Microsoft launches Windows 8 this week – what to look out for

Yes folks it’s finally here, the week that will see Microsoft launch Windows 8, spearheading its massive 2012 product launch schedule. It’s keystone of the ‘Three Screens & Cloud’ play and this is where we see how it’s all going to shake out.

The pre-orders for Surface have started and even run dry in some regions, invites to the various launch events have gone out and now it’s time to put all the cards on the table. With such a wide ranging spruce-up of the entire product line from Xbox to Windows Phone, we’re in for a wild ride. Windows 8 will be at the centre of these launches, not just because it’s Windows but because with it we will see a whole host of services light up to enable the entire eco system.

Over the air podcasts gone from Windows Phone after Tango update?

Listening to podcasts on the go is one of my favorite pastimes, a great way to catch up with the latest news or a special interest. For those of us who reside outside of North America, podcast support has been a bit limited to say the least. Unlike our pals in the US, we cannot subscribe to podcasts through the marketplace on either Zune desktop software or directly using the phone. Annoying, but Mango at least introduced a half-workable solution. Unfortunately, after the Tango update it’s no longer possible to use that either.

To subscribe to podcasts prior to Tango, first we needed to set them up in the Zune desktop suite. Once subscribed, simply plugging in the phone and synchronising would pass the podcast to it. Podcasts would the automatically download without further PC interaction. Alas, this is now not the case. What’s going on?

Myth Busting Part 1: Yahoo! News says Mango phones won't get Windows Phone 8 Apollo

We're getting a flood of emails from users noting that on Yahoo! News, specifically the "Upgrade your life" segment, Becky Worley is stating that current Windows Phones with Mango won't be able to get Windows Phone 8 "Apollo".

So did Yahoo! News just spill the beans on Microsoft's plans?

Not quite. For one, very few if anyone in the media knows what Microsoft has planned for current phone. More on that later. So the notion that someone from Yahoo! got the scoop is a bit funny.

Second, pay attention to her wording in the video segment: "...and Mango phones won't be able to upgrade to Apollo's new features"

Well, technically that is true. Windows Phone 8 is confirmed as supporting two new high resolution displays--768x1280 and 720x1280--in addition to the current 480x800 (Microsoft recently dropped support for 480x640--you heard it hear first). In addition, things like multi-core and NFC support will also be included. All of those features are new and no current Windows Phones will support them, obviously.

So technically what Yahoo! is saying is accurate and we're confident that is what they meant too. Is that a reason to hold off on a purchase? For some, perhaps. But it doesn't mean that current phones won't get Apollo. For that, we're at the mercy of Microsoft and the OEMs for a decision and we still don't know their plans there (scout's honor).

And regarding that "late summer" release, we're still hearing that Apollo will be finalized by late summer but devices won't be ready till the fall. Microsoft for the last two years has had launches and refreshes in October/November, so that's a safe bet as to when you can actually have a Windows Phone 8 device in your hands.

Source: Yahoo! News; Thanks for everyone who sent this in

Understanding Skype’s limitations on Windows Phone

Do you want to know why Skype is the way it is? We go into detail as to how the network works & why it's not so great on Windows Phone--yet.

Soon after Skype for Windows Phone beta came out (and went gold months thereafter), users were dismayed to discover the app didn’t work, well, like Skype. That is, it couldn’t run in the background to receive phone calls or IMs from friends and family.  Circulating reports suggested that perhaps “push notifications were too slow” or that the problem was a result of “[…] how Skype works and how the Windows Phone OS works.”

The real reason? Well, it’s complicated

Microsoft removing Windows Phone Marketplace from Zune Desktop


In a surprising move, Microsoft announced today on the Windows Phone blog that in the near future starting today you, won't be able to purchase or browse apps using the Zune Desktop software. (If you launch Zune Desktop, you'll be notified of the changes). In addition, you'll need Windows Phone 7.5+ to access and purchase new apps in the Marketplace, basically forcing users who are still on NoDo to finally update.

The Zune Desktop move seems odd until Microsoft explains that the overwhelming majority of users browse and purchase apps right on their phone or at the very least, use the Web Marketplace. So trying to focus their engineering efforts where it matters, Microsoft has decided to concentrate their efforts on those two areas and to forsake the Zune Desktop client.

Of course, we've also heard a lot of rumblings that come Windows 8 (and Windows Phone 8), Zune Desktop as we know will be completely gone. Instead, purchasing Windows 8 apps and music will be handled more natively by the OS itself and plugging in your phone will be more akin to the Active Sync experience back in the Windows Mobile heyday.

The other requirement, needing Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" to access the store is also an interesting move. Without going into specific details, Mazhar Mohammed explains "Requiring Windows Phone 7.5 is part of a larger effort aimed at improving Marketplace performance and security, and paving the way for even faster growth and more new features."

We're not sure what the engineering limits are that are forcing these changes but evidently Microsoft considers it a priority enough to enforce it in the Marketplace.

Regarding  the Zune Desktop situation we have mixed feelings. On the one hand, we have to recognize that it is very likely to be a thing of the past in 6-8 months and we need to move on. On the other, one could argue that Zune Desktop absolutely killed iTunes as far as usability and it was one of Microsoft's really innovative desktop apps, so we're sad to see it slowly loose functionality.

How do these changes affect you? Sound off in comments and let us hear your thoughts.

Source: Windows Phone Blog

Carriers able to block Windows Phone software updates as they see fit

Paul Thurrott has revisited his Windows Phone review, specifically the part that covers the update process. Now we're all more than aware of how awful previous Windows Phone updates have been (just take a look at NoDo) for some consumers, depending on what carrier their with, but it seems as though this isn't set to change anytime soon. Carriers will be able to block updates as they see fit (unsure as for the motive to do so) and leave users high and dry without the latest version.

Thurrott previously explained that carriers could "veto" an update, which would then be automatically offered to consumers the next time a software update is released. It seems that Joe Belfiore (who provided Thurrott with said details) was incorrect, due to the fact that carriers appear to have the ability to block updates galore. As an example: both 7740 and 8107 still haven't been delivered to some consumers.

We have touched on this before, with a post on the Windows Team blog detailing that carriers could block any updates as they wished, but ultimately consumers should receive all updates pushed out by Microsoft. All in all, a real pain for consumers. Looks like we'll have to take matters back to the drawing board to plan future wars against the carriers. Are you still missing an update (or updates)? Let us know in the comments.

Source: WinSuperSite

Job posting confirms Mango app compatibility in Apollo

There has been speculation previously that Mango apps wont be able to run on Apollo-powered Windows Phones, especially from rumour preacher Eldar Murtazin which were subsequently squashed by Brandon Watson. We've been fairly sure (and hoping) that apps would run on the next version of Windows Phone, and now WPSauce has come across a job posting at Redmond that confirms compatibility.

The job description for the position of contains the following:

"Automated testing of marketplace applications written for Mango, but running on Apollo. Write code, file bugs."

While this is further confirmation, we'll have to see what resources Microsoft provide to the developers in the coming months. With the Apollo update (Windows Phone 8) looking set to be a massive overhaul, it'll be interesting to see how the software giant plays this out. Perhaps we'll learn more at MWC.

Source: MyVisaJobs, via: WPSauce

Nokia's playing with newer OS builds on Lumia 900 and 800 [Photo]

As expected, Nokia appears to have some newer versions of the Windows Phone OS--specifically interim builds between "Mango" and "Tango" that adds LTE support and presumably other fixes not yet detailed.

Now we have confirmation that this is the case and even the version numbers. Reader Lukas E. has sent us a photo of his new Lumia 800 which he won directly from Nokia. Where it gets interesting, however, is his OS build which is pegged at  7.10.8107 (pictured above), a significant bump from 7.10.7740 which is found on a lot of devices today.

More interestingly, we found that the Nokia 900 which is expected to be announced next Monday at CES, is running a similar build: 7.10.8104. This info was gleaned from Lynx Interactive who makes various games for Windows Phone and collects device/OS information for their statistics.

The 810x branch of the OS seems to be an official interim build that many OEMS are using, including the unannounced Samsung Monument, the Samsung Focus, some HTC devices and the Lumia 710. What is not clear, of course, is if this will be released as an OS update or is just for upcoming 4G/LTE enabled phones but it does appear that this branch is getting ready to go public. The fact that a Lumia 800 is running the updated OS is a positive sign that this may be an official update. (There is an even later build, 8714, which may be Tango-proper.)

Perhaps we'll find out more at CES next week. Until then, we'll continue to see if we can find any other changes to the OS--so far, there is no Internet Sharing on Lukas's Lumia 800 and no other discenrable changes that he has noted, meaning this could new hardware preperation.

Thanks, Lukas E., for the photo and info!

How opinions of Windows Phone are evolving

Since launch, Windows Phone has been struggling to get into the market at a late point in time. Opinions from owners who are on other platforms were almost identical, "Windows Phone will never take off." Granted, it's been a fairly difficult year for not only the development team, but for consumers and app developers alike. We've all huddled together and can agree on one thing - we've travelled through thick and thin rather successfully thus far.

Now Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) is out and second generation handsets (HTC Titan, Samsung Focus S, Nokia Lumia 800, etc.) are making headlines, we've seen some heads turn to the platform as a viable contender in this competitive mobile market, which the fragmented Android dominates. Rich Trenholm, UK Editor at CNET, is a good example on some well known names moving over from a competitor.

AT&T Dell Venue Pro finally getting Mango update

Although just about everyone in the world has managed to get the Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" update, there was one straggler left: the AT&T Dell Venue Pro (see review) While not a significant share of the Windows Phone market (the DVP was never sold directly by AT&T), it was still a black eye to those who own that phone, as one could argue that Mango greatly improves the Venue Pro (it breathed new life into ours, that's for sure).

The good news is that you should be able to plug in your DVP to Zune and fetch Mango right now to get your phone on the latest and greatest. Sure, you won't have the compass feature and tethering is uncertain, but the build of the OS is hopefully worth waiting for.

Source: Windows Phone Blog; Thanks, Grant, for the heads up

Unofficial Pandora app "Metro radio" for Windows Phone 7 in the works [Video]

Should you be a Pandora user, this will be of great interest to you. We're already aware of the team getting cold feet last year when requests were in for a Windows Phone client, possibly due to no background audio. Now that Mango is here, some were hoping for any sign of progress with an app. To lighten things up slightly, we have an unofficial solution surfacing, which is being developed by Janabi Mustafa (see above demo).

Metro Radio will allow users to login with Pandora account credentials and display radio stations on the account with background streaming, album art, and liking options available. The app is set to be released next week, which will provide Windows Phone users with Pandora access.

Thanks Mustafa for the tip!

The Onion 7 Mango updated

The Onion 7 (see our review) is an unofficial client for the news website that covers news, sports, politics, and more with a humorous twist. The stories, including Russian hackers targeting a water pump in Illinois, are guaranteed to lighten up your mood, or simply make you giggle on the train to yourself. The app has recently been Mango updated (version 2.0) and brings the following to the table:

  • Updated for Mango (fast-app switching, etc.)
  • Correctly shows apostrophe's that used to look garbled
  • Article images post correctly on Facebook in more cases now

It's well worth the download and is an interesting take on news reporting. Should the water pump story not catch you, how about a robot warning you when someone's about to walk in on you pulling Peter?

You can download The Onion 7 from the Marketplace for free (or £1.49 for ad-free version).

4th & Mayor v3.0 teaser shots appear with new features

If you're like us, you're waiting anxiously for Jeff Wilcox to get a Mango version of his uber-popular '4th & Mayor' Foursquare app out. And while simply re-encoding for fast-app switching is an easy task, Jeff is doing more than just that for version 3.0.

In a few teaser shots seen above, we can get a glimpse of what is coming down the pipe. First, you can now see your friends and where they checked in on a map, which makes total sense to us to have as a feature. Next you can see how you can customize the multiple-live tiles you'll be able to pin, including changing the tile or the photo for it for quick checkins. Finally, checkin deep-links and those multiple live tiles are shown on the start screen.

Release date? We hear that the app was submitted to the Marketplace on Sunday, which means we should be seeing this this week sometime. We're pretty excited about this one! Grab version 2.9 of 4th & Mayor here in the Marketplace for free.

Source: @JeffWilcox 1, 2, 3; via WindowsPhone Daily

Update: Jeff was kind enough to provide the full changelog for v3.0. Curious about all the new features? Head past the break!

Accent color changes in Mango. No your eyes aren't playing tricks.

Anyone noticed in Mango some slight tweaks to the Accent colors? Specifically the Lime and Magenta colors seem to have become less deep/contrasty? Well, according to @MS_Nerd, indeed those two colors have undergone a slight modification as you can see above.

MS_Nerd also notes that "Fujitsu uses original lime as custom color.", referring to the IS12T. Going further, HTC now has an "HTC" Accent color on the Radar and Titan that is also more closely matches the old lime, which we like.

While on newer screens, the A2C139-Green isn't too bad, it looks completely washed out on some of HTCs older offerings e.g. the Arrive and HD7. In that sense, we understand why HTC is opting for their own green now, giving users no less than three shades.

Source: @MS_Nerd

Nearly 50% of users on "...I'm a WP7!" have been updated to Mango

According to the "...I'm a WP7!" app, the percentage of Windows Phone users who have updated to Mango has almost reached 50%. NoDo installations still account for 36% of the statistics. Germany has gained second place with the number of users on Mango at 57%.

Some data for you to wrap your head around should you be interested in the status of the Mango rollout.

Thanks Robert for the tip!

Develop apps with native Mango code [Homebrew]

Heathcliff74, a member over at the XDA Developers forum, has published an in-depth tutorial for developers who may wish to improve homebrew apps using native Mango code. It's a step-by-step guide that will enable homebrew apps take full advantage of native Mango code and APIs.

While this tutorial has been available since October 11th, it's worth mentioning after the release of the homebrew screen capture utility. Note that this isn't a tutorial for building homebrew executables, but how to utilise native code DLLs from within the Silverlight app.

Source: XDA Developers forum, via: Windows Phone Daily

Happy 1st Birthday Windows Phone 7

This week marks the week when Windows Phone was officially released in Europe last year. The platform has turned one and boy what a year it has been! We've gone through two updates since launch, NoDo and Mango, and the future looks bright with Nokia coming on board.

It's been a year, how do you think Windows Phone has done so far, and what are you looking forward to most next year? Happy Birthday Windows Phone. Feel like reliving some memories? Click here to see our coverage a year ago of the Windows phone 7 launch.

Thanks TheWeeBearUK for the image!

Workaround for vanishing keyboard in Mango?

We recently covered a growing thread over at the XDA Developers forum with Windows Phone owners reporting an issue with the on-screen keyboard disappearing from view without accidentally pressing the "back" capacitive button. We were told that Microsoft is currently looking into the problem.

Greg Fonta, a French Windows Phone developer, has investigated the root of the problem. It appears to be related to a Mango feature (as seen in the above video), Background Agents. These agents allow apps to run tasks when currently inactive and not running in the foreground. 

According to the report at WMPU, disabling Background Agents appears to rectify the issue. This can be accomplished by navigating to Settings > applications > background tasks and disabling Background Agents on a per application basis.

Does this workaround work for you? If not, which handset do you own that experiences the problem?

Source: WMPU

Mango update unleashed to everyone

Eric Hautala is back! With some more good news regarding the Mango roll out, which has now been bumped up to 100%. Everyone is now set to receive the notifications to update their NoDo powered handset (be sure to keep an eye on Where's My Phone Update?), up from 50% only two weeks ago.

The LG Optimus 7 on Telefonica in Spain is now being scheduled, finally. Eric mentions that work is still ongoing, for example with Orange FR where technical difficulties are preventing the network and Windows Phone team from pushing out the update at full speed.

On a side note, you may receive a notification of an update after Mango has been applied, which will be firmware related.

One last thing. Next week we’ll start delivering some model-specific “firmware” from handset makers, so don’t be alarmed if you receive an additional update notification on your phone. These updates are designed to activate new Windows Phone 7.5 features or improve your phone’s performance. Not everybody will receive or require one: It all depends on your country, carrier, and phone model.

We're not yet aware of which handsets will be receiving this firmware, hopefully more information will be made available soon. This could well be the missing WiFi tethering drivers.

Source: Windows Phone Blog

App Hub for China and Marketplace for India

The Windows Phone team has published some exciting news for both China and India. With India finally getting some handsets being made available this month (the HTC Radar, Samsung Omnia W and Acer Allegro), owners of these devices will be able to purchase and download apps from the Marketplace. Speaking of the Marketplace, improved search has been introduced with developers being able to tie up to five keywords per app or game to increase reach in searches.

China unfortunately still has no Marketplace, but now has App Hub coverage for developers who reside in the country to put their talent to good use with submitting games and apps to the Marketplace. For those who are still awaiting App Hub availability, remember that Microsoft has the Global Publisher Program that will be able to help.

Source: Windows Phone Developer Blog