OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service, is getting better thanks to some top requested features being added to the service and its sync apps. In an announcement on the OneDrive Blog on September 10, Microsoft announced the following updates:
Large Files Support
Until now, OneDrive supported files up to 2GB in size but now customers can store files up to 10GB in size. This can be done through the desktop sync clients, mobile apps as well as from the web app. There are not too many “normal” uses where files would be more than 2GB in size, but some examples could be if you have digital downloads of HD movies or digitally downloaded software or Outlook PST files as examples.
Sharing directly from Windows Explorer
Dropbox has long had the ability to share a file stored in Dropbox from the computer directly, all reflecting correctly back to Dropbox service as a shared file. With OneDrive, until now, you would need to share it from OneDrive.com, unless you simply attach the file from the PC in which case it is not the same use case.
With the latest update, when you right-click on a file in Windows 7 and Windows 8, you get one more option which is to “Share a OneDrive link” which will create a link to the file and copy it to the clipboard. Once the link is created, it will be registered on OneDrive.com’s file properties as a shared file with the link. Curiously, Windows 8.1 and Mac updates are not ready yet, but will be coming soon.
Upload folders from OneDrive.com
With this update, OneDrive.com now supports uploading folders from the web app instead of just files. This includes dragging and dropping an entire folder in the web app to automatically upload it to OneDrive.
Through some parallelization, Microsoft claims file sync (upload and download) improved threefold in their internal testing. Any improvement is welcome, so this is good news for those relying heavily on desktop sync clients.
As usual, these are good improvements and additions to an already excellent service. Do you have files more than 2GB which you could not sync until now? What were those files? Let us know in the comments below.
It was Apple Announcement Day on September 9, 2014. At Flint Center in Cupertino, the location where the late Steve Jobs unveiled the Mac 30 years ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook and other executives announced a slew of products and services which for all intents and purposes can be considered the new era for Apple. Having dominated the premium smartphone market and the tablet market with their iPhones and iPads, Apple is moving into wearables with their Apple Watch as well as into facilitating payments with their new service, Apple Pay. Oh, and they announced two new iPhones: the iPhone 6 with a size of 4.7″, and the iPhone 6 Plus with a size of 5.5″.
Even though they announced the iPhones first, it was clear that Apple officials wanted to devote a lot of time to their new device in a brand new category. The name eschews the long-running “i” naming scheme, which is interesting by itself. The Apple Watch is not circular in shape like the just announced Moto360 and like most wrist watches, but instead, it is a rectangular touch screen watch with a flavor of iOS called Watch OS powering it. It comes in two sizes and its belt/strap is easily switchable, potentially creating a huge 3rd party opportunity for the same.
Although the Apple Watch requires an iPhone to use the GPS and WiFi to measure distances and such, it does have its own sensors to measure not just steps but also the intensity of your workouts. Besides keeping extremely accurate time (it continuously checks the global standard time), it also provides customizable watch faces which are not just skins. These watch faces provide further interactions and customizations, based on the specific face. For example, an “earth” based face could then provide the alignment of planets at that given time for that particular location, or another face that can show the next appointment on the calendar.
Of course, the big news here is the interaction mode. The Apple Watch has a “Digital Crown” which looks very much like the crowns on regular wrist watches. Instead of winding the watch, the Digital Crown helps in navigation: scrolling up and down, zooming in and out, etc. In addition, there is a button below the Digital Crown which acts similar to the Home button on iPhones, iPods and iPads, in that it returns you to the main home screen. The other innovation touted in the Apple Watch is the display, which is made in a way that it can detect the difference between a touch and a press. Depending on what it is, the Watch OS and the apps therein behave and react differently. The Apple Watch features a heart rate sensor which uses infrared and visible-light LEDs and photodiodes to detect your heart rate. It uses induction charging via a new magnet-based charger. Curiously, no mention was made of the expected battery life of the Apple Watch.
Apple is also touting a new development kit called WatchKit which will enable developers to build (or extend) apps and utilize the new gestures as well as interaction modes. For example, actionable notifications are supported, but because of the much smaller real estate on the screen, they will need to be re-tooled.
Finally, Apple officials spent quite some time going over Digital Touch which is a new form of communication delivered in Apple Watch. With Digital Touch, you can doodle on the watch face and your friend can see it being drawn in real time and reply back with their own doodle. Digital Touch can also be used as a simple walkie-talkie. It also offers a way to just tap on the screen and send the tap to your friend, and finally, Digital Touch also allows you to capture your heartbeat for a few seconds and send that exact same pulse to your friends. I don’t know how much of this is gimmicky or truly useful but given the new paradigm, I suppose the message here is that the opportunity is endless.
The other new category Apple entered is in the mobile payments. With Apple Pay, Apple now provides a way for customers of its phones to pay in stores and online without having to enter credit card and billing/shipping address details.
Apple Pay works with NFC in the real world (offline) and contactless payment processing machines. The NFC technology, combined with Touch ID, enable a seamless transaction without having to fumble around your wallet or purse looking for the right card and then signing papers and such.
Apple Pay works by setting up one’s various credit and debit cards (American Express, MasterCard and Visa have signed up in the US) in Passbook. This wallet is also made available to 3rd party apps securely. Neither the 3rd party nor the merchant has access to the actual card number or details. Instead of actually sending the credit or debit card numbers, Apple Pay instead sends a Device Account Number which is in turn stored in a new Secure Element chip only available in the new iPhone 6 devices and Apple Watch. Oh yes, the Apple Watch will support Apple Pay. Which means, you can pay using your watch and not even remove your phone from your pocket.
Besides the 3 big card networks, Apple has signed up most of the big banks that issue these credit cards and has also partnered with 220,000 stores which will be set up to accept Apple Pay payments sometime this Fall.
iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
The event started off with the introduction to the new phones. As expected and heavily leaked, Apple finally jumped to a larger screen iPhone but instead of introducing one new form factor, they went with two completely new form factors this year. iPhone 6 is the 4.7″ device and iPhone 6 Plus (a very Microsoft-ian name, dare I say!) sports a 5.5″ screen.
Besides the size, the screen resolutions also differ: the iPhone 6 is at 1334×750 and the iPhone 6 Plus is at 1920×1080. The iPhone 6 Plus has a bigger battery and more importantly, it has Optical Image Stabilization which may support even better low-light pictures. Both the models now support faster LTE and wireless AC standard. Both have new camera sensors, although the megapixel count remains at 8MP. (I know, I know, it is not all about the megapixels, but I just wanted to make a mention.) The video camera in both the models now supports slow motion video at 240fps. Both the models also feature new processor and motion sensor chips, A8 and M8. In a surprise move, Apple went with 16GB, 64GB and 128GB storage models and not 32GB, 64GB and 128GB. iPhone 6 is priced at $199, $299, $399 respectively for those capacities, with a 2-year contract, and the iPhone 6 Plus is $100 higher across the board. Given the larger screen and the obsession at Apple of single-handed use, Apple introduced “Reachability” a feature which brings the top part of the screen halfway down so that one can reach it with their thumb. This is invoked by gently double-tapping the home button. Both the models also now include a barometer so the phone can track your elevation which can be helpful in fitness tracking apps. The new iPhones also support WiFi calling when the carrier supports it, so presumably one can start a call in the car on cellular and once they are home or in the office, switch to WiFi seamlessly to continue the call over WiFi. This is beneficial for those who are not on unlimited calling plans or if they have poor cellular signal in places they want to make a call from.
All of these announcements are huge in their own ways, but regardless of what you think about each of the products or service, it is clear that these are Tim Cook’s creations. The Steve Jobs era has been completely transitioned to the Tim Cook era. We may very well look at Apple Watch in a few years and realize it was the big turning point for Apple. The iPhone is clearly the center of the Apple universe, which is astounding because it is only seven years old as a product. Personally, I have stuck to the “s” releases of iPhones: 3GS because it introduced video (Blackberry had that forever!), 4S because of the much improved camera and speed/processor, and 5s because of Touch ID. I will continue that and wait for the 6S Plus next year. How about you?
That’s right, folks. You have not woken up in the 90’s all of a sudden. In a post on September 7 on the Official Microsoft Blog, officials at the company announced a new preview of their MSN portal. In addition, a big re-branding is planned, where all the Bing apps on Windows and Windows Phone will be renamed to corresponding MSN versions. Finally, these MSN apps will also expand to iOS and Android, reflecting the new philosophy at Microsoft where their own platform is just another platform.
The new MSN
The new site at preview.msn.com is a cleaner, fresher and adjusts according to the screen size (“responsive design”). The busy front page is gone and is now replaced with a main “top stories” panel with large pictures along with a few smaller units for other top news. Of course, there is a big ad space to the right.
As you scroll down, you see the normal sections for content: News, Entertainment, Sports, Money, Lifestyle, Health & Fitness, Food & Drink, Travel, Autos, and lastly, a section for Video. These sections can be moved up or down, or removed completely. Other sections can be added, from the following: Movies, TV, Music, World, US, Tech & Science and Politics.
Services strip and sections
Along the top, there is a strip of information, with quick access to various Microsoft and non-Microsoft services. This includes Outlook.com email, Office Online documents, OneNote notebooks, OneDrive storage, Maps, Xbox Music, Skype and optionally, Facebook and Twitter. For Facebook and Twitter, you have to not just sign in to Microsoft account, but also link your Facebook and Twitter accounts. I am not sure why this information is not derived from the existing Microsoft account, where at least in my case, I already have a link established to Facebook, Twitter and others. Below the services strip is a simple navigation link to access sections in your page directly and quickly.
When you mouse over the various services, you get a quick preview of what’s appropriate for the service, like the top 3 emails from your Outlook.com inbox, or recently used Office Online files, OneNote notebooks, and as you will see below, a map of the current location, files and folders from OneDrive, or latest tweets from Twitter.
As mentioned above, the Bing content apps that exist today on Windows and Windows Phone are going to be re-branded to MSN. As a first step in that process, the new msn has Favorites from Bing imported automatically, based on the Microsoft account used. So for example, my favorite sports teams showed up as Favorites in the Sports section, my watch list showed up under Finance, etc.
Don’t judge me, I liked the 49ers until they hired Harbaugh. That’s perhaps because I like USC and he has a history when he was at Stanford with the then USC coach whom I liked. And that’s going to explain why I like the Seahawks :-)
In addition to serving content from a variety of sources, the new msn also includes sections where you can gain some actionable insights. For example, there is a symptom checker in Health & Fitness, as well as a 3D Human Body in the same section.
Top-tier sources and iOS/Android
Per the announcement, the content on the new msn comes from a variety of top-tier sources.
We’ve partnered with the world’s best to deliver on this goal:
In the US, some of our premier partners include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, CNN, AOL (including TechCrunch and Huffington Post) and Condé Nast (including Vanity Fair, Epicurious, Bon Appétit).
Worldwide, we’re excited to include The Yomiuri Shimbun and The Asahi Shimbun in Japan; Sky News, The Guardian and the Telegraph in the UK, NDTV and Hindustan Times in India, Le Figaro and Le Monde in France, and many more.
Along with the new preview, Microsoft is also preparing to launch iOS and Android apps like the ones that exist on Windows and Windows Phone. These iOS and Android apps will roam Favorites and keep content in sync much like the connectedness of Windows and Windows Phone apps. This way, Microsoft is ensuring that no matter which device you use at any time of the day, you have the premier experience with consuming and using the msn content.
I like the new msn, except for the brand name itself. I am not sure the negativity around “msn” is as much as it is around “Internet Explorer” and we know how badly Microsoft and IE teams are trying to paint a brighter image of the latter. It is unclear why the “msn” brand is the one that Microsoft chose to continue with rather than coming up with a new brand or reusing the Bing brand. In any case, time will tell if the branding is right or not.
Among many other announcements at IFA 2014 on September 4, Microsoft announced the latest update to the Windows Phone OS. As is usually the case with Nokia’s Lumia updates, this update, called Lumia Denim, is essentially a combination of updates delivered via Windows Phone 8.1 Update (let’s just call it Windows Phone 8.1.1, shall we?) and firmware updates. These firmware updates add some new features and functionality and also improve the overall performance of Lumia devices and pre-loaded apps.
To start with, the newly announced Lumia 730, Lumia 735 and Lumia 830 will come pre-loaded with Lumia Denim. The other Windows Phone 8 Lumia devices will receive this update over the air in Q4 2014 after appropriate partner and carrier testing.
4K-quality video recording at 24FPS now available on Lumia devices. You can invoke this by long pressing the camera button. Since each frame is 8.3 megapixels, each individual frame can be shared as a still image too.
Auto-HDR and Dynamic Flash are now included in the images taken. This way, it will be possible to take a picture and then adjust the camera settings later, to get the perfection in the shot.
Cortana, the impressive personal digital assistant included first with Windows Phone 8.1, can now be invoked by just saying “Hey Cortana”. Similar to Google Now’s “OK Google”, this feature enables even quicker access to Cortana. As a side, this is enabled by the SensorCore technology, so it won’t be available on Lumia devices which do not have SensorCore.
Glance screen (on eligible devices) can now show additional information from Bing Health & Fitness and Bing Weather in addition to notifications, time and date, and application data.
Lumia Camera is the updated name of the application formerly known as Nokia Camera. Updates to this app make it faster and more intuitive.
Speed and improved image processing
It is now even faster to invoke the camera, and there have been speed improvements made in going from shot to shot. In addition, new image processing algorithms make lowlight images even better than before.
These non-core OS updates show again why Lumia devices are still the best bet if you want to own a Windows Phone. Unless and until we see such innovation come from HTC, Samsung and the others, it is hard to see why you would think of using a non-Lumia Windows Phone device.
Along with the selfie phones, Microsoft has also announced the mid-range successor of its Lumia 825 smartphone at the IFA 2014 event in Berlin. The Lumia 830 packs a 5 inch HD Curved Glass Display, 1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, Windows Phone 8.1 Operating System with Lumia Denim and so on.
The main highlight of this smartphone is the 10 megapixel PureView camera with ZEISS optics and thinnest Optical Image Stabilization system. Apart from that, the over-the-air Lumia Camera update will bring faster pocket to shot and shooting speeds, plus new capture features. this handset offers stand-by time for up to 22 days. However, this device comes with a disappointing 1 megapixel front facing camera.
The Lumia 830 will go on sale later this month with a price tag of 330 EUR (approx. INR 26,000) excluding taxes and subsidies. This handset will be available in orange, green, white and black colors. Check out the complete specs after the break.
Lumia 830 Specification:
5 inch HD Curved Glass Display
1280 x 720 pixels resolution
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor
Windows Phone 8.1 Operating System with Lumia Denim
Microsoft finally unveiled its much talked about selfie phones at the IFA 2014 in Berlin. Lumia 730 and Lumia 735 features a Full-HD 5 megapixel wide-angle front-facing camera with a focal length of 24mm allowing you to take perfect group snaps with friends. It also comes pre-loaded with Nokia’s selfie app, which will help you to create original selfies.
Apart from that, it packs a 4.7 inch HD OLED display, 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, 6.7 megapixel rear camera and more. These devices runs on the Windows Phones 8.1 Operating System with the latest Lumia Denim update which brings Live Folders, Apps Corner and more secure networking.
The Lumia 730 is a dual-SIM phone while the Lumia 735 is a single-SIM phone. These handsets will go on sale later this month. The 4G LTE variant is priced at 219 EUR (approx. INR 17,200), while the 3G dual SIM variant is priced at 199 EUR (approx. INR 15,600) excluding taxes and subsidies.
Sony recently announced its flagship smartphone, the Xperia Z3 at the IFA 2014 event in Berlin. It comes with a 5.2 inch Full HD display and 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor. Apart from that, Sony has also unveiled a mini version of this device, the Xperia Z3 Compact. Both of these smartphones packs a 20.7 megapixel camera, 4G Connectivity, Android 4.4 OS and more. Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact are the world’s first smartphones with ISO 12800 sensitivity for superior photos, even in low light.
“At Sony Mobile, ‘flagship’ now means offering a choice to consumers of enjoying a large screen Xperia Z3 for immersive entertainment or a more compact, lighter Xperia Z3 Compact that doesn’t ask you to compromise on features. Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact deliver leading innovations such as unique Sony camera experiences and, for the first time, PS4 Remote Play in two beautifully designed, fully waterproof smartphones.”
– Kunimasa Suzuki, President & CEO, Sony Mobile Communications
Sony’s Battery Stamina Mode in these devices turns off background functions when you’re not using them to help extend your battery life. Sony’s DSEE HX technology in the Z3 series upscales the fidelity of MP3 or AAC music collection as well as the playlists on Sony’s cloud-based digital music service to near High-Resolution quality. Sony Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact will launch globally from autumn 2014. The price of these devices has not been announced yet.