[Video] Web-based Windows Phone Marketplace Goes Live As Mango Rollout Begins

The build-up to Windows Phone’s major update—Mango—has been exciting. With developers having early access to beta builds, Microsoft warned enthusiasts that they will have to roll back to stable NoDo installs before updating to the final Mango release. Surprisingly, the brilliant engineers at Microsoft realized how problematic that will be for them as users. They decided to figure out ways to avoid this and anyone with Mango developer builds will be able to roll forward to the final version of Mango.

Mango introduces several new features and fills most of the holes in the platform. Microsoft had a tough time when their previous update (NoDo) was being pushed to users. For Microsoft, the upgrade involves several hardware manufacturers, carriers and Microsoft which obviously leads to complications. Microsoft promised that they learnt from the experience and it looks like they did. What seemed like eternity for AT&T Samsung Focus users (and others), all carriers except Sprint will be pushing Windows Phone 7.5 soon.

Android and iOS have web versions of their marketplaces for some time. And they are handy. With Mango coming, Microsoft has unveiled their web version of the marketplace. Part of the Windows Phone website, the interface is clean and simple. The apps can be bought and are instantly sent to the phone if it is connected to the Internet. Else, a download link is emailed for you to get the app via the Zune desktop software. Here’s a quick demo of how real-time the marketplace is:

Lastly, the holiday season will see new Windows Phone 7.5 handsets from Samsung, Nokia, HTC, ZTE and other partners. The marketplace is seeing a flood of apps updated for Mango.  Samsung released handy apps for their users (video calling, diary) and Nokia is making their presence felt in the marketplace too.

ZTE Announces First Windows Phone Device: ZTE Tania

When Windows Phone 7 was first launched, it was backed by four of the largest smartphone manufacturers – HTC, Samsung, LG and Dell. Since the initial launches, the excitement seemed to have died out, with very few new launches. However, when Microsoft announced the new version of Windows Phone – Mango, a lot of new devices were announced.

Many new Windows Phone 7.5 devices have already been unveiled by most major manufacturers. Today, one more joined the fray — ZTE.

ZTE initially started out as a maker of cheap Android devices, but has been launching quite a few impressive devices in the last year.

ZTE Tania – Specifications

Its first Windows Phone 7.5 device will be called the ZTE Tania. It will likely be marketed as an inexpensive Windows Phone 7.5 smartphone. It comes with a 1.GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB internal storage. It will also sport a 4.3 inch WVGA display, which is the new normal.

Other specifications include a 5 MP camera with LED flash, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS etc.

Here are some images of the ZTE Tania, courtesy XDA.cn & Pocketnow:

ZTE Tania

Mango Update Coming to Every Windows Phone 7 Device Next Week

Though I like Android a lot, there is one thing about it which I absolutely hate — the frequency of official OS updates. While the situation has improved considerably in the past couple of months, initially, almost every Android phone except the latest flagships used to run on an older version of Android, with no update in sight.

The fact that manufacturers and carriers used to screw up and complicate the update process by releasing their own customized versions of Android didn’t help much.

That’s why, when Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7, one of the things that attracted me to the platform was that every phone would run the same software with no modifications. This would ensure that each phone would get an update and that it would get it much faster than Android phones.

When it announced the Windows Phone 7.5 Mango update, Microsoft said that it will be available for every Windows Phone 7 device. Today, they have confirmed their commitment to that statement.

At the Windows Phone blog, they announced that every WP7 device will be getting the Windows Phone 7.5 Mango update in the next week or two. Just make sure you update your version of Zune for Windows or Windows Phone 7 connector for Mac, you’ll need it soon.

Samsung to Open Source Bada

Samsung, one of the largest Android device manufacturers, launched its own smartphone platform – Bada – in 2009. It was a huge hit in Korea, with the Samsung Wave selling millions of units there. However, it was completely overshadowed by the success of the Samsung Galaxy S, its flagship Android device.

Samsung has launched a few more Bada devices since then, and they have all seen moderate success. However, Samsung’s Android devices have been hogging all the limelight. It is now the top Android smartphone manufacturer and with good reason. Its last two major releases – the Galaxy S and Galaxy S 2 – have been the best Android phones of their times.

When Samsung launched Bada, many analysts questioned its move of launching yet another operating system when there were so many already. However, when Google acquired Motorola, it became clear that Samsung was right in hedging its bets on the Android platform with investments in other platforms like Bada and Windows Phone 7.

According to a report by the WSJ, Samsung plans to open source the Bada OS, and make it available to everyone. Android started the “open” trend, and even Nokia open sourced Symbian last year.

Samsung hopes that open sourcing Bada will help turn its fortunes and make it a popular alternative to Android and Windows Phone 7, but that strategy didn’t help Nokia much. Bada still doesn’t have as much developer support as Android, iOS or even Windows Phone 7. I doubt this move will have much of an impact on the prospects of Bada.

How Microsoft Capitalized on the Death of webOS and Attracted 1000+ webOS Developers to Windows Phone 7

Right after HP announced that it would be discontinuing webOS operations, effectively killing the TouchPad and webOS phones, Microsoft made a very smart move.

Brandon Watson, Director for Windows Phone 7, immediately tweeted this:

To Any Published WebOS Devs: We’ll give you what you need to be successful on #WindowsPhone, incl.free phones, dev tools, and training, etc.

With Windows Phone 7 still not as popular as Android or iOS among developers , this was a great initiative by Microsoft to strengthen the numbers of its army of developers.

Soon after he tweeted this, there was a deluge of replies from published webOS developers who had applications on the webOS store.

Today, Brandon confirmed that he had received more than 500 emails from webOS developers about the Windows Phone 7 offer, in less than 22 hours after the first tweet.

I have >500 emails in just the last 22 hours. Had to rethink the algorithm for responding to all.

With webOS dead, Android and iOS are the only two major platforms out there. However, iOS is locked on to Apple devices, and Android may now be perceived as impartial, thanks to Google’s Motorola acquisition. Windows Phone 7 may be the only major platform available for hardware manufacturers who don’t want to develop their own software.

Lately, Microsoft has been getting along really well with the developer community. Moves like these will help Microsoft, which has an improved image now in developer circles. Microsoft may be the greatest beneficiary of the untimely demise of webOS.

Update: Over 1000 webOS developers have contacted Brandon now.

5 Apps That Add More Functions To Windows Phone 7 Features

For any new platform to succeed, it needs user adoption, developer acceptance and company resources. As I wrote in my last piece, Windows Phone 7 has Microsoft’s complete attention and developers have started considering it as a competent platform. While Windows Phone 7 is quite a complete platform in itself, however, there are some gaps that developers have started filling up. Over the several months with the phone I’ve found a few apps that integrate with the existing features of the phone to offer some additional functions.

1. Lyrics (Free)

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The app once installed can be accessed from within Zune and will pull in lyrics of the song currently playing. The app   can be launched from the Music hub and also allows you to control playback. Some salient features of the app:

  • Lyrics are displayed in a big font size
  • The app pulls in Artist bio and lyrics to more songs by the same artist
  • Lyrics can be shared on social networks or via Email

The app lets you have your own little karaoke on the phone.

2. Tweet This Song (Free)


With the launch of Spotify there’s been a debate around which music service is more social. Is it iTunes with Ping; Turntable.Fm or Spotify. Zune is not counted and for good reason. Other than having a network of your friends and the ability to see what they are listening to, there isn’t much. I sometimes like to share what I’m listening to with my friends and Zune on WP7 doesn’t let me do that. RogueCode’s app Tweet This Song!fixes at least part of the limitation for me. Once you’ve set your Twitter account, the song being played Zune will be tweeted. The app allows you to customize the tweet under settings. You can share a link to the song on Zune Marketplace as well.

Personally, I find Spotify to be complete social music service. It allows me to subscribe to playlists curated by my friends, share songs and playlists. (Though I would Pandora with Spotify-like Facebook friends and their playlists integration.) Zune does not allow me to share a song I’m listening to.

2.1 NowPlaying (Paid with Free)

Nirmit, the developer of NowPlaying pointed me to his app that does the same and having tried it, I think I like it better than Tweet This Song. NowPlaying has Facebook and Twitter integration, the app also has custom messages with preconfigured meta options which makes it easy to create your own messages. The app has a free and paid version. The free version does not have any restrictions on sharing and is pretty good!

3. Where Did I Take That (Free)

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You can add location data to photographs taken using WP7. On the phone, there’s not a lot you can do with the geodata; that is unless you install Where Did I Take That. The app launches Bing Maps and you can select photographs from your phone and the app will plot them on the map. Photographs from social networks (Windows Live and Facebook) don’t seem to have geodata. Nevertheless, the app is fun.

4. Album Art Wallpaper (Free)

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The app will pull out album art from your songs and let you create a WP7 lock screen wallpaper. The app is simple with some level customization. You can choose the albums you want and the number of tiles in the wallpaper. The app allows you to share the image over SMS or email too.

5. Here Is My Info ($1.99 with Free Trial)

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I am disappointed when it comes to apps around the amazing People’s hub. Microsoft has implemented a well thought-out contact card with LinkedIn, Twitter, Windows Live and Facebook integration. Unfortunately, so far, there is no app that lets you share all this information easily. I cannot forward a contact’s complete details automagically filled with data fetched from these social networks. The closest free app that lets you share your contact information and forward a contact card is Here Is My Info.

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You can fill out your details and forward this as an email or select a contact from the People’s hub and share their information. What annoys me is that I have to manually point the app to the contact for adding the fields. However, the app is still better than all the alternatives in the Marketplace as of now. The lack of dedicated field for Twitter is a downer.

How Nokia Could Save Itself and Dominate the Smartphone Market Again – My Thoughts

Nokia is clearly in a very bad position right now. It has screwed up badly in the last couple of years, and is completely behind the curve. Symbian used to be the leader in smartphones, but now it has just been relegated to the sidelines by Android, iOS and surprisingly, even Windows Phone 7.

If there is any other company which is doing as badly as Nokia, it’s Research in Motion. Even they used to lead the U.S. smartphone market, but now their flagship Blackberry devices have been completely trounced by iOS and Android.

Nokia’s CEO, Stephen Elop, couldn’t have been more right when he said that Nokia was on a burning platform. However, I don’t quite agree with what his proposed solution to the problem was: Windows Phone 7.

Nokia effectively ditched Symbian and officially adopted Windows Phone 7 as its primary OS months ago. It will likely launch a couple of Windows Phone 7 devices before the end of 2011.

Even so, with HTC, Samsung and LG already in the game, I doubt that the Windows Phone 7 deal will save Nokia.

Here’s my take on what Nokia should do to avoid almost certain death.

Launch Devices on Multiple Platforms

As the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Especially when it’s Microsoft’s.

Nokia may think that Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 may be the dominant smartphone in the future, but no one knows how it might play out. It could turn out that Android may remain the most popular smartphone platform for a long time.

Instead of trying to predict which platform will be the leading one in the future, Nokia should try to do what it does best – hardware.

Nokia’s expertise lies in building quality, inexpensive smartphones which offer excellent value for money. It has some of the best production facilities and distribution network worldwide.

If I were Nokia, I would continue to build Symbian, as well as MeeGo smartphones (it seems to have received some great reviews). Additionally, I would also ship smartphones powered by both Windows Phone 7 and Android.

That way, Nokia’s future wouldn’t remain tied to any particular platform.

Three Devices Per Platform

Nokia currently has over 20 different smartphones powered by the Symbian OS, and even more feature phones powered by S40. Many of them hardly differ at all. If you want to buy an iPhone, you just go ahead an buy an iPhone.

However, if you want to buy a Nokia device, you just end up getting confused and then buy a phone which you are not sure you really like. Too many choices can really suck.

Nokia should develop smartphones powered by these four platforms – Android, Windows Phone 7, Symbian and MeeGo, but only 2 or 3 devices for each platform.


The budget smartphone should be an inexpensive, budget device priced around $200-$300 without contract. It could have a 3.5 inch capacitive LCD display, a 2.0 MP or 3.2 MP camera and 4 GB of storage. But it should have at least 512 MB RAM and a 1 GHz processor.

Mid Range

The mid-range smartphone should be priced at around $400-$500. It should come with a 4 inch capacitive S-LCD display, a 5 MP camera and 8-16 GB of internal memory. This device should come with a 1.4 GHz single core processor, or a 1 GHz dual core processor, with 1 GB RAM.


This would be the best smartphone on the planet. It should be priced at around $600-$700, and come with a 4.3 inch SuperAMOLED display. It should have an 8.1 MP or 12 MP camera, and be powered by the best hardware available – 1-2 GB of RAM, coupled with a something like the Nvidia Kal-El chip – a quad core processor. This should offer 32 GB or 64 GB of internal storage.

With these three devices on each platform, Nokia should be in a position to dominate the smartphone market.

The Killer Stroke

Nokia should use only the stock version of Android, so that it can push out updates faster than the other manufacturers. It seems that Nokia plans to customize Windows Phone 7; it should scrap those plans.

And finally, here’s the killer stroke:

Nokia should produce only three devices, based on the specifications I outlined above, for all the four platforms.

It should allow users to buy a device, and then allow them to choose whichever OS they want to install on it. All the three devices are powerful enough to run any of the 4 operating systems easily.

This way, anyone looking to buy a smartphone can buy a Nokia device without having to choose between platforms – he can just install whichever OS he wants. Nokia could also provide a dual booting option if it wanted.

This will have another advantage: Nokia will have to produce only three devices. This will alllow it to produce them at a much lower cost, with many components used in all of them. It could potentially be able to price them lower than any of its competitors.

Additionally, Nokia should refresh its new product line only once an year, like Apple. This way, when a consumer buys a Nokia phone, he will be assured that his phone won’t become outdated in a month.

With this product strategy, I believe Nokia could regain the top position in the smartphone market. If anyone would want to buy a phone, he would just have to choose between the Nokia phone, or the iPhone. With 4 OS options on the former, I bet most would choose the Nokia phone.

I haven’t really thought this through, but I think this would be the best strategy for Nokia. What do you think? Comments, please.

Buying Guide: Best Windows Phone 7 Smartphones in India [2011]

Unlike many others, I quite like Windows Phone 7. Lately, I had gotten bored with Android, and I had a chance to try out a friend’s Windows Phone 7 device. The new tiles based user interface is a refreshing change from the standard icon based fare on both Android and iOS. It may not have hundreds of thousands of apps like the Apple App Store or the Android Market, but it does offer most of the essential ones. Additionally, one of the best things about Windows Phone 7 is that Microsoft enforces a set of minimum hardware requirements, which makes sure that even the mid range Windows Phone 7 devices are fast and responsive. You also don’t have to worry about OS upgrades; every Windows Phone 7 device will get the Mango upgrade.

Until recently, most Windows Phone 7 devices were priced prohibitively high, in the Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 range. In the last month, there have been a series of price cuts, which have brought some great Windows Phone 7 devices in the Rs 15,000 price range.

There are only a few Windows Phone 7 devices available in India. Of the available options, if I had to buy one, it would probably be the

HTC Mozart

HTC Mozart

Buy the HTC Mozart at Flipkart

The HTC Mozart was one of the best Windows Phone 7 devices which were released in the initial wave. Despite having a smaller display than the other phones, it received rave reviews.

It comes with a 3.7 inch S-LCD display with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. It has an 8 MP camera with autofocus and Xenon flash, probably one of the best in the entire spectrum of Windows Phone 7 devices.

It comes with a 1 GHz Scorpion processor and an Adreno 200 GPU with 576 MB RAM. It has 8 GB internal storage and offers all the standard connectivity options – Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, 3G HSDPA and is powered by a 1300 mAh battery.

If you still aren’t convinced, here’s the best part. It is now available for just Rs 16,499. This makes it the cheapest Windows Phone 7 device in India. It offers the most bang for your buck from the current crop of WP7 smartphones.



Buy the HTC HD7 at Flipkart

This is another good Windows Phone 7 option available to Indians. It comes with a bigger 4.3 inch LCD display, with the same resolution – 480 x 800 pixels. It is powered by the same processor – 1 GHz Scorpion – and has the same GPU – Adreno 200. It also has the exact same amount of RAM – 576 MB.

However, there is one shortcoming – it comes with a 5 MP camera, which isn’t as good as the HTC Mozart’s 8 MP shooter.

It’s also a bit more expensive than the HTC Mozart, at Rs 17,599.

If I had to choose between the two, I would go with the Mozart.

Dell Venue Pro

Dell Venue Pro

Buy the Dell Venue Pro at Flipkart

The Dell Venue Pro was the phone that caught my attention when it was first unveiled as part of the Windows Phone 7 lineup. It was different from all the other WP7 devices, with a vertical sliding QWERTY keypad.

It has identical hardware under the hood – 1 GHz Scorpion CPU, Adreno 200 GPU, and slightly less RAM – 512 MB. It comes with a 5 MP camera too.

It has a 4.1 inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. While it beats the Mozart in terms of display size and quality, and the presence of a physical keypad, it is much more expensive, at Rs 23,999.

If You Can Wait…

If you aren’t in a hurry, you might want to wait for a couple of months. Microsoft is planning to launch a series of new Windows Phone 7 smartphones by HTC, Samsung, LG and of course, Nokia. They will definitely be much better than the current crop in terms of hardware, and should be priced in the Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 range.

Some of them may also be budget devices priced under Rs 20,000.

You might also want to check out my Android Smartphone Buying Guide for 2011.

Nokia Changes Product Naming Convention; Does It Even Matter?

Nokia recently launched the new Nokia 500, a new Symbian smartphone powered by the Symbian Anna OS. All of you who were expecting to see a high end smartphone which could compete with Android heavyweights like the Samsung Galaxy S 2 or the HTC Sensation, be disappointed. It’s just a standard Symbian touchscreen phone with a 1 GHz processor. Except for bumping up the clock speed, Nokia doesn’t seem to have put in any effort at all, in the Nokia 500.

In fact, the only thing that excited most Nokia fans was that Nokia seemed to have deviated from its product naming norms, which had produced gems like Nokia C3-01, Nokia X2-03, and Nokia CRXT-07126 before. Ok, I was kidding about the last one, but Nokia has traditionally had some of the most confusing device names in the past. As they themselves admit, “What about comparing a Nokia C3 and a Nokia C3-01? It turns out they’re actually very different devices.”

Today, in a post at Nokia Conversations, Nokia has announced that they will be using a new product naming convention.

They have also tried to explain it in the post:

“The first number is the relative price/feature point. So a Nokia 900* would be top dog and a Nokia 100* is the most accessible option. The second two numbers gives each device a unique identifier within that point. So we can release 99 phones at the 500 point before we have to recycle any names, for example.”

While it’s a welcome move, and will definitely make things easier for users, does it even matter now? Nokia is truly on a burning platform right now, and their CEO has tied their future to the success of Windows Phone 7. What consumers need more than a simpler naming convention is a good product. Until Nokia can get that right, nothing else really matters.

In other news, Nokia and Microsoft are planning to unveil the first Nokia WP7 smartphone on August 17.

Nokia to Unveil Windows Phone 7 Devices on August 17?

After ditching Symbian and MeeGo to go with Windows Phone 7, Nokia has been working with Microsoft for months now. With Nokia’s support and low cost production expertise, Microsoft has a chance to go mass market with Windows Phone 7. It might even have a shot at dethroning Android as the king of smartphones in a few years.

The Nokia Sea Ray, presumably Nokia’s first Windows Phone 7 device was leaked about a month ago. It is identical to the Nokia N9, which received a lot of positive feedback.

Today, Unwired reported that Microsoft and Nokia are holding a joint event at this month’s GamesCom in Cologne, Germany. Since it’s a joint event, held by Nokia and Microsoft’s Windows Phone division, it doesn’t take Sherlock to deduce that we might see an official unveiling of the first Windows Phone 7 device by Nokia.

Android has been gaining market share at the expense of Symbian. It controls close to 50% of the worldwide smartphone market now. Nokia’s smartphone market share has been declining rapidly, thanks to the Android invasion and the tremendous growth of iOS. The move to Windows Phone 7 is regarded as its ‘Hail Mary’ move by many analysts. It will decide the future of Nokia in the coming months.

Here’s the invite to the event:

Nokia Microsoft Event

Drinks and food on me!