Qi is one of the most popular wireless charging standards, used by many companies in devices like chargers, speakers, smartphones and tablets. It adds convenience to such products, giving users the option to top up the battery on their handsets without plugging cables into them. I personally use a Qi wireless charger, made by Nokia, with my Lumia 920 and Google Nexus 7.
One of the hurdles Qi has to overcome to become more popular and attractive to consumers is mass-market support from key players, like smartphone vendors and mobile operators, which can dictate which standard they embrace. Qi appears to be on the right track, as it just added Microsoft and Samsung to its growing list of supporters.
Whenever a pundit brings up apps as an irrefutable argument for Windows Phone weaknesses, platform fanboys and apologists quickly point out they could not care less about whatever the Store is then lacking. They may also say that there already are good alternatives available, and major titles -- that are popular on Android and iOS -- are not really that important, when you have live tiles to look at all day. Basically, such an argument is, therefore, a pathetic excuse to bash their beloved platform.
Instagram? "No, thanks, that is for hipsters". Candy Crush? "I do not need that lame game on my Windows Phone as there are better ones available". "Oh, and you are an iPhone/Android fanboy for mentioning this!". You get the gist. But after we get off the comments train, we see that whenever Windows Phone gets a popular app, it quickly rises to the top of the Store. Yes, these users, of which I am proud to be one, do crave major titles, just like everyone else.
Windows Phone may be seeing new, popular titles launched in Store, like Facebook Messenger, Instagram and Vine, but the tiled smartphone operating system continues to lack some notable apps. The reason is major developers are still waiting for the platform to gain more traction before committing.
YouTube is absent, but there are a couple of good clients available that nearly make up for it. But, when it comes to Dropbox a decent selection is virtually non-existent. Part of the reason is the cloud storage service is focusing its resources in mobile on Android and iOS, like many other major companies, and (probably the majority of) Windows Phone users are in OneDrive's backyard already, whether they like it or not. But, if they choose to embrace Dropbox now they can turn to CloudSix for Dropbox.
Windows Phone head Joe Belfiore spoke last year of the Windows Phone app gap, claiming that it would end before the start of 2014. Unfortunately for the platform, that has not turned out to be accurate as there are still lots of great titles that are either missing from Store or offered in a half-baked version on the tiled operating system. The good news is the app gap is actually closing, albeit slowly (and not anytime soon).
Microsoft revealed at MWC 2014 Facebook Messenger will launch on Windows Phone, and the app is finally available in Store today. This is one of the most important wins for the platform, as the service is hugely popular in many markets.
This is a personal account of the way I have noticed the technology markets changing over the years. It is not gospel, and you are welcome (encouraged, if you like) to disagree… It's not all that long ago that brand loyalty was a given; it was almost the default setting for many people. If you got into computing -- and it was something you "got into" rather than just having as part of your life -- you stuck loyally to whatever brand you chose at the start. We could go back to the 70s and look at the birth of personal computing, but as this is my personal account, we'll have to start in the 80s.
I did just manage to sneak into the 70s -- being born in 1979 puts me in the difficult-to-comprehend position of being 34 years old but having seen five decades -- but an interest in computing didn't emerge until some time in the late 80s. I remember there being several computing camps: BBC, Amstrad, Spectrum, Vic and Commodore to name a few. My decision was made for me at an early age when my dad decided to invest in a Commodore 16 Plus 4 (the Plus 4 referring to the fact that the OS featured four built-in applications including a spreadsheet tool, the absurd simplicity of which was not lost on me even at a young age).
When Nokia officially unveiled its X smartphones it was clear the Finnish company intended its new Android lineup to look similar to Lumia Windows Phones. The internals may be on the low-end side, but the hardware design looks just as premium, undoubtedly aided by the funky colors, and the software... well, the homescreen interface resembles the Windows Phone tiles, which is the dead giveaway as far as this writer can tell.
Some may rightfully point out that X smartphones are superior to Lumias in one major area -- apps. Courtesy of the mature Android ecosystem, Nokia's droids are compatible with hundreds of thousands of offerings, which is more than Windows Phone can tout. It would make sense for Nokia to encourage developers to make their apps more like those on Windows Phone to warm repeat customers to the idea of upgrading to one of its higher-end smartphones, which run Microsoft's tiled operating system. But, Nokia has other plans.
In late-October 2012 Microsoft released Windows Phone 8. Today, it is still the latest available iteration, more than a year after its arrival. Some would say its feature set was outdated when it launched, more so now as both rivals, Android and iOS, have been improved multiple times since, pushing them further ahead of Microsoft's own competitor.
Windows Phone 8.1 is Microsoft's chance to finally catch up to Android and iOS in the feature department, and, for the first time, give its offering a tangible advantage over its more popular adversaries. Windows Phone 8.1 appears to be long overdue when we consider that Android and iOS see one or two major updates each year, and their feature sets are really cutting edge. We know Microsoft revealed that its new smartphone operating system will launch this spring, so let us take a look at what it is known to bring to the table.
Even though Windows Phone is definitely making inroads and is considered to be the fastest-growing smartphone operating system, in 2013 its market share came in at less than 4 percent, according to research firms IDC and Strategy Analytics. Consumers are (still) much in love with Android smartphones and iPhones, giving Windows Phone too little attention.
In its latest smartphone market forecast, IDC claims that Windows Phone will still lurk in the shadows four years from now, as its market share in 2018 is estimated to climb to just seven percent. Shipments of devices running the tiled mobile OS are expected to reach 121.8 million units, which would be a huge improvement over the roughly 35 million units in 2013, but still not nearly enough to catch up to Apple's iPhones or Android smartphones, which shipments IDC estimates will reach 249.6 and 1,321.1 million units, respectively.
Due to its low market share, Windows Phone is not a popular target for malware writers, which gives users a sense of security. Whether that is genuine or false it remains to be seen, but, for the time being, the platform can be considered devoid of any malware.
Like iOS, Windows Phone limits what users, and apps, can do to increase security, which is also one of the reasons why malware is not running rampant. This is achieved through a number of dedicated features, like sandboxing. However, the operating system cannot keep users from visiting the darker corners of the InterWebs, or keep them safe from potential risks while doing so. Russian security company Kaspersky has decided to take matters into its own hands, and help those who navigate to suspicious or unsafe websites, by launching Safe Browser.
Nokia's underwhelming Lumia sales from Q4 2013 had a negative impact on Windows Phone's momentum in the most important part of last year. The disappointing performance continues as, sadly, the growth of the platform's market share stalled in the three months ending January 2014, according to a new report issued by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, compared to Q4 2013.
Compared to the three months ending January 2013, Windows Phone actually posted higher year-over-year market shares in most major markets. But, its performance is more or less flat when we take into account the Q4 2013 results. The exception to the rule is US, where the tiled smartphone operating system managed to increase its share, albeit slightly, in the three months ending January 2014, when compared to the same period of last year and Q4 2013.
Windows Phone is off to a good start in 2014. Microsoft just announced that more smartphone vendors will embrace its tiled operating system, and extended the hardware support to include more Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. A new iteration is reported to arrive shortly, to bring its feature set on par with those of its main rivals, Android and iOS.
And, today, BlackBerry announces that it will bring its BBM service to Windows Phone. "BBM continues to grow in popularity as millions of people use our mobile platform for chatting and connecting with friends or colleagues, and we are very excited that we will soon welcome Windows Phone and Nokia X users to the BBM community", says BlackBerry Global Enterprise Solutions president John Sims. Also, Adobe's Photoshop Express will soon be offered on the platform as well, after reaching Android and iOS first.
While Android is utilized by a cornucopia of handset manufacturers, Windows Phone is primarily a Nokia-only affair. Sure, there are other manufacturers that use Microsoft's mobile OS, such as HTC and Samsung, but let's be honest -- if you buy a Windows Phone, you want a Nokia. For a company like Apple, being the sole manufacturer of iOS is by design. However, Microsoft's business has always been about working with as many hardware partners as possible.
Today, Microsoft announces a return to form with nine new hardware partners. However, that is not all -- additional internal hardware is getting support too. Does this signal the possibility of a dual-boot Windows Phone/Android device?
The Nokia Lumia Icon is an interesting smartphone, and an interesting Windows Phone alike. It offers Qualcomm's top-of-the-line processor, plenty of internal storage, a good camera and a 1080p display, all in an attractive package. But it is not available for your carrier, unless it is called Verizon. Hey, you know Nokia, the company loves exclusives.
Microsoft's and Verizon's stores now carry the Lumia Icon, just a week after it was officially unveiled (but we knew the details long before the announcement). The smartphone can be had, in either black or white, for the usual, flagship-price of $199.99 when purchased on a two-year contract. It can also be had with a month-to-month contract, for $549.99, or an Edge plan, for $23.06 per month.
That is the message Finnish maker Nokia tries to convey with its new Treasure Tag accessory. It is designed to be used in conjunction with the accompanying mobile app that is exclusively available for the company's Windows Phone 8 lineup, running the Lumia Black firmware which started to roll out earlier this year worldwide.
Nokia Treasure Tag is a small device, that comes in at 30 x 30 x 10 mm and 13 grams, which leverages Bluetooth and NFC (Near Field Communication) to communicate the position of the item it is linked to (attached) to a compatible Lumia smartphone. A common use for the nifty accessory will likely be attachment to the car and house keys (as shown in the marketing pic displayed in this post).
Audible notifications coming from mobile devices can be annoying in some situations, as they can distract us and bother others. Being informed of a new message on Facebook or a reminder to start playing a game again are some things we can postpone knowing about in the middle of the night or an important business meeting. Some companies offer a feature on their devices that allows users to mute sounds during a certain period of time.
Apple offers this under the name Do Not Disturb on its devices, while some Android vendors and Microsoft refer to it as Quiet Hours. Even though Windows 8.1 offers such a feature, Windows Phone has yet to see a similar implementation. But, fret not, as quiet hours can be brought to the tiled smartphone operating system via third-party apps.