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usa today

USA Today is arguably one of the best news apps on Windows Phone in terms of design and speed. It’s so minimal in its layout that it makes Microsoft blush and the fast loading  times of the app and related articles is nearly unprecedented.

There’s just one problem though: the app has had quite a few bugs since the last release, causing images and even articles to load incompletely. Frustrating users, many have complained in the app’s review on the Store that an update is required.

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In case you’re a news junkie, you’ll want to take a look at version 1.9 of the official USA Today app for Windows Phone. The app just landed on the Store and it too is ready for Windows Phone 8. The bad news is Windows Phone 7 users are now left without an app.

USA Today have always had a pretty great Windows Phone experience and version 1.9 for Windows Phone 8 is no different. The app has seemingly been re-written and boy, is it fast as lightning.

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A new image has leaked out tonight revealing for the first time Window Phone 8's new "live" lockscreen wallpaper feature. We have mentioned live lockscreen wallpapers before, specifically when the Windows Phone 8 SDK leaked over the summertime (and we told you about them even before then). The feature is not quite as “live” as Android where things are actually moving around, wasting your battery. Instead, this is truly useful.

The image above, received by the site Nokia Innovation, shows three examples of this Live locksreen wallpaper: Bing, ESPN and USA Today. The former will refresh the lockscreen every day with Bing’s latest background, ESPN can show you sports scores presumably of your favorite team and USA Today highlights news via tile images.

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There have been a number of updates being pushed through the Windows Phone Store today, including new versions for ARMED!, Farm Frenzy 2, Adobe Reader and USA Today. While we've only managed to obtain changes for ARMED!, we'll still fire up the alert that you can look forward to update notifications for both USA Today, Adobe Reader and Farm Frenzy 2.

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New look for USA Today

USA Today has consistently been one of the better designed and thought-out apps available on Windows Phone. It's fast, minimalist and the developers update the app quite consistently. Well, almost. The last update was back in October 2011.

Version 1.7 just went live in the Store and brings with it a new logo for the popular news source. The new design is a tad, dare we say, Metro? It’s flat, simple and less gaudy then the previous look and we approve 100% of the new change. Interestingly, the official Web site has yet to reflect the new design.

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Some good exposure for Windows Phone on USA Today with Mark Smith talking about how he's enjoyed using the HTC Radar and to him the OS is a refreshing change from iOS and Android. He holds a strong emphasis on icons vs tiles throughout the article.

"Where Apple and Android have settled on home screens of small square app icons, Windows has created a vertical column of interactive tiles that display information — unread e-mails, missed calls, weather, etc."

Smith noted that Microsoft's TellMe functionality isn't as advanced as Siri on the iPhone 4S. To be honest, Siri comes across as more of a gimmick to the majority, where as TellMe actually does something. You don't need to ask a Windows Phone for the weather, you'll see it on the home screen. You can -- however -- open an app by voice command and other functions that Siri flops at.

Overall, positive words for the platform and any exposure is good exposure. Head on over to USA Today to read his impresions.

Source: USA Today; Thanks, Harold W., for the heads up!

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Those who love using the USA Today app will be pleased to see the new update. In version 1.5 we got the Mango update with a double-sided Live Tile for weather. While super cool, it was a bit redundant for those of us with a dedicated weather app. So now in v1.6, you can disable that feature. It's almost like the devs actually use their app on a daily base, tailoring it to our needs--something we rarely find with the "big" publishers.

Other notable new additions include:

  • Ability to pin all galleries as secondary live tiles.
  • Landscape view support for articles.
  • Fixed a couple crashes.
  • Ability to re-enable background task if manually disabled.
  • Visual feedback added to Video tiles.

You can pick up USA Today here in the Marketplace. Thanks, Shipwreck, for the heads up

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We've had quite a few updates to some major apps today, so lets recap on what we got, shall we?

First up is Netflix, gets bumped to version 1.5. Is this the big Mango update with tons of cool new features that we've been hoping for? Nope. Just a plain Jane "bug fixes" update with nothing new, as far as we can tell. Find something we missed? Let us know in comments. Pick up v1.5 here in the Marketplace.

Next is MSN Movies. A nice freebie app from Microsoft that for some reason has ads (how tacky for a MS app, sorry), this baby though got a nice Mango update today. Hooray! So you get some fast-app switching and the ability to pin movies (but not theaters?) to your start menu. This is actually a pretty nice, minimalist movie show times app with trailers and movie news on board too, so it's worth checking out. Give v1.3 a spin here in the Marketplace.

USA Today goes Mango! Yes, one of the most popular apps on Windows Phone, USA Today finally gets fast app switching, double live tile (with weather on the backside now, just like they promised) and the ability to pin the sub-sections Pictures, Sports and Celebrities to your start menu. An already beautiful app gets even better, though we now have too many weather apps on our Start screen! Get your US and World news right here with v1.5 in the Marketplace.

And finally, Xbox LIVE Extras goes to v7.2. No new features are on board as far as we can tell, though we imagine this goes a long way in fixing a bug some of you reported to us, namely it erasing your avatar if you modified it. Ouch. Hopefully that's fixed now. Pick it up here in the Marketplace.

Thanks, Luis R., Vic and ej lee, for the tips!

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In case you were yearning for some app updates of popular apps, you're in luck tonight as we have at last count four of 'em:

We're just kind of excited that 4th & Mayor has finally beat our FourSquare in the version number war those two have been waging. We also like the USA Today fix as that app keeps getting better and better and we're sure you ESPN fans will like the new Score Center.

And sorry, too many links for us to list. Just look 'em up in the Marketplace, we're tired ;-) Thanks, Lawrence F.& Shipwreck, for the heads up!

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We've already talked about Mango's overhauled Live Tile/push system back during MIX11. The tile's ability to "flip" showing a second side really gives developers an extra option for displaying more information, not to mention it looks pretty darn cool (see the BBC Mango New Mobile; Weather Channel Mango).

Reader Justin contacted the USA Today Mobile devs with a feature request and he received a great response:

"Flipping livetile to show current weather on back once the mango update arrives. This would be a worthwhile feature.

Thank you for all your excellent work!"

"Hello, thanks for your feedback. You’ve read our minds with regard to Live Tile for Mango – what you described is exactly what we’re planning on J. Let us know if you think of anything else or if you run into any issues with the USA TODAY app.


Tim Carlson, USA TODAY Mobile"

That does sound pretty nifty to us. The USA Today app just received an update for a Live Tile and not only is it one of the best looking Windows Phone apps out there, their weather, provided by Accuweather, is very nicely implemented. It should be very exiting to see what other devs come up with one Mango hits.

Thanks, Justin F., for the heads up!

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Windows Phone Weather App Roundup

If you search the keyword "weather" over at the Windows Phone Marketplace it will yield you about one hundred results.  Everything from Accuweather to Nude Beach Weather, the choices cover a lot of territory.  But which one is the best?

You've got Windows Phone weather apps that will deliver the basics such as your current conditions and an extended forecast. You also have weather apps that will throw radar imagery, videos, and more weather stats into the mix.  Then there are non-weather apps that have weather features.

After taking a look at a handful of the weather apps on the Marketplace, we've rounded up the ones that stood out. After the break, found out which weather apps we think should find their way to your Windows Phone.

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We mentioned the official USA Today app a few days ago and really liked it's graphics--it's bright, eye catching and just plain nice to look at. Currently sitting with 4.5 stars in the Marketplace, it's also been getting rave reviews from regular users like yourself.

So it's nice to see that the developers speak on the process and what it was like making the app. As it turns out, USA Today didn't farm out app development but did it all in-house by USA TechLabs:

My group is particularly proud of this launch because the app was conceived, designed and developed entirely in-house. The designers and developers on this project spent a lot of time trying to get our app to feel just right with the unique but compelling Windows Phone "Metro" interface. We think we got there and, in the process, became quite enamored with the platform. Who knows, there may be more apps coming soon on this platform ;-). [Emphasis, ours]

The Windows Phone 7 development experience itself was an enjoyable one. Our Digital Development group has primarily been a C# ASP/.NET shop over the years. As we approached WP7, we were able to hit the ground running thanks to our familiarity of the Visual Studio development environment. The Silverlight for Windows Phone toolkit and the fast emulator that comes with it made it easy to get up and running with little Silverlight experience.

They also go on to praise the Siverlight community and overall seem really pleased both with the process and the outcome. Perhaps a lesson for other newspapers or companies? Oh and you can download said app right here.

Source: TechLabs; via Steve Clayton (Twitter)

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USA Today hits the Marketplace

The USA Today app is now available over at the Windows Phone Marketplace. It brings the latest news stories, sports scores and weather to your Windows Phone in a nice, clean looking package.

Key features include:

  • Headline News: Browse and read stories from News, Money, Sports, Life, Tech and Travel. Stories can be shared via email, text message, Twitter, or Facebook.
  • Sports Scores: Review the latest sports scores for NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, college football and college basketball. Filter college scores down to your favorite conferences.
  • Weather: Get live weather conditions (provided by AccuWeather), up-to-the minute personal radar and the five day forecast at your current location, or for a set of your favorite locations. Review national weather maps including Doppler radar, temperature and precipitation forecasts. USA Today will also utilize your phone's location services to show your current weather on the front page.
  • Pictures: Flip through the day’s best photos from news, sports, celebrities, science, travel and weather or play them back as a slideshow. Share your favorite photo galleries with friends via email.

You also have a featured called USA TODAY Snapshots where you can scan through USA TODAY Snapshots, and vote on a poll question for each. Settings are simple in that you can turn on/off location services and adjust the articles font sizes.

In just tinkering with the USA Today app for a short period, it makes a nice first impression. The app puts a lot of information at your finger tips. USA Today is a free app and you can find it here (opens Zune) at the Marketplace.

Tip of the hat to Derek for tipping us on this!

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USA Today will incorporate MS Tags

Starting today, USA Today will start using MS Tags in their print edition to help bring their paper and their digital content closer together.  Readers will now be able to scan the tags using MS Tag Reader and be directed to digital content including videos, picture galleries, financial and sports info, etc.  A press release stated that the paper will feature "at least one" MS Tag per issue.

We’re excited that USA TODAY is using Tag to engage with readers in a more interactive way,” said Bill McQuain, director of Tag Product Management at Microsoft Corp. “Microsoft Tag makes the world around you clickable, and now with the scan of Tag, customers will get a richer, more enhanced experience from the pages of the newspaper.

Microsoft has already released over 2 billion of the codes for a multitude of products, publications, studios and networks

Source: USA Today; via: WinRumors


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