Looking Forward to Windows Phone in 2015

windows-phones

As 2014 winds down, Windows Phone is at a crucial stage in its lifecycle. Again. Earlier in 2014, Microsoft closed the acquisition of Nokia’s hardware division and Windows 10 was launched in a Technical Preview form. Nokia’s acquisition, combined with the upcoming Windows 10-based version of the phone operating system, has perhaps resulted in a slight pause in release of true flagship devices that can compete with the latest versions of competing platforms, the iPhone and Android/Nexus lineup.

So, as we look forward to the early 2014 look at the combined Windows RT and Windows Phone OS based on Windows 10, what can Microsoft do to preserve and grow its share, both market share as well as mind share? Recently, some prominent writers have written in detail about why they are no longer using Windows Phone as their primary device. Key takeaways there were lack of proper support of the platform by the largest mobile network in the US, Verizon Wireless, as well as lack of key apps on the platform. Apps that include the likes of Slack, Trello, Snapchat, Tinder, etc.

I have my own reasons why I switched to using iPhone 5s as my primary device last year. I know Windows Phone 8.1 added Notification Center but many of the problems are still valid issues for those who care about top-end Windows Phone experience. For example, adding Action Center to store all notifications is a great start, but in order to take action on those notifications, you have to tap it which opens the app, and then you take action within the app. Android, and now even iOS to a certain extent, have actionable notifications and those need to be implemented on Windows Phone.

The broader issue with Windows Phone is that for the third year in a row, enthusiasts are made to wait for “the next version” for feature parity with iOS and Android. Meanwhile those two platforms, due to the incredible ecosystem which creates a great virtuous cycle, have implemented next-generation features that move the goal posts for Windows Phone. Also, this wait for the next version of Windows Phone only takes care of part of the problem plaguing the platform; app developers are still not flocking to the platform because in the US, where most of the innovative apps have been created in the recent past, Windows Phone is still languishing around the 3% market share. Forget Windows Phone, even choosing Android as the second platform to be supported by small developers, is hard (although that Android situation is changing slowly).

Here are some things to look forward to as yet another chapter opens for Windows phone (yes, the “p” is lower case, because rumors suggest that Windows Phone operating system will be merged with Windows RT and just called Windows 10):

Windows 10

There’s a lot of hope for Windows 10’s ARM-based OS version, the merger of Windows RT and Windows Phone. How will apps built for Windows Phone work on Windows 10? What about additional features in the OS which will create an unforeseen appetite both on the consumer side as well as on the developer side? Cortana has rightly won accolades for how well she works, but it has not moved the needle much for device sales. Granted, it is not fully launched yet, but still. Also, what else can Windows 10 do that iOS and Android don’t do, and more importantly, can Microsoft find something that Windows 10 can do which iOS and Android *won’t* be able to do?

Windows 10 Product Family
Windows 10 Product Family

Flagships

One of the issues I had with Windows Phone when I got my iPhone 5s was the increased (and justifiable) focus by Microsoft on the lower end. They see their best market potential in markets which haven’t achieved smartphone saturation yet. In those markets, Microsoft has been able to sell their entry-level devices quite well. So Microsoft making “affordable flagship” a term for mid-range devices with some high-end specifications is completely understandable.

However, many customers in the developed markets would love to get a true high-end phone that competes well with the flagship iPhone and Android devices. The Lumia 1020, for example, has no successor yet. Yes, the Lumia 1520 is a great phone but there needs to be a non-phablet version of that device to make it appealing to the larger customer base.

Lumia 1520
Lumia 1520
Lumia Icon
Lumia Icon

Updates

Yes, Microsoft did create a bypass of sorts by making it possible for any “developer” to get direct updates of the software from Microsoft. Pretty much anyone can sign up to be a “developer” by signing into App Studio online, thereby making sure any enthusiast who cares about latest OS versions, will get it directly from Microsoft. That has helped reduce the angst among the enthusiasts but it is only one part of the updates customers need; firmware that makes devices work better, is delivered by the OEMs and via the carriers. Carriers have no real urgency to complete (or in some cases, even start!) testing and delivering the firmware to Windows Phone devices.

Could Microsoft come up with a way to deliver even more firmware directly? I mean, Windows on PCs get all updates delivered directly, and if Windows 10’s mobile version is going to be like “big Windows”, then I am optimistic that most of the updates could be delivered directly by Microsoft. Having said that, could Microsoft find a way, Windows 10 or otherwise, to deliver it without the need for the device to be a developer device?

Mind share

This is a really tough nut for Microsoft to crack. Much of the mind share these days is delivery via the Microsoft-averse tech blogosphere which has settled down on Apple and Google as being the only two players worth caring about. In order to win them over, Microsoft has to climb a virtually impossible mountain but as we have seen in the enterprise/cloud space, it is not impossible. A few crucial strategic moves on the Azure/Visual Studio side have made Microsoft somewhat of a darling in the same tech press, and Microsoft has to find a similar set of moves to make on the consumer side in order to increase their mind share. I say this because even Windows Phone 8.1 is an excellent operating system and there is a lot to love there, but if the writers who write at prominent tech blogs don’t care to use it, and worse, dismiss it, it does not help. I am not sure what those strategic moves could be, but Microsoft does need to make those moves so that the tech press actually cares about writing about Windows devices.

I am optimistic about Windows 10. I like the fact that there will be one OS for phones and tablets and I look forward to seeing some of the well-established Windows Phone apps get upgraded to be Universal and work on small tablets as well. But most importantly, I want to see how Microsoft expands Windows 10 to work as one OS across phones, tablets and PCs. There are many interesting applications of having one OS work across devices of all form factors and I am curious to see how today’s excellent phone applications work on my Windows tablets. On the phone side, I am looking forward to some nice high-end devices and some marquee apps releasing their Universal versions soon.

Here’s looking forward to another exciting year for Microsoft and Windows!

HTC One (M8) for Windows Announced

HTC-One-M8-for-Windows_2_blog

After weeks of seeing leaked images and specifications of the device, we now have confirmation that HTC is releasing their flagship Android device, the HTC One M8 in a Windows Phone variant. The HTC One (M8) for Windows was announced on August 19 as a Verizon wireless exclusive.

Even though Samsung’s Ativ SE was similar to their Android devices, the HTC One for Windows is the first true “clone” of an Android device running Windows Phone. Recently, Microsoft made it possible for OEMs to build Windows Phone hardware on their Android device chassis by relaxing the guidelines and minimum specifications in their reference design. One of the key changes made were relaxing the requirement to have three physical buttons on the front (Back, Start, Search) and to have a physical button for the camera. With those restrictions lifted, and adding support for accessories like cases to interact with the phone, as well as widespread support for Bluetooth LE and the like, the road was cleared for OEMs to re-purpose their devices for Windows Phone with minimal changes. An additional key barrier removed was the license fee for Windows Phone which went to zero dollars.

The impact of these relaxed guidelines was the signing of a dozen-odd new OEMs, primarily in the Asia-Pacific and India regions. These current low-cost Android device makers would now be able to put Windows Phone on those low-cost Android devices. These device makers are of course playing in the high volume markets where a large population of feature phone users are moving to their first smartphone. It is therefore crucial for Microsoft to have a significant presence in the region or risk being completely cut out of the next big platform play.

Back to the HTC One for Windows, it comes with all the goodness we have seen in the Android variant like HTC BlinkFeed, HTC BoomSound, Duo Camera with UltraPixel technology, a 5MP wide-angle front-facing camera and support for the HTC Dot View case. Additionally, the Windows Phone 8.1.1 OS adds Cortana, the personal digital assistant and a host of other features as I detailed in an earlier post.

Key specifications for HTC One (M8) for Windows

SIZE: 146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35 mm
WEIGHT: 160 grams
DISPLAY: 5.0 inch, Full HD 1080p

CPU: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 801, 2.3GHz quad-core CPU

STORAGE/MEMORY

  • Total storage: 32GB
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Expansion card slot supports microSD™ memory card for up to 128GB additional storage

CONNECTIVITY

  • 3.5 mm stereo audio jack
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth® 4.0 with aptX™ enabled
  • Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz)
  • DLNA® for wirelessly streaming media from the phone to a compatible TV or computer,
  • micro-USB 2.0
  • Microsoft Project My Screen
  • Miracast
  • Support consumer infrared remote control

CAMERA
Duo camera

  • Primary camera: HTC UltraPixel™ camera, BSI sensor, pixel size 2.0 um, sensor size 1/3”, f/2.0, 28mm lens
    HTC ImageChip 2
    1080p Full HD video recording with HDR video
    Secondary camera: capture depth information

Front camera

  • 5MP, f/2.0, BSI sensor, wide angle lens. with HDR capability, 1080p Full HD video recording
  • Gallery with UFocus™, Dimension Plus™, Foregrounder

HTC’s previous stab at Windows Phone, the HTC 8X/8S, was a well-designed phone which got no love at all after being released. Let’s hope, for the sake of Windows Phone, that this iteration gets some marketing push as well as support in terms of future updates.

Are you going to get this device? Let me know in the comments.

AT&T And Sprint Getting The HTC One On April 19th From $199.99

Today, HTC has finally announced the pre-order, release date and the pricing of the its latest flagship — the One — on two major U.S carriers, Sprint and AT&T.

Both the carriers will start selling the One from April 19th via their retail stores or website with the 32GB variant coming in at $199.99 with a two-year contract. As rumored earlier, AT&T has managed to snag an exclusive on the 64GB variant of the One, and will sell it for $249.99 on a two-year contract.

htc_one

AT&T will start taking pre-orders for the HTC One from April 4th, while Sprint will start taking them from 5th April. T-Mobile is now the only carrier left in the United States that is yet to announce its pricing and release date of the One. Verizon will not be selling the HTC One under its network, but it is widely expected that the HTC will release a modified variant of the One under Verizon’s sometime soon.

With a hard release date of April 19th, HTC has managed to beat the Galaxy S4 to the market in the United States. The pre-orders for the Galaxy S4 start from April 16th, with the handset being available only by the end of the month.

AT&T Gets The 64GB HTC One As An Exclusive In The U.S.

Back in Feburary when HTC unveiled the One, it stated that the handset will be available with two storage options – 32GB and 64GB. Considering that the One does not have a microSD card slot, a 64GB variant will definitely be appreciated by power users and the general consumers alike.

However, it looks like AT&T might have managed to nab the 64GB variant of the One as exclusive in the United States. In a video uploaded on their YouTube account, the carrier highlights twice that the 64GB One is going to be an exclusive on their network. HTC has not yet confirmed this news, but considering that the video has not yet been pulled, the news does seem to be true.

So, this means that Sprint and T-Mobile will be getting the 32GB variant of the handset in the United States. While 32GB of space should be more than enough for majority of the consumers, there will still be a few people for whom the lack of a 64GB option might turn out to be a deal-breaker.

Via – Droid-Life

Redbox And Verizon Launch Redbox Instant

Redbox and Verizon have joined together to officially launch Redbox Instant. This service is set to take-on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video as it allows subscribers to instantly stream video content such as TV shows and movies. The service already has thousands of titles available for instant streaming. When subscribing to the service, you’ll also get four free DVD rentals per month. These DVD rentals can be used at any Redbox kiosk and can be checked-out for one day at a time.

Redbox Instant content can be streamed to any Mac or PC using an up-to-date web-browser. However, the service also has apps available for both iOS and Android tablets and phones as well as the Xbox 360. Some Samsung TVs and Blu-Ray players also support the service.

Redbox Instant is currently $8 per month, the same price as a Netflix Streaming plan. In my opinion, Redbox Instant is a much better deal than Netflix due to the fact that Redbox offers four free DVD rentals per month with a paid subscription. However, I won’t be switching to Redbox Instant any time soon due to the fact that it is still incompatible with my Apple TV and Roku devices. If you’d like to try Redbox Instant for yourself, a free one-month trial is available via Redbox’s website.

Source: GadgetBeats

Verizon Galaxy Nexus Android 4.2.2 Update Leaks

Over the weekend, Verizon started the Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean soak update for the Galaxy Nexus. As the norm is, it was just a matter of time before the download link of the update made its way on XDA. The OTA update package is now available for all advanced Verizon Galaxy Nexus users to flash on their phone.

Before you jump over and start flashing the OTA file on your phone, make sure that you are running 100% stock Android 4.1.1 on your Galaxy Nexus. This is an OTA update package, and not a full ROM, so you need to be on stock. If you are on stock but with root access, you can simply flash the OTA update package using CWM or TWRP recovery.

Apart from the usual Android 4.2.2 improvements including lock screen widgets, quick settings, and a new gesture keyboard, Samsung and Google have also included a new radio. Early reports on XDA suggest that the new radio has helped in increasing the 4G LTE signal for quite a few folks out there.

Verizon should roll out the Android 4.2.2 update officially for the Galaxy Nexus within a couple of weeks, so if you are not too keen on installing the update manually, just sit back and relax for sometime.

The download link along with the relevant instructions can be found here.

Verizon May Be Pushing Android 4.2 To Galaxy Nexus Users Soon

Galaxy Nexus Update

Verizon Wireless is reportedly readying an update for Galaxy Nexus devices on its network. Last night, the company’s Twitter support handle sent a tweet to a concerned Galaxy Nexus user as response to a question regarding the possibility of a software update. While the company didn’t tweet an actual release date, it did say that the update is coming “soon” and that it will be pushed to users from Samsung over-the-air. We’ve embedded the tweet below.

Even though Verizon support didn’t say exactly what was down the pipeline, we’re pretty sure that the company was referring to an Android 4.2 update for the LTE Galaxy Nexus in its tweet. Galaxy Nexus users on Verizon have been awaiting this update for quite sometime.

The LTE Galaxy Nexus and the unlocked Galaxy Nexus devices have been weird when it comes to software updates. While the unlocked, GSM Galaxy Nexus has been updated to new software as its released, the LTE model has been lagging behind. The LTE Galaxy Nexus hasn’t been updated to Android 4.2 even though the update has been available for other Nexus devices since November of 2012.

Source: Phandroid

Image Source: [email protected]

HTC One ‘M7′ Leaks In Black

It is all but confirmed that HTC will be releasing the its flagship ‘M7′ handset at an upcoming event on February 19th. The specs of the handset are all but known, and an alleged press render of the phone also leaked last week.

Today, @evleaks has once again leaked a press release render of the M7 in black. The pic once again shows the unique ‘HTC’ home button on the M7, along with the new Sense 5 home screen.

HTC is the only Android OEM that has consistently set the bar with top-notch build quality and unique design. The M7 actually looks like a step back in that direction with a design that resembles the iPhone 5.

The M7 is expected to arrive on all the four major U.S carriers soon after HTC unveils the handset on February 19th. The rumored specs of the handset include a 4.7-inch 1080p screen, a 13MP ‘Ultrapixel’ camera, 32GB of on-board storage, and a quad-core 1.7GHz Krait processor.

HTC Thunderbolt Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Update Is Finally Available

In a surprising turn of events, Verizon and HTC have started rolling out the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update for the HTC Thunderbolt. Yes, you read that right. Verizon and HTC have finally got their act together and rolled out some ICS love for the poor Thunderbolt owners out there.

The ICS update will bring with it lots of new features to the Thunderbolt including Face Unlock, a new lock screen, updated UI, improved speech-to-text recognition, inbuilt data monitoring tool and much more.

The Thunderbolt was the first phone to hit Verizon’s network that supported the carrier’s blazing fast 4G LTE network. The handset was released way back in early 2011, and was slated to get the ICS update sometime in 2012. However, HTC and Verizon kept pushing back the ICS update for the handset for performance and stability reasons.

The 320MB+ OTA update should go live within a week or so, and should be available to all Thunderbolt owners within a few days after that.

Via – Verizon

Samsung Ativ Odyssey Goes On Sale At Verizon For $49.99

Earlier this month, Samsung announced the mid-ranged Ativ Odyssey smartphone. This device runs on the newer Windows Phone 8 Operating System. Samsung Ativ Odyssey comes with the unique Samsung sharing applications such as Photo Editor, Mini Diary and Now, an application that provides weather, news, stock and currency updates instantly. This handset is exclusively available for the Verizon Wireless subscribers in the US. If you are planning to buy one, then don’t forget to check out the complete specs below.

samsung ativ odssey

Samsung Ativ Odyssey features a 4 inch Super AMOLED display, sporting a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, 1.5 GHz dual core processor, Windows Phone 8 OS, 5-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash, full HD (1080p) video recording and playback, 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera for video chat and so on.

Other features include a 3.5 mm headset jack, 8 GB internal memory, MicroSD card slot, 64 GB expandable memory, A-GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, USB 2.0, 4G LTE Connectivity, Global Ready calling, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, 1 GB RAM, Samsung ChatOn, Samsung Hub, Windows Phone Store and a 2100 mAh battery.

Verizon Wireless subscribers can get the Samsung Ativ Odyssey for just $49.99 with a 2 year service agreement. This handset is definitely useful for those, who want to experience the new Windows Phone OS without burning a hole in their pocket. To get this device, head over to this page.