New look for USA Today
USA Today has consistently been one of the better designed and thought-out apps available on Windows Phone. It's fast, minimalist and the developers update the app quite consistently. Well, almost. The last update was back in October 2011.
Version 1.7 just went live in the Store and brings with it a new logo for the popular news source. The new design is a tad, dare we say, Metro? It’s flat, simple and less gaudy then the previous look and we approve 100% of the new change. Interestingly, the official Web site has yet to reflect the new design.
You'll be smiling when it's sunny
The developer of Weather Smiles has made the app available for free for a limited time, according to the Marketplace listing. The app enables Windows Phone owners to keep up-to-date on weather forecasts and has the unique feature of sporting two locations on a single tile - as opposed to one weather reading seen in most weather apps. It's a unique twist with smilies being deployed to add humour to condition reports.
Best smartphone in the world or the greatest?
Ah, it’s Sunday so let’s get the smartphone jousting out of the way for this week.
Recently Samsung has taken to the printing press to drive home the fact that the Galaxy S3 is arguably more equipped than the latest iPhone set to hit store shelves within weeks. The ad, brilliant in its simplicity simply says “It doesn’t take a Genius” with a picture of both phones and the self-selected listing of hardware specs.
The jab was at Apple’s expense, teasing them about their ‘Genius bar’ nomenclature and it clearly demonstrates Samsung’s intent to not lay down, even after being accused and found guilty of copying Cupertino.
AirFrance, the flag carrier for France, has released an official app for Windows Phone. This may sound familiar as the company already has a mobile app available on the platform, which they released last year. Unfortunately this was a version of their mobile website, so what we're seeing with this new app is a fully featured Metro experience.
Last week the Verge ran a story noting that poplar photo-sharing service Instagram was headed to Windows Phone this fall. Later, VentureBeat squashed those rumors saying that ‘no’ in fact Instagram is not being developed for Windows Phone, either 7 or 8.
An eagle-eyed viewer started the controversy seeing what looked like an Instagram-like Live Tile pop up during a Nokia promo video. Later, the Verge backtracked noting that instead it may be Vimeo (who do have an updated, Nokia-focused version on the way).
But a new explanation has come forth: Molome.
City Lens just keeps on getting better
Nokia appears to be in an update mood lately as this weekend we’ve noticed two of their big apps get some small updates.
Update: City Lens update was just a re-submission to fix an error with the Chinese Windows Phone Store
First up is City Lens, which is being bumped to version 1.10.1632. That’s a fairly low number change, so we’re going to assume that these are minor bug fixes and code optimizations to make it all run buttery smooth. In fact it does feel faster for us to load and calibrate but that could be placebo too.
We don’t think this is the ‘big’ new update that Nokia talked about last week—that one includes 3D icons and the ability filter items out of the line of site.
Nokia will get into the tablet business. We’re pretty sure of that as higher ups at Nokia have said as much in the past and even CEO Stephen Elop mentioned about the “opportunity” being there just a few weeks ago here in New York.
The only questions that remain are when and what it will look like, to which we have no leads or even guesses.
That hasn't stopped the folks at ProductShowroom from taking a stab at the concept with their recent device render (translation: this is all completely 'made up'). They’ve decided that Nokia should go the ‘phablet’ route, a new mixed term for really big phones that are basically mini-tablets e.g. Samsung Galaxy Note.
For the record, we really hate saying 'phablet'.
HD and HQ streaming down but now out
If you’re a user of any 3rd party YouTube apps that also sport high-definition (HD) or high-quality (HQ) streaming, you may have noticed that function has stopped working recently.
Long story short is YouTube changed their access method for those streams and basically borked those apps. The changed occurred on September 14th and since Supertube and MetroTube use unorthodox methods for access (read: not officially sanctioned by YouTube), it broke on the apps’ end too, resulting in only LQ playback abilities. Interestingly, this isn't the first (nor the last) time that this has happened, as nearly a year ago, the same situation occured.
We’ve heard from the Supertube developers that a fix has already been submitted to the Windows Phone Store, meaning service will be restored when the update goes live. Although we haven’t heard from the MetroTube team, we’re just going to assume the same for them as well. That means this isn’t a permanent change but rather just a temporary glitch, so dear YouTube streamers, standby for a few days and all will return when those apps update.
Shake your booty with Zane Lowe and Nokia
Zane Lowe has announced an array of dates for his UK university tour, which kicks off in Lincoln tomorrow. The established DJ, who also currently hosts the BBC Radio 1 Evening Show, has partnered with Nokia to "connect" the tour. This is an opportunity for Nokia to work on promotion while we wait until recently announced hardware is available to consumers.
The manufacturer has made it a strategic focus to tackle the issue with younger consumers turning away from Nokia. To aid this effort, the company has released (and continues to do so) Windows Phones with multiple themes available for more choice.
To the left, Twitter and to the right, reportedly Facebook notifications
Looks like Nokia’s New York City announcement is the gift that keeps on giving. Such is the case from the newly observed Twitter and Facebook notifications on the Lock screen during the introduction of the wireless charging part of the presentation. (Although Twitter is clear as day for us, we're still not sure about the Facebook one--it's quite hard to tell.)
Update (1pm ET): The Windows Phone Store link is now active
For those of you who commute or find yourself traveling a lot, you’ll soon be able to make your life a lot more interesting as 121Cast's SoundGecko app has finally landed for Windows Phone. We wrote on SoundGecko earlier in anticipation of the app and that day is just about upon us.
The app has passed Windows Phone certification and is just waiting to be “pushed” to the Store. Windows Phone Central managed to get our hands on it slightly early and we’re more than glad to give you the tour in the video above.
The service, found at www.soundgecko.com, is free for the basic level and it allows you to convert 30 articles a month into audio format. The service works by finding a web link of a story you want to listen to later and sending it to SoundGecko (you can even use the nifty Chrome plugin to automate the process).
My Next Windows Phone is.....
The Lumia 920 should be the phone of the year. Nokia has pushed innovation with their hardware design and their customer care. Nokia did not make any specific announcements about what carrier’s will get which phones. Which brings me to my problem. I do not want to switch to ATT because I can’t afford it. I am pretty positive that the Lumia 920 might be an ATT exclusive, no official announcements have been made.
The Lumia 820, which is a great phone but doesn’t have the new Pure View camera. I like the 820 because I feel that a 4.3” screen is a perfect size for me personally, and the removable back covers are a nice touch. I was hoping for a larger battery, but 1650mAH is pretty good and the screen isn’t as good as the 920 but still pretty classy.
Samsung ATIV S heading to Canada?
We've just broke word that Microsoft has indeed released Windows Phone 8 to manufacturers (RTM) for testing and further development, which means we're not too far off from a platform launch. Nokia has revealed its lineup with the Lumia 820 and 920, and Samsung announced the ATIV S. We've got the HTC event just around the corner, but which Windows Phones will be heading to Canadian carrier Bell?
Manager of the Windows Phone Program, Joe Belfiore in NYC
Tonight we can confirm via two known sources that Windows Phone 8 has RTM’d. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, RTM stands for Release to Manufacturing (aka “going gold") and is one of the final steps in getting the software to market.
We're also told that this RTM date was planned and that Windows Phone 8 is "on time".
Windows Phone 8 codenamed ‘Apollo’ has been in development since 2011. The previous major branch of Windows Phone codenamed ‘Mango’ RTM’d in July 26th, just over one year ago. Bringing along a new core architecture built upon the NT kernel, the Windows Phone 8 OS will allow Microsoft to adopt cutting edge technology and heavily compete with Android and iOS in terms of features and hardware flexibility.
Just don't whack it too hard...
What a way to round off the working week with a humorous patent that has been filed by Microsoft. If implemented into Windows Phone, we'll be looking to "whack off" our phones should they start ringing. Depending on what the term "whack" means in the society you belong to, it usually involves utmost satisfaction followed by intense drowsiness, or crying children - but please attempt to stay with us without chuckling while we check out how Microsoft will allow us to whack our phones.
Behind those smiles is concern
This was another important week for the mobile giant from Cupertino. Apple continued to improve upon its iPhone product line by launching the iPhone 5. While I believe Apple delivered exactly what investors need, none of this really changes the story for the two major comeback players - Nokia and RIM.
So let’s focus on Nokia here. We already know they did a poor job of unveiling the Lumia 920 but I didn’t think the stock market reaction made sense. Sure, Nokia left a lot of information off the table but they still showed off a very nice phone running Windows Phone 8, proving their lineup is becoming interesting again. And as much as I love Apple products (I really do), I recognize that people don’t just want to buy iClones. Apple is an amazing company with amazing products. But they aren’t for everybody.
Google is getting bold, telling OEMs 'no' on other OSs
Update: Google's Andy Rubin finally responds. See after the break...
A bit of a controversy is slowly erupting over Acer’s widely publicized plan to use the Aliyun OS in a new line of low-cost smartphones, mostly destined for the Chinese market. Aliyun OS is a Linux-based system developed by the Chinese company Alibaba Group and offered a way for OEMs like Acer to diversify.
Acer has now abruptly canceled plans after Google “expressed concerns” over the announcement. Though Acer still wants to use the Aliyun OS, the move by Google is being interpreted as a hostile action to block competition. Reportedly Google threatened to cancel Acer’s license to make Android devices, which many consider playing hardball.
The question is, how far is Google willing to go to maintain dominance?
Coming to the US on October 21st? Not likely.
File this under wishful thinking and maybe true but BGR’s Geller personally posted that they’ve confirmed through sources the AT&T launch date for the Nokia Lumia 920. On Tracour, BGR.com only has a 52% average rating on rumor accuracy, so take this rumor with some skepticism.
The flagship Windows Phone from Nokia is reportedly going to launch on October 21st—a traditional Sunday launch for the company. In addition, the Samsung Galaxy Note II will launch the same day. That contradicts earlier rumors from the Verge and TechRadar who suggested November 2nd--the last day of Microsoft's Build '12.
Outlook.com, the new face of webmail from Microsoft
Microsoft unveiled Outlook.com back in July, launching a new web-based email service that would be the successor to its popular Hotmail brand. The move was part of Microsoft's plan to bring products and services closer together, which leads to further integration into Windows, Windows Phone and other platforms.
Could HP rejoin Microsoft in 2013? Maybe.
Yesterday, Fox Business has a recent interview with HP CEO Meg Whitman where all aspects of the business were discussed. HP has had a very interesting history these last 10 years and while we don’t want to focus on the changes, it’s on again/off again foray into smartphones is highly relevant.
To that issue, Whitman was asked directly "So a smartphone is not if, but when, for Hewlett-Packard?" to which Whitman replied:
"[HP will] have to ultimately offer a smartphone, because in many countries in the world that is your first computing device. You know, there will be countries around the world where people may never own a tablet or a PC or desktop. They will do everything on the smartphone. We're a computing company, we have to take advantage of that form factor."
That’s a smart analysis of the mobile industry but also a tough problem to solve.
Let's get ready to...wait, wrong sport
When you’re done pounding down your scotch, you may want to watch some brawny guys beat the heck out of each other—if so the official UFC companion app for Windows Phone may just be your next download.
We say 'companion' because it expands upon the official Xbox UFC Live app for the 360--that app allows you to watch UFC fights through your 360 to your TV and more. (Of course you can use the app without an Xbox 360 too).
The app just landed on the Store for Windows Phone and it’s not half bad (though it does have the default load screen for a split second). Actually, the app had a really gorgeous Metro layout and logs into your Xbox Live account automatically.
Santa's here - free gifts for everyone
Microsoft has announced at an internal event held in Seattle that employees at the company will be receiving a hardware package which includes a PC refresh, Surface tablet and Windows Phone. GeekWire reports the company is looking to accelerate the refresh cycle for Employee workstations to take full advantage of Windows 8.
As an IT consultant, my approach to technology is one best described as practical. I examine the circumstances and then try to decide which solution will best fit the needs of my clients. So when we here at Windows Phone Central were asked to write a piece about what our next Windows Phone device would be, I took that same practical approach on deciding how I would replace my current phone, the HTC Arrive.
I use my Arrive in every facet of my life: personal/work, information/entertainment. It’s because of this that I am looking for a phone that is practical, versatile and does a lot of things well; a Swiss army phone, if you will. For this reason, I am choosing the Nokia Lumia 820. Let me explain.
Windows Phone Central's Roundup of Go To Games
This week's Roundup deals with Go To Games for your Windows Phone. For the lack of a better term, Go To games are the ones that always find their way on to your Windows Phone and really never grow old. These games are amongst your favorites but always seem to rise to the top of that list. They are the games you go to for entertainment that are great time wasters that never disappoint.
The Windows Phone Central staff were polled on which two gaming titles are their Go To Games. We see a lot of games come and go on our Windows Phones but these titles seem to always be around. The Roundup contains a wide range of games that include a beauty salon, chickens and rainbows as well as a healthy selection of Xbox Live titles.