Tag Archives: Windows Phone

HTC Announces Its Flagship WP8 Handset – HTC 8X

HTC has just announced its flagship Windows Phone handset, the Windows Phone 8X. The ‘X’ in the name makes it clear that this handset is the Taiwanese maker’s hero WP8 handset. Externally, the WP8X is made up of poly-carbonate plastic and will be available in bright colors like Nokia’s Lumia series. Frankly, the 8X looks too similar to Nokia’s Lumia handsets, and Nokia might just sue HTC for this.

“Pairing HTC’s beautiful new Windows Phone 8X and 8S with our brand is a big milestone for both companies,” said Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft. “Together we are offering customers a clear choice and a truly unique experience. I’m thrilled to take our longstanding partnership to the next level.”

Internally, the WP8X packs in the same internals as any other high-end WP8 handset. This includes a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Krait processor clocked at 1.5GHz, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal memory, quad-band GSM support, LTE support, a 4.3-inch 720p (1280×720) S-LCD2 display, NFC and an inbuilt 1800mAh battery. The 8MP snapper at the back of the handset sports the same ImageSense technology as found on the One X, along with an f/2.0 lens, aided by a single LED flash. The front 2.1MP camera has an ultra-wide 88 degree lens. The 8X will also be the first Windows Phone from HTC to sport the Beats Audio logo. HTC also states that the handset has “an enhanced amp” for improved audio quality. Quite a far cry from the poor audio quality of their Android handsets.

Like the One series, HTC has taken great efforts to make the 8X. Each of the 245 speaker grilles at the back of the phone is individually drilled showing how dedicated the company is.

Like Nokia, HTC did not announce a specific shipping date except a vague November on over 150 carriers worldwide at an unknown price.

Nokia Entices Yahoo! Employees With Free Accessories

Nokia and Yahoo as companies have quite a few things in common. Both have been facing tough times in the market, brought unsusptected and charismatic leaders, and are in midst of making a come back by reevaluating their priorities. Yahoo’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer realized a fundamental flaw in the company–the engineers were forced to use decade old technology while develop products for the next decade. Stuck with BlackBerry all this while, Marissa Mayer decided it was time for Yahoo to dump the clunky phones and move on. A widely reported decision by the Mayer is Yahoo’s handing out of smart phones to all employees.

Yahoo will distribute handsets and even pay for their employee’s data+voice plans (not an unheard of perk). The options that will be offered are:

  • iPhone 5
  • A bunch of new Android phones
  • Lumia 920

The mention of Lumia 920 can be seen in two different ways:

  1. Mayer sees Windows Phone 8 as the 3rd mobile ecosystem instead of the declining BlackBerry
  2. Mayer sees Microsoft as a critical partner and including Lumia 920 was a political move

In either case, it is a win for Nokia. The Lumia 920 is the flagship Windows Phone 8 handset and as I wrote before, it has captured buyer-attention. Not missing this opportunity, Nokia’s Media Relationship manager Douglas Dawson took to Twitter and asked Yahoo employees to wait for the Lumia 920. Unlike the iPhone 5, no Windows Phone 8 device is available for pre-order or expected to be in user’s hands before November. Dawson says Nokia has an exclusive offer for Yahoo employees who’ll wait for Lumia 920:

A really smart move on Nokia’s part for what it’s worth. But it still doesn’t beat Apple’s ability to take buyer money today and get the devices in hand by month-end.

Is Square Planning On Making A Windows Phone App?

Square, the company that plans to bring the way we pay for goods and services to the 21st century had a pretty big announcement yesterday. Starbucks will be rolling out Square throughout their stores over the fall, allowing customers to use their smartphones to pay for coffee and other products at many Starbucks stores. On top of this, Starbucks also made a $25 million investment in Square.

In the midst of the big news, Square founder Jack Dorsey hinted at the possibility of a Square app for Windows Phone while talking to Engadget. He vaguely said this: “We will definitely build for where the users are, and we’re excited about the Windows Phone interface.” As of now, the Square app is only available on iOS and Android.

It goes without saying that the Windows Phone platform really needs more quality apps. While there’s a considerable quantity of apps in the Marketplace, that means nothing to users if they won’t be able to get their favorite apps on the platform. As of now, when it comes to apps at least, iOS and Android are the safe bets for consumers.

Will Nokia Make the First Windows Phone 8 Device?

Nokia has had a very disappointing quarter in terms of earnings. It lost nearly $1 billion in Q2 2012, on revenue of around $9.3 billion. While it sold 4 million Lumia units, it still lags way behind the top Android manufacturers like Samsung, as well as Apple.

In the post-earnings conference call, he may have hinted that Nokia may be the first handset maker to build and launch a Windows Phone 8 device, given its close ties with Microsoft.

When asked about it, Elop didn’t say yes directly, but he did say that Windows Phone 8 has been demonstrated only on a Nokia device to date, and that they have a very close relationship with Microsoft, which is unlike what anyone else has.

Nokia has every reason to be pissed at Microsoft, since it has committed to Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform exclusively, but Microsoft is apparently planning to launch its own smartphone, just like it launched the Surface tablet.

Its current Lumia handset sales might even take a hit since Microsoft announced that the current generation Windows Phones won’t be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8.

However, if Nokia is the first device maker to launch a Windows Phone 8 device, that could give it a major advantage over the other makers, and could help it boost device sales.

In the call, Elop also stated that Nokia will continue to sell Windows Phone 7 devices even after the launch of Windows Phone 8, but position them in the budget segment to compete with low end Android phones.

via TechCrunch

Twitter for Windows Phone Gets Updated: Notifications, Finally!

Twitter for Windows Phone is one of those apps  that was available at launch, but it has seen very few updates over the past 2 years. The most important feature that was missing was notifications. In the latest update, the app finally received the ability to receive notifications.

Not only are notifications well implemented (they use a push notifications server vs. generic background agents), they are fast. Very fast. I see toasts almost instantaneously. The “other fixes” in this update seem to have made the app generally faster to refresh tweets, a common problem with all twitter clients on Windows Phone. If the app receives the ability to reply all on tweets, this may become my go-to twitter client on Windows Phone. That is huge, considering I had actually uninstalled the app from my phone because I had zero hope of it getting any meaningful updates!

Here are some screenshots of the settings added in this update, related to notifications. I also noticed they have added the ability to pin lists to the Start Screen and manage list membership, which I am not sure was possible before this update.

 

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings Screen

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings Screen

 

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings For Mentions

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings For Mentions

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings For Favorites

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings For Favorites

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings For Retweets

Twitter for Windows Phone Notifications Settings For Retweets

 

Twitter for Windows Phone Toast Notification

Twitter for Windows Phone Toast Notification

Twitter for Windows Phone - Pinning Lists to Start Screen

Twitter for Windows Phone – Pinning Lists to Start Screen

Twitter for Windows Phone - Manage List Membership

Twitter for Windows Phone – Manage List Membership

Don’t get me wrong. The app is not complete. Besides the reply-all feature that I mentioned above, there are some other features in apps like Rowi, Carbon and Mehdoh that I like to see in a twitter client, least of which is Tweet Marker support so read status of tweets is sync-ed across multiple apps and platforms. Regardless, I am now not ashamed to recommend Twitter for Windows Phone as a twitter client for the platform.

Windows Phone Finally Becomes Enterprise-Ready

 

Windows Phone 8

At today’s Windows Phone Summit, Microsoft gave a sneak peek at the next version of their phone operating system, Windows Phone 8 (WP8). Microsoft officials made it clear that this event was a platform preview more than a rundown of all new features (especially consumer-facing features) of WP8. The biggest reveal of the event was that the WP8 OS shares the core with its big brother, Windows 8. In this way, a lot of the lower level features and capabilities of Windows 8 are automatically translated over to WP8.

What I was most interested in seeing was how WP8 would improve its enterprise feature set. I have written before how some basic features required by corporate IT are missing from Windows Phone 7.5. I am happy to report that most of the issues I had, are going to be addressed in WP8. Here’s a high-level list of business-related features being added to Windows Phone:

  • Device encryption: Perhaps the single-most important feature required by IT is that the device data is encrypted. Windows Phone 7.5 has isolated storage and sandboxed apps but it is not the same or as secure as full device encryption. WP8 adds Bitlocker encryption to secure the entire device, including operating system and data files. Not only that, this will extend to removable microSD cards as well.
  • Secure boot: WP8 will support UEFI-based secure boot and add better app sandboxing, thereby protecting the device from increasing mobile malware threats.
  • Remote administration: Corporate IT will now be able to manage Windows Phones (including apps) just like they manage Windows PCs. Again, this could happen easily because of the shared core between WP8 and Windows 8.
  • Company hub: Windows Phone 7.5 offers no way to side load apps, and all apps have to go through the Marketplace to be deployed on devices. With WP8, Microsoft makes it possible for IT to be able to deploy apps via a Company Hub. The Company Hub can of course be used to disseminate other info, since it acts like just another app on the phone. Microsoft will provide templates and development guidance so IT departments can build such a hub for their employees.

 

WP8 Company Hub

Company Hub in Windows Phone 8

There are probably more features that relate to business use of Windows Phones which were not discussed today, like VPN support. However, the features discussed are big enough to give corporate IT and idea of how compliant WP8 will be with their stringent requirements.

Do you think these are good enough for your company’s IT department to start planning full support for Windows Phones? Let me know!

What I Wish Today’s Microsoft Announcement Will Be

Windows Logo

On Thursday June 14, late in the afternoon, Microsoft sent out invites to media for a special event in Los Angeles, CA which promised to be a major announcement not to be missed. Since it was so cryptic, it created a flurry of rumors, leaks and conjecture. Several pundits have written about what it could be, connected the dots and come to a conclusion and in fact this morning, one of those guesses was even shot down.

Instead of trying to think of what it could be, I am going to write about what I hope it will be. Based on the fact that this event is in Los Angeles, I am hoping it has everything to do with entertainment tie-ups. At E3 earlier this month, Microsoft took the wraps off their new entertainment brand (Xbox-everything) and showed some bits of their new (improved?) Xbox Companion app, Smart Glass. Also, Microsoft gave a glimpse of Xbox Music, their successor to the Zune Music service. However, neither Smart Glass nor Xbox Music were looked at in detail. What we do know is they said that the Xbox Music service will have a catalog of 30 million tracks (compared to Zune Music today, which is around 20 million).

So, here’s my list of what I hope may come today:

  • Details of Xbox Music service: Additional deals to get the catalog from today’s 20 million tracks to the promised 30 million. Also, most importantly, access for the service from other platforms besides Windows (8, RT and Phone) – so, iOS apps and Android apps.
  • Unveiling of Xbox Video service: While it was made clear that Xbox is the center of Microsoft’s entertainment strategy, not much was discussed about Xbox Video. I hope that Microsoft is able to cut some deals with Hollywood to get exclusive content built into Xbox Video. Hollywood has got to be scared of Apple (and Netflix), so a good tie up with Microsoft would of course make sense for them.
  • Merge Zune Music Pass and Xbox LIVE Gold: The most ridiculous thing about Xbox as an entertainment device is that to access almost any entertainment service on the Xbox, you need an Xbox LIVE Gold account, listed at $60/year. Although there are a lot of promotions for the Gold account (Amazon routinely sells these for $45 or so), it is still an unnecessary cost for normal (read: non-gaming) customers to access services they already pay for. On the other hand, Zune Music Pass is an awesome subscription service which can be accessed over the Xbox in addition to the PC and Windows Phone. It is time for Microsoft to merge the two and call it the Xbox Pass which enables access to the video services on the Xbox platform, as well as unlimited music.
  • Xbox Lite: The Xbox today is still seen as a gaming device which can also do entertainment, never mind the stats which show that Xbox users now consume more content on the device than play games. Also, a lot of households have multiple TV sets and getting a $200 Xbox for each TV may not be worth it just for say, Netflix and Hulu. What if Microsoft made a Xbox Lite which like Apple TV would have close to no storage and would not be used for gaming. This would work great for the non-gaming customers who want to consume the unlimited music catalog and also get access to the tons of video services now available on the Xbox. If it is priced at $79, it would be a super hit, I’d imagine.
  • Announce global availability of all of the above: Most of the Zune/Xbox LIVE services are poorly represented around the world. It would be fantastic if Microsoft is able to get availability parity across the globe.

Note, I am staying away from tablets, phones and cellular stuff. I do hope that it is not about a Microsoft tablet or a Nokia phone. On the cellular front though, some random rumor about a Verizon event have some tie in to this Microsoft announcement intrigues me – Verizon is a huge hold out when it comes to Windows Phones and any partnership they have with Microsoft, I see it as a positive step.

What do you think? Too much to hope for?

Microsoft Promises Peek At Future Of Windows Phone During San Francisco Summit

Last month, Microsoft announced plans to host a Windows Phone Developer Summit in San Francisco on June 20th through the 21st, and on Monday, the company opened up registration to the event so that those who were invited could RSVP.

An updated invitation was also released, revealing a few interesting things about the event. For one, those who had this added to their calendars from the first invite can free up June 21st; the event has been slashed down to a day-long event on the 20th. They also added a pretty suggestive tagline, which seems to suggest that this is going to be the event where Microsoft truly pull the curtain on Windows Phone 8: “A sneak peek of the future of Windows Phone.”

That, along with the fact that they’re referring to it as just a Windows Phone Summit (and not a developer summit) seems to indicate that they decided at some point during the last four weeks or so that this should be a full-blown Apollo announcement instead of just a mere event to spur additional developer interest in San Francisco. Jokes aside, this is actually a pretty intriguing event. And don’t worry, it will be livestreamed; just remember to head on over to Channel 9 on the 20th to watch the webcast.

Microsoft Starts Ad Placements In WP7 Local Scout Results

One of my favorite or frequently used feature on Windows Phone is Bing Local Scout. The app inside Bing Search or stand-alone lets you search for nearby events or places that you can visit. You can search for Art Galleries, exhibitions or restaurants. The app’s usefulness is that not only does it show relevant results but it populates information such as link to the website, contact number, address, and also lets you launch Bing Maps for directions from your current location to the address. It is a handy function that is not highlighted by many.

Anyway, yesterday I forgot my debit card at Olive Garden and to call them I used Local Scout for the number. I clicked the first result looking at the address meta and I landed up on a webpage. That was odd. I hit the back button and saw the A next to the listing and realized that this was an ad placement. The second result was the right one. A very clever placement and use of Local Scout. Nicely done Microsoft.

Here’s a screenshot:

PS: This is the first I’ve noticed the ads.