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.
Microsoft today announced that Opera Software will soon provide the default app store for older Nokia handsets. Beginning in the first quarter of 2015, the Opera Mobile Store will replace the Nokia Store on devices running the Series 40, Series 60, Symbian, Asha, and Nokia X operating systems. The Nokia Store itself will close once all handsets are transitioned to the Opera Mobile Store, which is expected to be complete by July 2015. According to Opera, it has over 300,000 applications for Nokia's legacy devices. Old apps are updated often, and Opera says its 40,000 developers constantly produce new apps, too. Microsoft purchased Nokia's handset business earlier this year. It has committed to selling entry-level feature phones, but would rather concentrate on managing one app store (the Windows Phone Store) instead of two.
BlackBerry and Samsung today agreed to sell one another's security software. The joint effort is meant to help Samsung sell more phones and to help BlackBerry win more BES customers. Samsung's Knox security platform is embedded on many of its devices. It can be used to separate work and personal information, as well as secure that data on the device. BlackBerry's BES services allows businesses to remotely manage Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone smartphones. The companies think this partnership will appeal to businesses that want to use Samsung handsets for the Knox platform, but manage them via BES. BlackBerry's enterprise chief John Sims said the deal "isn't about one company displacing the other. This is about one and one makes three." BlackBerry's presence in the smartphone market has been reduced to practically nil in the face of stiff competition from Apple, Samsung, and others, while Samsung has long been making overtures to potential business customers.
Microsoft today announced Movie Creator, a new app for editing video content into finished pieces. The app lets Windows Phone owners combine up to 25 video clips, photos, cinemagraphs, and Living Images into a single project. Microsoft says the app allows users to trim video clips and move them around with ease. Some features include text cards, pan and zoom, and filters for added effects. The app includes pre-loaded themes to help with quick projects. Movie Creator lets people enhance their videos with music, too. Movie Creator, which is being offered as a beta, is free to download from the Windows Store. It is compatible with Windows Phone 8.1.
United Airlines today announced that owners of its MileagePlus credit cards can now add them to their Softcard account and make mobile payments. The cards are backed by Chase bank, which is one of the handful of financial institutions supporting Softcard. In order to entice cardholders to sign up, United is offering 2,500 miles to customers who activate their MileagePlus card on Softcard by February 28, 2015. Further, United will add 500 more miles every month (up to total of 4,000 miles) to the MileagePlus accounts of cardholders who use Softcard at least once per month for mobile purchases. Softcard is backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless and is compatible with many Android smartphones and select Windows Phones.
Microsoft today announced the Lumia 535, the first phone it has revealed without the Nokia brand since it acquired the company's handset division earlier this year. The 535 is a low-cost smartphone meant for emerging markets. It features a 5-inch qHD display, and two 5-megapixel cameras with one on the front and one on the back. The rear camera has an LED flash. The user-facing camera has the same wide-angle sensor found on the Lumia 735. Both cameras can capture FWVGA video. The phone is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 200 processor with 1GB of RAM. The 535 has 8GB of internal storage, but supports microSD cards up to 128GB. Microsoft will sell the Lumia 535 in single- and dual-SIM variants, but the phone only supports 3G networks (WCDMA at 42Mbps) and not LTE 4G. Other on-board radios include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and GPS. Like many Lumia phones, the 535 comes in a range of bright colors. It ships with Windows Phone 8.1 and the Lumia Denim system upgrade out of the box. The Lumia will be available in select markets beginning later this month. It is priced at about $135.
AT&T today announced that customers with the Samsung Ativ S Neo handset can update their devices to Windows Phone 8.1. The system update includes Cortana, expanded home screen panels, action center, new lock screen widgets, word flow keyboard and other improvements. The update is free and can be installed over the air.
T-Mobile has begun selling the HTC One (M8) for Windows smartphone on its web site. T-Mobile is offering the device for $0 down with monthly payments of $24.40, or for $585.60 at full retail. The phone recently reached AT&T and it is already sold by Verizon.
Microsoft has agreed to replace the Nokia Xpress browser on low-end and mid-range handsets with Opera's Mini browser. Moving forward, Opera Mini will become the default browser on Asha devices and feature phones bearing the Nokia brand. Both the Nokia Xpress browser and Opera Mini use server-side compression to help reduce data usage over mobile networks. Opera Mini has become very popular in India, where many Asha devices are still sold. Opera believes this distribution agreement will help it add approximately 100 million users in India and other emerging markets. Internet Explorer is the default browser on Microsoft's Windows Phone handsets.
Microsoft today announced a major expansion of its core Office productivity suite across mobile devices. Microsoft is replacing the limited Office app for the iPhone with three brand new apps, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The apps allow iPhone users to create and edit Office content on their iPhones for free. Microsoft updated the iPad version of these three apps so there is continuity across them on the iOS platform. Further, Microsoft announced a new preview version of Office for Android tablets. This means most people will be able to work with Office documents on their mobile devices at no cost. Previously, Microsoft required a subscription to its Office 365 product. Moving forward, subscribers to Office 365 will have a more robust feature set, including advanced editing and collaboration tools, unlimited OneDrive storage, and Dropbox integration. Last, Microsoft said it is working on a touch-enabled version of Office for Windows 10. The new iPhone and iPad Office apps are free to download immediately. Android tablet owners can sign up for the Office preview beginning today.
Microsoft and Dropbox today announced a new partnership that will make it easier for smartphone and tablet owners to remain productive. They have agreed to integrate Office 365 and Dropbox for mobile and online document creation and storage. Android and iOS users will be able to access Dropbox from Office apps to get to their files and folders; edit Office files directly from Dropbox and sync them across devices; and share new or edited files from the Office apps using Dropbox sharing tools. Microsoft said it will update Office for Android and iOS with these new features over the coming weeks. Online sharing between Office and Dropbox won't arrive until early 2015. Interested users will need both an Office and a Dropbox account in order to access these tools. Dropbox will also make its application available on the Windows Phone and Windows tablet platforms in the coming months.
Microsoft today said it has updated a handful of its apps for Windows Phone devices. The Nokia Camera app is being renamed to Lumia Camera, though there are no changes to the app itself. The app is, however, being made available to the Lumia 830, Lumia 930, Lumia 1520, and Lumia Icon with the Lumia Denim Update, which starts rolling out later this year. The Lumia Cinemagraph app is receiving a minor update that makes the sharing function simpler and faster. Microsoft also noted that the app will no longer store Cinemagraphs on Nokia's web site and will instead keep them on Microsoft's OneDrive web site where they can be shared with social networks such as Facebook. Nokia said the new Cinemagraph app is expected to roll out early next year.
Softcard recently expanded to Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. Softcard, formerly Isis, is a mobile payment service backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Windows Phone owners can associate a credit card from select financial institutions with Softcard on their phone and use it for mobile payments. According to Softcard, its app is accepted at more than 200,000 retail locations around the U.S. Softcard is free to download from the Windows Phone Store, but it requires a secure SIM card from AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless in order to function properly.
AT&T today revealed availability and pricing details for the HTC One (M8) for Windows. The device, which is already being sold by Verizon Wireless, replaces the Android operating system with Windows Phone 8.1 but is otherwise identical. It has a 4-Ultrapixel camera, quad-core processor, 1080p HD display, and all-aluminum design. The device will be available online and in stores beginning November 7. AT&T is asking for $670 at full retail, $200 with a two-year contract, $33.60 per month with AT&T Next 12, or $27.92 per month with AT&T Next 18.
AT&T today announced that it will offer the Microsoft Lumia 830 online and in stores beginning November 7. The Lumia 830 was announced earlier this year. It runs Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana and features a slim-and-light design. The 830 has a 5-inch HD display, quad-core processor, and 10-megapixel camera. AT&T is selling the phone for $450 at full retail, $100 with a two-year contract, $22.50 per month with AT&T Next 12, or $18.75 per month with AT&T Next 18. For a limited time, AT&T is offering a FitBit Flex wearable with the Lumia 830 for free. The FitBit can be used to track activity and sleep. It normally retails for $99.
Samsung claims that if it honors a 2011 patent-licensing agreement with Microsoft it could be charged with collusion. The argument is the latest from Samsung, which owes Microsoft $1 billion in patent licensing fees, plus another $6.9 million in interest. Several technologies found in the Android operating system are patented by Microsoft. Nearly all Android device makers pay Microsoft to license those patents in their smartphones. Samsung agreed to do the same in 2011, though Microsoft cut it a bit if a break after Samsung agreed to continue to develop devices running Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. Part of the agreement entails Samsung sharing sensitive inside information with Microsoft. Samsung now contends that Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's handset business earlier this year puts them into direct competition. It says if it pays the licensing fees, it could be seen as colluding with Microsoft in violation of the law. Microsoft sued Samsung over the unpaid licensing fees earlier this year and believes it has a strong case.
Microsoft today announced Microsoft Health, a new platform that's similar in basic approach to Apple's HealthKit and Google's Google Fit programs. Microsoft Health relies on a cloud-based service where consumers and the industry both store health and fitness data. The Microsoft Health application is available today for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices. It collects information from third-party apps and services and saves the data to the cloud, where it can help users manage their health and fitness goals. Microsoft Health doesn't combine data points from apps locally on smartphones, which both HealthKit and Fit do. Instead, the data is analyzed by Microsoft's Intelligence Engine online, which can be used to generate graphs, charts, and other ways to assess the data. For example, Microsoft Health can tell people which exercises burn the most calories, or calculate the quality of users' sleep. Though Microsoft Health works with select third-party devices, such as Jawbone Up, Microsoft announced the Microsoft Band wearable. The band was designed to be worn all day long. It has 10 sensors inside that track steps, calories burned, heart rate, and more. Together with the Microsoft Health app, the Microsoft Band offers guided workouts created by Gold's Gym, Shape, and others. The band also includes notifications for incoming calls, messages, or social networking updates. The Band is available from Microsoft's web site and retail stores beginning today for $199. Last, Microsoft is offering SDKs and APIs to health providers and app developers so they may hook their products into Microsoft Health.
Microsoft today indicated its branding transition from Nokia Lumia to Microsoft Lumia is progressing as planned. Microsoft has slowly been rebranding apps, services, and web sites from Nokia to Microsoft. The company has now reached the point where its Windows Phone hardware will make the same change. The last smartphones announced to wear the Nokia brand are the Lumia 830 and Lumia 735 Windows Phones, which were announced in September. The company said the first Microsoft Lumia device will be announced soon, though it didn't share any details. Microsoft will, however, continue to sell Nokia-branded feature phones, such as the Nokia 130. Microsoft has licensed the Nokia name from Nokia for such devices. All its smartphones will use the Microsoft name moving forward.
Microsoft today revealed Garage, a collective of Microsoft employees that is encouraged to tinker with apps and services for a wide range of platforms and products. Microsoft describes the Garage as "a community of interns, employees, and teams from everywhere in the company who come together to turn our wild ideas into real projects." Along with its public unveiling, Microsoft announced several Android apps created within the Garage that are available from the Play Store today. For example, Torque is an app for Android Wear that lets owners of such devices twist their arm to launch Bing (not Google) Voice Search. Another, Next Lock Screen, lets Android device owners see their missed calls, messages, and calendar appointments without unlocking their device. The apps are free to download starting today. Microsoft indicated more apps and products may emerge from the Garage, not just for Android, but for iOS, Windows Phone, and Windows, too.
Microsoft indicated that it is prepared to drop the Nokia brand from its line of Windows Phones. Moving forward, the company will use the Microsoft Lumia name to refer to its phone hardware. Microsoft purchased Nokia's handset division earlier this year, but Nokia still exists as a separate company selling HERE Maps and telecommunications gear. Microsoft could not continue to use the Nokia brand indefinitely. Microsoft has already rebranded many of the old Nokia apps with the Lumia name, and told The Verge that it plans to begin rebranding its remaining Nokia properties in the weeks ahead.
Microsoft today issued an update to its Skype app for Windows Phone 8 and 8.1. The app has been refreshed with several new features, the foremost of which is the ability to create drawings within messages. Users can create their own pictures with the drawing tool, or annotate existing images and Bing Maps. The update makes it possible for users to select between their Microsoft account and their Skype account more easily. The app also improves resume times and adds support for HD screens. Skype for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.
Nokia today released an update to its Creative Studio photo editing app and added several features. First and foremost, Nokia returned Color Pop back to Creative Studio. Color Pop allows Lumia owners to turn their photos black and white with only select colors highlighted. The app also adds new support for PNG files and screenshots, and locks photos rotated 90 degrees to the new orientation. Creative Studio 6.3, which is an extensive on-device photo editor, is free for Lumia devices to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today said it has added several features to Cortana, the voice-activated assistant built into Windows Phone 8.1. One of the new capabilities is called Daily Glance Evening Edition. At the end of each day, Cortana will show users the travel time to home and upcoming items on their calendar. Cortana will also begin to offer concert recommendations within 100 miles of the phone's location based on the owner's artists and Bing searches. Cortana will now more actively create and make available cards with flight information based on travel itineraries and Bing searches. Last, Bing adds location-based app recommendations. For example, Cortana might suggest visitors to Disney World in Florida download the Disney Expedition App. Some of these features need to be turned on in Cortana's Notebook before they'll function.
Twitter today announced a new feature that will allow users of its Android and iOS apps to listen to music/sound clips directly from their timeline. According to Twitter, the new Twitter Audio Card can be docked and allow users to listen to the songs or clips even as they continue to browse through their timeline. SoundCloud is the first third-party company to add support for the Audio Card, but Twitter said it expects to add more services over time. Twitter hopes more parters, artists, and creators will adopt the feature for sharing purposes. The feature is free to use within the Android and iOS versions of Twitter. Twitter didn't say if or when the feature might reach other platforms, such as Windows Phone.
Skype today announced a new video messaging app called Qik. The service, explains Skype, is to give smartphone users a fun way to interact with others and maintain conversations that have more personality than standard text messages or video calls. Qik users can record and send up to 42 seconds of video to recipients who can then respond with video messages of their own. Skype says videos remain live for just two weeks, and can be erased by the creator at any time. Qik also lets users prerecord five-second Qik Fliks, which Qik describes as canned video responses to use when there's no time to record a new video. Qik used to exist as a stand-alone messaging service, but was purchased by Skype in 2011 and later shuttered entirely. Skype Qik is available to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. The app is free to download from each platform's respective app store.
Microsoft today announced Xim, an app and service that allows people to share photos with select groups of people. Xim was created by Microsoft Research's FUSE labs and is compatible with Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Users can select up to 50 photos to share and create a Xim. Users can pluck photos from their camera roll, Facebook, Instagram, Google Drive, or OneDrive. The Xim can then be viewed by whoever the user invites, including those who don't have the app (viewed via the browser). The app includes a group chat feature that allows everyone invited to a Xim to chat with each other. Xims are impermanent, sort of like Snapchat, and expire after a short period of time. The Xim app should be available in the iTunes App Store, Google Play Store, and Windows Phone Store today.
Flipboard today relaunched its mobile app for the Windows Phone platform after aborting its launch late last month. Flipboard version 2.4 is now ready for all Windows Phones running 8.1. Flipboard is a social news reader.
Cricket Wireless today announced it has added the Nokia Lumia 530 to its lineup of low-cost smartphones. The 530 is Nokia's entry-level smartphone, which includes a 4-inch display, 5-megapixel camera, quad-core processor, and Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana. The Lumia 530 will be available online and in select stores beginning October 3. It costs $50. Cricket also noted that it plans to roll out Windows Phone 8.1 to the Lumia 1320. Owners of the 1320 can expect to see the update arrive in the coming weeks.
Microsoft today announced the next version of Windows will be called Windows 10. According to Microsoft, Windows 10 will encompass "one product family, one platform, one store." Windows 10 will run on desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. Microsoft says the operating system will offer users a seamless experience across multiple different form factors with varied input types (mouse, pen, touch). One of the key components will be the shared code so developers can create apps that run on any of the supported form factors with little customization. Microsoft shied away from sharing too many specifics as far as features go, but noted that preview builds of the desktop platform will reach consumers in early 2015. The company didn't make any commitments as to when then next version of Windows Phone will be available.
Microsoft today re-launched its MSN web portal. The site has been redesigned from the ground up and provides one-click access to many tools, such as OneDrive, Outlook email, OneNote, and Skype. Microsoft says the new MSN will look and behave the same across all devices, be they PCs, tablets, or smartphones. Microsoft said it is pulling in content from a wider range of sources in order to appeal to as many users as possible. It is also localizing news content, so people in the US will have content that differs from the content offered in Japan, India, and other regions. The new MSN is free to visit on the web. Along with the reboot of MSN, Microsoft said it is updating a handful of its apps for Windows Phone, including Health & Fitness and Weather. Both apps gain new lock screen features. Health & Fitness, for example, will be able to provide GPS data and a step counter on the lock screen so users won't have to launch the individual app to see their workout stats. Similarly, the new weather app will offer real-time weather updates on the lock screen. Both apps are free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Flipboard recently shed its beta status and launched as a full app in the Windows Phone Store. The app was promised more than a year ago and arrives without the "flipping" gesture that made the app so popular with iOS and Android users. It is a socially-connected newsreader that creates digital magazines on the fly using web content. Flipboard is free to download, but requires Windows Phone 8.1.
Microsoft has launched a limited promotion that will double OneDrive users' free storage to 30GB. Microsoft already offers 15GB of online storage for free. Those who sign into their OneDrive accounts between now and the end of September will see their free storage jump to 30GB. The offer is good for all users of OneDrive, including people using Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and Windows Phone devices. Microsoft also offers incremental amounts of additional storage (usually 3GB) when smartphone/tablet owners choose to backup their camera roll to OneDrive. Users who already have more than 30GB of free OneDrive storage will receive the additional 15GB of storage, too.
Microsoft today updated its OneNote application to support Google's Android Wear platform. The app allows Android Wear owners to wake their device and use OneNote to dictate notes that are saved on the host Android smartphone. In addition to Android Wear compatibility, Microsoft also updated OneNote for both the iOS8 and Windows Phone platforms. The iOS8 version of OneNote adds extensibility, which allows users to save files to OneNote without leaving the app they are currently using. The Windows Phone version of OneNote was updated to allow users to convert photographs into PowerPoint or Word files. The updated OneNote apps are free to download from the Play Store, iTunes App Store, and Windows Phone Store.
Skype today announced an update to its app for Windows Phone devices that introduces location sharing for the first time. Skype version 2.22 is compatible with Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1. The sharing feature permits users to transmit their location data to others within IM conversations. The recipient can then pinpoint the sender via Bing Maps. The update also makes it easier to save photos and adds more granular controls for notifications. Skype for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.
Opera Software today released a beta version of its Opera Mini browser for Windows Phone devices. Opera has long offered versions of its data-saving browser to Android, iOS, and other platforms. Opera Mini for Windows Phone carries over the same basic design and features from other versions of the app, which includes the Speed Dial start screen, Smart Page social networking updates, easy-to-control tabs, and data compression to reduce mobile internet use. The beta is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
AT&T today said the Windows Phone 8.1 system update is now available to the Nokia Lumia 920 and Lumia 820. Both devices gain Cortana and a host of other features with the new operating system. It is free to download and install.
Nokia debuted two new smartphones in Berlin today, both of which focus on providing a better camera experience. These Windows Phones are solid addition to Nokia's lineup. Here are our first thoughts.
Nokia today revealed the Lumia 735, a device that features advanced self-imaging tools. The 735 has a 5-megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens and dedicated "Lumia Selfie" app. The app automatically launches the user-facing camera and has its own editing features, such as filters, toning, and even slimming down faces and whitening teeth. The rear camera has a 6.7-megapixel sensor, Zeiss optics, f/1.9 aperture, and a tool that helps users center their face in the frame for higher-quality selfies. The phone has a 4.7-inch 720p HD display, 2,220mAh battery, 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, and 8GB of storage. The Lumia 735 runs Windows Phone 8.1 and will come with the Denim system update preloaded. The device will ship with a free, three-month trial of Skype International unlimited. The device costs 219 Euro, or about $290.
Nokia today announced the Lumia 830, what Nokia calls a flagship device that doesn't have a premium price. It runs Windows Phone 8.1 and the just-announced Lumia Denim system update. It is smaller than the 930, but offers many of the same features, such as the design. It includes a PureView 10-megapixel camera with Zeiss optics and optical image stabilization. A new Rich Capture mode snaps a series of images with and without the flash so users can later choose to add light to their image for more balanced results. The HDR mode has been improved, too, so high-contrast images can more properly exposed to get all the details. The front-facing camera rates just 1.0 megapixels and captures 720p video. The 830 has a removable rear cover and has wireless charging built in to power the 2,220mAh battery. With the 830, Nokia is showing off a new charging plate. The charging plate is "smart" in that it includes NFC and customized notifications when it senses that the device's battery requires charging or an incoming call. The plate comes in the same orange, green, and white colors. The 830 itself measures 8.3mm and it contains a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 5-inch 720p display, 16GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 128GB. The Lumia 830 is priced at 330 Euro, or about $435. It ships globally starting this month.
Microsoft's handset division, Nokia, today announced Lumia Denim, the next update to its Windows Phone platform for Nokia-branded hardware. Lumia Denim's chief improvement is making Cortana is easier to use. It introduces a "Hey, Cortana" catchphrase that can be used to launch Cortana for filing reminders and other actions. Denim brings geofencing powers to Cortana, too, which can recognize geographic areas for assisting in reminders and tasks. Lumia Denim also makes improvements to the camera application. For example, the start-up process has been sped up so the camera launches faster. The camera is quicker to capture individual shots, as well, and adds a quick-capture mode that records 4K video with 8.7-megapixel images. The software can then pull out individual shots from the video to make for more compelling images. Lumia Denim will first be available on the Lumia 930, 1520, and Icon, with others to follow in the fourth quarter. The separate camera app will also be made available during the fourth quarter to just the 930, 1520, and Icon.
Broadcom today announced the BCM4358, a high-end Wi-Fi radio for flagship smartphones and tablets. The BCM4358 employs an 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO configuration for improved throughput and speeds, which Broadcom says can reach 650Mbps. Broadcom says the combo chip makes significant improvements with respect to Bluetooth performance, too. In addition to the wireless speed bumps, the BCM4358 is much more accurate at determining location. Broadcom says it is accurate down to one meter. The BCM4358 has integrated power and low-noise amplifiers, as well as beamforming and Low Density Parity Check Codes. It supports the Android, Windows, and Chrome operating systems. The BM4358 is already in mass production and Broadcom says it will appear in high-end devices before the end of the year.