Mihaita Bamburic

Qi standard to enable wireless charging at a longer distance

Sony Xperia Z2 Qi Wireless Charging Plate Cover Case

Despite being called wireless charging, the technology we love today still has a long way to go before it can allow us to top up our devices' batteries at a considerable distance from the charger. But, Wireless Power Consortium signals that the Qi standard may be able to (one day) outgrow this limitation.

Right now, devices compatible with the current version (1.1) of the Qi standard can be charged only at a very short distance away from the charger. Based on my experience, you can barely pick up your device without having the connection drop. The new version (1.2) of the standard, however, increases the charging distance to 45 mm, which is no small feat.

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Internet Explorer 11 is much more usable in Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1

Internet Explorer 11 Twitter Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1

While it can never be faulted for being slow, Internet Explorer 11 for Windows Phone 8.1 still has some catching up to do with rival browsers from competing platforms, mostly regarding the way it displays some websites. My biggest gripe is that it quite often shows the desktop-optimized versions, when it should load the mobile-friendly versions instead (not the dated ones, mind you, like it does so frequently now).

Fortunately, those problems appear to be fixed in the version of Internet Explorer 11 found in Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1. "Based on your feedback, we pursued a web experience for IE users consistent with what is available on iOS and Android devices -- even where this meant we would be adding non-standard web platform features", says Microsoft. "We believe that this is a more pragmatic approach to running today's less-standardized mobile web".

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J butterfly joins HTC's premium Android lineup

HTC-J-Butterfly-HTL23-ProductDetail-Hero-V2-Rouge

Today, HTC introduces a new smartphone in its premium Android lineup. Called J butterfly, the device features similar specs to the One (M8) flagship, but without making use of the latter's 4 MP UltraPixel main camera, employing a 13 MP unit instead. Pixel fans, rejoice!

That said, J butterfly retains the Duo Camera technology HTC baked in One (M8). It allows the smartphone to capture depth information to achieve a bokeh effect in photos, which is typical of DSLRs. On the front, there is a 5 MP camera, that is also taken from One (M8), designed for selfie-lovers. So far, J butterfly is shaping up to be what some had hoped One (M8) would be.

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It is game over for Windows Phone

game over

Microsoft, it is time to reconsider your Windows Phone plans. The tiled smartphone operating system's market share came in at a tiny 2.7 percent in Q2 2014, dropping from the 3.8 percent it claimed in the same period of last year. As a result, Windows Phone saw a 28.94 percent decrease year-over-year in market share, caused by low shipments of only 8.0 million units in the second quarter of the year, 0.9 million units less than in Q2 2013 when its shipments were at the 8.9 million units mark.

The data is from a new report issued by research firm Strategy Analytics, which adds "Windows Phone continued to struggle in the United States and China", the first two largest smartphone markets worldwide. There, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech places the platform at 3.8 percent and 0.9 percent market share, respectively. That is lower than in other markets such as Australia, where Windows Phone was able to reach 5.3 percent market in Q2 2014, as well as some parts of Europe.

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Smartphone market sees stiffer competition

fight fist

The competition is heating up in the smartphone space, as, in Q3 2014, a dozen vendors have what it takes to shake up the top five smartphone makers list, according to a new report from research firm IDC. Judging by the standing from Q2 2014, the likely players in danger of losing their spots are Huawei, Lenovo and LG.

Samsung and Apple continue to be in a position of strength, with the two being responsible for 25.2 percent (74.3 million) and 11.9 percent (35.1 million), respectively, of the 295.3 million smartphones shipped in the quarter that ended June 30. That said, both lost market share compared to Q2 2013, when they claimed 32.3 percent and 13 percent, respectively, thanks to shipments of 77.3 million and 31.2 million units, respectively.

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Microsoft announces Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, Cortana coming to new markets

Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1

Today, Microsoft announces the first major update for Windows Phone 8.1, called Update 1. It introduces new features and improvements over the version which the software giant unveiled earlier this year at Build 2014, and makes way for Cortana to arrive in new markets.

In Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, Microsoft adds Live Folders, allowing users to group live tiles on the Start screen. Like the name suggests, it is able to display updating information on its tile, coming from the items it contains. A live folder can be created by dragging a live tile on top of another.

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Microsoft offers affordable Nokia Lumia 635 and Fitbit Flex bundle

Nokia Lumia 635 Fitbit Flex

Now that Windows Phone 8.1 has scored a huge win by receiving support for Fitbit wearables, Microsoft is giving prospective Nokia Lumia 635 buyers the option to purchase a bundle that also includes a Fitbit Flex activity tracker.

The bundle, that starts at $148.95, is good for both the AT&T and T-Mobile versions of Lumia 635, that cost $99 and $129, respectively, on Microsoft Store when purchased individually. Flex goes for $99.95 alone on Fitbit's site. That equates to savings of $50 when buying the two devices as a bundle on Microsoft's online and brick and mortar shops.

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Apple launches faster MacBook Pro with Retina display lineup

Apple MacBook Pro 15 OS X 10.9 Mavericks

Apple has updated its MacBook Pro with Retina display lineup with faster processors across the board and more RAM in the base 13.3-inch and 15.4-inch models, that kick off at $1,299 and $1,999, respectively. The new processors are 200 MHz faster than before.

Both the entry-level and mid-range 13.3-inch Retina MacBook Pros come with a 2.6 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor (with Turbo Boost up to 3.1 GHz), while the high-end model packs an even faster 2.8 GHz processor (with Turbo Boost up to 3.3 GHz). The base model gains 8 GB of RAM in the new generation, twice as much as its predecessor offered, but retains its 128 GB of internal storage.

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Nokia X lineup gets new software update

Nokia-X-software-update_feat

Even though Microsoft is planning to downsize its Nokia X efforts (to the point where there will likely be no new device announced), the software giant is still supporting its Android lineup by rolling out a new software update.

The update introduces the multitasking functionality from the Nokia X2 lineup, giving users the ability to easily switch and close running apps. It can be triggered by tapping on the App Switcher icon, after swiping down from the top of the display.

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Cortana embarrasses Siri in new Windows Phone ad

Cortana vs Siri

Even though Cortana shares some major design traits with Google Now, there is no denying that the new Windows Phone 8.1 personal assistant actually feels more like a Siri rival. That is due to their uncanny wittiness and human-like personality, two things that are just not there in Google's (clinical, albeit mighty powerful) offering.

Cortana is gunning for Siri as the latter is a more talked-about personal assistant than Google Now is (and will likely ever be). So it should come as no surprise that, in a new Windows Phone 8.1 ad titled Happy Anniversary, Microsoft pits the two against each-other. And, obviously, Cortana embarrasses its opponent.

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Happy SysAdmin Day -- we're giving away $700 worth of software to celebrate

Red Cake

The last Friday in July may not mean much to the average person, but it holds a special place in techies' hearts. It's System Administrator Appreciation Day. And we're celebrating it today, for the fifteenth time, with a giveaway!

As we cannot offer you any cake, ice cream or pizza (although would sure love to), we have 10 licenses for System Mechanic to give away instead, courtesy of the software's maker iolo which has reached out to us to make this happen. Every BetaNews reader can enter the giveaway.

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Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.1 lockscreen app close to launch

Windows Phone 8.1 Lockscreen

The option to change the Windows Phone 8.1 lockscreen is a new feature Microsoft showcased in early-April, at the unveiling of its new operating system, but that is not yet ready for prime time. As you may recall, Windows Phone head Joe Belfiore has said that it will be available later down the road through a dedicated app.

But, how close are we to its release? Well, Belfiore says that the development of the lockscreen app is in its final stages, with the software giant and prolific Windows Phone developer Rudy Huyn (who also works on the lockscreen app, as announced at Build 2014) now focusing on "loose ends".

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Microsoft's Q4 FY2014 earnings by the numbers

printing-money

Microsoft has released its earnings results for the fourth fiscal quarter of the year (that is Q2 CY2014), posting revenue of $23.38 billion, gross margin of 15.79 billion and operating income of $6.48 billion. As a result, earnings per share (EPS) came in at $0.55 (below analyst expectations of $0.60).

Revenue, gross margin and operating income are higher than a year before, when they reached 19.89 billion, 14.29 billion and 6.07 billion, respectively. However, EPS is lower, dropping from $0.59. "We are galvanized around our core as a productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world, and we are driving growth with disciplined decisions, bold innovation, and focused execution", says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "I'm proud that our aggressive move to the cloud is paying off -- our commercial cloud revenue doubled again this year to a $4.4 billion annual run rate".

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Meet Nokia Lumia 530 -- Microsoft's new entry-level Windows Phone 8.1 device

Lumia-530-With-Coloud-Bang-Treasure-Tag

Nokia Lumia 520 has proved to be an extremely important entry-level handset for Windows Phone, allowing the platform to reach more consumers and become more relevant in emerging markets. Its successor has to live up to high expectations, as it has to exceed the 12 million activations mark quicker than Lumia 520 has managed to, in order to be considered a success. That is no easy task, when the competition in the entry-level smartphone market is heating up.

So does the new Lumia 530 have what it takes to become a worthy Lumia 520 successor? Well, it at least gets off on the right foot, as Microsoft says its new Windows Phone 8.1 entry-level offering is expected to cost €85 before any local taxes and subsidies, and under €100 "on the highstreet". And that goes for the Dual SIM version as well; it will play a key role in increasing Windows Phone's popularity among price-conscious buyers.

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Microsoft account Android app simplifies using two-factor authentication

Microsoft account logo

While two-factor authentication acts as an effective security barrier against malicious attacks, it also makes the login process more cumbersome for legitimate users by requiring them to type in security codes, on top of usernames and passwords. Luckily, there are dedicated apps that can make things easy.

One such app is Microsoft account (the choice of name is not particularly inspired), which was just released by the software giant to allow its Android users to manage -- validate or deny -- log in requests, when two-factor authentication is turned on for their Microsoft accounts.

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