On Wednesday, Finnish smartphone manufacturer Nokia released two updates for its Chat and Ringtone Maker Windows Phone apps. The changelog lists minor improvements rather than significant enhancements, focusing on expanding the list of supported markets and media formats, respectively.
Nokia Chat for Windows Phone, which comes with Yahoo Messenger integration, is now also available for those in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Finland, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Spain and Venezuela. The text messaging service still doesn't allow users to log in using a Yahoo Messenger handle, so if you plan on using the app to chat you will have to add the necessary contacts manually.
How many memorable video ads about phones have you seen so far? Off the top of my head I can only think of just two recent ones, both released by Microsoft. The first one is from late-October, last year, and features Steve Ballmer discussing his HTC Windows Phone 8X and the second, unveiled little over a week ago, stars the Lumia 920 in an Android vs iOS fanboy war at a wedding.
Both videos are memorable in the sense that they allow us, the viewers, to actually relate to the folks presented in the two scenarios. We are users of different social networks, send and receive emails and messages each day, have friends who are Android or iOS fanboys and so on. Now, by contrast, Nokia's new Lumia 928 video ad is one of the weakest attempts at wooing viewers. It lacks any sort of panache or wit.
Microsoft fights an uphill battle against iOS and Android, but it is a war the company is determined to persevere in, especially given the latest TV ad, which is viral. Now within back-to-back days the mobile platform adds both Foursquare, Hulu and updated YouTube.
Today, an updated YouTube app joins the party, with Microsoft announcing a new version that allows pinning videos, playlists, channels, and search queries to Start as Live Tiles, gives new playlist design, plays videos in the background when the screen is locked (perfect for music videos) and makes easy video sharing to social sites. It even leverages the YouTube safety mode to keep the little ones from viewing unfit content. However, as my colleague Mihaita Bamburic points out, "You can't upload videos, sadly. That's a pretty basic feature, albeit one that's missing".
Even if you're not the biggest Windows Phone enthusiast I'm quite sure you have heard or read about the alleged Lumia 928 that Nokia is to unveil sometime soon. I will not bore you with the rumored specs, release date or carrier on which the device is assumed to surface, but can confirm that the Lumia 928 is definitely real.
The Finnish maker, likely to keep the rumors flowing, released a picture showcasing a device referred to as "the newest Nokia Lumia" smartphone. There is no reference of the name in the photo, but the link address clearly says Lumia 928.
Windows Phone remains well behind its biggest competition, iPhone and Android. But Microsoft is continuously looking for ways of changing the mobile landscape. A recent ad for the platform went viral and the company's app store continues to grow, along with new devices being released.
In fact, Microsoft's Todd Brix claims the company is "seeing strong results for the ecosystem since the launch of Windows Phone 8 with more than a 100% increase in app downloads and nearly 140% increase in paid app revenue".
"Hi, my name is Alan and I am..." okay, no, I'm not an alcoholic but I do love a good beer. I am especially a fan of dark brews -- stouts and porters. I have had the Untappd app on my Android phone for a while, and now those on Microsoft's mobile platform can partake in the fun.
Untappd launches today on Windows Phone, making drinking a social activity -- though perhaps it has always been that, except for George Thorogood. Untappd allows you to record all of the different brews you sample, discover new ones and even check-in as if it were Foursquare. The latter makes it easy to meet up with friends who are out imbibing.
Many people want Microsoft to die, and the sooner the better. I’m not in that group, although I understand that years upon years of letdowns through viruses, DLL hell, BSODs (Blue Screens of Death) and a myriad of other problems lead many in the tech world (and consumer world, too) to walk away from everything Microsoft. Add to that the growth of the Internet and mobile devices as well as slumping PC sales, and you can see why so many wait with baited breath to see the company go away for good.
Nevertheless, quarter after quarter Microsoft continues to prove that it still has life and isn't going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, in 2011, CEO Steve Ballmer explained how the company intends to reinvent around devices and services. Seeing that the growth of mobile devices and the services that support them represent the future of computing, Microsoft responds yet again to the changing world of computing.
With the purpose of further improving the user experience on Lumia smartphones, Nokia adds its own apps atop of Windows Phone 8. Most of the extra software is available to download directly from the Nokia collection inside the app store, but the remaining few are hidden from prying eyes.
When an update arrives, Lumia users can only wait for the Store app to display a counter and afterwards allow them to install the latest update. And, as Windows Phone users know, that can take some time -- a day or even longer sometimes. So what are your options? Well, you can look up QR codes and scan them or just use the LUMIA pusher app, which allows you to update every single extra right from your Lumia smartphone.
Well, it's May 1 somewhere, which perhaps explains why Switch to Windows Phone popped up on Google Play tonight with the date. The concept is simple: Microsoft tries to ease the transition between platforms, or at least help evaluate if such move is workable. But the app-matcher comes up short and can't resolve something more fundamental: People with money invested in apps won't be quick to rebuy them elsewhere.
StWF is easy enough to use once installed; letting it scan and match on my Nexus claims to match 85 percent of the Android apps. But like most of the people reviewing the app, there's no way I see to view the list. Could it be the app posted early and the supporting services aren't switched on, or did Microsoft simply muck up?
After using the Android and iOS counterparts, Facebook app for Windows Phone 8 feels rudimentary and out of place by comparison. Even though the interface takes some design cues from the operating system, it is not very intuitive, wastes too much screen estate and displays content in a visually unappealing way. The app would be rather nice, except 2010 has long passed.
Now Microsoft wants you to love the Facebook experience on Windows Phone 8, releasing a beta app that stands up against the Android and iOS alternatives. Gone is the infinite horizontal scrolling, now replaced by tabs that you might actually find useful. Swiping to the right reveals a tab to the left of the screen, containing a link to your profile, favorites, groups, friends, apps, settings, the usual policy information and a log-out button.
Windows Phone customers have options for driving apps -- both Bing and Nokia produce excellent solutions. Now one of the most intriguing options for Android and iOS is preparing for a push to the Microsoft mobile platform and impending competition with the existing solutions already in place.
Waze, which happens to be my GPS app of choice on Android, announces early beta testing on Windows Phone 8: "We are now opening a beta program for Windows Phone users and we'd like you to join" says the company in its announcement.
"Windows strength appears to be the ability to attract first time smartphone buyers, upgrading from a feature phone", Mary-Ann Parlato, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech analyst, says about the U.S. handset market for the three months ended in February. "Of those who changed their phone over the last year to a Windows smartphone, 52 percent had previously owned a feature phone".
End of story, or could be, if not for something else. Fifty-five percent of iOS buyers, and 51 percent for Android, are repeat smartphone purchasers. The two more popular platforms, while growing because of their larger bases, sell more to existing customers, which make up a more finite market. "With over half of the U.S. market still owning a feature phone, it’s likely that many will upgrade over the coming year, which will ultimately contribute to more growth for the Windows brand", Parlato emphasizes.
Honestly, gadget marketing doesn't get much better than this. Brilliant isn't strong enough to describe how fabulous and memorable is the new spot for Nokia Lumia 920. I showed the commercial to my wife, twice, and she laughed to tears both times -- and giggled for half an hour later.
If you watch nothing else today, make this video the one and only. I'm a sucker for good marketing, and this commercial works well on so many levels -- wedding setting, fanboyism and brilliant physical comedy -- I dare not dissect them and ruin the fun.
This is a question that I never thought I'd ask -- Is the hardware leaving Windows Phone 8 behind its fierce competition? In September last year, I asserted that "Windows Phone 8 is the best idea Microsoft has had in phone tech" after analyzing the new hardware requirements imposed by the software giant for its smartphone operating system. But as we all know eight months is a long time in the tech world.
This is a tough question to answer. After all, in January, BlackBerry unveiled the BlackBerry Z10 with pretty much the same hardware that was available for Windows Phone 8 at launch. Apple's iPhone 5 is also not far away in terms of specifications. So should Microsoft rest on its laurels and send the engineers on vacation? Well, no. As a smart man once said, "You can never have enough power". And even Windows Phone needs better hardware, although some die-hard fanboys would beg to differ.
Today, through its Beta Labs blog, Finnish maker Nokia announces a new experimental app for the Lumia Windows Phone lineup. Available only in a select number of markets, Nokia Chat for Windows Phone is designed to connect Lumia users with "friends who use Lumia, Asha, S40, and Symbian devices, and those using Yahoo! Messenger on other mobile devices and platforms".
Nokia Chat for Windows Phone is available to Lumia users in Australia, Canada, India, Nigeria, South Africa, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States. The Finnish manufacturer promises to expand availability "to more countries in the near future". So what does Nokia Chat for Windows Phone bring to the table for us Lumia users?