HTC To Launch China’s First Windows Phone

In the race to bring the first Windows Phone device to China, it looks like we have a winner: Engadget reports that HTC has just began accepting pre-orders for the Triumph, which is essentially the HTC Titan that we have come to know and love re-branded.

Running Windows Phone 7.5 Tango, the 4.7″ behemoth will be priced sans-contract at ¥4,399, which is roughly $700 US. That’s quite expensive, and we can only hope that subsidized, contract pricing options as we have in the West are available to allow more people to purchase the device. So, how is the Triumph different from its Western counterpart? It isn’t, for the most part; one thing to note is that local social services Sina Weibo and Tencent Weixin will replace the Facebook and Twitter integration of Tango. SkyDrive is available, but it will be forced to conform to the regulations of the Great Firewall of China.

Nokia, LG, and ZTE — interestingly enough, Samsung isn’t joining the party just yet — are all poised to release handsets in China sometime this month as well. Throughout the rest of this year onwards, we’ll definitely have to keep an eye out on Windows Phone competition and traction in the Chinese market.

On top of bringing Windows Phones to China, Microsoft has also struck a deal that will bring devices to the Middle East and North Africa, through regional carrier Zain.

Windows Phone Headed To The Middle East, North Africa

During the Mobile World Congress last week, Microsoft managed to secure a deal with MENA (Middle East and North Africa) carrier Zain Group that is set to bring Windows Phone devices to Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and South Sudan later this year. Commenting on the deal, Nabeel Bin Salamah said this:

“The smartphone has become a necessary item in today’s society, and this agreement with Microsoft, one of the world’s leading technology companies, is just the beginning of yet another example of Zain delivering on its brand promise to achieve our vision of ‘A Wonderful World’. We have the utmost confidence in the capabilities of Windows smartphone technology and believe such an appealing offering will further attract, empower and enhance the lifestyles of our customers.”

Guastavo Fuchs — Microsoft Mobility Director, Middle East and Africa — mentioned that the region is projected to see smartphone growth of 38% in the year 2012. While the specific devices that will be available in the region are currently unknown, it’s safe to say that we can expect to see lower-cost handsets such as the Lumia 610 or ZTE Orbit hit the shelves. Tailored towards emerging markets, the lower price point of these Windows Phones are sure to get smartphones in the hands of many users. That isn’t to say, though, that a higher-end smartphone market is nonexistent; I think that such devices will thrive here as well.

It definitely will be interesting to see how well Windows Phone performs here. Perhaps the platform will see great success in these emerging markets.

One Year On: Nokia Has Come a Long Way, Still Has a Very Long Way to Go

Nokia

Nokia kicked off the Mobile World Congress (MWC) with its press conference on February 27, in Barcelona. Stephen Elop, President and CEO of Nokia took stage and described the progress they have made since the last year’s event. If you recall, it was last year’s MWC when Nokia had officially announced that they were going all in on Windows Phone.

After the initial update on Nokia’s latest endeavors both on the low-end Asha phones, and also on the higher-end Windows Phones, the talk shifted to the new stuff. First up was the Asha line of phones, and 3 new devices were announced, along with Nokia Life services which bring life skills, parenting, education, agriculture and entertainment services to Series 30 and 50 phones in India, China, Indonesia and Nigeria.

However, I want to focus on Nokia’s progress with Windows Phone. Late last year, Nokia announced and launched two brand new devices, the Nokia Lumia 800 and Nokia Lumia 710. These devices were released ahead of schedule, and were available in parts of Europe first, and then slowly to other geographies over the next months. The launches everywhere were accompanied with a lot of marketing muscle – from concerts and light shows to flash mobs and video shows. Some examples:

Yet, I was surprised that based on a recent report by Strategy Analytics, Nokia was able to go from no market share to the highest share among all Windows Phone device makers. It is even more remarkable when you consider that the phones were not even available for the entire quarter, and not across most geographies where other device makers were already selling Windows Phones.

HTC Confirms Plans To Launch Windows Phone ‘Apollo’ Devices

Speaking to Pocket-Lint, HTC has confirmed that it plans to create and launch Windows Phone handsets that will run the next major OS update, ‘Apollo’, later on this year. HTC mentioned this when Pocket-Lint inquired as to whether or not we can expect a Windows Phone (or multiple of them) to eventually join the ranks of the HTC One Android lineup. Here’s what Kouji Kodera, HTC’s chief product officer had to say when asked:

“For Windows Phone we haven’t decided on the branding yet, but you will see a new range of Windows Phones from us when Microsoft release their new Apollo operating system,”

Interesting. Could this mean that HTC will not have any (or, perhaps, any flagship) Windows Phones to announce at this year’s Mobile World Congress? Should that be the case, they’ll be joining the ranks of LG, who also does not have any devices to announce; and perhaps for similar reasons. HTC’s decision to hold off on creating a “new range of Windows Phones” until Apollo is a clear indication that this update is very major. Could the hardware that the OS will run on be significantly different?

We’ll see. Leading up to the end of the year, information about the mysterious major update is sure to trickle out, little by little.

Nokia Announces Lumia 610, Lowered ‘Tango’ Minimum Requirements Official

Nokia has just announced the new, entry-level Lumia 610. Priced at the low cost of 189 Euros before taxes and subsidies (approximately $255 US), it is now Nokia’s cheapest Windows Phone.

This low price point has been made possible thanks to the (now official), formerly rumored lowered Windows Phone specifications; as we reported earlier this month, a leak of Windows Phone Tango features revealed that Microsoft will be lowering certain hardware requirements to accommodate cheaper phones.

The minimum required amount of memory has been diminished to 256MB from 512MB, OEMs are now required to include a camera of at least 3MP (this is a good thing, they previously didn’t need to add a camera at all), and a lower-performance processor (the minimum here is currently unknown, though the Lumia 610’s is 800MHz, perhaps this is the new minimum). As some apps may not work on these lower-speced phones — and as there are some software differences as well — many, including myself and fellow Microsoft writer Manan are concerned that this will be the beginning of Windows Phone fragmentation.

The Lumia 610 will hit the shelves sometime in Q2 of 2012, and it will be available in Cyan, White, Black, and Magneta. The Verge have managed to get a hands-on with the device, so for a video and some additional photos, their post is worth looking at.

Microsoft Releases Skype For Windows Phone Beta; Final Release Slated For April

The wait is now over for those of you who were eagerly anticipating Skype for Windows Phone; Microsoft has just announced that a beta of Skype for Windows Phone is now available on the Marketplace.

Allowing users to make audio and video calls to Skype contacts over 3G, 4G, or WiFi, along with calls to mobile phones and landlines with Skype Credit, the app has been tested and certified to provide the best possible experience when used on one of the following Windows Phone devices:

  • Nokia Lumia 710
  • Nokia Lumia 800
  • HTC Titan
  • HTC Radar
  • Samsung Focus S
  • Samsung Focus Flash

This is only the beginning for Skype for Windows Phone…it’s just going to get better and better. We see incredible potential to include Skype capabilities in Windows Phone in order to enable a great experience for you.

You may snag Skype on the Windows Phone Marketplace either through the web-based Marketplace, or through Zune. The final version of Skype for Windows Phone is set to be released sometime in April.

 

LG Has No Plans To Announce Windows Phones At MWC

Despite a recent rumor that LG was working on a new Windows Phone — the LG Miracle — it turns out that the company will be exclusively debuting Android handsets at this year’s Mobile World Congress.

Speaking to All Things Digital, LG smartphone unit leader Ramchan Woo mentioned that LG has been experiencing “slower-than-hoped-for” sales of Windows Phone devices. He also noted that the demand for Windows Phones from carriers largely varied; some carriers wanted devices to balance out their Android offerings, while others were still struggling to sell Windows Phone devices.

“Some operators, they ask (for) Windows Phone to balance Android; however, the others, they are (still) figuring out how to sell Windows,” Woo said.

This doesn’t mean the rumored LG Miracle — which allegedly boasts a NOVA 4″ WVGA display, a 720p 4MP camera, a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 8GB of storage, and possibly NFC — will not come to fruition at all. This just means that LG has nothing to share about future Windows Phone handsets at MWC.

Another possibility here is that LG is waiting for the next major Windows Phone update, Apollo, to touch down later this year before launching any serious handsets that run the Windows Phone OS.

Windows Live Now Connects to Google Contacts: Google Talk Coming to Windows Phone and Windows 8?

Google

Liveside has reported today that it is now possible to connect Windows Live to Google, and at this point it allows access to Google Contacts from within Windows Live.

I tried this myself, and I can confirm that I am able to link my Google account to my Windows Live account. It allows a two-way sync between Google Contacts and Hotmail Contacts. Hotmail Contacts provides the ability to see a contact’s information across all the services they are connected to, so now when you search for a contact you will see their information flowing in from all major “address book” databases – Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, and of course your local Hotmail contacts.

Google connected to Windows Live

The Windows Live team recently moved away from trying to integrate with various services (like they did with Yahoo! Messenger) and instead, chose to just “link” to them using open standards. As a result, they are able to easily and quickly increase not just the breadth of the offerings but also the functionality they provide through the various services. So while the current link to Google only allows access to Google Contacts as of now, we could potentially see the addition of presence and feeds like they can do with Facebook Chat and Facebook updates (and similarly, across the many other services).

Could this be in preparation for native support of Google Chat/Google Talk in Windows Phone’s People Hub? Given that Windows 8 is going to have a similar “People” tile which will be linked to your Windows Live ID, could this be in preparation for Windows 8? What about the previous rumor that Google+ would be a native service in Windows Phone like Facebook is today? This linkage would be required in order to support any such functionality.

Regardless of what’s in store, all of which is pretty exciting, at this point it seems Microsoft is serious about making sure no matter what your choice of service is, Windows Live, Windows Phone and Windows 8 support it. You have one less reason to stay away from the Windows ecosystem now.

Nokia Lumia 610 Leaked Ahead of MWC 2012, Runs Windows Phone Tango

Despite a series of price cuts for the Lumia 710, Nokia currently doesn’t have a solid budget Windows Phone offering which could take on low end Android smartphones. However, Nokia had revealed earlier this year that it would be launching budget Windows Phone devices powered by Tango to compete with Android in the entry level smartphone segment, in a bid to capture more market share.

The Nokia Lumia 610 will be one of its first budget Windows Phones which will be launched soon. Nokia is supposed to launch the Lumia 610 at its MWC press conference on February 27, but details of the device have already been leaked out by BGR.

Nokia Lumia 610 Specifications

The Nokia Lumia 610 will come with a 3.2 inch touchscreen display and a 3 MP camera. It will ship with Windows Phone Tango, the latest version of Windows Phone tailored specifically for low end smartphones. It will presumably have 256 MB RAM, and a 1 GHz processor, considering that the Lumia 710 has a 1.4 Ghz processor and 512 MB RAM.

Here’s the best part: it will be priced at around 175 euros, which converts to around $240 or 11,500 INR.

Nokia Lumia 610

Nokia, which is already the biggest Windows Phone manufacturer should see its market share jump after the launch of its new budget smartphones.

Stay tuned. We will be bringing more MWC 2012 updates to you here at Techie Buzz.

Nokia Becomes Top Windows Phone Maker in Q4 2011

Nokia may have been late in embracing Windows Phone, but it has already become the largest Windows Phone manufacturer, according to the latest report by Strategy Analytics. Around 2.7 million Windows Phone devices were shipped in Q4 2011, of which Nokia accounted for around 0.9 million, or 33%. When Nokia first announced that it would be adopting Windows Phone as it primary smartphone platform, there was a lot of outrage. However, it seems that Nokia may have made the right move.

Windows Phone is expected to gain traction in the coming years, and become one of the top 3 smartphone platforms globally, with Android and iOS. However, for now, its total shipments are only a fraction of the total smartphone shipments. In Q4, Android probably saw more shipments in a week than Windows Phone saw in the entire quarter.

Strategy Analytics also noted that Nokia was grabbing market share from HTC in the Windows Phone segment. HTC is under siege even in the Android segment, where it continues to lose market share to Samsung.

Nokia’s future is now tied almost completely to the success of Windows Phone. If Windows Phone fails to take off, Nokia’s position may be no better than that of the captain of a sinking ship.