Amazon's Fire phone does not have access to Google's Play Store. I want to get that out of the way first, as it may be a consumer's biggest concern about the phone. However, that said, it might not be a big deal. In fact, it is quite refreshing to experience Google's Linux-based operating system without Google. In my opinion it is dangerous for Android to become synonymous with Google's store.
With Android, you do have the ability to add 3rd party stores without rooting or hacking. Unfortunately, on most devices, only Google's Play Store comes installed. While I have seen some devices come with the Amazon Appstore preloaded too, make no mistake, the Play Store is always the main focus. The Fire phone bucks that trend and puts Amazon's store into the spotlight and that is not a bad thing. Actually, as I will explain later, you can add additional app stores and even install some of Google's apps.
Windows Phone users who are enrolled in the Preview For Developers program can now install Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1. The major update, which was announced less than a week ago, is set to officially roll out to the masses in the comings months.
The most important user-facing changes that Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 introduces are Live Folders, a new feature which finally enables folders on the platform, and improvements to the stock apps, privacy and security. Of course, it also makes way for Cortana's first expansion.
Months after its unveiling in early-April at Build 2014, Windows Phone 8.1 is finally rolling out to compatible smartphones. Among the latest Windows Phone 8 devices to receive the coveted software upgrade are the AT&T variants of Nokia Lumia 925 and Lumia 520, the latter of which being a branded version of the most popular Windows Phone to date.
AT&T customers using Lumia 925 and Lumia 520 can apply the software upgrade right away, suggests the US mobile operator, by heading to the Settings menu, opening the phone update submenu and tapping on the check for updates button, the last of which will reveal the option to kick off the install.
Four years ago, I asserted: "Windows Phone 7 series is a lost cause", and it was. But you gotta give Microsoft credit for persistence. Today the foundation is solid, and app developers are finally starting to notice, like they did in 2004 with Apple's flagship operating system.
But pundits howl like the zombie apocalypse, which is pretty good analogy for mindless Android and iOS users constantly clicking and scrolling. Microsoft's Windows Phone "glance-and-go" design philosophy is all about living beings and interacting with them rather than cold plastic and metal slabs. (Say, isn't that where we lay the dead before burying them?)
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.
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.
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.
A few years ago it would have been unthinkable, but whispers that Apple and Samsung are losing their stranglehold on the market are growing louder.
It all stems from the fact that customers are becoming increasingly frustrated at the mobile market mono-culture. In the West especially, we've developed a sort of smartphone East Anglia: hedgeless, featureless and planted as far as the eye can see. This is the Samsung strimmer, the Apple Inc. lawnmower, cutting all other competition out of the market.
It's the question I keep asking, wondering whether to blame the device or my daughter. Last night, she texted: "My screen cracked again. I'm so sorry". That's the third shattered iPhone 5s since May; two 5ers busted before that. Clearly, she's fumble fingers, but something just doesn't seem right. The college student sticks the damn device in a protective case. Did Apple put pretty design before damage durability?
I spent several hours searching for smartphone breakage data today -- on the web and contacting several sources compiling stats. Strangely, the most compelling comparisons are years old. For example, in late 2010, SquareTrade reported that iPhone 4 accidents exceeded the 3GS and devices from competing smartphone manufacturers. In a 2012 survey of 2,000 iPhone users, 30 percent had damaged their device in the previous 12 months.
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.
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.
People in other countries handle everyday situations in different ways, and that can make life difficult for the traveler. What might be seen as a polite action or way of behaving in one country could well be insulting in another, and it's not just customs or beliefs to be aware of.
Every nation has its own idea of what constitutes proper cell phone etiquette. In countries like the USA and UK, we know it’s not polite to do things like talk loudly on your phone in a public place, or answer a call during a movie or in a business meeting -- even if not everyone obeys these unwritten guidelines. Elsewhere around the globe, there are other rules when it comes to how and when to use the phone.
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".
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.
Eighth in a series. What goes around comes around. It's cliché but describes my return to Nokia after abandoning the brand five years ago. I never expected to come back, and the app experience, while a backwater compared to Android or iOS, is little different than when I left. Cameras are great and app selection limited, but it's hugely improved because of Microsoft.
Nokia was in 2009 still the world's mobile handset leader, except for one major market: The United States. As such, Symbian dominated mobile app development, even as iOS rose in prominence. (Remember: Apple opened its app store in July 2008, and the first Android phone shipped a few months later.) But the majority of apps and supporting services, developed by Nokia and third-parties, best suited the rest of the world. Americans had limited choices on the company's handsets.