Fifth in a series. Two years ago today, I stepped away from Apple, following a boycott later abandoned. My problems were philosophical, regarding the company's aggressive patent litigation that thwarts innovation. This July Fourth I seek freedom from Google, and not for the first time. I don't oppose the search and information giant, nor like fanboy rally for it. I declare independence as a practical exercise; an experiment. Can you -- OK, I -- do without Big G's expansive portfolio of products and services? I want to know.
In many regards, Google is the Internet gatekeeper U.S. trustbusters asserted Microsoft would be, in their late-1990s court case. Big G is unquestionably a monopoly that integrates features and products for competitive gain. In the United States, Google's search share is about 67 percent (3.5 times greater than second-ranked Microsoft), according to ComScore, and as much as 90 percent in some countries. Android's worldwide smartphone share is about 80 percent, according to IDC.
As the third-most popular smartphone platform, it is difficult for Windows Phone to attract as many top developers as Android and iOS do through its tiny market share. As a result, it is not uncommon for popular titles to be unavailable in Store long after their launch on Google Play and Apple App Store. Sometimes, popular titles do not arrive at all. It is a sad state of affairs, as it directly affects the reach Microsoft's platform can enjoy. But, wait, it gets worse.
A new comparison reveals that of the 25 top free offerings in Apple App Store, Windows Phone Store only offers six of them: Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Facebook, Pandora, Spotify, and WhatsApp. Of the remaining 19 titles, 13 are games. I honestly expected to see Windows Phone missing a couple of apps, but definitely not as many. Put differently, 76 percent of the 25 top free iOS apps are not available officially on Windows Phone. It is surreal.
Communication tools have evolved so much in the past couple of years alone, with developers adding even more features and improving existing ones to allow us to better communicate and understand each other. Improved voice and video calls? Group chats? Instant translations? New, cooler emoticons? You bet!
On the other hand, we have chat app Yo, which, instead of trying to offer more than the rest of the growing pack, is trying to differentiate itself by giving users as little features as possible -- they can only say "Yo". It launched nearly two weeks ago for Android and iOS, and now it arrives on Windows Phone too.
In April, Microsoft concluded acquisition of Nokia's Devices and Services division, announced in September 2013. With ownership comes responsibility, which starts with Microsoft preserving and reviving an iconic brand. Before the phone maker fumbled touchscreen smartphone market, the brand dominated the world -- commanding overwhelming cellular handset market share across Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America.
Some competitors strayed from the path Microsoft follows. For example, Google wrongly sold Motorola to Lenovo, which is reason for big smiles up Redmond, Wash. way. Hardware's research and development value to software and services cannot be overstated. Apple gets it, and I thought Big G did, too. Nokia is a vitally important asset to Microsoft that goes way beyond Windows Phone.
Samsung Galaxy S5 may face stiff competition from the likes of HTC One (M8), LG G3 and Sony Xperia Z2, but it is doing quite well sales-wise in major markets, according to a report released today by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. Apple's older iPhone 5s, however, still edges ahead.
"In the USA the Samsung Galaxy S5 was the second highest selling smartphone in May just behind the iPhone 5s", says Kantar Worldpanel ComTech global strategic insight director Dominic Sunnebo. "Apple loyalty is high in the US, with former iPhone owners making up just 8 percent of Galaxy S5 sales. The majority of those switching to Samsung were LG and HTC users".
In the absence of proper folder support, a number of Windows Phone developers -- including Nokia -- have decided to take matters into their own hands, by releasing apps that give users the option to group live tiles on the Windows Phone 8 homescreen. The results are not folders, however.
The live tiles that are created are just shortcuts which open the app enabling the feature. The grouped items are displayed within that app. Welcome to Windows Phone-style faux-folders. The reason why the feature is missing out-of-the-box, even in Windows Phone 8.1, is because Microsoft has decided not to implement it, likely because the tiled operating system is meant to be experienced without folders.
As you may already know, Windows Phone 8.1 was showcased by Microsoft in early-April. The presentation was shortly followed by the introduction of three smartphones running the new tiled operating system, namely Nokia Lumia 630, Lumia 635 and Lumia 930, of which only the first has launched.
Because Windows Phone 8.1 is a huge upgrade over its dated predecessor, Windows Phone 8 users, naturally, want to know when the upgrade will officially roll out. The latest iteration is already offered to members of the Preview for Developers program, but, believe it or not, not to the Windows Phone 8-toting public, who makes up for the large majority of Windows Phone customers.
Being number three can be good. In the Olympics, it is good enough for a bronze medal. However, there are different levels of third place, as it depends on how many competitors there are.
When it comes to smartphones, Windows Phone is a distant third in a race that only has three legitimate competitors, with iPhone and Android being the other two. Microsoft’s platform however, is making huge strides and today gets two premium apps -- Adobe Photoshop Express and Roku. Apple and Google should be worried.
Some people say Google is better than Bing, and maybe they are right. However, that is a subjective statement. What they really mean to say is that Google is better for them. In reality they are both great search engines with different pros and cons. My favorite aspect of Microsoft's search engine is Bing Rewards -- a program that rewards users for searching. Hell, if you are searching anyways, why not get rewarded?
Sadly, Microsoft released a Bing Rewards app for Android and iOS, but not its own Windows Phone platform. This was hugely disappointing for users of Microsoft's mobile operating system, including myself. Today, Microsoft levels the playing field and makes it available for Windows Phone too.
Microsoft has realized that the only way to get more vendors to embrace Windows Phone is to make it easier for them to release Windows Phones. And that decision is paying off if its most-recent partnerships are of any indication.
Allview and Hisense, two vendors that target specific markets using low-cost devices, are now supporting the platform. The former, a Romanian company, has unveiled two new Windows Phones while the latter, which is based in China, has teased its newfound affinity for the tiled smartphone operating system on microblogging site Sina Weibo.
"Abandonware". It’s the scourge of the industry. Every time a vendor abandons a software product, a puppy dies. Or an orphan. Or a Java developer.
Regardless, nobody likes to see their favorite app/game/platform get left behind. It’s the worst kind of techie betrayal. You spend days, weeks or even months mastering a product only to have the virtual rug pulled out from under you.
Both Microsoft and Google have agreed to add a kill switch their mobile operating systems. Following an agreement with the New York Attorney General, the next versions of Windows Phone and Android will include a feature that will render handsets useless if they are stolen. The attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, published a report yesterday outlining the importance of such a feature, and revealed that two of the biggest names in technology are on-board.
It's something that authorities have been calling for for some time now, citing the sheer number of mobile phone thefts taking place around the world. Schneiderman's report points to Apple as proof of the efficacy of a kill switch. Thefts of iPhones dropped by 17 percent in New York City after the introduction of a remote wiping and locking feature. The Secure Our Smartphones report took fire at Samsung. The company had opted not to include a kill switch, and thefts of Samsung handsets jumped by 40 percent in NYC. "Reactivation Lock" has since been implemented on a small number of new Galaxy handsets.
Microsoft has figured out a way of making wireless charging readily available wherever you go. While that may sound futuristic, it actually is far from it in fact. All you need is the right pair of pants.
Microsoft has teamed up with British designer A. Sauvage to bring the convenience of wireless charging in the "Modern Man" trousers, which are part of "London Collections". The technology bit is achieved by making (clever) use of the Nokia DC-50 wireless charging plate, which is based on the popular Qi standard.
The Lumia Cyan software upgrade, which is set to roll out this summer, brings Windows Phone 8.1 to the crop of Nokia-branded Windows Phone 8 smartphones. Hardly surprising, the latest firmware will come bearing other gifts on top of a better operating system, among which are a slew of changes designed to squeeze extra performance out of high-end PureView cameras.
In a Q&A session on Nokia Conversations, when asked about the firmware's imaging changes, Microsoft's Juha Alakarhu reveals that the Lumia Icon, Lumia 930 and Lumia 1520 cameras are the Windows Phone 8, PureView-equipped devices that benefit from Lumia Cyan. Here are the sort of improvements users can expect to see.
Manufacturer support is key for Windows Phone in the ongoing battle against its more popular rivals, Android and iOS, as it needs a more diversified handset portfolio to successfully cater to the needs of a wider range of consumers, most of whom are not part of its growing user base. The platform is heading in the right direction though, as, since earlier this year, Microsoft announced a significant number of new partnerships, some of which have already borne fruit at Computex.
Indian smartphone maker Micromax, which is the second-largest vendor in its home market, is the latest new partner to add to the Windows Phone collection. The company just announced the Canvas Win W121 and Canvas Win W092, which are similar in specifications to the Nokia Lumia 630 and Lumia 525, respectively.