Phone Scoop

printed March 26, 2015
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Windows Phone is the smartphone platform and OS from Microsoft. Like Google does with Android, Microsoft only makes the software, allowing various hardware manufacturers to make the phones that run Windows Phone. Windows Phone replaced the older Windows Mobile (Professional and Standard editions.) Windows Phone competes directly with iOS and Android, offering most of the same OS features.

by:  Microsoft


Lumia 640 Landing At T-Mobile In Near Future

Yesterday, 2:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile recently added the Microsoft Lumia 640 to its web site and described the device as "coming soon." Microsoft revealed the Lumia 640 at Mobile World Congress earlier this month. The phone has a 5-inch HD screen, 8-megapixel camera, LTE, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and Microsoft's productivity apps. The Lumia 640 will ship with Windows 8.1, but can be upgraded to the full version of Windows 10 later this year. T-Mobile didn't disclose exact availability or pricing, but Microsoft said the phone will reach stores in April for about $180. AT&T and MetroPCS also plan to sell the Lumia 640.


Opera Brings Mini Browser to Windows Phone

Yesterday, 7:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera today released a beta version of its Opera Mini browser for the Windows platform. Opera Mini for Windows offers many of the app's core features, such as Speed Dial for favorites and easy-to-navigate tabs. Since Opera Mini uses Opera's server-side compression, web sites should load faster of mobile handsets and consume less data. Opera claims its compression can cut web site size down by as much as 90%. The browser offers large buttons, makes it easy to share content to social networks, and maintains users' privacy and security. Opera Mini is ideal for people who have limited data plans. Opera Mini beta for Windows is free to download from the Windows Store.


Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Developer Toolkit

Monday, 3:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made a software developer kit available to developers interested in creating apps for the forthcoming Windows 10 platform. The SDK requires users to be a member of the Windows Insider Program and have the latest build of the Windows 10 Technical Preview, as well as a handful of other apps. By releasing the SDK, Microsoft is essentially asking developers to start coding Windows 10 applications for Windows PCs, tablets, and phones. Microsoft expects to release Windows 10 this summer and will want a healthy supply of apps available for the new platform when it arrives. The SDK arrives about a month before Microsoft plans to hold its annual Build developer conference. More details are expected to surface at that time.


Microsoft Enables Music Playback from OneDrive

Mar 19, 2015, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made it possible for people to access their personal music collections from OneDrive across their Windows devices with the Xbox Music app. A new "music" folder has been added to OneDrive. Any music stored in that folder will be available in users' Xbox Music apps for Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1, the Xbox 360/One, and via the web. The OneDrive music service doesn't require Microsoft's Xbox Music Pass, but customers who do have the pass will gain 100GB of OneDrive storage for their music.


Lumia 430 Most Affordable Windows Phone Yet

Mar 19, 2015, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced the Lumia 430, an entry-level smartphone that will be among those updated to Windows 10. The Lumia 430 features a 4-inch WVGA screen; 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200 processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage; 2-megapixel main camera and VGA user-facing camera; and 1,500mAh battery. The Lumia 430 runs Windows 8.1 with the Denim update installed and will be updated to Windows 10 later this year. The Lumia 430 supports dual SIM cards and costs approximately $70.


Microsoft Says Windows 10 Arriving This Summer

Mar 18, 2015, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made a number of announcements regarding Windows 10, including details about its arrival. Microsoft will make Windows 10 available to smartphones, tablets, and PCs "this summer." Previously, Microsoft had only committed to "later this year." In addition to the timetable, Microsoft announced a commitment from Lenovo that will the see the company bring Windows 10 phones to market (in China) by the middle of the year. Further, Microsoft is helping Xiaomi create a downloadable technical preview of Windows 10 that owners of the Xiaomi Mi Note 4 will be able to install on their Android phones and test. Microsoft and Qualcomm today introduced the DragonBoard 410C. It is a developer board for Windows 10 with integrated WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and Snapdragon 410 chipset. (Qualcomm recently released an Android version of the developer board, too.) At launch, Windows 10 will be available in 190 countries and 111 languages. More details will emerge at Microsoft's Build conference, scheduled for late April.


Microsoft Adding Biometric Security Support to Windows 10

Mar 17, 2015, 12:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 17, 2015, 12:26 PM

Microsoft today said Windows 10 will natively support biometric security measures, such as fingerprints, retina scans, or facial recognition. Microsoft's biometric authentication service is called Windows Hello and it will be available to PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Microsoft believes these measures can be more secure than passwords, as they are truly unique to individual users. Windows Hello can be used to authenticate devices, network access, and app access. Moreover, Microsoft is offering a tool called Passport to developers and IT admins, who will be able to add biometric support to their own apps, sites, and services so users will never have to use a password to log in. Windows 10 is set to debut later this year. Biometric support has been available to Windows devices for a decade or more, but only through third-party hardware and software support. Microsoft's competitors, including Apple, HTC, and Samsung, have added fingerprint scanners to their smartphones in recent years.


Microsoft Working On Version of Cortana for Android and iOS

Mar 13, 2015, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is preparing to make its Cortana personal assistant software available as a stand-alone application to the Android and iOS platforms later this year, reports Reuters. Microsoft is already developing an improved version of Cortana for its forthcoming Windows 10 desktop, tablet, and phone operating system, expected this fall. Microsoft is culling research from an artificial intelligence project called Einstein to improve Cortana's predictive and conversational abilities. "This kind of technology, which can read and understand email, will play a central role in the next roll out of Cortana, which we are working on now for the fall time frame," said Eric Horvitz, managing director of Microsoft Research, in an interview with Reuters. Microsoft believes Cortana's abilities can surpass those of its rivals, Google Now on Android phones and Siri on iPhones. "We're defining the competitive landscape of who can provide the most supportive services that make life easier, keep track of things, that complement human memory in a way that helps us get things done," said Horvitz. Microsoft envisions Cortana becoming more capable with respect to helping users by anticipating their needs. Google and Apple have taken similar steps with Google Now and Siri, respectively. Google Now is adept at providing just-in-time reminders and details in the form of cards, but Siri is more limited to responding to direct requests. Horvitz did not confirm Microsoft's intent to bring Cortana to Android and iOS, but Reuters says people familiar with Microsoft's plans are certain it will appear after Windows 10's debut later this year. Microsoft has made an aggressive push over the last year to port key applications to the Android and iOS platforms, such as Microsoft Office. Bringing Cortana to Android and iOS would fit in with the pattern of Microsoft's behavior.


Intel Shows Off New Atom Processors and LTE Modem

Mar 2, 2015, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Intel today revealed its roadmap for 2015, which includes three new Atom mobile processors called the x3, x5, and x7, in addition to a new LTE modem. The Atom x3 is a system-on-a-chip complete with a modem and is meant for volume devices. There will be versions supporting 3G and LTE 4G. The 64-bit processor is ideal for smartphones, phablets, and tablets, says Intel. It can support Android and Windows, and camera configurations as large as 13 megapixels / 5 megapixels. The x3 will be available in dual- and quad-core variants with Mali graphics chips. The Atom x5 and x7 are meant for more powerful machines and are capable of running both Android and the full desktop version of Windows. These SoCs use Intel's 14nm processes and support 64-bit computing. They can handle up to Cat 6 LTE and Intel Gen 8 graphics. The x7 offers improved 3D performance for gaming, too. Intel expects to see the Atom x3, x5, and x7 reach consumer devices during the first half of the year. Last, Intel announced the XMM 7360 LTE modem. It supports carrier aggregation and LTE downlink speeds up to 450Mbps. It supports 29 different cellular bands, LTE Broadcast, VoLTE, and dual-SIM devices. It uses envelope tracking to improve power efficiency. The XMM 7360 can be prepackaged with Intel's WiFi, GPS/GLONASS, and NFC connectivity options. Intel expects to see devices with the XMM 7360 reach consumers during the second half of the year.


Hands-On: Microsoft Lumia 640 and 640 XL

Mar 2, 2015, 4:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft debuted another pair of mid-range handsets in the long buildup to Windows 10. The Lumia 640 and 640 XL are worthy update to the 635 and 1320, but they leaving us aching for a new flagship from Microsoft.

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Lumia 640 XL Offers More for Phablet Lovers

Mar 2, 2015, 2:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 2, 2015, 3:05 AM

Microsoft today announced the Lumia 640 XL, a larger version of the Lumia 640. The screen is stretched to 5.7 inches, the camera is improved to 13 megapixels, and the battery is slightly bigger, as well. It includes Microsoft's standard set of productivity apps and supports LTE 4G. It will ship with Windows 8.1, but can be upgraded to the full version of Windows 10. The Lumia 640 XL will be available in April from AT&T, T-Mobile, and MetroPCS in the U.S. Microsoft said it will include a one-year subscription to Office 365, 1TB of OneDrive storage, and 60 Skype world minutes. The price will be approximately $245.


Microsoft Demonstrates More Windows 10 Features

Mar 2, 2015, 2:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 2, 2015, 2:58 AM

Microsoft today revealed more features specific to the smartphone version of Windows 10. For example, Skype integration will return to the native messaging application. The device will expand the number of tools available in the action center from four to 12, and newly-installed apps will appear at the top of the app menu listing. The company talked up the Project Spartan browser, which Microsoft says will adapt to whichever type of device on which it is running. One new feature is a Reading List view, which simplifies the layout of web articles to make them easier to read. Project Spartan is a universal app, meaning it runs similarly across all Windows devices. The company also demonstrated how HERE Maps works on the Surface and can easily transition to other form factors, such as PCs and smartphones. Reminders set in Cortana will sync across all Windows 10 devices, no matter which device was used to create the Cortana reminder. Further, Cortana's Notebook feature will be better at making suggestions based on the user's interests. Microsoft also spent some time showing off the email application, which makes it easy to flag or archive messages, set calendar appointments, highlight and select text, as well as loop in colleagues for threaded conversations. Windows 10 is available as a technical preview to select Lumia devices, but isn't expected to reach all phones until later this year.

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Microsoft Commits to Windows 10 Flagship Later This Year

Mar 2, 2015, 2:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said it has a range of new Windows 10 handsets prepared for debut later this year, including a new flagship device scheduled for mid-year. Microsoft hasn't released a flagship Lumia phone in over a year.

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Microsoft Announces the Lumia 640

Mar 2, 2015, 2:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 2, 2015, 3:08 AM

Microsoft today announced the Lumia 640, a new Windows Phone. It has colorful and interchangeable rear shells. It includes Microsoft's standard set of productivity apps and supports LTE 4G. The 2,500mAh will last all day, says Microsoft. The phone has a 5-inch HD screen and supports single- and dual-sim configurations. The camera captures 8-megapixle image. It will ship with Windows 8.1, but can be upgraded to the full version of Windows 10. The Lumia 640 will be available in April. The price will be approximately $178.


BlackBerry Repackaging Device Management Suite

Mar 1, 2015, 5:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today announced the BlackBerry Experience Suite, a package of software that will help businesses manage their Android, iOS, and Windows smartphones and tablets. The suite will take form in three distinct services: Productivity, Communications and Collaboration, and Security. "We want to empower all mobile professionals in order to supercharge their productivity and allow them to work across all their devices in an effortless and secure way," said BlackBerry. BlackBerry plans to sell these three products separately or together to corporations. BlackBerry plans to ship the BlackBerry Experience Suite later this year.


OneDrive for Windows Grabs New Security Features

Feb 26, 2015, 12:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a modest update to its OneDrive application for Windows Phone handsets. OneDrive now allows users to sign in with multiple Microsoft accounts on a single device. It also adds PIN code protection to prevent people from intentionally or inadvertently accessing, changing, or deleting files. Last, the app adds the ability to create and manage photo albums (different from folders) directly on the handset. Microsoft says the albums can contain photos from any folder in OneDrive and can be easily shared with others. OneDrive for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.


Google to Kill Windows Phone Softcard App

Feb 25, 2015, 1:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Softcard today indicated that the Windows Phone version of the Softcard mobile payment application will be discontinued. "The Softcard for Windows Phone app will be terminated. A specific termination date will be provided soon," said Softcard in a statement on a new FAQ web site published today. Softcard was developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Supported devices, including a handful of Windows Phones sold by AT&T and Verizon, can use Softcard to make tap-and-go mobile payments at participating retailers. Google purchased Softcard's assets from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon earlier this week to bolster its own Google Wallet application. The three carriers have agreed to preload Google Wallet on their Android handsets moving forward. Wallet competed with Softcard. Softcard didn't indicate how soon the Windows Phone app will be deactivated. Without it, Windows Phone handsets won't have the same mobile payment options available to Android and iOS devices.


Microsoft to Let Developers Add OneDrive to Their Apps

Feb 24, 2015, 1:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released an API for its cloud-based OneDrive storage service. The API will allow third-party app developers to add OneDrive access and features, such as file retrieval and uploads, to their own applications. The API is compatible with Windows, Android, and iOS devices, in addition to desktop web browsers. Microsoft said it will use the API internally with its own apps to "ensures that everyone is building on the platform with the same set of tools." When Microsoft adds new features to the API, developers will have immediate access to them. Microsoft has spent the last year expanding the availability of its core apps and services across platforms. This is the latest step in its more open strategy.


Microsoft to Close the Door On Windows Phone's 'Rooms'

Feb 17, 2015, 5:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has begun informing owners of Windows Phone handsets that it will discontinue the Rooms feature in March. Users will still be able to see their rooms, as well as use existing photo albums, calendars, and notes, but users won't be able to create new rooms or change permissions in existing rooms. The chat function will be disabled, as well. Rooms were added to Windows Phone 8 as a way for small groups to communicate and share information. Microsoft noted that Rooms will not be available in Windows 10, including the technical preview, which is already available to select devices.


iPhone Users Can Now Store Office Documents In iCloud

Feb 17, 2015, 10:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced several new features for its Office suite of productivity apps. First and foremost, third-party cloud providers can now integrate their own services into the "locations picker" in the iOS Office apps. This means mobile device users can open, edit, and save their documents to any cloud service. Apple's iCloud is the first to receive this support, so iPhone and iPad users can store their mobile Office documents in iCloud. Microsoft said it plans to bring this feature to the Windows and Android versions of Office soon. Further, Microsoft is making it possible for cloud storage providers to weave Office Online into their own mobile applications. Microsoft's vision here is to let people open, view, and edit their online documents from any browser on any device. Microsoft said Box, Citrix, and Salesforce are already working on this level of integration. Microsoft has dramatically increased the availability of Office to mobile devices in recent months with the hopes that people and businesses will continue to use its productivity suite rather than competing products from Apple and Google.


Windows 10 Preview for Phones Now Available

Feb 12, 2015, 12:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 12, 2015, 1:27 PM

The technical preview for Windows 10 on smartphones is available beginning today, according to Microsoft employees. "Okay, Windows Insiders, you've all been patient enough. Today is the day for Win10 Technical Preview for phones," tweeted Gabriel Aul. Aul's comments were echoed by Microsoft's Joe Belfiore. He said, "Who's ready!? Who's ready!? Now remember, these bits are early! Still lots of work to do, but still, this will be fun." In order to access the technical preview of Windows 10 for phones, interested parties will need to be part of the Windows Insider program (free to join). According to the documentation available through Windows Insider, the Lumia 630, 635, 636, 638, 730, and Lumia 830 are compatible with the technical preview. At the moment, Microsoft's flagship handsets, the Lumia 1520 and Lumia 930, cannot install the Windows 10 preview. Owners of these handsets will need to have the Windows Insider app installed on their phone before they can proceed. Microsoft's Belfiore said the company will add features and more handsets to the technical preview over time. The Technical Preview is not for everyday people. It is an unfinished version of the operating system meant for testing purposes. Microsoft isn't expected to deliver the final version of Windows 10 to PCs, tablets, and smartphones until the summer months.


Nokia Updates HERE Maps for Android and Windows

Feb 11, 2015, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today announced sweeping updates to its HERE Maps application for the Android and Windows Phone platforms. The chief goal of this update was to improve the accuracy of maps worldwide with new/changed roads. HERE now more accurately represents inland water, such as ponds, rivers, and lakes. Nokia says the maps for Cyprus, Mayotte, and Zimbabwe have been updated in their entirety and are now navigable via turn-by-turn directions. Nokia took pains to increase the accuracy of how transit lines are mapped, as well. Specifically, the cities of Kaohsiung, Taipei, Curitiba, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Singapore now more accurately show where subway, train, and bus lines pass. Nokia said the updated version of HERE Maps is rolling out worldwide over the course of the next few days. Nokia HERE Maps is free.


Qik Makes Sharing Videos Across Social Networks Simpler

Feb 10, 2015, 4:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced updates to its Android and iOS video messaging applications that simplify sharing. In earlier versions of the app, users needed to save videos to their camera roll before they could be shared outside of Qik. Moving forward, users will be able to record from within Qik and then share to whatever other social networks/services they might have accessible from their phone through the phone's native sharing tool. The update is available today to Android and iOS devices, but not yet to Microsoft's own Windows Phone platform. Microsoft said a new version of Qik for Windows Phone is still several months away.


Low-End Lumias to Get Stripped Down Windows 10

Feb 9, 2015, 8:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore said on his Twitter account that entry-level Windows Phones may not get all the features of Windows 10. "We are working on Win10 for 512MB, including 520. Our ambition is to make Win10 available for these devices, but features may vary," wrote Belfiore. Many of Microsoft's most popular Lumia devices are entry-level handsets such as the 520, 530, 625, and 630, which are all limited to 512MB of RAM. Belfiore didn't say which features will or won't be included in the system update for low-spec'd phones. Microsoft had previously said all Windows Phone 8.1 phones would updated to Windows 10. Microsoft is expected to release a preview version of Windows 10 for phones this month.


TileArt App for Windows Phone Encourages Creativity

Feb 3, 2015, 1:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently released a new app called TileArt that lets Windows Phone owners fully customize the appearance of their home and lock screens. With TileArt, people can create their own custom tile layout and upload transparent images to use with the layouts. Users can create their own lock screens and share their home screen layout with friends. The app provides access to some free TileArt, too, to help people get started. The TileArt gallery showcases backgrounds from professional animators, illustrators, and designers. TileArt is free to download from the Windows Phone Store. The app requires Windows Phone 8.1.


Bank of America to Drop Windows Phone Support, Too

Jan 28, 2015, 3:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Following Chase, Bank of America today indicated that it will cease to support the Windows Phone platform come March. According to the Windows Store listing for Bank of America's Windows Phone app, the app will cease to work in early March. Bank of America said its Windows Phone users will be able to access their account through their mobile browser once the app is disabled. Chase bank made a similar announcement earlier this week. Bank of America is the second-largest bank in the U.S., while Chase is the largest.


Chase Pulls Mobile App from Windows Phone Store

Jan 26, 2015, 3:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Chase has removed its mobile banking application from the Windows Phone Store. The company recently notified users that its app would be pulled and eventually shut down. Today the company followed through. Chase customers who've already downloaded the app to their Windows Phone will be able to use Chase Mobile until March 22, after which it will no longer be supported for account access. Chase based its decision on the lack of users. Chase still offers mobile banking apps to the Android and iOS platforms. JPMorgan Chase is the largest bank in the U.S.


BlackBerry CEO Weighs In On Net and App Neutrality

Jan 22, 2015, 8:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen penned a blog post concerning net neutrality. Chen does not think the FCC should reclassify broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. He believes the FCC can come up with other ways to ensure an open, competitive market. Perhaps more interesting, however, are Chen's thoughts on "application neutrality." Chen believes application developers and content providers should be required to make their apps and services available to all mobile devices, including BlackBerries. "Not all content and applications providers have embraced openness and neutrality," wrote Chen. "Unlike BlackBerry, which allows iPhone users to download and use our BBM service, Apple does not allow BlackBerry or Android users to download Apple's iMessage messaging service. Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them. Many other applications providers similarly offer service only to iPhone and Android users. This dynamic has created a two-tiered wireless broadband ecosystem, in which iPhone and Android users are able to access far more content and applications than customers using devices running other operating systems. Therefore, neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet. All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer's mobile operating system." Both the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store are home to more than one million apps each. The number of apps available to BlackBerry and Windows Phone devices is much, much less.


DropBox Lands On Windows Phone

Jan 22, 2015, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Dropbox has released an app for the Windows Phone platform for the first time. The app gives Windows Phone owners 2GB of free cloud storage for saving documents, files, and photos. Users can easily share their files by sending a link to others. Dropbox competes with Microsoft's own OneDrive. Users can pay to upgrade their storage to higher amounts, but the base app is free. Dropbox is already available to Android, iOS, and desktop platforms.


WhatsApp Expands to the Web

Jan 21, 2015, 2:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

WhatsApp today made it possible for people to send messages from their Chrome browser in addition to their mobile device. The Chrome-based service is compatible with Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone devices, but not iOS due to "platform limitations." In order to launch the web-based functionality, users need to scan a QR code from within the WhatsApp application on their handset. They are then able to unlock the Chrome-based desktop client, where they'll be able to message their WhatsApp contacts.


Microsoft Reveals Details About Windows 10

Jan 21, 2015, 12:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 21, 2015, 1:55 PM

Microsoft today offered an early first look at its forthcoming Windows 10 operating system, which will run on PCs, tablets, and phones. Microsoft said it is taking a new, more user-centric approach with Windows 10. It is incorporating the feedback it received about Windows 8/8.1 and is making sure to add user-requested features, such as the old Start menu. The company now views Windows more as a service and it will provide continual updates. Microsoft said Windows 10 will be a free upgrade during its first year of availability, for example, to all devices running Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1. Windows 10 for PCs and tablets will gain features from Windows Phone, including the Action Center and Cortana, Microsoft's voice-activated personal assistant. Windows devices with screens 8 inches and larger will include the "desktop experience." Smaller devices will have an altered experience more suited for phones. A rough build of the phone-centric version of Windows 10 features a revised settings menu that has new graphics. Windows 10 also allows users to move the keyboard around on the screen if they so wish. The entire Windows 10 platform will include Skype more firmly entrenched across apps. Further, full versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that closely match the desktop variants will be included in Windows Phone 10. All Windows 10 devices will have a new Outlook client, which has been revised with the Word engine. Other major app re-writes include the calendar, photo gallery, and Internet Explorer, which is based on Project Spartan, a complete overhaul of the browser. Last, the entire platform will more broadly support Xbox gaming, including PC-to-Xbox play. Microsoft said the first preview of Windows 10 for phones will be available to "insiders" beginning in February.


Twitter for Windows Phone Earns New Features

Jan 20, 2015, 1:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today updated its mobile app for Windows Phone devices and took the opportunity to add new functions. For example, Twitter now integrates with the People Hub for saving Twitter profile data. The new app also makes it possible to share web links from Internet Explorer and to send Tweets with help from Cortana. Twitter says it fixed some bugs, too. Twitter for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.


Facebook Working On Its Own Voice-to-Text System

Jan 20, 2015, 8:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook plans to add voice-to-text transcription to its Facebook Messenger application, said David Marcus, Facebook's vice president of messaging products. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Marcus said the company is already testing the system using machine-to-machine learning, though he declined to say when the feature might be added to the app. Facebook expects the feature to be popular across Asia and other regions where typing various languages on mobile devices is more of a chore. Apple, Google, and Microsoft already provide their own voice-to-text services, which are built into the iOS, Android, and Windows Phone operating systems, respectively. Marcus didn't say how Facebook's transcription service will differ from what's already available to consumers. Marcus said 500 million people use Messenger monthly and it hopes to grow that number to 1 billion. Marcus indicated Facebook is exploring ways to monetize Messenger, but the company wants to avoid advertising. Facebook also owns WhatsApp and Instagram, which have 700 million and 300 million monthly users, respectively. Facebook said it will monetize Messenger before WhatsApp. Facebook has an "ambitious" roadmap for Messenger, and will add other features over the course of the year.


Microsoft Commences Denim Rollout to Lumia Phones

Jan 15, 2015, 1:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made good on a promise it made last month and began to distribute the Lumia Denim system update to devices running Windows Phone 8.1. The Denim update adds live folders, improves the Internet Explorer browser, adds SMS merging, and makes vast improvements to the imaging tools. More specifically, the Lumia Icon, 1520, 930, and 830 will also get an updated Lumia Camera. The update is being rolled out to specific devices in phases. Most Lumia phones running Windows Phone 8.1 will eventually have access to the Denim system update, but U.S. carriers haven't said when they'll push the update to their Windows Phone lineups.


Microsoft Debuts Two Low-Cost Lumias

Jan 14, 2015, 8:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced the Lumia 532 and Lumia 435, two entry-level Windows Phones. Both devices run Windows Phone 8.1 with the Lumia Denim update and include core software features such as Microsoft Office, Skype, OneDrive, HERE Maps, and Cortana. Shared hardware features include 4-inch WVGA displays, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, 1,560mAh batteries, and support for memory cards up to 128GB.

  • Lumia 532: This handset (pictured) has a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor, a 5-megapixel main camera, and a VGA user-facing camera. It costs about $93.
  • Lumia 435: The 435 is Microsoft's least-expensive Lumia device ever at just $81. It has a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon 200 processor, 2-megapixel main camera, and VGA user-facing camera.
The Microsoft Lumia 532 and 435 go on sale in select markets beginning next month. Both handsets will be available in single- and dual-SIM configurations.


PayPal Reaches BlackBerry 10 Devices

Jan 9, 2015, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

PayPal has made a version of its mobile application available in the BlackBerry World app store for devices running BlackBerry OS 10.x. With this new app, PayPal is available to Android, BlackBerry, Fire OS, iOS, and Windows smartphones. PayPal for BlackBerry allows owners to send/request money, check balances, see activity, redeem offers, and even check-in to pay at select retailers that accept PayPal. The app works with the Z10 and Q10, as well as newer phones including the BlackBerry Passport and Classic. PayPal for BlackBerry is free to download from BlackBerry World.


Alcatel OneTouch Pixi 3 Can Run Android, Firefox, or Windows

Jan 2, 2015, 11:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 2, 2015, 11:41 AM

Alcatel OneTouch today announced the Pixi 3 series, an affordable selection of smartphones that is among the first to run one of three different operating systems. The Pixi 3 series can be loaded with the Android, Firefox, or Windows Phone platforms. Consumers won't be able to switch/load the operating system themselves; rather, the devices will be programmed by carriers. Further, the series comes with four different screen sizes (3.5, 4.0, 4.5, and 5.0 inches). With the variety of operating systems and screen sizes available, consumers can find the perfect device for their needs. The Pixi 3 series also supports 3G and LTE 4G for many regions around the world. Alcatel did not provide more details about the Pixi 3 series, such as specs, pricing, or availability. Alcatel OneTouch also launched its foray into wearables today with a new smartwatch. The Alcatel Watch Series promises to offer elegant and affordable wearables that undercut the competition. According to Alcatel, the Watch Series is packed with sensors and apps that can monitor daily activities. It connects to Android devices and can be used to control music, take photos, and receive notifications. Alcatel did not say what platform the Watch Series runs, nor did it provide any specs or other details. Alcatel OneTouch has more news planned for the days ahead during the Consumer Electronics Show.


Verizon Pushing Windows Phone 8.1 to Lumia 928, 822

Dec 19, 2014, 11:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Dec 19, 2014, 11:28 AM

Verizon Wireless today made Windows Phone 8.1 with the Denim update available to the Lumia 928 and Lumia 822. Windows Phone 8.1 adds Cortana, adjustable home screen columns, and other features. The update is free. Microsoft said WP8.1 for the Lumia Icon is on deck for early 2015.


Microsoft Targeting January for Lumia Denim Update

Dec 18, 2014, 1:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said that it will begin pushing the Lumia Denim system update to its Windows Phones en masse beginning next month. The update is already trickling out to a few phones in select markets, but all Lumia smartphones running Windows Phone 8.1 will see the update at some point next month. According to Microsoft, improved imaging is the most significant new feature of the update. Notably, the camera app should function much faster, especially on devices such as the Lumia 930, 830, 1520, and Icon. In addition to speed, the camera will gain a feature called Moment Capture, which records 4K video at 24 frames per second with each and every frame saved as an 8.3-megapixel image. Users can snag a single frame from the video as a stand-alone image if they wish. Another new camera function is called Rich Capture. With it, the camera takes over settings such as auto HDR, dynamic flash, and dynamic exposure so users can focus on getting the shot and not on futzing with the camera app. Microsoft also notes the camera app makes use of new algorithms to improve focus and exposure. The Denim update also adds live folders, SMS merging, and other improvements. Microsoft first announced Lumia Denim in September.


Microsoft Expands Xim's Sharing Abilities to TVs

Dec 18, 2014, 9:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently updated its Xim app and added compatibility with a wide range of media streaming devices. Microsoft first released Xim in October. It's a cross-platform app that allows people to easily share photos without requiring them to physically hand their phone to someone else. People use Xim to create a connection directly between devices for sharing photos from sources such as the camera roll, Instagram, and Facebook Today's update allows people to share photos not only with other phones, but with streaming media devices, including Chromecast, Apple TV, Xbox One, and Amazon Fire TV. Xim users need only connect to the WiFi network associated with the streaming media device for it to show up in the list of sharing options within the Xim app. Xims are impermanent, sort of like Snapchat, and expire after a short period of time. The updated Xim app is available from the iTunes App Store, Google Play Store, and Windows Phone Store.


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