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They may be small, but they're pretty

Although Microsoft has been opening quite a few full-fledged retail Stores over the past few months, the last time we counted there are still less than 30 nationwide. Microsoft’s solution for this, albeit temporary, is to open mini “Holiday Stores” in malls and shops across the country.

While we don’t know the range for these little popups meaning if some will be big and some tiny, we do know they will look quite nice. Case in point are these two photos from the Galleria mall in St. Louis, where we can see two Microsoft kiosks being prepped for the 26th.

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AT&T and the Lumia 920: coming soon, we swear

Recently we wrote about October 21st as being an important date for the Lumia 920 and AT&T. At the time, the info coming out strongly indicated that this was the release window which AT&T was aiming for (even though it raised a lot of eyebrows).

The problem always had been that Microsoft publicly has not unveiled all of Windows Phone 8 yet and when they do, it’s not expected until the end of October. That makes selling a phone before that time, well, odd.

We now have some new information that sheds light on the issue and it falls back on our previous theory. Here are the latest timeframes we know regarding AT&T’s planned Lumia 920 launch. The info once again comes directly though a highly placed source at AT&T.

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This week’s Xbox Windows Phone release is a title we didn’t know was coming, but it comes from fan favorite publisher Chillingo and sells for a low price, so let’s call it a good surprise. Extraction (also known as Extraction: Project Outbreak) is now available for just 99 cents – less than the iOS version!

As the game’s title sort of hints, Extraction is a military-themed game about fighting zombies. But unlike Zombies on the Phone or Gun Bros, it’s not a twin-stick shooter. In fact, you could almost call it a strategy game due to the unique control method. Don’t skip the tutorial like I did or you’ll be totally lost.

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(Concept Surface phone by YrOnimuS)

Yesterday we wrote a fairly lengthy article about a new rumor of a Microsoft Windows Phone. The source came via China Times and we were hesitant to believe the claim—after all, no evidence or sources were mentioned.

Still, we pointed out that Microsoft is a large company with a ton of resources. If they wanted to do a phone, they most certainly could pull it off and the Surface Tablets only reinforce the notion that they can do this in secret.

So what has changed? Information has come forward to Windows Phone Central that demonstrates Microsoft does have their own Windows Phone hardware in the works; in fact, we’ve heard it already exists and is in testing. The source(s) are known to us and not anonymous, though for obvious reasons we must keep them off the record.

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New, crisp, clean website designs are just a start

Microsoft has been busy launching new services, designs for established properties, and keeping a number of secrets under wraps in the run up to the eventful weeks ahead. We've been looking forward to this part of 2012 as it'll be when Microsoft unveils Windows Phone 8, Windows 8, Surface tablets, Office, new Xbox update, and - of course - Halo 4. 

We've already seen Microsoft go big with the launch Outlook.com to replace the aging Live / Hotmail email service, but the software giant has revealed plans to apply changes across the board. Yesterday we covered a detailed blog post that walked readers through the new design that'll be applied to the MSN portal later this month - changes have been applied to Microsoft web properties, including the official website as well as the home of Visual Studio (see above).

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Concept Surface phone (Image via Jonas-Daehnert)

It has been a few months since we last heard anything about Microsoft making its own Windows Phone again, so it looks like we’re about due.

A new “report” from the not so trusty China Times straightforwardly states that Microsoft will have its own Windows Phone launch sometime in early 2013 and that they’ve been working on it with a hardware partner for the last four months.

Evidence? Sources? Who needs those things on the internet!

However, some of our readers have asked to weigh in on the matter so instead of just ignoring this story (what we would prefer to do) we’ll give our thoughts on it. Obviously, with our snarky “who needs sources” banter above, you can get a feel for what side we come down on this topic.

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We had already created a comparison guide for the higher end Windows 8 devices but many requested a complete guide that included the HTC 8S and Lumia 820.

The specs guide is not designed to be exhaustive but should cover the key differentiators between models. We have the visual guide for comparing the devices by size included below as well should make the decision of what to go for even easier. 

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The other day we saw the Nokia Lumia 920 out and about in Washington, presumably being tested one way or another. Now it's the HTC Windows Phone 8X's turn.

Reader Rodrigo L. spied this interesting setup in downtown San Francisco this past Thursday morning.  From the photo we can see three HTC 8Xs and what appears to be an older Samsung make (kudos to the first of you who figure it out).

If we had to guess, this looks to be carrier testing with perhaps different variations on radio software for signal strength testing. We suppose it could also be for static photo taking but we're leaning on the first idea instead. 

Any carrier testers out there want to lend a hand on telling us what's going? Sound off in comments. Either way, only 4-5 more weeks before we're rumored to be able to grab this phone on AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. 

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HTC testing the FF camera on the 8X

When we had our hands on with the HTC 8X a few weeks ago, we were able to test the camera and noted at the time that it was extremely quick (due to the dedicated image chip). Since then, some sample images of the rear 8MP shooter have come forth and they look really good for a modern smartphone.

Over on the official HTC Blog, they posted an interview with HTC product planner Anthony Rutter focusing on the HTC 8X and 8S. While most of the info in the interview is quite basic for our readers e.g. the new Live Tile system in Windows Phone 8, they did post a single image of the front-facing camera.

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Users are being told to 'update' only to go back to Adobe's ugly past

We’ve reported on some issues with the Windows Phone Store lately, including oddities with updates. And just a few days ago Microsoft said they had started to roll out some fixes to improve things. We’re not sure if that has anything to do with Adobe’s “issue” here but it is coincidental.

Now, users are being prompted for an update to the app—we had ours this morning. The problem is if you scroll down through the notes, you’ll see the version is listed as 9.0. That’s a downgrade from the “new” 10.1 that was rolled out three weeks ago. In fact, a recent update (v10.1.1) was pushed to users though we have no idea what the changelog was for, but presumably it may have been the start of this recent update error.

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In case you missed it, Electronic Arts’ Tetris recently dropped to $2.99 (AKA the maximum price it ever should’ve cost). That’s all well and good, but how about a price drop on something today’s gamers really want to play? That’s just what developer Press Play and Microsoft have given us, as Tentacles now costs only 99 cents.

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This morning in the Walt Whitman Mall located in Huntington Station, New York (that’s Long Island), Microsoft finally threw open their doors to a few hundred willing and able customers to their new retail Store.

We were there to cover it all and the mood was very exciting as Microsoft’s pre-show gave away a Samsung Series 9 laptop, Xbox 360 with Kinect and some other goodies to some lucky folks. The line to get in the store lasted well into 30 minutes post opening and the staff on hand did an excellent job.

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Staff at Hackney Wick Station in east London have a dig

Apple's CEO Tim Cook has issued an open letter to customers on the company's official website (www.apple.com). The letter addresses iOS 6 Maps, which replaced the Google-powered solution with an in-house developed service from Apple. The mapping service has subsequently been under scrutiny and the subject of controversy due to the quality and accuracy of presented data.

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AT&T has big plans for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8

It looks like once again AT&T in the United States will be taking the helm for Windows Phone 8 and even Windows 8 come October and November. Windows Phone Central has now confirmed information about AT&Ts upcoming plans, including employee-training dates for the big launch. The info comes via two known and trusted sources who wish to remain anonymous to the public.

First up are Windows 8 tablets.  With Lenovo’s ThinkPad 2 officially having AT&T’s LTE on board, it’s not too much of a surprise that the mobile carrier will be looking to sell the tablets in their store direct to customers. We were quoted the $799 price-tag by Lenovo last week for the 10.1” tablet and we’re confident that you will be able to pick one up there come October 26th.

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A few days ago the Chinese tech site Winp.cn cited its sources, indicating Huawei would be releasing its first Windows Phone device on September 25th. This came as probably mildly exciting news, because although Huawei isn’t exactly well known for producing super duper cool phones, from Windows Phone the ecosystem’s point of view, the more the merrier.

However, September 25th came and went, rather uneventfully. There was a moderately heavy rain in Beijing, causing epic traffic jam across the whole town, maybe the most interesting news of the day. Yet Huawei didn’t break a move. Disappointing.

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We managed to finally get our hands on the finalized (or very near finalized) software development kit (SDK) for Windows Phone 8--the one where only select developers were given access too. The SDK had surfaced on the internet a few days ago via WinUnleaked and has been floating around ever since.

After spending a few hours configuring our PC for the SDK (you need Windows 8 Pro RTM 64-bit, seriously), we fired up Windows Phone 8 OS...

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Now you see it, now you may not.

Viber has been pulled from the Marketplace, according to multiple sources which include reports from Windows Phone Central readers. The app, which is currently a Nokia exclusive, was released over the weekend but is no longer available to a number of consumers. We're still able to access the listing and download the Nokia exclusive Viber from the UK. So, has it vanished? If so, why?

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Our poll results show Nokia still riding high

Windows Phone Central conducted a poll over the weekend about which “hero” Windows Phone 8 device readers were yearning to make their own. And although carrier offerings will ultimately affect user choice, word on the street is that a lot of these flagship phones will be widely available on launch in early November.

With this poll, we had the largest turnout of respondents, resulting in some solid data. The question of which is the most desired Windows Phone 8 device is quite stark and will make for some interesting discussion on Windows Phone 8, OEMs and where the market is headed.

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A custom ROM with Windows Phone 7.8 bits on the HTC Titan

Although Windows Phone 7.8 is not expected to arrive until after Windows Phone 8 launces, bits of the OS are evidently floating around and are being incorporated in custom ROMs for various 1st and 2nd gen Windows Phones.

One of those is the ‘EB Edition’ found at XDA Forums and meant for the venerable HTC Titan. We decided to flash it on to one of our devices and give it a go, so make sure to check out the video after the break…

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StyleSaint - exclusively for Nokia Lumia Windows Phones

While we’re still waiting on Viber HD from Nokia to go live today (more on that later, when it’s available), another app has come forth for those with fashion on their minds.

StyleSaint (www.stylesaint.com) can now be downloaded for Nokia Lumia phones, allowing you to browse the latest fashions, clip them, make your own ‘stylebook’ and then share it with the world.

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