Every mobile operating system would have you believe that it has the best built in keyboard. It's clear that plenty of people disagree judging by the number of alternative keyboard apps that exist in the Windows Phone, Apple and Android stores. Sometimes even the best software keyboard isn't good enough, but few people are enamored with the idea of carrying around a full size Bluetooth keyboard.
There are numerous mobile keyboards that are particularly suitable for use with smartphones and tablets, and today at MWC in Barcelona, Microsoft threw its hat into the ring with the Universal Foldable Keyboard. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to a large money wallet, this svelte device connects via Bluetooth to whatever mobile device you happen to be using -- including the newly announced Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL.
As you’ll already know, the 2015 Mobile World Congress (MWC) is going on right now, and most of the big players are announcing and launching new handsets. Samsung and HTC have announced new versions of popular phones, and Microsoft (in the form of Stephen Elop, Julia White and Neil Broadley) is set to take to the stage imminently.
Thanks to a premature news posting on Sunday we already know some of what to expect. A headline that made its way into feeds tells us the tech giant will be revealing the Lumia 640 and 640 XL, devices which, the company says, will keep "you prepared for anything".
Windows Phone is a failure. Of course, the term "failure" is subjective, so let me explain. Very few consumers are buying them compared to Android and iPhone, and very few developers are creating apps for it. Yes, some people are buying them, and some talented developers are developing, but "some" does not make a success.
Ultimately, on all platforms -- desktops, mobile devices, game consoles, etc. -- it is the apps and games that move the hardware. Right now, there are no killer apps on Windows Phone compared to Android or iOS. In other words, what is the benefit of using Windows Phone to the average consumer? There arguably is none. Today, Microsoft chooses to proclaim that the platform is seeing "impressive growth". Like "failure", the word "impressive" is subjective, but I think everyone can agree, nothing about Microsoft's mobile platform is currently impressive.
Microsoft Garage is home to all manner of innovative projects from Microsoft employees, and today a new batch of projects has been unveiled. As Garage is a cross-platform venture, there are apps for Windows Phone, Android and desktop Windows, and the myriad tools cover everything from app development to the weather.
On the productivity front, Mouse Without Borders is a name that might seem familiar. Strictly speaking, this is a re-release rather than a new release, and the utility makes it possible to control up to four computers with a single keyboard and mouse by acting like a virtual KVM switch. If this isn’t your sort of thing, there are plenty more tools to explore.
The vast majority of consumers who embrace Windows Phone buy low-end smartphones, so it should not come as a surprise to see manufacturers launching even more inexpensive devices running the tiled operating system. After all, as I said a few months back, Windows Phone is synonymous with the low-end.
The latest such offerings come from Kazam, TrekStor and Xolo, vendors which may not have established brands across the globe, but which are better known in their home markets, UK, Germany and India respectively, for their affordable solutions.
Some of the features that have made Windows Phone special, differentiating it from its rivals, are slowly being stripped away. The latest victim is Rooms, which Microsoft has announced it will no longer be supporting starting next month. What a shame.
The software giant says that, as a result, users of Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1 will be unable to chat with their Room contacts, create new rooms, add or remove members, or change permissions. And, if they upgrade to Windows 10 Technical Preview, their beloved rooms will be gone forever.
When it comes to sharing photos services like Instagram and Flickr spring to mind, but there are countless others buried beneath the waves of information and programs available these days. Many fly under the radar, and some of those may be better than the big name alternative you're using.
All of that is not say that Microsoft's Xim is better -- that's simply a matter of personal taste. What I am saying is that you've likely never heard of it. The app has one simple mission -- "share your photos, not your phone". It goes a bit further, promising that the recipients of your shares don't need to have the app to view your images.
The chances are that you have tried out Windows 10 on your computer already and now -- at long last -- you have the opportunity to try it out on your Windows Phone. Windows Insiders can now grab the first public build of Microsoft's latest mobile operating system and try it out for themselves.
Windows Insiders have been eager to see what Microsoft has done with Windows Phone, and earlier today Gabe Aul cryptically hinted at when the first build would be released. Now it has gone live. As with all preview builds, this is far from a completed product, and there are a few caveats to bear in mind.
The Windows Phone Windows Insider App was recently updated, indicating that a mobile build of Windows 10 is imminent -- but when? Answering questions from eager users on Twitter, Microsoft's Gabriel Aul has given some cryptic hints about when the first preview of the successor to Windows Phone 8.1 will be launched.
Over the last few months Microsoft has been popping out new builds of Windows 10 left, right and center. While we now have a pretty good idea of how things are going to look and feel on the desktop, the same cannot be said of mobiles and tablets.
HERE Maps users on Android and Windows Phone are being treated to a major map update today, which expands the list of regions where turn-by-turn navigation is available, improves map quality in a number of regions, and increases the accuracy of public transit information in more cities, among other things.
In fact, Nokia claims that there are too many changes in this update to list individually, but says that they impact users all over the globe. Let's take a look at the biggest changes.
Nokia Lumia Icon is among the last Windows Phones to receive a software update to Windows Phone 8.1, despite its flagship credentials. But this shouldn't surprise anyone. After all, Lumia Icon features Verizon's logo. And we all know that big red is not exactly quick with updates.
In fact, despite being a Verizon exclusive, Lumia Icon is long gone from the carrier's portfolio. Talk about support there! The only Windows Phones Verizon sells now are HTC One (M8) for Windows and Samsung ATIV SE. Still, Lumia Icon will at least get Lumia Denim, which is based on Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, quite possibly before any other high-end Windows Phone in US.
There is no doubt in my mind that Microsoft really wants to make Windows 10 available for as many Windows Phone 8.1 devices as possible. The software giant envisions a future when "the idea of asking 'What version are you on?' will cease to make sense" -- that can only be achieved by getting existing users on board through software updates.
However, it would seem that hardware limitations are getting in the way. The vast majority of smartphones running Windows Phone 8.1 are low-spec devices, packing just 512 MB of RAM. Their meager hardware may not be able to handle all of Windows 10's features, according to Microsoft's Joe Belfiore.
The latest figures published by Kantar Worldpanel show that US sales of iOS devices are outpacing those of Android handsets. Just. Buoyed by the launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple saw sales figures rising across Europe, the US and in China, with the smaller of its two smartphones proving to be the best-selling handset in the US.
Overall, iOS devices accounted for 47.7 percent of smartphone sales, just managing to edge ahead of Android which dropped slightly to a 47.6 percent market share. The holiday period was key to this switch in popularity, as the iPhone 6 proved the most popular gift in 2014. But it's not just in the US that Android is losing its grip on the market.
We're gradually moving towards the official release of Windows 10, but in the meantime we have the Technical Preview to work with -- Build 9926 specifically. As we're only at the preview stage, it is to be expected that there will be a few issues here and there.
The good news is that Microsoft is working on fixing these problems, not just for the eventual RTM release of Windows 10, but also the preview builds. Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 3 owners complained about problems with stability when watching videos, and this has been addressed with a driver update.
Samsung is no longer the leading smartphone vendor. According to a new report from Strategy Analytics, Apple caught up with the South Korean maker in Q4 2014, thanks to a record number of iPhone shipments totaling 74.5 million units. The two players now share the top spot on the podium.
How did it come to this? Well, it's simple. Apple's shipments increased from 51 million units by 46.07 percent year-over-year, while Samsung's shipments decreased from 86 million units by 13.37 percent, each converging to 19.6 percent market share. Thanks to the strong performance shown by iPhones, iOS' market share rose also, to 19.6 percent from 17.6 percent a year prior, while Android's market share dipped slightly to 76.7 percent from 78.3 percent.