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Today is March 21st which means Microsoft took the big step in growing the Windows Phone ecosystem by releasing the mobile OS in mainland China.

Launching on numerous devices, including the HTC Triumph (aka TITAN), the Nokia Lumia 800c and offerings from ZTE (including the Orbit/Mimosa), Microsoft looks to regain some ground in the smartphone war by offering a variety of hardware running the refresh of Windows Phone 7.5 "Tango" (build 8773) in one of the largest emerging markets in the world.

The press conference was held in Beijing in a makeshift warehouse with HTC, Nokia, ZTE, Qualcomm and Samsung all in attendance. In addition, Simon Leung Corporate Vice President, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft Greater China Region was also there to introduce the operating system to the audience. The press conference involved a demonstration of the OS, new hardware, Skydrive, Office as well as mention the more than 2,000 Chinese applications already in the Marketplace, including 50 top tier apps.

Overall, it looks to have been a successful launch though of course, it remains to be seen how keen on Windows Phone China is in the next few months as these devices go on sale around the massive country.

See more photos and coverage at WinP.cn; Thanks, Lucas, for the tip!

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Last week Gerbil Physics went up on the Marketplace a bit early, and it’s happened again this week. Somebody at the big MS is on the ball! Anyway, you can now buy this week’s Xbox Live release, Pro Evolution Soccer 2012.

What’s new in PES 2012? Well, you can’t tell from the official description, which sounds just about identical. Here it is:

  • Unrivalled realism: Experience incredible gameplay and focus on tactics, goals and winning trophies while competing against the most advanced team and player AI on the market. Striking animations such as referee cut-scenes or goal celebrations and technical moves (diving header, bicycle kick, and more) will make you feel the beauty of the game.
  • Exclusive UEFA Club Competitions: PES 2012 includes many of the best European club teams in the officially licensed UEFA Champions League™ and UEFA Europa League™ modes.
  • Online connectivity: Prove your skills and unlock the various Xbox LIVE achievements, compare yourself to your friends, make it to the top of the leaderboards and become the world’s greatest PES player.
  • Outstanding Accessibility for Beginners and Experts: The uniquely designed true flow™ control system provides instant access for players of all levels by utilising the accelerometer and AI-supported touch controls. More advanced players are presented with unlimited freedom of play by being able to master classic console-style controls with virtual pad and buttons.
  • Stunning graphics: Detailed stadiums, pitches and weather effects provide the perfect visual environment for exciting matches
  • Avatar awards: These aren't listed in the official description, but we have it on good authority that they're coming in the near future.

Hmm... One of those bullet points doesn't add up. Having played both PES 2011 on Windows Phone and PES 2012 on Xbox 360, I can tell you without a doubt that this series is not accessible for beginners. It’s an extremely realistic and challenging depiction of soccer, which is great for people who’ve been playing it for years. Me, I just couldn’t get overcome the learning curve. You might also consider that the PES 2011 was delisted from the Marketplace without warning, which will likely happen to 2012 once next year’s version gets closer to release. Hopefully Microsoft starts allowing users to back up or redownload delisted games between now and then, but I’m not holding my breath.

Enough commentary! Football/soccer fans who want to play their sport on Windows Phone can’t do any better than Pro Evolution Soccer, and that’s what matters. PES 2012 costs $4.99 and there is a free trial. Get it here on the Marketplace.

Thanks to Natres for the tip!

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It would appear as though Lumia 800 Windows Phones are receiving new firmware, following the rollout in Singapore. The new firmware, 1600.2487.8107.12070, addresses a number of problems and is the next version up from the previous firmware release that arrived in January.

Quick recap of known improvements / fixes in the update:

  • Enhanced battery standby and talk time performance
  • Battery capacity icon instead of question mark on top right of screen
  • Improved bass in audio performance
  • Soft-key illumination at all brightness levels
  • Fixes for device performance issues including self-reboots, freezes and call-ending

As you can see, it's a fairly sizeable update. Many of our readers have confirmed update notifications (unlocked - U.S. and UK), so be sure to plug your Lumia 800 into your PC to check via Zune. Let us know in the comments should you receive the new firmware.

Thanks to everyone who sent us tips!

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It has been officially announced on the T-Mobile U.S. support forum that the carrier is rolling out the Windows Phone 8107 update out to HTC HD7 owners. The 8107 OS update introduces numerous changes, but the highlight is the fix for the disappearing keyboard bug.

Be sure to check Zune (or the Mac Windows Phone Connector) for the notification. Unfortunately there's still no word on a 8107 rollout date for Lumia 710 owners on the T-Mobile network, though you can hack the handset to receive the update along with new firmware.

This has been confirmed by our readers who have received the update notification on their handsets. Let us know when you get yours in the comments.

Source: T-Mobile, thanks everyone who tipped us!

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Not much is known about the Lumia 719, which passed Bluetooth certification late last month, but now we have visual confirmation of the handset. Taking a different design approach than the other Lumia handsets, the 719 will sport compatibility for both CDMA2000 and GSM networks. The handset is set to sport the same size screen (3.7") as the Lumia 710 as well as having a 5MP shooter, and will reportedly be targeting Asian and American markets.

This news derives from Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter micro-blogging network. We'll look to hear more surrounding the device, so stay tuned.

Source: Weibo, via: LiveSide 

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China is set to finally launch Windows Phone in the coming weeks and while Nokia will be doing that at the end of March, HTC has beat them to the punch with the HTC Triumph.

New HTC phone you say? Not really. The Triumph is just the TITAN with a rebranding and Windows Phone Tango thrown on board (officially launching on the 21st). Still, with it's 4.7" screen, 8MP rear and 1.3MP front cameras and 1.5GHz CPU, China is kicking it off big with this device. The Triumph went on sale yesterday, hence the above unboxing video.

No word on official carrier support though, meaning folks in China may have to pay out of pocket for the full-experience of Windows Phone. Still, it's nice to see the device with localized-Chinese features on board.

via: Unwired View

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Have some questions regarding the Lumia 900 (both U.S. and international)? Perhaps this fairly brief FAQ will help you out when deciding whether or not the Lumia 900 is the best Windows Phone for you. Questions range from the design and availability to battery and volume / speaker improvements.

This FAQ wont answer every burning question you may have on your mind, but at least some will be taken care of. It's interesting to note that the 900 is destined for Australia too (confirming the pre-order at MobiCity), something that will certainly please local Nokia Windows Phone fans who desire a more advanced device than the Lumia 800.

Source: Nokia Connects; thanks damthman for the tip!

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According to Marko Ahtisaari, Design Chief at Nokia, the company is looking at the possibility of introducing a tablet running Windows 8. Ahtisaari has said in an interview with Finnish magazine Kauppalehti Optio that he spends a third of his time at the company on tablet development and that they "are working on it". Though a spokesperson is less publicly optimistic (as usual):

"We continue to eye the tablet space with interest, but have made no specific announcements."

In other words: they have some ideas, but nothing to show the world just yet. For now we'll have plod along with the Lumia family of Windows Phones and keep hopes up that the Finnish manufacturer brings something to the table when Microsoft launches the next version of Windows.

What would you like to see from a Nokia Windows 8 tablet?

Via: Reuters

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We last took a look at the mysterious Samsung SGH i667 "Mandel" back in January where it passed BT certification, but not much was known about the handset. Fast forward three months later and FCC certification paperwork has been spotted by PocketNow, which shows the SGH i667 passing with LTE connectivity listed and confirmed.

The "Mandel" is set to be one of three new 4G handsets heading to AT&T, the other two being the Lumia 900 and HTC TITAN II. Unfortunately, this does not provide any further details specifications wise, but we'll continue to speculate that it's going to be a more advanced brother of the Focus S.

Via: PocketNow

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Amazon is now offering the Lumia 800 bundle that features not only the Windows Phone, but the Purity HD Headset by Monster, a Nokia Play 360 portable speaker, and a Nokia Luna Bluetooth headset (our review). Microsoft recently announced the bundle on the official store.

The bundle, which will set the buyer back by $899, is available in both black and magenta. The Lumia 800 included is unlocked and works on GSM 850/900/1800/1900 and HSPA 850/1900/2100 networks. While the price tag may put off some potential purchasers, the bundle does come packed with the right kit for those who are on the move and enjoy staying connected to both contacts and music.

Should you be interested in ordering the bundle from Amazon, be quick about it as there are only a few left in stock (re-stock for both colours on the way).

Source: Amazon - Black, Magenta

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No official word on any Lumia 900 release yet for AT&T (though there are mints floating around), but that hasn't stopped some new rumors from springing up. This one comes from a poster at the Verge forums who claims to work for AT&T. The latest date? Sunday, April 8th aka Easter:

"I'm an assistant manager with an att store in California. We are gearing up for the Nokia lumia launch and were going all out. cant say much more but its tentative for April 8 as far as I understand. I And other sales reps are having mandatory trainings on the Nokia 900 soon and that usually means its launching shortly after. You don't have to believe me but just giving you a heads up. I think early reports said April 18th so its a little earlier than that. Cant wait! we got the demo in last week and I've been very impressed with the phone. Its a sexy b---. As far as colors go we are only getting black and cyan. the white one will come when the phone performs well, like we did with the sky rocket "

Interestingly, we also have a comment from Jess82 responding to our post who says nearly the same thing:

"I work for att and were training for the 900. I've been told its April 8th."

Coincidence? The same person? Who knows but April 8th is an odd date only because we imagine many AT&T stores would be closed that day, being a holiday and all, although perhaps you could still order it by phone. Another comment comes from GB330033 who notes that Nokia is close lipped about the 900 release date on AT&T but they did reveal that it's "very soon" and we "won't be disappointed" by the release date.

For what it's worth, we have it from our verified source that the finalized software for the AT&T Lumia 900 goes out tomorrow, meaning AT&T needs to re-flash all their stock.

Of course this is the internet and anyone can say anything, so lets not put too much faith in these. Hopefully AT&T can save us from silly-season around these parts and shed some light on the issue, officially.

Update: As noted in comments by Jess82 (who also posted at the Verge), the 8th is for online/phone orders and the 9th is when stores will sell it. Interestingly, the site Nokia For Us ran a story last week noting that they heard the 8th as well. 

Thanks, Theo, for the heads up

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WPCentral broke the news that Pencel Games’ Gerbil Physics would be coming to Xbox Live this week a little early. So it’s only fair that we should also reveal that the game has hit the Marketplace a few hours ahead of time as well. That’s right, you can get Gerbil Physics right now.

Gerbil Physics is a physics-based puzzle game that’s overflowing with cute and dripping with adorable. Each level presents stacks of adorable, well drawn gerbils which players must then knock over with well-placed bombs. The Windows Phone version includes 72 levels (three times as many levels as the original Xbox 360 game), lots of new animations, music, and some entertaining story sequences, too.

We’ve spent some time with the Windows Phone port and come away impressed. Since Xbox Live is drowning in physics puzzlers, it takes something extra to stand out from the crowd – namely personality! And anyone whose heart hasn’t been hardened by the rampant cynicism of the internet will find it warmed by these cuddly gerbils. The opening levels ease you into the gameplay mechanics and feature some nice new tutorial text. I do wish you had the option to replay a level immediately upon completing it (for a higher score) rather than automatically going on to the next level though.

For more information, check out our full preview – or download these fun papercraft designs.

Gerbil Physics costs $2.99 and there is a free trial. Get it here on the Marketplace. Thanks, Donald B., for the heads up!

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Press Start Studio’s Xbox Live hack-and-slash game Twin Blades has had a rough time of things. Last year it was pulled from the Marketplace over concerns about its violent content, only to return four months later with the zombie blood replaced by harmless green goo.  But even then, the game proved to be incompatible with the Windows Phone Mango update, which wasn’t rectified for another three months.

Fast-forward to March of this year, and Twin Blades is once again gone from the Marketplace. Not only that, but the Xbox 360 indie and iOS versions, as well as Press Start’s other Windows Phone title, Butterfly, are also gone. As usual, they all disappeared without warning.

We contacted Microsoft about the delistings and received this response:

Due to unforeseen circumstances both Microsoft and the developer are unable to make these games available in the Mobile Marketplace going forward.  We have appreciated the opportunity to share these games with our customers.”

Basically, the titles have been permanently removed. They didn’t say why, but in situations like this that don’t involve licensed games, a mass delisting usually means that the developer has gone out of business. Press Start Studio, a small French developer, did not return requests for comment. Further signs that their doors may have closed: they haven’t updated their website since October, and they actually failed to respond to an interview that we had arranged a short while before that. Too bad, it would have been good!

It’s always sad to see the passing of a game from existence. Twin Blades had a vocal little fan base who loved its stylish art and action. In our review I lamented its extreme repetitiveness and poor level design though. As for Butterfly, another game I reviewed – well, that one was just terrible. You’re not missing much from its absence but some easy Achievements.

If we learn anything more about Press Start Studio’s fate, we’ll be sure to let you know.

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We covered the app Speak to Play at the end of January as being one of the first voice-controlled music apps for Windows Phone. In short, you tap the button, tell it to play <artist>, <song>, <playlist> or <genre> and the app will start up whatever matches in your music collection.

From our opinion, the app worked quite flawlessly but we lamented that you still had to find the app, launch it then hit the microphone button--a few too many steps in our mind. Luckily, the app has under-gone a little makeover since we last reported on it and it has the following new features:

  • Renamed - the app is now called "Hey DJ!" instead of "Speak to Play"
  • Pin 'Speak now' to the start screen - Like Soundhound and Shazam, you can now put a virtual button on your Start screen. Tapping it launches the app and it automatically goes to "listen" mode, enabling 1-touch listening/playback
  • Price drop: The app was $1.99 but has now dropped to $0.99 with a free trial

The app still works well from our end and we really do like the ability to play music with a single-tap now. If you haven't paid for it yet, the new $0.99 price is much more fair and reasonable. So if you're a music fan, we have to give this a recommendation.

Pick up Hey DJ here in the Marketplace for $0.99

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It's been awhile since we looked at iHeartRadio, the popular radio app available across devices and for the web. It was in October that the app went to v3.0 and received Mango support and a few days ago, version 4.1 hit the Marketplace bringing a nice make over with some bonus features on board.

Gone is the grey photo background and instead we have just pure black with red text. The UI now is much more minimalist and Metro, giving the app a fresh new bold look which we really like.

But the biggest feature is the addition of "custom radio" which is very similar to Pandora. You choose a station to create based on a song, artist or genre and iHeartRadio will select tunes based off of that criteria. You can then thumbs up/down songs and from that, refine your musical selection. Likewise you can still pull down lyrics, pin the station to your start screen and purchase/download tracks from the Zune Marketplace.

All in all it has been working great on our end and considering it's free, we see no reason not to try it if you like your music on the go. Grab it here in the Marketplace. Thanks, Ronald V., for the heads up Edit: Turns out this isn't available to those in the UK, for whatever reason.

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It's Sunday, so what time is it? It's time for the Windows Phone Summary of the Week! This is where we bring you all you a digestible list of everything you need to know from the past week, should you have been lost or absent. Kicking us off, as always, are WPCentral announcements. 

We've selected selected our winner (and runner-up) for the WPCentral Nokia 710 Photo Contest! Our Dave is back with the forum roundup for the recently held Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, as well as a number of top threads that contain hot discussion. That's all on the website front, let's head on into the summary. 

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Microsoft has updated their free Weather app for Windows Phone, finally bringing Mango support in version 2.0. We first reported on this looming refresh a few weeks ago and now the app upgrade is available in the Marketplace.

New in version 2.0 is the ability for fast app switching, multiple city support and the ability to pin each city to your Start screen with (get this) Live Tiles. Yes, now each city will display the current temperature and icon for current weather conditions right on your Start screen. While it lacks anything more advanced e.g. written forecast, radar maps, cams, etc. for many such a simple, minimalist weather program is all they want and need. In that regard, this app is pretty great for its "too the point" brevity.

So if you want simple, free and no ads, this is your app. Pick up Microsoft's Weather right here in the Marketplace. Thanks, Joseph K., for the tip!

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Not minutes after we teased about the Lumia 900 coming to AT&T soon, BGR is now reporting from their "source" that flagship device has been delayed by over a month till April 22nd. In a way, this explains why things have been so quiet around the stores e.g. no SKU leaks, product shipments, internal emails, etc.

While no official date was ever given for the AT&T Lumia 900, Paul Thurrot and Mary Jo Foley both claimed "March" for a release month with Thurrott getting more specific with the 18th. Later, BGR "confirmed" the date as well.

The price point of $99 on contract remains but if accurate, this is surely some bad news for those hoping for an exciting weekend next week.

Source: BGR

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For those of you who remember Warrio's Jewels (WJ7), a sideloaded/homebrew Gameboy emulator, you'll be pleased to know that it has been renamed to 'Purple Cherry' and is on its way to the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Yes this is from the same developer who brought us the Sega Gamegear emulator, Sonic's Jewels which was later renamed to 'Blue Tomato' (due to copyright infringement). In trying to avoid the same legal issues, the developer has opted for a renaming and rebranding before submission this time and the emulator is expected to pass.

New images show that Purple Cherry is using the same design as Blue Tomato, something we're all for as it has an excellent layout with bold, clear fonts and UI elements. What's more, many fixes and improvements have gone into this updated emulator with more games running smoothly now e.g. Kid Icarus, WarioLand 2 and better Pokemon playability. In addition, SkyDrive support is there too allowing easy loading of ROMs to the emulator.

No word on pricing but we bet the same $1.49 price range can be expected. We'll follow up more as we get closer to release.

Source: Facebook

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Yesterday we showed you how to get the latest firmware for your Lumia 710, version 12070, on your device early but those in Singapore won't have to. As promised earlier, Nokia has started rolling out this update officially for that device in that region meaning all you need to do is plug in your phone to your Zune Desktop.

Singapore is also getting the 12070 firmware update for the Lumia 800 as well.

The update addresses an annoying issue where some users can't end  call once initiated, instead they have to pull the battery or shutdown the phone. Further, this update brings other "performance enhancements" to the table e.g. we notice our phone turns on faster now when we hit the power button.

This is also a good sign that Nokia will begin rolling this update out more globally in the next few weeks, dependent on carrier request.

Source: Nokia, Facebook; Thanks, Ramesh T, for the heads up

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