After almost a year and a half of waiting, Microsoft has unveiled a new major update for its smartphone operating system. Windows Phone 8.1 is finally here, with myriad new features in tow. Noteworthy additions include support for a wider range of hardware configurations, a much-awaited notifications center, improvements to the browser, calendar, camera and email apps, enterprise-friendly enhancements, and a new personal assistant, to name a few.
And, just like Windows Phone 8 Update 3 which came before it, Windows Phone 8.1 is available through the Preview for Developers program. It was introduced by Microsoft, last year, in order to give developers and early adopters the opportunity to experience the latest iteration of the OS ahead of the public roll-out. Here is how you can leverage it to install Windows Phone 8.1.
At the Build conference earlier this month, Microsoft announced developers will finally be able to release "universal" Windows and Windows Phone apps. Alongside this welcome addition, the software giant also introduced a unified pricing scheme.
It removes any differences in price points between Windows Store and Windows Phone Store apps, the former of which can now cost as little as $0.99 or $1.29. Microsoft says "apps priced in this range represent 55 percent of Windows Phone paid transactions today", so it makes sense to make Windows Store offerings more attractive by lowering the cost barrier. The change went into effect this weekend, and, as the software giant says, "your app prices may have changed as a result".
Microsoft was in the headlines this week not for launching new products but for, finally, bringing an end to support for Windows XP. Yes, the now ancient and decrepit -- although still much loved and used -- operating system is no more. It will be interesting to see how long it manages to survive now it has been officially dropped -- some are suggesting that a move to Linux might be in order, or even a switch to Chromebook. But, of course, it hasn’t all been about XP. After the announcements at Build, Joe Belfiore revealed on Twitter that developers will be able to get their hands on Windows Phone 8.1 in the "first part of April".
There is also renewed interest in Windows 8.1 following the release of Update, and Microsoft published a guide to making the most of the new features and options. Will the operating system be viewed as fondly as XP in years to come? Only time will tell. Working in conjunction with Google, Microsoft also gave a new and improved YouTube experience to Xbox One owners.
Just like the ATIV S which came before it, the Samsung ATIV SE is a rehash of the South Korean maker's previous Android flagship, the Galaxy S4 in this case, running Windows Phone 8. Even though Windows Phone 8.1 was just announced, the company is sticking to the release dating back to 2012.
The ATIV SE, which is only available at Verizon at this stage, is likely to be Samsung's Windows Phone flagship for quite some time, if the ATIV S is of any indication (it was released nearly 18 months ago). Luckily, the hardware does not disappoint.
Now that Windows Phone 8.1 is official, Finnish maker Nokia just announced three new Lumias rocking the new tiled smartphone operating system. The Lumia 930 acts as the company's new flagship, while the Lumia 630 and Lumia 635 are its low-end offerings.
The Lumia 930 is the natural successor to the Lumia 920 and Lumia 925, strongly resembling the Verizon-exclusive Lumia 929 in both specifications and appearance. The Lumia 635 is the successor to the Lumia 625, with the Lumia 630 introducing dual-SIM support into the mix, a first for the platform.
Build 2014 has seen lots of revelations already -- a free version of Windows is on the cards, universal apps for different devices will make the lives of developers rather easier, and a raft of new Windows Phones are just around the corner -- but there is one that is particularly intriguing.
During the keynote speech today Microsoft also revealed something else. That it is changing its bloody mind yet again. The Start menu is going to make a return. Yep. The Start menu that was shunned is coming back.
Today, at the Build conference in San Francisco, Microsoft takes the wraps off Windows Phone 8.1, the first major update for its smartphone operating system since late-October 2012. The much-awaited release should finally give the software giant's competitor a clear advantage in the race against main rivals Android and iOS, that dominate the smartphone market from afar.
Microsoft has thrown a lot of features at Windows Phone 8.1, some of which we had been expecting to arrive with Windows Phone 8. A lot is riding on this release, as the platform is at a critical stage now. Its market share fails to top 4 percent due to low consumer adoption, Microsoft is set to become the largest Windows Phone vendor, manufacturers have shown little interest in it as they focus their efforts on Android instead, and the competition is more fierce than ever. Windows Phone 8.1 is the release which sets the tone for the platform in 2014, and, naturally, our expectations are high.
Bill Gates just took a bite out of a forbidden fruit. Microsoft's founder has been seen using an iPhone 5s while departing for a philanthropic endeavour, despite his role at the software giant and having a no-Apple-device-allowed policy in his family.
Gates's kids were taken by surprise, after asking to use iPhones since 2007 and being told "No", but said they understand and support his choice as Apple's smartphone "is pretty cool". Gates' decision to buy an iPhone 5s, in white with, naturally, a (Product) Red case, was fueled by Bono's taunts, as U2's lead singer repeatedly teased Gates for not being able to beat him at Candy Crush.
Before Motorola brought the Moto G and Moto X to Europe, the company's presence on the old continent was lackluster at best when it came to smartphones. The best consumers could get, and only in a small number of markets, was the dated Razr HD that seemed to be aimed solely at the brand's fans and keeping the Motorola name alive. The maker had thrown in the towel, trailing behind the likes of Apple and Samsung.
The Moto G and, later, the Moto X have put Motorola back on the smartphone map. "Motorola was nowhere in Europe before the Moto G launched in November last year, but the new model has since boosted the manufacturer to 6 percent of British sales", says Kantar Wordpanel ComTech strategic insight director Dominic Sunnebo. "It highlights the speed at which a quality budget phone can disrupt a market".
The official launch of major Google apps on Windows Phone would qualify as the biggest news of the week, next to the release of Office for iPads. Such an event seems highly unlikely, as the search giant is focusing its mobile development efforts on the more popular platforms, namely Android and iOS.
Imagine my surprise when, only moments earlier, in group chat my colleague Alan Buckingham mentions these five Google apps, that seem legit at first glance: Hangouts, Voice, Maps, Search and Google+. They are now available in the US Windows Phone Store. Did the search giant just have a change of heart? The answer appears to be negative, as, first-off, Google does not sell such apps for $1.99 a pop, it makes them available for free. But, what is so special about them anyway? It is not like these are the only third-party Google apps in Store.
The life of a Windows Phone user is a lonely one. With such a low market share, the odds of meeting a fellow user in public is quite rare. This is in contrast to Android and iPhone, where it seems like you can see those users everywhere you look.
However, some of these users may be lonely in another regards too -- dating and mating. In today's fast-paced world, it can be hard to find a date in person, so online dating has become all the rage. Unfortunately for Windows Phone users, there was no app for eHarmony; one of the most popular and successful dating sites. Today, however, that changes as eHarmony is available for Windows Phone. Get your online dating on y'all!
Nokia has launched a new Windows Phone 8 app aimed at the visually impaired. The offering, called Pocket Magnifier, was developed in collaboration with the UK Royal National Institute of Blind People, and is available exclusively for the Finnish maker's Lumia lineup.
As the name implies, Pocket Magnifier works like a digital magnifier glass that folks can point at various items for magnification. The app has a couple of features that are meant to augment this functionality, so let us take a look at them.
When the sale of Nokia's Devices & Services, the company's phone-making arm, to Microsoft was announced in September last year, the process was expected to complete by the end of Q1 2014. As the initial deadline is rapidly approaching, the Finnish manufacturer reveals the software giant will have to wait a little more to get control of the business.
"Nokia today announced that it now expects the transaction whereby the company will sell substantially all of its Devices & Services business and license its patents to Microsoft to close in April 2014", says Nokia. "This compares with Nokia's previous expectation on the transaction closing in the first quarter of 2014, which Nokia communicated when the company first announced the transaction on September 3, 2013. Nokia and Microsoft remain committed to the transaction".
The recommended practice for passwords and credentials is to avoid using them in more than one place, and make them extremely difficult to crack. It sounds easy, at first glance. But, as we sign up for an increasing number of accounts, it can prove to be quite a chore to keep track of them all. Ten accounts, for instance, means ten usernames and ten passwords, all distinct.
For this reason, users who wish to store sensitive login information, and have quick access to it, rely on password managers. Such tools are available on all major platforms. They are easy to use and, if needed, can generate more secure passwords than we can come up with (certainly more secure that users' favorites, "123456", "password" or, like it will stop hackers more than the first one, "12345678"). One such offering is oneSafe for Windows Phone. It was just made available as a trial in Store, so let us take a look at it.
Refocus is one of Nokia's exclusive photography apps for PureView-branded Windows Phone 8 Lumias. Its party trick is shifting the focus point to a different location or showing everything in focus, after snapping the photo. Refocus is akin to the Lytro camera, albeit at a lesser scale.
Like Nokia Camera, which has also launched with a similar availability, Refocus has broken the flagship bond and is now available for the Finnish maker's entire Windows Phone 8 lineup. This opens up the app to much more popular handsets, like the Lumia 520, which make up the bulk of Nokia's Windows Phone sales. The reason for the change is customer feedback.