Mihaita Bamburic

Nokia Lumia 930 finally goes on sale this week

Nokia Lumia 930

Consumers looking to purchase a high-end Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone only have one option to consider right now -- Nokia Lumia 930. It comes with all the right features for a device of flagship status, like a powerful processor, large screen, solid camera and wireless charging. It was announced in early-April, but it finally goes on sale this week.

A lot of Windows Phone enthusiasts are waiting for Lumia 930 to hit store shelves, myself included, as it is the first Nokia-branded Windows Phone 8.1 device to come with respectable specs in a decently-sized package. It can be argued that it is the natural replacement for those Lumia 920 users looking to upgrade.

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LG launches its biggest G Pad tablet

LG G Pad 10.1

Starting today, consumers looking for a large tablet have one more option to choose from as LG rolls out its 10.1-inch G Pad across the globe. The slate is part of the South Korean maker's budget-friendly lineup, which was introduced in mid-May.

G Pad 7.0 was the first of LG's new slates to debut on the market, less than a month ago. Its bigger sibling, G Pad 10.1, is available first in US, with other markets -- Europe, Asia and Latin America -- to follow shortly, later this month.

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Windows Phone Store is a ghost town

Ghost Town (the common description of Google+)

As the third-most popular smartphone platform, it is difficult for Windows Phone to attract as many top developers as Android and iOS do through its tiny market share. As a result, it is not uncommon for popular titles to be unavailable in Store long after their launch on Google Play and Apple App Store. Sometimes, popular titles do not arrive at all. It is a sad state of affairs, as it directly affects the reach Microsoft's platform can enjoy. But, wait, it gets worse.

A new comparison reveals that of the 25 top free offerings in Apple App Store, Windows Phone Store only offers six of them: Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Facebook, Pandora, Spotify, and WhatsApp. Of the remaining 19 titles, 13 are games. I honestly expected to see Windows Phone missing a couple of apps, but definitely not as many. Put differently, 76 percent of the 25 top free iOS apps are not available officially on Windows Phone. It is surreal.

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Big Google Play Services update rolls out

Android celebrating

Google gains some control over the distribution of Android updates by pushing new features and changes directly through Google Play, quickly reaching a significant part of the user base without getting manufacturers and mobile operators involved in the process.

This is how Google Play Services 5.0, announced late last month at the I/O 2014 conference, is also making its way to Android users. The upgrade, which is rolling out now, targets both end users and developers, introducing new tools, features and APIs.

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Google launches Android Wear companion app

android Wear

Last month, at its yearly I/O developer conference, Google introduced Android Wear, a version of the popular open-source operating system designed for wearables, like the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live smartwatches. Connecting such devices to Android handsets is, as usual, a companion app, that Google just launched.

The app, called Android Wear, gives users the ability to manage their wearables, allowing them to adjust the preferences for voice commands (which play a key role in the Android Wear user experience), tweak notification settings (which, again, is an important feature for the platform), and of course configure the devices from the comfort of their Android handsets.

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HTC One (M8) comes in Dual SIM flavor

HTC One M8 Front View

Consumers looking for a dual-SIM smartphone have many low-end and mid-range options to choose from, offered by dozens of manufacturers in a wide range of configurations. The high-end selection is, however, much more limited, as fewer players compete in this space where, arguably, the value benefit of dual SIMs does not go hand in hand with the premium pricing of such devices.

HTC is among the few top players in the business to launch dual-SIM versions of its Android flagships. The Taiwanese maker did so last year with One Dual SIM and, this year, it gives its critically acclaimed One (M8) the same treatment.

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Nokia Lumia 635 comes to T-Mobile

Nokia Lumia 635 T-Mobile

Now is a great time to be looking for a new Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone. The entry-level Nokia Lumia 630 is already available, while the Lumia 930 flagship will launch shortly, as will the more affordable Lumia 635. For those living in US, however, their options are far more limited.

The only Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone that is set to launch in US is Lumia 635. It will reach mobile operator T-Mobile, as well as its MetroPCS subsidiary, in just a couple of days. For Simple Choice customers, it goes for $7 per month for two years (the total cost is $168, when taking into account the $0 down payment).

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No CyanogenMod 12 until Android L is ready for prime time

Now Later

After making factory images available for Nexus 5 and Nexus 7, Google releases the source code for the Android L preview through AOSP (Android Open Source Project) for most of its compatible Nexus devices. And for many enthusiasts this means development for the next CyanogenMod version should kick off shortly.

The team behind the popular custom distribution, however, announces that CyanogenMod 12 development will not start until the final bits of code are available. "'So let's get the flood-gates started on CM 12!' -- right? No", says the team in a new blog post, aptly named The "L" is for Later.

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AutoCAD 360 lands in Windows Store

AutoCAD 360 Windows

Like Windows Phone, Windows 8.x does not get anywhere near the same level of attention as its more popular rivals, Android and iOS, receive from top developers. Still, the app selection has slowly gotten better, thanks in no small part to third-party offerings, reaching the point where it ticks all the right boxes for casual users.

But, Windows Store is also seeing improvements in its selection geared towards professionals. The latest major Modern UI offering to greet Windows 8.x is Autodesk's AutoCAD 360, which arrives as a free preview. This is a huge win for the platform.

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Windows Phone users can also Yo now

Yo

Communication tools have evolved so much in the past couple of years alone, with developers adding even more features and improving existing ones to allow us to better communicate and understand each other. Improved voice and video calls? Group chats? Instant translations? New, cooler emoticons? You bet!

On the other hand, we have chat app Yo, which, instead of trying to offer more than the rest of the growing pack, is trying to differentiate itself by giving users as little features as possible -- they can only say "Yo". It launched nearly two weeks ago for Android and iOS, and now it arrives on Windows Phone too.

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Here comes Samsung Galaxy S5 mini

Samsung Galaxy S5 mini white

As we have come to expect from Samsung in the past couple of years, shortly after launching a new flagship Android smartphone, the South Korean maker will also introduce a smaller model sporting similar design traits and less powerful hardware (and, of course, a lower price tag).

This year is no exception as today Samsung takes the wraps off its new Galaxy S5 mini. The smartphone does not push the boundaries of what mini stands for, featuring a decently-sized 4.5-inch Super AMOLED display and physical dimensions on par with comparable handsets. It also does not skimp on Galaxy S5 features, coming with a fingerprint reader on the front and heart rate monitor on the back.

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Samsung Galaxy S5 sales are quite good

Samsung Galaxy S5 Blue

Samsung Galaxy S5 may face stiff competition from the likes of HTC One (M8), LG G3 and Sony Xperia Z2, but it is doing quite well sales-wise in major markets, according to a report released today by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. Apple's older iPhone 5s, however, still edges ahead.

"In the USA the Samsung Galaxy S5 was the second highest selling smartphone in May just behind the iPhone 5s", says Kantar Worldpanel ComTech global strategic insight director Dominic Sunnebo. "Apple loyalty is high in the US, with former iPhone owners making up just 8 percent of Galaxy S5 sales. The majority of those switching to Samsung were LG and HTC users".

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Windows Phone 8.1 to get folder functionality

Nokia Lumia Black firmware update

In the absence of proper folder support, a number of Windows Phone developers -- including Nokia -- have decided to take matters into their own hands, by releasing apps that give users the option to group live tiles on the Windows Phone 8 homescreen. The results are not folders, however.

The live tiles that are created are just shortcuts which open the app enabling the feature. The grouped items are displayed within that app. Welcome to Windows Phone-style faux-folders. The reason why the feature is missing out-of-the-box, even in Windows Phone 8.1, is because Microsoft has decided not to implement it, likely because the tiled operating system is meant to be experienced without folders.

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Windows Phone 8.1 rolls out in July

Coming Soon Light Dark

As you may already know, Windows Phone 8.1 was showcased by Microsoft in early-April. The presentation was shortly followed by the introduction of three smartphones running the new tiled operating system, namely Nokia Lumia 630, Lumia 635 and Lumia 930, of which only the first has launched.

Because Windows Phone 8.1 is a huge upgrade over its dated predecessor, Windows Phone 8 users, naturally, want to know when the upgrade will officially roll out. The latest iteration is already offered to members of the Preview for Developers program, but, believe it or not, not to the Windows Phone 8-toting public, who makes up for the large majority of Windows Phone customers.

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How to install Android L preview on your Nexus 5, 7

Android L

At the I/O 2014 conference, Google showcased the latest version of Android, known only as L until its official launch later this year. Compared to its predecessor, KitKat, it comes with 64-bit support, design changes, the ART runtime running the show, tightened security, battery life and performance improvements, notifications tweaks, new APIs and more.

Android L may not yet be ready for prime time, but a preview version is now available for Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 (2013 Wi-Fi model), giving users the option to get comfortable with the slew of changes it introduces. Here is how you can download and install it.

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