The release of low-end devices, like the Nokia Lumia 520 and Lumia 620, has helped Windows Phone to establish itself as the third most-popular smartphone operating system worldwide. In major European markets, its success stems primarily from inexpensive smartphones. The two aforementioned handsets account for three quarters of all Nokia Lumia sales in Great Britain and similar shares in other local markets, according to a new Kantar Worldpanel ComTech report.
Windows Phone's success comes at a time when the smartphone average selling price (known as ASP) dropped by 12.5 percent to $317 in 2013, according to research firm IDC. "Momentum for Windows Phone is continuing, although its growth remains reliant on low-end handsets", says Kantar Worldpanel ComTech strategic insight director Dominic Sunnebo. In case you are wondering, Nokia's Lumia lineup accounts for more than 90 percent of all Windows Phone sales.
It being the week of Thanksgiving, anyone looking for a bargain will have been eagerly anticipating Black Friday. The big names did not disappoint including Microsoft who had special prices on Surfaces. If you were undecided between buying a Surface or an iPad, Microsoft compared the two devices so you don’t have to -- and there are no prizes for guessing which comes out on top! If you give or receive giftcards as presents this year, they can now be used to pay for things through PayPal checkout.
Microsoft's Scroogled campaign may not be in the spirit of the season, but it continues apace. In one advert, the services of Pawn Stars were called upon to take a pop at Google's Chromebook -- Alan was less than impressed. Brian, however was pleased to be the recipient of a surprise, unadvertised mug having placed an order via the Scroogled store, and Joe is a big fan of the campaign. Speaking of Chromebooks, Acer announced an ultra-cheap touchscreen device in the form of the C720P.
Windows Phone 8 has been available on the market since late-October, 2012. That makes it more than a year old in human time and quite a bit older in tech years. So far, I've been through two smartphones running the tiled operating system -- the HTC Windows Phone 8X (in an insanely gorgeous purple) and Nokia Lumia 920 (the boring "businessman-black" version as I like to call it). There is also a Lumia 520 nearby (in a nice shade of red), that I use from time to time to gauge how it gets along with Windows Phone 8 and various new apps.
I have been playing with three important handsets that are available under the Windows Phone 8 umbrella, in order to discover the benefits and the downsides of the platform as well as get an idea of the direction Microsoft wanted to impose for its latest attempt to make great strides in the smartphone OS market. On paper, the software giant only wants the best for Windows Phone, but in practice there are still a couple of bad points about its strategy that indicate, to a certain degree, smartphones are not really a priority for the Redmond, Wash.-based company.
The Nokia Lumia 520 is a very good entry-level Windows Phone which is only held back by its measly 512 MB of RAM. This prevents the handset from being able to run all the latest games and apps and hinders its multitasking ability. Considering that it is among the best cheap smartphones on the market today, the low amount of RAM gets a pass. After all, something has got to give.
Today, Nokia announces the successor of the Lumia 520, called Lumia 525. The new Windows Phone solves the memory problem that affects its predecessor, as it ships with 1 GB of RAM. This will allow users to enjoy more resource-intensive apps and games, improve multitasking and make the device more future-proof than the older model.
Thanksgiving is only two days away. Across America, people have begun thawing out their turkeys in preparation of the big meal. Yes, the carcass of a slaughtered bird is being prepared for consumption, as is the custom. While the traditions of the holiday go back hundreds of years, there is no reason that modern technology cannot be utilized to improve upon it. Today, Microsoft announces the best Thanksgiving apps for Windows Phone.
"With T-minus two days to Thanksgiving 2013 here in the US, many people are double-checking shopping lists and firing up their stoves for a lazy day of holiday feasting, family, and football. That’s where our newly updated Thanksgiving collection for Windows Phone comes in: it’s full of apps to help organize, upgrade and generally ease your plans for the big day", says Michael Stroh of Microsoft.
Sony PlayStation 4 hit the stores and Brian not only took a look at the brand new console, but also cracked open the case and slipped a larger hard drive inside. Brian wasn't alone in his love of the PS4, more than a million people also bought a console on the day of launch. But not everyone was happy as many units were found to suffer from a Blue Light of Death problem that rendered them unusable. Raspberry Pi was also celebrating its sales figures as more than two million were shifted since its launch last year.
In a rare show of unity, Microsoft and Google joined forces to help tackle the problem of online child pornography. At the same time, Microsoft took its Scroogled campaign to a new level by releasing merchandise (although Joe was impressed). Elsewhere online, Twitter introduced Twitter alerts to the UK and Ireland to help provide people with critical information in an emergency.
According to a new survey from Strategy Analytics, Windows Phone development is expected to ramp up significantly in 2014. Of the 1,600 interviewed devs, 32 percent plan to support the tiled smartphone operating system next year, a number that is twice as large compared to the current statistics for 2013. Android and iOS continue to rank as the top two picks, followed by HTML5 in third place and Windows Phone in fourth.
This is certainly good news for both Microsoft and Windows Phone users. The platform should receive more quality apps, an area where it is sorely lacking in numbers, and, as a result, gain more followers in the coming years. The third ecosystem dream, as Strategy Analytics says, is becoming real. The only thing that stands in the way is the developers' commitment.
Take a look at your wallet. How many debit cards, credit cards and loyalty cards do you have? If it's anything like mine it is probably bursting at the seams with an inch or more of plastic cards. Reach the checkout in a store and you may well have ended up red-faced as you rummage for the right payment and loyalty card. With Coin, all of this could come to an end. The idea of a catch-all replacement that combines multiple cards into one is not new, but thus far solutions have taken the form of mobile apps. Coin is different -- this is a real card that acts as many.
Coins have a tendency to weigh down your pockets, but this Coin is a single lightweight unit. The card features an integrated display which you can use to view the last four digits of a stored card along with the expiration data and CVV so you, and the person you hand the card to, knows which of your stored cards you are using. You may well have used a mobile app that replaces loyalty cards, and Coin is taking this idea to the next level.
Like my colleague Brian Fagioli said yesterday in his story announcing the arrival of Instagram on Windows Phone, the lack of apps is frequently among the criticisms that pundits have for the tiled smartphone operating system. It is very much a real problem, but one which is slowly getting remedied through new releases such as Instagram, Vine and Waze. More halo apps are coming, there is no question about it, but are those -- or will they be -- good enough?
When pundits say that Windows Phone has an app problem, the consensus is they are referring to the number of apps available in Store. I believe that it will slowly shift towards the quality of apps available in Store. Again, this would be -- and is -- another real issue. The examples that best emphasize this are Vine and, most recently, Instagram.
Windows Phone detractors are often similar in their complaints -- they love the device and underlying operating system but a lack of apps is the achilles heel. However, a lack of apps on any platform is problematic. Developers are attracted to platforms with many users but users are attracted to platforms with many apps. Essentially, whichever platform gets the early start, and establishes a dominant app library, will be the most popular. The old adage is, "the early-bird gets the worm" -- Apple and Google got the head-start and Microsoft hit the snooze button. In other words, Microsoft allowed the other companies to eat its worm.
However, another adage is "slow and steady wins the race". Microsoft hopes that Windows Phone is the tortoise and its competition is the hare. Today, the company announces two blockbuster apps have made their way to its mobile operating system. Microsoft employee Michael Stroh puts it best by saying "I'm happy to announce that Instagram and Waze are now available in the Store for Windows Phone 8". Yes, two wildly popular apps have found their way to Windows Phone 8, joining the likes of Vine; another popular score by Microsoft.
Google is renowned for its lack of Windows Phone 8 support. The search giant currently has a single app in Store -- which, surprisingly, just received a nice update, its first big one since March 2012 -- with no plans on the horizon to bring popular apps like Drive, Gmail, Google+, Maps or YouTube to the tiled smartphone operating system.
Being a user myself, I can see why some folks would give up on waiting for the real deal and start to embrace a third-party app or switch to a rival service instead. Fortunately, developers have released competent clients for Google services, like MetroMail that provides a solid Gmail experience in the absence of an official Windows Phone 8 app.
Microsoft Research's latest app makes it easier than ever to give a presentation without having to hunch over your laptop. Like the idea of wandering the stage gesticulating wildly as you skip between PowerPoint slides? Fancy being able to scroll through Word and Excel documents without the need to find your mouse? This is what Office Remote has been designed for. This is a simple app for Windows Phone, but one that will be welcomed with open arms by anyone who has to give presentations as part of their job.
The app is described by Microsoft as transforming a cell phone into a "magic wand" and it untethers presenters so they are free to walk the stage and interact with their audience. While the most obvious app to use Office Remote with may be PowerPoint, it can be used with Word and Excel too -- the 2013 and 365 versions of the office suite are supported (although not the RT version of Office).
It would be a strange week if Google didn’t steal a few headlines, and this week saw the introduction of new quick actions to Gmail as well as the launch of a series of online tools to help with the aftermath of the Philippines typhoon. Changes were also made to attachments in Gmail so it is now possible to download files directly to Google Drive. After the launch of the Nexus 5 -- which Brian was not blown away by -- Google also started to roll out Android 4.4 to Nexus tablets -- Mihaita was on hand with a guide to manually upgrading for anyone who did not want to wait for the OTA update to arrive. The news wasn't so good for the Chromebook 11 which was taken off sale after problems with overheating chargers. Google won a court battle after a judge ruled that the scanning of books is not illegal.
This week it was revealed that while BitTorrent still accounts for a large proportion of web traffic, and usage has actually increased in Europe, in the States there has been a drop in traffic. Anyone who seeks entertainment through other channels will be pleased by the fact that Roku streaming boxes can now be used to access Disney and ESPN channels. The Netflix channel was also updated with a new look.
Following the lead of US airlines, the European Commission gives the go-ahead for the use of 3G and 4G services during flights. The Commission is permitting the use of UMTS and LTE data connections on aircraft above altitudes of 3,000 meters in the European Union (EU). Up until now, only 2G (GSM) usage has been allowed and the decision paves the way for passengers to make use of high speed data connections, although the decision about whether to permit this on individual flights lies with airlines.
The Commission's announcement makes it clear that the decision does not translate into an automatic right for passengers to use data connections, at least partly because aircraft need to be adapted.
Finnish maker Nokia has released Nokia Refocus, a new app for its flagship Lumia Windows Phone 8 smartphones with PureView cameras that allows users to choose new focus points after snapping pictures. The feature is similar to what Lytro cameras deliver, but adapted to work on smartphone hardware.
The philosophy behind Nokia Refocus is to give users the ability to "capture first and then focus and re-focus later to produce interactive photos", says the Finnish maker. The app is designed specifically for "scenes with a great contrast in the depth of field, like macro shots".