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If you are currently enjoying the Xbox Live Gold Family Pack your days are numbered. Starting August 27, 2013 Microsoft will begin converting each activated account in the Family Pack to individual Xbox Live Gold memberships.

If you are planning on getting an Xbox One, this shouldn't be an issue with the new Home Gold feature that allows for the sharing of membership benefits. However, if you're sticking with the Xbox 360, it kinda sucks.

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Pic Stitch launched on Windows Phone 8 back in late April. It was a popular app on iOS before coming over to Tile Land. It’s a collage maker that grew in parallel with apps like Instagram. When it came to Windows Phone it also brought the ability to edit photos thanks to the Aviary SDK. Now all those features can be found in a companion app for Windows 8.

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What’s another Friday without an update from WhatsApp? (Seriously, the last four updates were all on a Friday, crazy, eh?) The famous messaging service used to see monthly updates but now it seems to be on the Facebook-fast track, getting an update per week. We’re okay with that and we’re sure you are too as the service has steadily grown into a reliable and fantastic messaging app for Windows Phone.

Earlier this week, WhatsApp turned on their Voice Messaging service on all platforms, including iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. It was a slick move by the company and was seen as a largely successful move to fight off the likes of Voxer and other competitors.

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Asus: No future plans for Windows RT

Windows RT has had a rough year. It launched alongside Windows 8 late last October, but hasn’t exactly fared well in both sales and reception. It’s been tough to sell to consumers with the Surface RT being considered a flop by many and other OEMs not doing any better. Asus is now joining the growing list of OEMs who aren’t going to be working on Windows RT in the near future.

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Nokia has been taking enterprise that much more seriously since moving across and supporting Microsoft's Windows Phone platform, aggressively drawing up plans with businesses in multiple markets. The company doesn't appear to be showing signs of holding back in the near future with Adrian Williams, director of business sales UK, going into some detail about what plans Nokia has drafted and how BlackBerry will also be targeted.

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Here’s a little secret that many of you will be interested in: AT&T has evidently relaxed their policy on SIM unlocking phones, allowing users to take their device on to other carriers. Of course one would think that would be normal, but here in the U.S., SIM unlocking is a hit or miss endeavor.

In our forums, quite a few owners of the Nokia Lumia 1020 have had success in purchasing the device, mostly from Microsoft Stores, and getting AT&T to give them unlock codes. Indeed, we can verify this as we too were just granted an unlock pass from AT&T, making our Lumia 1020 a full-fledged international phone.

Perhaps the bigger story though is that this device contains the same LTE bands that T-Mobile uses. While that was known already from Nokia’s specs, we’re not sure many of you know it (or believe it). That means not only can you use this phone on T-Mobile’s more cost efficient network, but you can get some fairly crazy speeds as well.

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There’s a handful of you out there rocking with the latest GDR2 update on your handset. If you bought a Lumia 925 or 1020 it came with it onboard from the unboxing. While the rest of you folks with devices from the Windows Phone 8 launch are slowly getting it. What’s on the horizon for future updates? We have GDR3 and Blue (aka Windows Phone 8.1) coming within the next 6 months. We also now have our first look at one of those courtesy of Joe Belfiore.

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Microsoft has posted details on how you will be able to share digital games on your Xbox One console as well as well as outlining the new Home Gold feature for Xbox Live Gold members that will let you share your membership benefits with others..

Marc Whitten, Chief Product Officer at Microsoft, explains that everyone in your home can share digital games with each other. The Xbox One will become a gaming library filled with the titles that different players in the house have purchased. Any player can select any digital game on the Xbox One console, sign in with their gamertag and play.

Additionally, you can share digital games when you are signed into another console and any games purchased on that console will also be available on your home Xbox One console.

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On modern email systems, there is method by which one can “flag” a message based on importance. Anyone who has used Exchange should be familiar with this concept. The point of it is of course to help users triage that which is important from that which is not. If a message comes in with a highly urgent flag on it, you’re more likely to read it and not miss it.

Why not have the same thing for phone calls? That’s what Microsoft is asking and they have evidently filed a claim on the patent to bring that feature to fruition.

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Say what you will about Samsung, but it looks like they’re finally sinking some money and resources into delivering quality apps for their users. Today, the Korean company has pushed out three new camera apps, which are all variations on a theme, but are still fun to use.

The three apps, Artistic Effect, Fun Shot and Color Effect, are all Lenses that can be launched to give live filters for your camera. The apps themselves are all designed around the same UI, though each comes with a dozen or so uniquely themed filters. While that may seem redundant, it’s actually a smart move as it means you have less scrolling to do when selecting your filter. Not to mention, not everyone needs Fun Shot, which makes your images distorted for goofy results.

Here is the breakdown of the three new camera apps...

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Today, the popular “weather documenting app” InstaWeather Pro has been released for Windows Phone 8 devices. We gave you a sneak peek of that app, which is coming from iOS and Android, back in July and now you can have it too.

InstaWeather Pro is one of a new class of popular social apps where you take a photo, presumably outside, and then overlay the current conditions and location info over it. The photo is then ideal for sharing to social networks so friends and family can see where you are—think of it like a virtual postcard.

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If you had to ask us what our favorite GPS navigation app for Windows Phone was, we would go with Navigon. While the app is not free and certainly not the prettiest, it does have the most features and best traffic-route planning that we have come across on Windows Phone. People should consider if they’re heavy GPS users, while the “here and there” crowd can stick with Nokia’s Drive app.

Today, Navigon USA and Europe have both received updates that make the app even better. Indeed, if there was one issue we had with Navigon, it was just fixed: working below the lockscreen (off by default). This was a frustrating issue as the app would basically cease working at times.

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The last time the SmartGlass app for Windows Phone received an update was way back in January. For that release, we didn’t have a changelog and today, we bring the same news. Version 1.7.2.0 is now live in the Store, though you’ll be hard pressed to find any new features or changes. Our guess would be that the connection logic was probably adjusted to deliver a smoother experience when linking to the console.

In other words, we can consider this a maintenance update.

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The official Tapatalk app for Windows phone got updated yesterday to version 1.0.2.10. The app, which centralizes communications to various online communities, was released back in June for Windows Phone 7 and 8, and saw a fair share of connection issues to different sites. This latest patch resolves many of those issues, as well as some other minor bug fixes.

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While many handsets are just now getting Windows Phone 8 OS build 10327 aka GDR2, it has been known for a while that GDR3 was due not too long thereafter, filling in another gap between Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1

Like GDR2, GDR3 will not bring many new major features but rather lots of smaller improvements, driven by new hardware requirements. Those plans include devices with 1080P resolution and so-called phablets (devices with 5-inch displays or larger). Now, a variety of sources have come forth with some of those supposed changes.

While the list is interesting, it’s not the big update that may are expecting. That of course is for Windows Phone 8.1 aka Blue, which is expected in early 2014. That version of the OS is currently being tested on various handsets by Microsoft employees, though the final feature list has not been specified. In the meantime, users on Windows Phone will have to settle for the smaller general distribution release (GDR) 3 that should arrive around October or November.

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Windows Phone Central Roundup: Photography Apps

We've focused on photography apps in previous Windows Phone Central roundups and with the release of the Nokia Lumia 1020 with its 41MP PureView camera, we thought it was fitting to roundup a few more photo apps.

And there are plenty photo apps in the Windows Phone Store. You have alternatives for the native Windows Phone camera app, editing apps, apps to let you share your photos and apps to let you discover photos. The selection is so rich, it's hard to just install one on your Windows Phone or narrow the field for a round up.  This week we highlight two older photography apps that have undergone major updates and two new kids on the block. Some are editors, some are camera app alternatives and some are a little bit of everything.

But all are worth trying.

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The Nokia Lumia 1020 is quite an impressive smartphone. It is a niche device though and it won’t sell bazillions of units like the Lumia 520. That doesn’t negate its usefulness as being a flagship device for the Windows Phone platform. But that doesn’t mean Microsoft, Nokia, and AT&T won’t keep pushing it. Case in point, these three videos from Microsoft highlighting the 41 million pixels you get.

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ProShot is a feature rich camera app for our Windows Phone 8 devices. The app gives users greater control over their Windows Phone camera with settings ranging from shutter speed to white balance to focusing.

ProShot was updated today to version 2.8.2 that raises the ceiling on the app's shutter speed, adds a few more timer options, allows the application to retain manual focus position when switching between auto focus and manual focus, adding diagonal and golden ratio grid line options, as well as a few bug fixes and performance improvements.

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Believe it or not, Microsoft is working on a second-generation of Surface devices. If you had any doubts, you can put those to rest.  But what exactly is going to be powering the different variants of Surface? Most of you are really wishing for a Haswell version of the Surface Pro (I am), but what about RT? Comments from Nvidia’s CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang, indicate that you’ll find some more magic from Nvidia.

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Microsoft has always been a fan of charging their Xbox customers a premium to access features including multiplayer gaming, entertainment applications, and Internet Explorer. The company has announced the list of additional new features for Xbox One that will require a Live Gold subscription.

Xbox One will require a paid subscription to access the console’s OneGuide (TV Guide), Game DVR service, Skype, and new SmartMatch service. We aren’t extremely surprised about the news, but now we can confirm what we suspected.

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In 2012 Microsoft bought Yammer, the freemium enterprise social network that allows companies and organizations to basically use “Facebook for business”. There are apps for both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8, but it’s the Windows Phone version that just got a neat update today. Let’s check it out.

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We’ve still got some Casual Connect coverage in store for you guys, starting with this news from Polish developer Artifex Mundi. You might recognize them as the publishers of several popular adventure games on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, including Nightmares from the Deep, Abyss, Dark Arcana, and Enigmatis.

We spoke with Tomasz Grudzinski and Mariusz Szynalik of Artifex Mundi about their plans for mobile Windows platforms. It turns out Artifex Mundi has four or five games in store for us this year! Head past the break for video previews of three of those games, including sequels to Enigmatis and Nightmares from the Deep, plus a fresh new title called Deadlings.

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As the Nokia Lumia 1020 begins its global launch in the coming weeks, one item we hope to report on are frequent sightings of the device in people’s hands. Even more, we want to see images captured with its massive 41 MP camera used in media and elsewhere, as that is what will eventually persuade the public that this phone is different.

One of the first high profile sightings of Nokia’s new camera flagship was this weekend when Liverpool FC visited Oslo, Norway. The game was shown on national television (TV2) with a potentially large audience tuning in for the big match. Caught on two separate occasions by the network was Linda Pizzuti, the wife of John W. Henry (Wikipedia) who owns Liverpool Football Club. She evidently picked up a yellow AT&T Lumia 1020 recently and brought it over to save the memories. 

Good color choice, Ms. Pizzuti. We approve.

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