge browser PDF rendering, Bluetooth, Groove Music, and power usage. The fresh build also includes the small Configuration Update that Microsoft released last week. Microsoft hopes users will test the build and provide feedback.


Microsoft: New Windows 10 Mobile Builds Coming Eventually

Jan 27, 2016, 1:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a new technical preview of Windows 10 for PCs, but not for mobile devices. The company hasn't provided an update to Windows 10 Mobile in some time, so it took the opportunity to reassure consumers that new bits are on the way. Microsoft said it is "still on track to release Windows 10 as an upgrade to existing devices early this year as we planned." (The update was originally supposed to arrive in December.) Microsoft said it is fine-tuning the code based on feedback from Windows Insiders who've installed preview builds, and it continues to make good progress. The company will share more details as soon as it knows when the rollout to older phones will take place. More to the point, Microsoft says it is working to unify the Windows OneCore across PCs, smartphones, Xbox, and its HoloLens platform. "Our build systems produce new builds daily for all of these editions, so as we've been doing this work we have been producing new PC builds as well as mobile builds. Today we deliver our 4th PC preview build, and are nearly ready to start sharing new preview builds for mobile as well," explained Microsoft. The new preview builds will be made available to the 950, 950XL, and 550 first, followed by other Windows 10 devices down the road.


Cortana Won't Let You Forget Your Promises

Jan 25, 2016, 9:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said it is adding new features to Cortana that will help people better manage their schedules. To start, Cortana will be more proactive with respect to reminders. Microsoft says people often make promises or commitments to one another via email, but then fail to follow through for various reasons (most often forgetfulness). Using tools from Microsoft Research, Cortana is able to scan email messages for promises/commitments and then automatically add reminders to help people keep track of those commitments. Microsoft also took steps to improve Cortana's ability to help manage calendar appointments. Microsoft says Cortana is able to see individuals' unique work styles, such as when they generally like to take meetings. Now, when meeting requests arrive that fall outside of preferred meeting windows, Cortana will send alerts so the recipient can take the appropriate action, whether it be to reschedule the request or set an alarm. Cortana's new powers will reach Windows Insiders on Windows 10 PCs first and expand to others Windows 10 devices and users over time.


Microsoft Expands Continuum Support to Snapdragon 617

Jan 20, 2016, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has added the Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor to the list of those that support Continuum. Continuum allows Windows 10 Mobile devices to act as full Windows PCs when connected to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. The feature had previously be reserved for high-end handsets based on the Snapdragon 808/810, such as the Lumia 950 and 950 XL. Expanding compatibility to the Snapdragon 617 means mid-range handsets will eventually be able to include Continuum.


Lumia 950 Owners Get Free Office 365 Subscription

Jan 14, 2016, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said owners of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL can snag a free one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal. The subscription, which has a retail value of about $70, gives users full access to Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) on their Lumia smartphone as well as a companion PC/Mac computer. The subscription includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage, as well, for syncing documents online. In order to access the free subscription, Lumia owners need to download and install the Lumia Offers application from the Windows Store. Users are required to provide an email address. Microsoft didn't say how long the offer will be available.


Google Cardboard Apps to Gain Spatial Audio

Jan 13, 2016, 1:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated the SDK for Google Cardboard and added support for spatial audio. Until today, Cardboard apps were limited to stereo sound. The addition of spatial audio will allow developers to create more immersive sound environments to match their VR experiences. Google says the SDK lets developers specify the size and material of their virtual environment, which impacts how sound moves around objects and to the listener's ears. Adding spatial audio will have minimal impact on CPU performance needs, so it shouldn't affect battery life. The Unity version of the SDK can be used to bring spatial auto to Android, iOS, Windows, and OS X devices, while the native Android SDK will require only a simple Java API. Developers can download the updated SDK directly from Google.


Microsoft Bringing Free Group Video Chats to Skype

Jan 12, 2016, 3:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said mobile device owners will soon be able to conduct group video chats for free. The feature is headed to Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile 10 handsets and tablets in the coming weeks. Skype is allowing people to preview the tool ahead of its general release. Anyone interested can sign up on Microsoft's web site. Microsoft claims Skype has been downloaded 750 million times. The app will be updated across platforms with the new feature shortly.


Microsoft Prepping Own SIM for Windows 10 Devices

Jan 8, 2016, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has published a new app for Windows 10 devices meant to help people connect to and pay for data networks using their Microsoft account. According to the app's description, Windows 10 device owners can view locally available plans and sign up for contract-free service directly from their device. Microsoft says the app is "designed to work solely with specific Windows 10 devices and requires a Microsoft SIM card." The concept mimics one used by Apple, which created its own SIM card for iPads. The Apple SIM card lets iPad owners sign up for cellular service from a handful of different providers without requiring them to buy a carrier-specific SIM card. Microsoft didn't say when the Microsoft SIM card will be available, nor which devices will be able to use it.


Hands-On with the Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL with Windows

Jan 6, 2016, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Making good on a promise it made last year, Alcatel has shown off its first Windows 10 smartphone. Rather than start from scratch, the copy repurposed the Fierce XL handset, swapping Android for Windows. Here are our first impressions of this handset bound for T-Mobile.

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Alcatel Adds Windows 10 to the Fierce XL

Jan 6, 2016, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced a Windows 10 variant of the Fierce XL smartphone. The phone is a direct carry over from the Android version, which was announced last year. The hardware features a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen, a 1.1GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 32GB. The main camera features an 8-megapixel sensor with flash and the front camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. The Fierce XL supports LTE 4G along with VoLTE, HD voice, and WiFi calling. Though it runs Windows 10, it does not support the Continuum feature. Alcatel said the Fierce XL will reach T-Mobile stores in a few weeks. T-Mobile will carry the phone in the months ahead. Pricing has yet to be determined. Alcatel said it will eventually make an unlocked version available to U.S. buyers via its web site.

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Alcatel Teases Revamped Pixi Line Ahead of CES

Jan 3, 2016, 10:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel OneTouch offered a sneak peak at what it plans to announce during the CES trade show later this week. The company has fully revised its Pixi 4 series of devices, which comprises three phones with 3.5-, 4-, and 6-inch screens, as well as a tablet with a 7-inch screen. Alcatel describes the Pixi line as "premium entry-level devices" that offer top design, audio, camera, and battery performance for the dollar. They all run Android. Alcatel also has an 8-inch Pixi 3 tablet (shown) in the wings that will run Windows 10 Mobile. The Windows tablet features a TV remote control, voice-call capabilities, GPS, and front/rear cameras. Last, Alcatel plans to show off the CareTime Watch for children, a GPS-enabled wearable so parents can monitor kids' whereabouts. More details concerning these products will be made available as the week unfolds.


Microsoft Says Older Phones Won't Get Windows 10 Until 2016

Dec 17, 2015, 2:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said owners of handsets running Windows Phone 8 / 8.1 will have to wait a bit longer to receive Windows 10. The update was originally expected to arrive this month, but Microsoft has now delayed the rollout. "This November we introduced Windows 10 to phones including brand new features such as Continuum and Universal Windows Apps with the introduction of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL. The Windows 10 Mobile upgrade will begin rolling out early next year to select existing Windows 8 and 8.1 phones." Microsoft has not defined exactly which devices will receive the update, nor did it provide any explanation for delaying the Windows 10 update. In other Microsoft news, the company released a new Technical Preview for Windows Insiders today. Build 10586.36 further refines performance of the platform.


Microsoft Pushes New Preview of Windows 10

Dec 16, 2015, 1:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released Windows 10 Technical Preview build 11082 to members of the Windows Insider program. According to Microsoft, this preview chiefly impacts the OneCore, which is the heart of Windows across all platforms. The updated OneCore code improves stability and performance for phones, tablets, and PCs. The changes to the OneCore will also make sure developers are able to code and check their own apps for Windows 10 devices. Microsoft says Windows Insiders can expect to see more frequent updates beginning January 2016.


Microsoft Adds Carrier Billing to Windows Store

Dec 10, 2015, 6:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has expanded an existing agreement with Boku to bring carrier billing to the Windows Store. Sprint is the first carrier too support the service, which means Sprint customers will be able to charge Microsoft Store purchases to their monthly bill. Customers simply enter their phone number as a payment option. Carrier billing is compatible with Windows 10 on smartphones, tablets, and PCs in the U.S. first, but Microsoft plans to expand carrier billing to other carriers and markets over time. The carrier billing service is provided by Boku. "The Windows Store is designed to be a one-stop shopping experience for free and paid digital content. We believe offering carrier billing is important to giving consumers a convenient payment method and driving developer monetization," said Todd Brix, general manger of the Windows Store, in a statement. Carrier billing covers apps and games, as well as music, movies, and TV content. Carrier billing is generally regarded as a way to reduce barriers for consumers who may be uncomfortable entering credit card data into their phone.

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Microsoft Updates Groove Music and Movie Apps

Dec 9, 2015, 3:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is delivering a significant update to its Groove music app for Windows 10 Mobile. The company is also updating the Movies and TV application. Groove for Windows 10 Mobile now automatically sorts songs by the date they were added, though it is easy to view by song, artist, and album as well. The secondary menu can be accessed by swiping from the left for improved one-handed use. A long press will scramble tracks within a playlist. The app shows download progress in the title bar and lets users access the download manager from the left navigation menu. Groove interacts with Cortana, which will respond to requests such as "Play Rock" to start listening to shuffled rock songs. The update also improves how Groove music performs through Continuum (when connected to monitors). The artist gallery now has better spacing and alignment, and the artist detail pages are improved with larger resolutions. Search results now look better at higher resolutions, too. The update to Microsoft Movies and TV applies to the universal app, which means smartphones, tablets, and PCs. It now shows cast and crew information, queues up sequential TV episodes, and features a better downloading experience. Groove music and Movies and TV are free to download from the Microsoft Store.


Cortana for Android and iOS Moves Out of Beta

Dec 9, 2015, 10:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made Cortana more widely available to Android and iOS devices. The app, which has been in beta testing on both platforms for several months, is now in the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store as a full release. Android and iOS device owners can use Cortana to track flights and calendar appointments, set reminders and alarms, monitor packages, and perform web searches for just about anything. It syncs with the Windows 10 desktop version of Cortana, so people can manage their appointments no matter which device they happen to be using. The "Hey, Cortana" voice-activation feature is not available to either platform and is reserved for Windows-based machines. Android and iOS users who download Cortana will still be able to interact with Google Now and Siri, respectively. Cortana requires Android 4.1 and iOS 8 and up and can be downloaded from the Pay Store and App Store for free.


Microsoft Lumia 550 Goes On Sale

Dec 7, 2015, 8:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said its affordable Windows 10 Mobile handset, the Lumia 550, is now available in select markets. The 550 offers a 4.7-inch HD display, 4G LTE, 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture, and 2-megapizel front camera. It uses a 1.1 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor and includes 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. Microsoft hasn't announced a U.S. version of the Lumia 550, and it's unclear if it will ever be made available here. It costs $139.


Microsoft Pushes New Windows 10 Preview

Dec 5, 2015, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has released another technical preview for Windows 10 Mobile, and the company said is changing its strategy for previews moving forward. Microsoft pushed build 10586 a few weeks ago, which is the same build new Windows 10 handsets are based on. Microsoft said users on the 10586 preview and the shipping version of Windows 10 should expect to see the number of updates increase over the coming weeks and into the new year as it addresses user feedback. The newest release is 10586.29, which Microsoft says is a cumulative update that tackles issues in build 10586 only. It improves application backwards compatibility for Windows Phone 8.1 devices; improves edge performance and stability; improves auto-completion with URL editing tweaks; and improves Bluetooth stability. Moreover, Microsoft is adding several new devices to the technical preview program, including the LG Lancet, Microsoft Lumia 550, Lumia 950, and Lumia 950 XL. These devices will be supported in the Windows Insider Fast and Slow Rings starting next week. Microsoft said it will release a new version of the Windows Device Recovery Tool to address detection issues with these handsets.


Microsoft Adds Business Intelligence to Cortana's Bag of Tricks

Dec 1, 2015, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has given its business customers a new tool by integrating its Power BI product into Cortana. Power BI provides access to company-specific data, such as financial filings and performance reports. Together with Cortana, Power BI allows Windows 10 users to ask Cortana for information such as average sales prices of core products, or recent revenue numbers. Microsoft says the idea is to make it easier and more natural for people to ask for and receive data about their company. Microsoft is offering Power BI to Windows 10 desktop users as a preview. Microsoft didn't say if or when Power BI integration might reach Windows 10 Mobile.


Microsoft Pushing Cortana to iOS Beta Testers

Nov 28, 2015, 9:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made good on its promise to make Cortana available to iOS devices. The company polled Windows Insiders earlier this month to gauge interest in the idea and received enough feedback that it has begun rolling out Cortana in beta form to those interested in testing. Cortana is Microsoft's virtual assistant, which first debuted in Windows Phone 8.1. Cortana for iOS can be used to track flights and calendar appointments, set reminders and alarms, and monitor packages. Microsoft said testers will not be able to launch Cortana with the "Hey, Cortana" catch phrase, but most other features are intact. Cortana testers will still be able to interact with Siri, Apple's own personal assistant. Eligible beta testers will receive an email with information on how to download the app. The beta software is being distributed through Apple's TestFlight program, which functions apart from the iTunes App Store. TestFlight allows beta-class apps to be installed on iOS devices. Typically, iPhone apps can only be installed directly from the App Store. TestFlight limits beta testers to a maximum of 2,000. Cortana is already available to Android devices.


Microsoft Lets Android Owners Compare Apps

Nov 23, 2015, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has released a new tool aimed at helping people switch from an Android smartphone to a Windows smartphone. AppComparison, an app for Android handsets, scans the device for apps and then finds the corresponding Windows apps. If the app can't find exact matches, it suggests the Windows Phone equivalent. For example, since Google Drive is not available to Windows Phones, the AppComparison tool points people to Microsoft's OneDrive app instead. The idea is to show Android owners which of their favorite apps are available to Windows handsets. The app also shows off some of the most popular Windows Phone apps in the Microsoft Store. Microsoft's AppComparison tool is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Jolla Announces Layoffs Amidst Restructuring

Nov 20, 2015, 10:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jolla today said the company is restructuring its finances and laying off the bulk of its employees. Jolla was launched by former Nokia employees and created Sailfish OS and several phones and tablets. The idea was to offer an alternative to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Sailfish was built from Nokia's old Moblin and Maemo Linux platforms. Jolla Chairman and Co-Founder Antti Saarnio says Sailfish OS is commercially mature and ready to be licensed to other hardware makers. Jolla has burned through most of its cash, however, and needs to take time to regroup. The company will let go of the majority of its employees while restructuring its debt, although it insists the layoffs are temporary. "In Finland we have very good laws for corporate restructuring. These enable the continuation of businesses through debt restructuring, which gives a company more time to take care of its financial liabilities," said Saarnio. "I believe that through this program Jolla can turn its business to be profitable in the future. Sailfish OS is a very valuable asset and worth fighting for." Saarnio claims Jolla has several large and small OEMs considering Sailfish OS for their own hardware. He did not suggest how long it might take for Jolla to get its finances back in order, nor when it might re-hire its employees.


Microsoft Delivers Another Preview of Windows 10 Mobile

Nov 19, 2015, 8:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview build 10586 available to Windows Insiders. This build focuses on cleaning up bugs, according to Microsoft. For example, Microsoft resolved an issue that corrupted the Start screen. It also made it possible to set memory cards as the default storage location and cleaned up corruption issues that renamed memory cards. Messaging and Skype have been improved with conversation-loading fixes. The camera button on phones that have them should be working once more. Last, apps and games should download from the Microsoft Store more reliably. There are still some known issues in the preview, but Microsoft says the build performs well. Windows 10 Mobile is nearing public readiness. Microsoft has said the operating system will reach consumers in December. This week also marks the launch of the first Windows 10 Mobile smartphones. Microsoft has made the Lumia 950 and 950 XL available from its web site, and AT&T is selling the Lumia 950 in stores starting Friday.


Microsoft Taking Orders for Lumia 950 XL Online

Nov 16, 2015, 12:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is allowing U.S. consumers to order the Lumia 950 XL, unlocked, from its web site for $649. Microsoft lists a ship date of Nov. 25 for orders placed today. The 950 XL comes with a free Microsoft Display Dock (while supplies last), which transforms the handset into a full PC when attached to a keyboard, mouse, and display. The 950 XL is the larger brother of the 950. It has a 5.7-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 810 processor with 3GB of RAM, 20-/5-megapixel camera arrangement, and a 3,340mAh battery. It runs Windows 10 Mobile and is compatible with the LTE networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S.


Microsoft's Lumia 950 Hits AT&T Stores November 20

Nov 16, 2015, 9:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 16, 2015, 10:15 AM

AT&T today said the Microsoft Lumia 950 smartphone will be available online Nov. 17 and in stores Nov. 20. The 950 is the first handset to run Windows 10 Mobile. Some of the core features include a 5.2-inch quad HD display; Snapdragon 808 processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage; 20-megapixel main camera and 5-megapixel front camera with 4K video capture; and a QuickCharge 3,000mAh battery. AT&T is offering a handful of financing methods for the Lumia 950. First, AT&T will sell it for $149.99 with a two-year contract ($45 activation fee req'd). Second, AT&T will sell it via monthly installments with an AT&T Next plan ($15 activation fee req'd). Customers can get the 950 for $19.97 per month with a Next 24 plan, $24.96 per month with Next 18, or $29.95 per month with Next 12. The full retail price is $599. The Lumia 950 will be available in matte black or matte white. The smartphone works like a PC when paired with the Microsoft Display Dock HD-500 (sold separately). AT&T did not say if or when the Lumia 950 XL will go on sale.


Microsoft's Android-App-Porting Tool May Be Shelved

Nov 16, 2015, 8:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has dialed back efforts to port Android apps to the Windows 10 platform, reports Windows Central. In April, Microsoft announced plans to allow app writers to port iOS, web, Win32, and Android apps to the Windows 10 platform. The Android tool, called Project Astoria, is an emulator and not an actual port. This means Android apps would run in a software container on Windows devices, rather than on the device natively. Windows Central says Project Astoria forums have been silent for several months and Microsoft hasn't responded to Astoria-focused questions for some time, even to those under NDA. Moreover, recent Windows 10 Mobile Technical Previews have stripped out the Android subsystem. When asked for comment, Microsoft said, "We're committed to offering developers many options to bring their apps to the Windows Platform, including bridges available now for web and iOS, and soon Win32. The Astoria bridge is not ready yet, but other tools offer great options for developers." Microsoft didn't expressly say Project Astoria has been cancelled, but the Android port is clearly no longer a priority. The idea behind all these app-porting tools is to get more apps onto Windows-based handsets. One of the major critiques of Windows mobile phones has been the poor app experience when compared to Android and iOS devices.


Apple Releases Third Beta of iOS 9.2

Nov 10, 2015, 1:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS 9.2 Beta 3 to developers and public testers. The beta operating system further refines the code so it runs smoother. iOS 9.2's biggest feature includes a change to the Safari View Controller, which now supports third-party Action Extensions for pop-up Safari windows. The updated OS also adds support for AT&T's NumberSync calling feature. The beta is free to download and test ahead of the general public release.


Latest Windows 10 Preview from Microsoft Fixes Bugs

Oct 29, 2015, 11:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released another technical preview of Windows 10 Mobile. Rather than stuff the release with new features, Microsoft said it focused on cleaning up bugs and improving performance. Chiefly, build 10581 will allow people to upgrade from earlier preview builds without first reverting to Windows Phone 8.1; testers can go straight from 10549 or 10572 to 10581. Microsoft resolved an issue that prevented "Hey, Cortana" from functioning on the Lumia 930 and 1520; made it possible to select photos for sharing through third-party messaging apps; and tweaked text prediction and auto-correct. Microsoft says battery life should be improved, as should video recording and visual voicemail syncing. The Windows 10 Mobile technical preview is not for consumers and is for testing purposes only. Microsoft is expected to release Windows 10 Mobile to the general public in December.


Microsoft's Joe Belfiore Taking Leave of Absence

Oct 21, 2015, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Joe Belfiore, one of the chief driving forces behind Windows Phone, is taking a break from his job at Microsoft. Belfiore plans to take a leave of absence from November through mid-2016, during which time he will be focusing on his family. Belfiore has often been seen on stage demonstrating Windows Phone features, and he played a prominent role in bringing Windows Phone 7, 8, and 8,1 to fruition. Belfiore says Microsoft is supporting his time off. "When the trip is over, I'll be right back at it," said Belfiore in a post to his personal Facebook page. "I'm proud to have spent the last 25 years working for a thoughtful and considerate company here at Microsoft. I'll be back at Microsoft in my same job working on Windows next summer." Belfiore's work in shaping Windows 10 Mobile has likely run its course as the platform nears final release. Windows 10 Mobile is expected to arrive in December, shortly after Belfiore begins his leave.


Microsoft Pushes Windows 10 Mobile Preview Build 10572

Oct 20, 2015, 5:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made a new technical preview of Windows 10 Mobile available to fast ring members of the Windows Insider program. As with the previous build, interested testers will need to downgrade to Windows Phone 8.1 before installing build 10572. (Microsoft says beginning with build 10575 and up, users will be able to once again go straight from one preview to the next.) The new build takes advantage of Cortana to push call and text notifications from the phone to Windows PCs as well as handle text replies. This function requires Cortana to be up and running on both machines. Build 10572 integrates Skype across the messaging, phone, and Skype video apps, and now supports animated GIFs and message/call history search. The build further refines Cortana, which can be used to track movie and event reminders, as well as book Uber rides. Offline maps can now be saved to memory cards; the photo app supports local favorites and more editing functions; and storage settings have been improved in a such a way that the user experience is more consistent between phones and PCs. As always, Microsoft warns that the technical previews are not for primary handsets and are for testing purposes only. Microsoft is expected to release Windows 10 Mobile to the general public in December.


Microsoft May Give Windows 10 Mobile Payments

Oct 20, 2015, 2:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is weighing what to do with the mobile wallet app that's part of the Windows 10 Mobile platform. The operating system already has a basic wallet app (since Windows Phone 8) for storing credit card and loyalty card data, but it stops short of making mobile payments. Joe Belfiore, corporate VP of Microsoft's operating systems group, said, "Windows is going to have a wallet concept. You've seen it on phones before. We're going to continue to iterate it. We're going to think about the range of payment scenarios." Belfiore did not say if or when any type of mobile payment service might launch, nor what technology it might rely on. However, the spec page for the recently announced Lumia 950 says the smartphone includes "secure NFC for payment." When asked exactly what that referred to, Microsoft told Phone Scoop, "We have nothing to share." Belfiore admitted that mobile payments are not easy to implement. "[Mobile payments] is just one of these things that is a massive network of complexity," Belfiore said. "I think the biggest challenge is, what effect will cause enough of the right things to align that you’ll get a good experience with all the places that you want it to happen in?" Apple, Google, and Samsung all offer mobile payment platforms that vary a bit in how they function. Despite support from handset makers, carriers, retailers, and financial institutions, mobile payments have yet to go mainstream. Even so, it would behoove Microsoft to make sure its smartphone platform can compete with the industry leaders.

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LG Lancet Drops Windows Phone for Android

Oct 16, 2015, 1:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today revealed a new variant of the LG Lancet that runs Android rather than Windows Phone. The Lancet first reached Big Red earlier this year with Windows Phone 8.1 in tow. The LG Lancet for Android, as it is officially called, may be the first handset initially released for Windows Phone later re-released with Android. The device runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop and comes with LG's signature features, such as KnockOn and QuickMemo. The Lancet for Android features a 4.5-inch screen, 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, 8-megapixel main camera, 8 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 128 GB. The Lancet is a budget-friendly phone. The full retail price is $120, though Verizon is offering the phone for $5 per month with a financing plan.


Skype Adds More Moji Content

Oct 16, 2015, 8:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today updated its mobile and desktop apps with a new round of Moji content. Mojis are short video clips pulled from popular movies and television shows. The new additions include clips from Pitch Perfect 2 and Furious 7, and more from BBC and Universal Studios. Skype says it added a new movie studio to its clip roster, and gave the Mojis selector new tabs for sorting between popular and favorited clips. Beyond the Mojis, Skype says it added a handful of new, traditional emoticons for the Halloween season. The expanded Moji selection is available on Windows desktop, Mac, iOS, Android, and Skype for Web.


Skype Lets People Invite Non-Users to Conversations

Oct 15, 2015, 10:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today made it possible for users to invite anyone — including those who do no have Skype accounts — to participate in text and video conversations. Invites to individual or group conversations are shared via link, and can be sent through email, WhatsApp, Messenger, Twitter, or any other app. This new Skype feature is available to Skype for Windows, Mac, and the web on desktops to start. People who've downloaded Skype to their iPhone or Android handsets can also join conversations via invites even if they haven't sent up an account. Skype said the new feature is avail be in the U.S. and U.K. first, and will be rolled out to other regions over time.


Microsoft Pushes Another Preview to Windows 10 Phones

Oct 14, 2015, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview build 10549 available to testers in the Windows Insider program. Microsoft says a bug in the new preview mandates that devices first downgrade to Windows Phone 8.1, rather than install from the most recent technical preview (10536). People already using one of the technical previews can revert to Windows Phone 8.1 using the Windows Recovery Tool. Once WP8.1 is loaded and the Windows Insider app is re-installed, Fast Ring subscribers can update to 10549. The new build makes improvements to Cortana and the messaging application, and adds a more diverse set of emoji. Microsoft said it has resolved some bugs impacting the previous build, such as the camera, notifications, screenshots, and apps stored on memory cards. Microsoft also notes that pinch-to-zoom should work properly within maps, and some ringtone behaviors have been smoothed over. As always, the technical preview includes some known issues, and Microsoft warns that the build is for testing purposes only and not meant for consumers. Microsoft is expected to release Windows 10 Mobile to the general public in December.


Windows 10 to Reach Phones In December

Oct 7, 2015, 8:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has revealed via its Facebook page that Windows 10 Mobile will be made available to a handful of Lumia phones in December. The initial list of handsets on deck to receive the update include the Lumia 430/435, 532, 535, 540, 635, 640/XL, 735, 830, and the Lumia 930. Microsoft said the devices will need to be running the Lumia Denim update to Windows Phone 8.1 in order to install Windows 10 Mobile. The Lumia 950 and 950 XL, available in November, will be the first handsets to ship with Windows 10 Mobile.


Hands On with the Lumia 550

Oct 6, 2015, 1:51 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 6, 2015, 2:04 PM

The 550 is Microsoft's new affordable Windows 10 phone. It has a remarkably low price for a device with an HD screen. How "affordable" does it feel in person? Read on to find out.

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Hands on with the Lumia 950 and XL

Oct 6, 2015, 12:56 PM   by Rich Brome

The Lumia 950 is Microsoft's flagship phone for Windows 10. It continues the Lumia line while showcasing the new, unified Windows 10. Not only can it run the same Universal apps that run on Windows 10 desktops, it can transform into a desktop computer itself with a dock accessory, running the same apps in desktop mode. It has high-end features and classic Lumia design. So how is it in person? Read on to find out.

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