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Rabobank, one of the largest banks in the Netherlands, has released a mobile banking app for Windows Phone. Like its counterparts for Android, Blackberry and iOS, the Rabo Banking App lets users take care of their banking needs, be it checking their balance, viewing account history or making transfers, wherever they may be.

In order to use the app, you must already have a Rabobank account and have your Random Reader and debit card handy. You can click here for more information about the Rabo Banking App, or here to download the mobile banking app from the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Thanks for the tip, Lobbie 1978!

 

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Nokia has today announced in a press release that a number of apps and games are to be exclusive to Lumia Windows Phones. At CTIA Wireless 2012, the manufacturer has focused on creating original app experiences to Lumia customers by building relations and forming partnerships with developers. Marco Argenti, SVP, Nokia Developer Experience, added the following comment.

"We are focused on delivering great, locally relevant apps, and importantly, those which offer unique, exclusive and original experiences. With Nokia Lumia smartphones now available in 48 markets, developers are rapidly recognizing the business opportunities and creating their best work for our consumers."

Nokia has already built a strong arsenal of apps in their OEM collection, including the likes of Nokia Drive, Transport, Maps, Music and the recently unveiled City Lens. Crawford Del Prete, EVP, Chief Research Officer, IDC, had the following to comment on Nokia's progress with moving to Windows Phone and building developer relations.

"Nokia has achieved much in a short space of time when it comes to key brands and partners creating apps for Nokia Lumia customers. We believe developers are now moving away from simply porting, to create new innovative and high-design apps that fully leverage the Windows Phone Metro UI and features such as live tiles. With new and exclusive apps launching on a regular basis, and Nokia Lumia rapidly expanding into new markets, Nokia and Microsoft are demonstrating meaningful differentiation for consumers, developers, operators and retailers."

So with al lthis talk of exclusive apps and games, partnerships and developing progress, what's on the horizon for Lumia Windows Phone owners? Check out the summarised list below of content that's destined to be exclusive for Nokia devices (and Windows Phone owners as a whole).

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Here's a nice timer app for your Windows Phone, Supertimer. Supertimer is a combination timer and stopwatch that takes advantage of the Windows Phone panoramic layout and metro style with up to four live tiles.  Supertimer has potential but there are still some hurdles to overcome with stability and the live tiles, while a nice touch, may not be living up to their potential.

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If you're looking for an alternative to Internet Explorer you may want to take a look at Next Browser. It is a fast, feature rich alternative that makes a nice first impression. But does that first impression fade any?  For the most part, no.  But there is one thing that holds a very nice browser back.

Oh... if Next Browser is something that looks appealing, it's on sale through the end of the day for $.99 (regular price is two bucks). 

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Best Windows Phone Photography Apps from WPCentral

We've taken a look at the best free apps, the must have games, the must have apps and the best weather apps for your Windows Phone. We now turn our attention to the best photography apps for your Windows Phone.

Now that you have some insight on how your Windows Phone camera works, these apps will help you edit and add a creative touch to your photographs. Some of these apps will even have an in-house camera function to keep everything under one roof.

As with all our "best of" lists, this list contains the apps that stand out in our opinions. If we've missed an app that you think should be included, please sound off in the comments.

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There has been a discussion going on over in the WPCentral Forums for some time about the hopes of a Chase banking app would find it's way to the Windows Phone platform.  A recent email response one of our readers received from Chase gives us hope that a Chase Bank App is in the works for Windows Phone. Currently Chase only offers an app for the iPhone and Android devices but in an email response to one of our readers, that may change.

According to the email a Chase Internet Service Center Rep, states:

As of right now, the Chase application is only applicable with the Android and iOS platforms. We have consulted our Online Management Team and they will be implementing an application for Windows phones this July 2012.

Several European banks already have apps available over in the Windows Phone Marketplace but for the U.S. Market, Bank of America and USAA seem to be the only two currently available. Hopefully with Chase jumping on board, other banking and financial institutions will follow suit.

You can chime in on the WPCentral Forums discussion here or sound off in the comment section below if the thought of a Chase (or any other bank for that matter) app is something you'd like to see.

Thanks Sed for the tip!

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Although we're of the camp that doesn't mind that the Windows Phone Marketplace for apps has been retired from Zune Desktop, we imagine some of you think otherwise.

Luckily, Windows Phone guru Den Delimarsky has you covered. He figured out exactly what the change was that Microsoft pushed on to us all yesterday. More importantly, he also figured out to block that change so you can get back the Marketplace for those apps.

Unfortunately the change is a little tricky. Evidently the "update" comes from a simple modification in the configuration.xml that is sent from Microsoft every time you launch Zune Desktop. All you need to do is switch a "disabled" setting to "enabled" but the tough part is you have to intercept that .xml file.

That's where you'll need a mini-server (or something analogous). Basically you redirect your Zune Desktop to a local server where you can have it fetch your modified .xml file and boom, you're in business. Now of course, this is only works so long as you stay with version 4.8. If you update the Desktop client (and Microsoft is sure to push one eventually) you can probably kiss this trick goodbye.

Anyway, cool stuff just remember, you're using this at your own risk (sorry Microsoft if you get mad!). Go read the whole thing at Den's site for all the details.

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Two popular apps have just been updated: Xbox Live Extras (version 7.3) and Netflix (version 2.1). Both updates appear to be under the hood, i.e. no new features or noticeable changes. Netflix just received a more significant update two weeks ago, and the release notes for that update still appear, unmodified, on the app’s Marketplace page. It’s likely that after rolling out version 2.0, the development team discovered one or more bugs that needed fixing.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft about the Xbox Live Extras update and will report back if they provide any details. If you guys discover any changes in these two apps in the meantime, please let us know in the comments below.

Both Xbox Live Extras and Netflix are free apps, though Netflix obviously requires a subscription to use. Xbox Live Extras is a fairly important tool for gamers, so make sure to get it here if you haven’t already. Netflix subscribers can get the app here on the Marketplace.

Thanks to everyone who tipped us on both app updates!

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Google has no immediate plans to release an official Google Voice app for Windows Phone, according to reports. CNET received an official statement from the search giant detailing a development focus on Android and iOS. The statement does note that should sufficient demand spark for a Google Voice client on Windows Phone, the team will look into kick-starting the project.

"We're focusing our Google Voice efforts on Android & iOS and don't have a plan to extend this to the Windows Phone. This may change if we start to see greater demand from Windows Phone users for Google Voice."

Previously we've witnessed what the power of Windows Phone users can achieve by demanding official support from companies, with Draw Something proving to be the best example. For now, until we receive word of an official app in development, those who wish to use the Google service can look at third-party alternatives available on the Marketplace - GoVoice is a free unofficial client, which we've covered previously. 

As CNET rightfully points out, users should always be cautious when downloading apps from the Marketplace. Luckily the developer of GoVoice got in touch and provided the following statement to address any potential concerns:

"We take your privacy seriously and we don't store your password on the device unless if you choose to do so. Even if your device is compromised you can still revoke GoVoice's access. Your password is encrypted on the device and only sent to the Google Voice servers over Secure Sockets Layer (https). We care about your security."

It's a positive sign to say the least. The Windows Phone Marketplace has a number of indie developed apps that boast the functionality missing official apps would feature, which is something many forget when choosing their next smartphone. The only app Google has produced for Windows Phone is the search app, though there are unofficial apps for a number of the search engine's services, including Google Maps.

Are you looking forward to more official support from Google, and do you believe they should start actively developing clients now? Let us know in the comments.

Source: CNET, via: Neowin; Thanks vincentw56 for the tip!

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Microsoft takes on Dropbox and Google Drive with the latest version of their SkyDrive service

Today Microsoft has announced new SkyDrive storage plans for their cloud service as well as new native sync apps for Windows PC and Apple OSX. Combined with official apps for Windows Phone and iOS that were recently updated, Microsoft looks to undercut the market leader Dropbox and block Google from cutting in on their territory.

Clearly the cloud-storage service SkyDrive will be a center piece between Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox 360 going forward. Best of all, Microsoft has extended this offer to Mac users who can also benefit from the new SkyDrive functionality.

We reported on the news yesterday that the SkyDrive app for Windows Phone had been updated, but we can now rejoice with Windows, Mac and iPhone support now being available. Both PC and Mac preview clients work in similar ways. SkyDrive sits comfortably as a central folder in Windows Explorer and Mac Finder, much like Dropbox, and files (up to 2GB) can be transferred between computers (and supported devices).

With the revamp of the SkyDrive service and new clients being released, Microsoft has also lowered the freely available storage from 25GB to 7GB, noting in the MSDN blog post that 99.94% of SkyDrive users currently use 7GB or less. Even at 7GB for free, Microsoft has given a solid left-hook to rival Dropbox who offer a mere 2GB of free storage.

New SkyDrive clients and apps in action

Note, however, should you be an existing SkyDrive user, Microsoft is offering the opportunity to keep the 25GB (or upgrade in this case) for free so be sure to check out the offer on your SkyDrive account (login via the skydrive.live.com). An alert will be displayed announcing "SkyDrive's free storage is changing."

If 25GB (or 7GB if you're a new user or miss out on the free upgrade) isn't enough for your needs, Microsoft is offering three upgrade options for the SkyDrive service:

  • Additional 20GB - £6/yr ($10)
  • Addition 50GB - £16/yr ($25)
  • Additional 100GB - £32/yr ($50)

The above plans and native clients were all first reported by Brazilian website Gemind, back in February. It's interesting to note that Microsoft has unleashed the updates to their service now, just before Google are set to unveil Google Drive as a cloud-based storage solution for their ecosystem. The features present in SkyDrive however are more appealing, minus the Android support for owners of green robotic devices.

Source: MSDN

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Microsoft has made some pretty significant upgrades to SkyDrive, among them, one that adds capability to Windows Phone. The big announcement that Redmond is touting is that SkyDrive will now support Open Document format. While this is cool and all, what piques our interest more is the newly-added ability to post to Twitter using your Windows Phone and have the URL automatically shortened using the SDRV.MS suffix. This nifty little feature makes it easy to snap a quick pic and share with friends. It illustrates Microsoft's drive to deeply integrate Windows Phone with social media.

In addition to Open Document and Twitter support, the SkyDrive update also allows users to upload files up to 300MB using their web browser. The SkyDrive Team also reports that they "have some really big things coming soon." Hopefully that means some more stuff for Windows Phone!

Source: Microsoft

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WPCentral's list of the best free apps for Windows Phone

We've taken a look at must have games and must have apps for your Windows Phone, now we turn our sights on the best free apps that might interest every Windows Phone owner. Everyone likes free stuff, right?

The Windows Phone Marketplace is full of free apps and games. Some good, some bad. Some with ads, some without.  We've compiled a short list of free Windows Phone games and apps the we found interesting and thought you would too.

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WPCentral's list of the best apps for the Lumia 900

Although veterans of this site will know what are some of the best, must-have-apps are for Windows Phone, new users coming to the platform with the Lumia 900 (review) will not. So for our new friends, we'll get you started on some of the most popular, useful and impressive apps for Windows Phone.

Sure, we "only" have around 70,000 apps but that's still a heck of a lot to sift through.  And since we've personally installed over 1,200 apps and games on our Windows Phone, we think we can lend a hand.

So without further ado, here's our list...

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Should you be a UK student (above the age of 16) and are developing for the Windows Phone platform, you'll be in with a chance of winning one of a 100 Lumia 800s that are being given away to student developers. All that's required is for young developers to submit apps to the Marketplace and they'll automatically be in with a chance of winning one.

Not only are 100 Windows Phones being handed out, but should your app prove to be unique and of high quality you could find yourself spending the day at a Microsoft office to expand knowledge and experience with platform technicians and experts. Pretty neat, eh?

To enter:

  • Register on the competition website.
  • The Student Team will then monitor your app submissions in Marketplace.
  • 3 random prize draws (up to 30 x Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phones per draw).
  • 1 Top App Competition (up to 10 x Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phones and trip to Microsoft offices).

Be sure to enter the competition before submitting your apps and check the terms and conditions. Remember that every app you submit will increase your chances of winning.

Source: MSDN

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Elan Feingold, co-founder of Plex, has shared his thoughts on the experience the company has had with development on the platform thus far. Plex recently released the official app for Windows Phone, which enables the user to stream movies, music and photos to their device(s) on the go.

Feingold is a longtime iPhone user who has never had any interest in Android, due to the mess of the system itself, fragmentation and how much work is involved into personalising the experience to suit the user's needs. He was introduced to Windows Phone ("Mango") by his brother, and explains his initial reaction:

"When Windows Phone 7 was released, I was intrigued by the design and typography [...] my initial impression (this was pre-Mango) was lukewarm, and I was obsessed with the iPhone at that point anyway, so I just went all fanboy on his ass and mostly ignored it."

Feingold moves onto talk about how he returned to Windows Phone in January and ordered himself a second-hand Samsung handset to aid with development. He was surprised by how impressed the operating system left him after initial use.

"Windows Phone felt original, well designed, and fun to use. The performance was great, really smooth in a way iOS is and Android isn’t even in ICS. The 'pivot' and 'panorama' UI concepts were fresh and a great way of making good use of a small screen in portrait mode. The typography was clean and brazen. The integration of Facebook and Twitter made them feel like first class citizens, not an afterthought. The live tiles on the home screen were a great way to make the phone feel alive."

The features of the OS were so appealing during and after use that it actually made Feingold almost dislike using his beloved iPhone. How was the development of the Plex app though, and does it stand up to competitor platforms? The icing on the cake is the below comment on how the development on Windows Phone compares to both iOS and Android:

"So how is the Windows Phone development environment? It’s scary good. C# is a great language, .NET is a solid framework, XAML is a really nice way to design user interfaces, and the edit-build-deploy cycle is fast. It still has a bit of growing up to do, but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding: we were able to write the app from start to finish in two months, between two engineers working part time, which is almost an order of magnitude faster than it took for the iOS and Android app."

Be sure to read the full blog post over at Elan's blog on Plex's website (see source link), and of course the official Plex app which can be found on the Marketplace.

Source: Plex

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The Department of Computer Science and Telecommunications of TEI of Larissa has announced another Windows Phone Developer Challenge, which will encourage students to get creative and produce some interesting apps for the mobile platform. Participants who submit three apps, that pass set requirements, and have them approved / published on the Windows Phone Marketplace will be rewarded with a free handset.

The department recently held a developer contest that put students up against one another to win one of two Lumia 800s available as prizes. The announced developer challenge will begin on April 1st, and all apps submitted by students to the Marketplace afterwards will be deemed eligible for the prize. 

Source: TEI of Larissa; thanks sofoklis for the tip!

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Nokia has been doing an outstanding job rebuilding not only their own brand, but that of Microsoft's mobile division too. But is hardware enough? Not at all (as many have pointed out). We've previously reported on Nokia and Microsoft investing €18 million on an app development program in Finland, but we'll need much more to combat the skeptical outsider comments and the lack of developer support from the big names - Rovio being a perfect example with Angry Birds (though they have since confirmed it is coming).

Cue the software giant. Mary Jo Foley from ZDNet has revealed some interesting presentation slides that show how Microsoft plans to tackle the above problems. The slides all point at a $10 million campaign over three years to round up developers and companies that aren't supporting the platform yet.

Ensuring that the quality bar remains high with apps by driving the message that highlights built-in features of Windows Phone over bolt ons (comparing with Android). It would appear from the first slide that Google's OS would be targeted in campaigns. The second slide simply states that the company would plan to bridge the gaps in the top 25 apps on other platforms. Pandora being another good example.

The remaining two slides illustrate the need to promote top apps and exclusives consistently, while actually capitalising on the exclusivity. What's interesting to note is the plan for offers to be used to drive platform awareness with ESPN sweepstakes, Xbox Companion and Live giveaways, and Univision sweepstakes as examples. For gamers, "price games at parity with iPhone" will be music to the ears with some titles on Windows Phone costing more than on iOS.

Source: ZDNet

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Microsoft has announced the opening of AppHub submissions to the 23 new countries added to the pool of support. Developers in these countries (and beyond) will be able to submit their work to the localised Marketplaces, which will open up to consumers in the near future.

To recap on the newly added countries: Bahrain, Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Estonia, Iceland, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Vietnam. The total number of supported markets is now at a respectable 63.

A quick reminder to developers - it's now reportedly taking more than 7 days to approve Marketplace submissions. Something to consider when keeping to announced release dates.

Source: Windows Phone Developer Blog

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Sad news from the outskirts of space: Windows Phone won't be getting Angry Birds Space on March 22 when Android and iOS do.  An email from Rovio, developer of the mega-popular phenomenon, told DailyMobile that while they are "working day and night to get the game to all relevant devices," they do not have the resources to get deliver to all platforms at once.  Having been wait-listed for the first installment of Angry Birds, only to be missing 105 levels when it finally did arrive,  this comes as another heavy blow from Rovio.  Being that Android and iOS dominate mobile market, it makes sense that Windows Phone takes a back seat, but it doesn't sting any less.

Rovio declined to share any information about specific features of the newest add-on to the Angry Birds franchise.  However, the game was previewed at SXSW on Samsung's Galaxy Note, which benefits from Samsung's partnership with Rovio by getting exclusive in-game content.  For now, you can get a small taste from the teaser below.

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The Windows Phone team is set to enable AppHub access for developers to 23 more countries, which were announced late last month by Joe Belfiore, in the next two weeks. Where will we be seeing this new support? Bahrain, Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Estonia, Iceland, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

Todd Brix states that after this batch of countries is rolled out, the total number of supported countries will be bumped to 63 - an impressive amount of targetable markets for platform developers. Do note, however, that there may be some issues with some of the newly added markets, as Brix explains (and Carbon found out):

"Keep in mind that some new markets— Bahrain, China, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE—are subject to additional certification requirements due to local laws or norms. Check Section 3.10 of our content policy for more details."

As a final note, it's warned that app submissions are taking up to seven days to certify due to volumes, and this delay may well increase. Something for developers to be aware of when submitting apps with a published date in mind.

Source: Windows Phone Developer Blog

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