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Windows Phone News

We’ve previously reported that Windows Phone 8 should be bringing native screenshot functionality to the masses. The function was rumored to work by holding the Start key and the Camera button at the same time and sure enough, that combo works in the Windows Phone 8 emulator from the leaked SDK.

The Windows Phone 7.5 (7.1 SDK) emulator did have native screenshot functionality for developers to take screenshots of their apps but it was not native to the OS itself. At first we were a bit cautious that this may be that function but seeing as this is enabled by simulating the Start-Camera combo (F7 + F2 keys) it seems like this is the real deal for regular users as evidence by the video made by WP7app.de. We have not been able to verify this ourselves yet, so we'll leave a little wiggle room in case it proves otherwise.

Native screenshot ability will be a much appreciated feature for developers who can more easily share shots of their app, consumers who want to report bugs or share moments on Windows Phone with friends and even viral-marketing. That last one may not seem obvious but the more screenshots of Windows Phone float around on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit etc., the more the OS will resonate with the masses.

In Windows Phone 7.x the only way to do screenshots was to have a developer unlocked device and to load a 'homebrew' solution. While effective, such an app was limited to developers only and not regular consumers.

Head past the break to see the video of the screenshot function in action...

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Elemental Breaker from DCT is a Windows Phone exclusive game and will soon be headed to Windows 8. The breakout styled game was released just a short time ago on the Marketplace and out of 71 reviews, the game is averaging four out of five stars. A rating we won't argue with.

Elemental Breaker is a multi-level two times over type game. That is you have three level packs that contain nine sub-levels. The first level pack comes pre-loaded with the initial install and level packs two and three can be downloaded at your leisure.

The main menu for Elemental Breaker has options to play the game, view the "How-to" tutorial, access the settings, view the developer's information, and view your power-up/bonus balls (sixteen all together) that can be earned during game play. Settings are few and cover vibration on/off and sound levels.

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Nextgen Reader, an RSS app for Windows Phone, has been updated to version 3.1, which introduces a number of features, bug fixes, and enhancements. The app enables users to keep up-to-date with favourite sources of information, with support for Google Reader.

The app was previously bumped to version 3.0 back in May, adding a new tutorial to get users started who may not be familiar with the app. So what's new in 3.1? The "my feeds" section has disappeared, with all feed management moved to the main screen. Smarter article viewing is available for when viewing articles with a view button present to turn the content mobile-friendly.

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The Windows Phone Central community forum is an important extension to the website, providing registered readers with a centralised location for discussion, debate, laughter, and possible tears. Covering all Windows Phones, as well as dedicated forum for developers, consumers and -of course- off-topic threads, the community forum really packs a punch when it comes to variety.

That being said, we've also added a section for Windows Phone 8, which has already accumulated a number of threads and posts. While commenting on actual articles we publish on the main page, it's good to be able to fully engage with other readers (and lurking members of staff) where it's easier to keep track of who's posting what. This forum will be the place to go once Apollo hits, so now's a good time to mingle and prepare yourselves.

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Nokia has continued to cut jobs and close down facilities, now the company has finalised plans to close their handset factory in Salo, Finland. Being a European handset maker, it's a shame that it's having to move manufacturing to cut costs during troubled times.

Nokia made its last mobile phone on Wednesday at the Salo plant and 780 people will unfortunately lose their jobs during this year. We reported on the first Lumia Windows Phone rolling off the assembly line at the new plant in Argentina earlier in the month. 

via: The Nokia Blog

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TechSoup, a nonprofit organisation offering technological assistance to other nonprofits, is offering the discontinued Dell Venue Pro Windows Phone to nonprofit organisations for just $31 through the Dell donation programme. The device itself is locked to AT&T, but TechSoup have since enabled those who make a purchase to unlock the device for use with other operators with GSM networks.

The Venue Pro is a unique Windows Phone as it sports a QWERTY keyboard that slides out from beneath the display (as opposed to sidewards like the HTC Arrive and other smartphones). We reviewed the Venue Pro favourably with its solid feel and great display. Sporting a 4.1" AMOLED screen, 1Ghz chip, 16GB storage, and a 1400mAh battery makes it worthy of heavy usage. 

If you're interested in purchasing a Venue Pro or two from TechSoup and introduce a nonprofit to Windows Phone, be sure to head on over to the product page for more information. Once purchased, the Venue Pro can be unlocked by entering the IMEI number on TechSoup's website.

Source: TechSoup; thanks, Aaron, for the heads up!

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We've had front facing cameras on the platform since the unveiling of the HTC Radar and TITAN, but only a handful of Windows Phones actually sport the famous secondary shooter. The front facing camera enables consumers to take self-portrait shots, video conference with contacts, and more. It's pretty useful, should you require it.

Many Lumia 800 owners complained about a number of issues with the Windows Phone when it was released, and one of the more popular complaints was the lack of a front facing camera. So to see the above chart illustrating the results of a Windows Phone Central poll, it's interesting to see who actually makes use of the feature. 

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Strategy Analytics is a global research firm out of Boston that studies various market trends. According the Strategy Analytics latest research, global mobile phones (which includes our Windows Phones) grew 1% annually to reach 362 million units shipped in the second quarter of 2012. Leading the pack was Samsung with 26% of the marketshare or 93 million mobile phones shipped world wide.

Nokia experienced a decline of about 1% but still was strong enough to come in second with 23% of the marketshare or 83.7 million units. Strategy Analytics Executive Director, Neil Mawston, notes:

"Nokia’s Windows Lumia family of smartphones has made a relatively encouraging start, but shipments are not yet high enough to offset rapidly fading volumes for its Symbian platform."

Keep in mind that this research looks at all mobile phones from the feature phones to the smartphones. So how do smartphones shake out in the research? According to a separate Strategy Analytics report on smartphones, global smartphone sales grew 32% annually to reach 146.1 million units in the second quarter of 2012.

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A few days ago, questions were raised over Skype's security in that Microsoft is reconfiguring the Skype network to allow Law Enforcement Agencies can have access to intercept calls. Mark Gillett, Skype's Chief Development and Operations Officer, responded to these concerns today.

With regards to the claims Skype has made changes in its architecture to provide Law Enforcement Agencies have greater access to Skype communications, Gillett says that this is false:

"The move was made in order to improve the Skype experience, primarily to improve the reliability of the platform and to increase the speed with which we can react to problems. The move also provides us with the ability to quickly introduce cool new features that allow for a fuller, richer communications experience in the future."

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Although the day is winding down, we’re still going through the leaked Windows Phone 8 SDK from early this morning. We’re finding some smaller nuggets which aren’t ‘wow’ worthy in of themselves but they are certainly worth a mention, especially since they do add some significant new features to the Windows Phone experience.

We must stress—these are still not the new ‘consumer’ features for Windows Phone 8 which Microsoft has yet to reveal. These are simply more tools for developers to give them more options and features for their apps. These APIs take a long time to write and document which is why SDKs take time to build before going public.

So what are some of these new options for devs?

  • Background location-tracking for apps
  • More refined search for apps in the Marketplace
  • Custom contact store with cloud sync
  • Media library access for devs
  • Networking enhancements
  • Right to Left (RTL) language support
  • Media codec support and stats

Head past the break for some more details including snippets from the SDK itself…

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In what has to be a slight sigh of relief for investors, Nokia stock (NOK) has passed the $2 mark today closing at $2.02 a share or a 9.78% jump since opening.

That’s up from its low just a week ago of $1.63 and could indicate renewed faith in the struggling smartphone company. From the look of it, most analysts and perhaps now investors think the worst is now behind Nokia. Having hit bottom, the company can only go up (or die trying).

That’s not to say all is healthy. Investors, analysts and even Nokia themselves are still predicting next quarters earnings to continue to be weak. A return to profitability is still at least a few months away, assuming the company has a hit with Windows Phone 8 and carrier deals for their devices.

In related news, the cuts at the company continue and friend of the site and class act Keith Nowak, who handled Nokia’s PR in the US, has unfortunately been let go today. Our best wishes to him in the future. You can read about Keith’s experience with Nokia on his personal blog—it’s a great read.

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We're in Washington this week for Casual Connect Seattle, one of the country's largest game developer-centric conferences. As you might know, Redmond is only a stone's throw away from Seattle. As such, we threw our own stones over to Microsoft headquarters (also known as the Microsoft campus) for a little visit. The campus consists of over 40 buildings spread across 300 acres - a lot to take in! In the interest of time, we focused on Studio C (home of the Windows Phone game marketing team) and the Visitor Center. Lots of pictures follow the break!

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Nokia's Network Setup, the app that helps Lumia Windows Phone owners to configure networks when using an unlocked device, has been missing from the US Marketplace for a number of months now. With little word from Nokia, we could only assume that there were issues that were required to be ironed out.

We were all originally waiting for just one week until the manufacturer re-submitted the app, but alas it was a no show. 

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We updated yesterday's story on the Microsoft Surface Tablet price possibly costing more than $1,000 but wanted to make sure the update got out. For those who didn't catch the original story, Swedish website Webhallen.com listed the Microsoft Surface tablet at a price of 6990 krone (about $1,160 US) with Fourth Quarter 2012 availability.

This took us (and everyone else) by surprise because earlier speculation had pricing in the $399-599 range.

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New Map Features in Windows Phone 8

The Windows 8 SDK is pointing to some tantalising improvements to the maps functionality. Specifically maps will now support overlaying Landmarks, in this example, a 3d transparent building and pedestrian features. The pedestrian feature show in the example seems to be that of stairs.

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Applications in Windows Phone 8 will, according to the SDK, have the ability to launch if associated with that file type, it also suggests you’ll be able to make a custom file type icon so it looks nice and neat. That’s good news, there are plenty of file types on WP7 devices that are simply not recognised so having the ability to extend the platform by creating the app to launch it will be a welcome addition. 

Of course, that’s as long as WP8 hasn’t already reserved the file types to open with the build in apps. Although a quick scan over the reserved file types suggests there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to file type compatibility.

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Microsoft has announced open enrollment for their 2012 (fall) Xbox LIVE update for the Xbox 360 console.

The new features for this update we revealed at E3 back in June are the ones coming for this update so getting a sneak peek is always a blast. Some of those new features for this preview include:

  • Internet Explorer for Xbox
  • Personalized dashboard recommendations
  • Enhanced category search and discovery features
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In what should be a very exciting addition for developers, Windows Phone 8 will finally give access to Voice Command (aka TellMe).

According to the leaked Windows Phone 8 SDK, developers can add functions to their app that uses the Voice Command feature, enabling customers to launch the app with a sub-query which will take them to a specific area of the app:

"Users can use voice commands to both launch your app and execute an action. For example, a user using the Contoso Widgets app could press the Start button and say "Contoso Widgets, show best sellers" to both launch the Contoso Widgets app and navigate to a 'best sellers' page, or some other action that the developer specifies."

(An example of this would be Jay Bennett adding a feature to our WPCentral app whereby you hold the Start button to access Voice Command (TellMe) and say “WPCentral, go to reviews”).

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One area that Windows Phone has been lacking so far is the ability to do anything with Bluetooth besides connect to hands-free headsets or speakers. Windows Phone 8 looks to finally expand Bluetooth functionality with the leaked SDK detailing some new features available to developers.

For instance, peer-to-peer file sharing is now allowed for apps that want to “talk” to each other. As an example, we could add an ability for the WPCentral app to share links or photos to another phone. Presumably this feature could be used for all sorts of features like in games by unlocking a feature when you pair up with another phone i.e. a social aspect...

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