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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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Nokia shows off the Lumia 920 at the 2012 Photokina camera trade show

Nokia is busy making the rounds promoting the Lumia 920 Windows Phone and this past week they set up shop at the 2012 Photokina trade show. If you aren't familiar with Photokina it is the largest trade show for the photographic and imaging industries. The equivalent for smartphones would be the annual Consumer Electronics Show or Mobile World Congress.

Nokia jumped on the opportunity to set up shop at the Carl Zeiss booth at Photokina to show off the Pureview Cameras on both the Lumia 920 and Pureview 808. A demo box was set up, like we saw at the New York reception, to demo the low light performance of these cameras.  Nokia reps also demoed the image stabilization and how it improves video quality.

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Mr. Ren Weiguang on Windows Phone 7.5 Chinese launch event. Image credit to evolife.cn

Chinese site WPDang managed to interview Mr. Ren Weiguang, the president of HTC China, after the manufacturer's September 19th announcing of the very colorful Windows Phone 8X and 8S range. The interview reveals what's probably mixed news about HTC's products.

In summary, Mr. Ren told the journalist the following:

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Verizon set to get the 'big 3'?

Although unverified at this point, the site PhoneArena is claiming to have the Verizon roadmap for upcoming new devices, including those rumored “multiple” Windows Phone 8 phones.

The good news if accurate is Verizon is getting all of the big guns, including the Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung ATIV S and the recently announced HTC 8X—all considered to be the top of the line launch devices for Windows Phone 8, due to occur at the end of October.

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You asked for it and so we're delivering. This morning you hopefully read our comparison between the top-three flagship devices with Windows Phone 8. That would be the Samsung ATIV S, HTC 8X and the Nokia Lumia 920--all of which are fantastic phones.

Our audience yesterday was quite impressed with the looks of the 8X and it does look to be going to many carriers (whereas Samsung and Nokia are still up in the air). But assuming carriers don't matter, if you had to choose which phone would be yours, which will it be?

Voting ends Sunday at 6PM ET. We'll have the results up on Monday morning. To vote on your phone, head to m.wpcentral.com.

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