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.
Facebook has made a version of its Messenger application available to devices running Microsoft's Windows Phone. The app, which is free to download from the Windows Phone Store, brings conversations to life in a way the stock Windows Phone messaging app cannot. Facebook Messenger runs independently from Facebook. It lets users send stickers and photos, create and manage group conversations, share location data, and see read receipts. The app includes presence, which shows people who's available to chat via mobile or desktop, as well as adjustable notifications, and persistent log-in to prevent missed messages. Facebook Messenger is for devices running Windows Phone 8 and up.
Microsoft today made its OneDrive cloud storage service available to BlackBerry 10 devices. The app, which is free to download from the BlackBerry World store, provides users with 7GB of free online storage. Customers can choose to pay for more storage if they wish. The service, which was recently rebranded from SkyDrive, is already available to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices.
Nokia today made a new software developer kit available to app writers that will allow them to add more Lumia imaging tools to their own applications. Nokia Imaging SDK 1.1 adds several key functions, such as performance optimizations that allow advanced features, such as Lens Blur, to run on low-end Lumia devices like the Lumia 520. This means app writers can target a broader range of devices with their app and won't be limited to high-end hardware. The SDK also gives developers more tools to dip into editing functions, such as reframing images and crop/zoom. Last, the SDK adds support for Windows 8.1 desktop and RT. Nokia Imaging SDK 1.1 is free to download from Nokia's developer portal.
Julie Larson-Green, who has led Microsoft's Devices and Studios unit since last year, is moving to a new position as Chief Experience Officer of Microsoft's Applications and Services group. There she will manage the look and feel of key Microsoft apps and services as exsperienced on Microsoft devices. The move is being made, in part, because Microsoft is set to close its acquisition of Nokia's handset business. Once the deal closes, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop will be put in charge of Microsoft's Devices and Studios unit, which includes Windows Phone hardware, in addition to XBox, Microsoft Surface, and game development. Elop was a Microsoft executive before being hired by Nokia to turn the company's mobile phone business around. Elop was responsible for ditching Nokia's Symbian platform in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone platform.
Microsoft today announced a handful of features of the next version of Windows Phone. The slate of changes announced center on supporting cheaper hardware and developing markets. The new software will support Qualcomm's newer low-end Snapdragon 200 and 400 chipsets. It will also reduce memory requirements and allow apps loaded on removable memory cards. Microsoft will also remove the requirement for three hardware buttons below the screen and a dedicated camera button. This is designed to allow manufacturers to re-use hardware designed for Android phones. Microsoft will also expand its driver support for common hardware parts used in Android phones, further making it easier for manufacturers to offer a phone in both Android and Windows Phone versions. Microsoft will also support dual-SIM phones in the new version. The company is expected to fully reveal the new Windows Phone OS at its upcoming Build conference.
Microsoft today announced Facebook Messenger app for Windows Phone. The app - previously only available for other OSes - is in final testing and will be available "soon."
Facebook has agreed to purchase WhatsApp, a maker of over-the-top messaging applications for smartphones. The deal is valued at about $16 billion, including $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in stock. The WhatsApp messaging service is available to the Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone platforms and lets users avoid texting fees by sending messages through data networks instead. Facebook said the acquisition will help it "accelerate growth and user engagement across both companies." WhatsApp counts about 450 million users, 70% of which are active each day. Facebook said that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp will be operated separately.
Microsoft today launched OneDrive, a renamed and improved version of its SkyDrive cloud storage service. OneDrive is available to most devices, including Windows Phone handsets, Windows machines, and Android and iOS phones and tablets. OneDrive offers 7GB of storage for free, and allows users to score more storage by recommending friends to the service. Microsoft is releasing new versions of the OneDrive app today, and the Android variant gains automatic photo backups. Microsoft said people who use the automatic camera backup feature will earn an additional 3GB of storage. Microsoft also offers higher storage increments to those who need more than 7GB for small monthly payments. OneDrive is free to download from the Windows Phone Store, Google Play Store, and iTunes App Store.
Microsoft today released new versions of Bing News, Bing Finance, Bing Weather, and Bing Sports for Windows Phone, as well as three new Bing apps. The new apps include Bing Food & Drink, Bing Health & Fitness, and Bing Travel. Bing Food & Drink caters to cooking enthusiasts and ties in content from Epicurious, Bon Appetit, and other recipe sites. It also helps people create shopping lists based on recipes. Bing Health & Fitness offers nutrition, fitness, and medical information, including workouts and a diet tracker, cardio tracker, and GPS tracker. Bing Travel makes it easier to plan and manage trips with destination guides, photos, and more. The app also lets people book travel, including flights, from within the app. Bing Finance has been updated with an investment tracker. Bing News was updated with new sources, including the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. Bing Sports was updated with live event coverage for NBA, NFL, and all major soccer leagues. All the Bing apps are free to download from the Windows Phone Store and seamlessly sync across devices with their tablet and desktop counterparts.
Skype today revealed improvements to its mobile applications that answer common customer complaints. Moving forward, Skype will more reliably sync chat threads across multiple devices, be they smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The service now offers synced read receipts, as well, so users know their messages were delivered and read. The app has also been improved so that it opens faster, resumes quicker, and conserves power better. Individual apps for Windows Phone, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry should become available in their respective app stores over the next few days.
Nokia today announced the Lumia Icon, a flagship Windows Phone for Verizon Wireless. The stand-out feature is the Icon's 20-megapixel PureView sensor with optical image stabilization and Zeiss optics. According to Nokia, the Icon lets users zoom in up to 3x while shooting video and still maintain 1080p HD resolution. The camera is accompanied by dual LED flashes and Nokia's deep range of dedicated imaging applications. The Icon also includes a 2-megapixel user-facing sensor for selfies and video chats. Other characteristics include a 5-inch 1080p HD ClearBlack display that can be used with gloves; support for Verizon's LTE 4G network and HSPA+ networks in Europe and Asia; NFC and wireless charging; and a 2,420mAh battery. The Icon is powered by a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor. The processor is paired with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of built-in storage. The phone runs the latest version of Windows Phone and ships with the Nokia Black system update installed. The Nokia Lumia Icon will be available online and in Verizon stores beginning February 20. Verizon is asking $199.99 with a new two-year contract. The device will be available for preorder from Microsoft stores beginning today. Those who purchase the Lumia Icon from Microsoft before March 16 will receive a free charging accessory.
Nokia plans to announce a smartphone later this month running Google's Android operating system, rather than Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. The device, reports The Wall Street Journal, was already under development when Microsoft made its bid to buy Nokia's handset business, a transaction that has yet to close. Nokia's Android phone is meant to target emerging markets and will run a modified version of Android that will not feature the Google Play Store. Instead, the phone will come with Nokia's own application store and apps, such as HERE Maps, and Mix Radio. The device is expected to make an appearance at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, according to the Journal's unnamed sources. Nokia did not confirm the Journal's report.
Foursquare recently announced a new partnership with GrubHub Seamless that makes it possible to order food from 20,000 different restaurants around the country from within the Foursquare app. Users simply need to click the GrubHub Seamless button in the app to see nearby participating restaurants. The app also makes it easy to search for restaurants that will deliver. GrubHub has been added to the Android and iOS versions of Foursquare, but there's no word if the feature will be made available to the Windows Phone version. Foursquare is free to download and use.
Beats Music today became available to the Windows Phone platform after a slight delay. The app, which was made available to Android and iOS devices last week, is a curated music streaming service that costs $10 per month.
Facebook today announced Paper, a stand-alone application meant to enhance the experience of exploring the newsfeed. Similar to Flipboard, Facebook's Paper app pulls content from the newsfeed and arranges it in a magazine-like design. Users can customize the sections in order to make it more personal. According to Facebook, the app has its own swiping gestures and will automatically expand photos when the phone is tilted to one side. The app can also automatically fill the screen with embedded videos, as well as automatically generate covers for each section to make it easier to find the content within. Paper can be used by smartphone owners to create their own, shareable story, and even preview it before sending. Paper will be available to the iPhone beginning February 3. Facebook did not immediately indicate when versions for Android or Windows Phone will become available.
Nokia today made Cinemagraph 4.0 available for download from the Windows Phone Store. This update offers a few new features, the most significant of which is the ability to export Cinemagraphs as GIF files. The app itself is used to create GIF-like images, but before only allowed sharing through a link to files uploaded to Nokia's servers. The GIF export function makes it much easier to share Cinemagraphs with others. The app also adds location data so Cinemagraphs can be more easily integrated with Nokia Storyteller, and makes general performance improvements. Cinemagraph 4.0 is available to Nokia's Lumia smartphones and is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Beats Audio today launched Beats Music, an online and mobile streaming music service that's available to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices for $9.99 per month. The service runs on the platform built by MOG, which was bought by Beats Audio in 2012. Single lines can test the service for free for one month, after which the monthly subscription kicks in. With the launch of Beats Music, Beats Audio today indicated that MOG itself will shut down April 15. All existing MOG subscribers will be offered a one-month free trial of Beats Music, which will be made available starting March 15. Beats will cease billing MOG customers on April 15, and will offer prorated refunds to any customers who paid for a year of service. Beats hopes that MOG customers will transition to Beats Music.
Spotify has axed the time restrictions it used to place on music played from a computer. The change, which was revealed by the company in a blog post, is effective immediately and applies to everyone. Previously, Spotify limited computer-based listening to just 10 hours per month. Spotify has already made it possible to stream music to mobile devices for free. The free listening experience includes advertisements. Spotify users seeking an ad-free experience will need to spend $10 per month. Spotify makes mobile apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
HP today announced that it is re-entering the smartphone market and debuted two new devices that are headed to India. The HP Slate6 VoiceTab and HP Slate7 VoiceTab are large-screened phones that are meant to consolidate the smartphone and tablet experience into a single device. The Slate6 has a 6-inch 720p HD LCD screen and the Slate7 has a 7-inch 1280 x 800 LCD screen. Both offer quad-core processors, voice-calling capabilities, and user-facing stereo speakers. They each include a 2-megapixel user-facing camera and 5-megapixel main camera with flash and 720p HD video capture. The Slates include 16GB of built-in storage and support microSD cards up to 32GB for additional storage. The Slates are equipped with dual SIM card slots, and support 3G networks. They run Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. Pricing and availability were not immediately disclosed. HP has been in and out of the smartphone market over the years. A decade ago it sold Compaq-branded Windows Mobile smartphones. It eventually abandoned those and purchased Palm and webOS. It failed to develop new Palm and webOS devices, however, and eventually shuttered Palm and sold webOS to LG. HP hasn't said if it will offer smartphones to U.S. buyers.
Microsoft today pushed out a small update to its Bing Translator application for Windows Phone devices. The most significant aspect of the update is improved speed and accuracy with spoken voice translation. Microsoft also adjusted the UI of the offline language packs. Bing Translator for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Nokia today announced that it has begun pushing the Nokia Black system update to more of its Lumia Windows Phone 8 smartphones. Nokia Black offers a wide range of new features, including app folders for the home screen, Nokia Glance 2.0 notifications tool, Bluetooth Low Energy, Nokia Refocus (Lytro-like camera feature), Nokia Beamer improvements, and the Nokia Camera application (combined Nokia Pro Camera and Smart Camera apps). The update is available to the Lumia 1020 and Lumia 925 first, and will be made available to more Lumia models in the coming weeks.
Toshiba this week showed off a new camera module for mobile devices that promises to deliver flexible focus capabilities. The TCM9518MD uses a twin camera setup with a dedicated companion LSI chip. The module can record video and images in which the foreground, background, and all points in between are in focus. The module pairs together two 5-megapixel CMOS sensors that then upscale images to 13-megapixels. Toshiba says it is much thinner than most 13-megapixel sensors and delivers comparable results. The camera module is sampling now, and Toshiba expects it to hit consumer devices later this year. The adjustable focal point idea was refined by a company called Lytro, which has a dedicated camera for taking such images. Nokia has a lens for its Lumia Windows Phones that provides a similar effect.
Microsoft today made available a revised version of Facebook for Windows Phone. The updated social networking app makes improvements to notifications, which are now pushed more regularly to the Live Tile. Facebook also added secondary Live Tiles, which let users pin specific events, groups, pages, or photo albums to the Start Screen. These secondary Live Tiles each support notifications for their respective function, separate from the main Live Tile. Facebook for Windows Phone now supports 50 languages, as well as stickers, and emoticons within messaging. Last, the app gains some reliability and performance tweaks. Facebook for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Vine has published an update to its Windows Phone app. The latest version of Vine allows users to save drafts that can be revisited and finished later. Vine for Windows Phone has yet to support the editing functions, however, that are available to the Android and iOS versions. Vine is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today made available separate applications for its Xbox Music service and Xbox Video service. The Xbox Music app for Windows Phone 8 requires an Xbox Music Pass, but lets device owners explore, stream, and download millions of songs. The Xbox Video app for WP8 is brand new and lets device owners rent and buy movies and televisions shows. New TV shows are available after they air. It supports WP8, as well as Microsoft's PCs, tablets, and Xbox One and Xbox 360 gaming consoles. The app offers ratings and reviews, lets users resume playback where they left off, and shows trailers. The Xbox Music and Xbox Video apps themselves are free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Nokia today released a beta version of the Nokia Camera application that is compatible with more devices. The full app only works on select PureView devices, such as the 1020 and 1520. This new beta will work on all Lumia devices running Windows Phone 8. In order to get the app, interested consumers will need to create a Nokia account and download the app from Nokia Beta Labs. Nokia says that most features should work, though it warns about the potential for bugs. Nokia said it will add experimental features over time that may or may not be added to the full application. Nokia Camera is a combination of its Pro Camera and Smart Camera applications. Both the full version and beta version are free to download. It is compatible with the Lumia 520/521, 620, 625, 720, 810, 820, and 822, and requires either the Amber or Black system updates.
Instagram today announced Instagram Direct, a new service that lets users send one another text and picture messages privately. The new service includes an inbox where users can see photos and videos that people have sent them. Users will have the option to publish photos/videos to all their followers or to only specific people when composing their posts. Private photos/videos offer read receipts and their own private threads for comments and likes. Photos and videos that users receive from people they follow will appear in the inbox immediately. For content that comes from people users don't follow, they'll receive a request and can choose to view it or ignore it. Instagram 5.0 for Android and iOS will be available in the Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively, beginning today. Instagram says the direct messaging service is still in beta for Windows Phone, but should be available soon.
Viber today announced the worldwide launch of Viber Out. Viber Out is a new service that allows Viber users to make internet-based voice calls to other Viber users, as well as any landline or cell phone. Viber is able to use the user's own phone number when making calls, even though the calls are connected through the data plan and not the voice network. Viber Out charges low per-minute rates to most countries. Viber Out is available today for Android smartphones and the iPhone. Viber says it will support Windows Phone soon. In order to use Viber Out, customers will have to download the latest version of the Viber application and add credits to their account. Viber is a platform-agnostic messaging app. Now that it makes voice calls, it competes more directly with Skype.
The U.S Federal Trade Commission today approved Microsoft's proposed $7.2 billion purchase of Nokia's handset business. Microsoft first announced the plan in early September. With the U.S. government on board, Microsoft is one step closer to absorbing Nokia's phone-making capabilities. Nokia's shareholders have already approved the deal. Nokia switched to Microsoft's Windows Phone platform in 2011 and has since become the world's foremost supplier of Windows Phone handsets. Nokia will continue to run its networking business and will retain rights to the Nokia brand.
Nokia today announced a major update to its HERE Drive navigation application. HERE Drive, which is available to all Windows Phone 8 devices, offers step-by-step, voice-guided navigation. When planning routes, the app now shows a list of all the turns before the driver begins navigating. The app now also provides an overview of the entire route with real-time traffic included, so drivers can see ahead of time whether or not they should take an alternate route. The live traffic feature is available in all views of the map. HERE Drive is now better at calculating estimated time of arrival thanks to the more accurate, real-time traffic data. Last, Nokia has added a feature that automatically geotags the driver's parking spot when they complete a door-to-door route. The driver can then use HERE Maps' LiveSight feature to find their car, or view it on a map. HERE Maps is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Verizon Wireless and Nokia today announced the availability of RedBox Instant for Verizon's Lumia Windows Phones. The app will be exclusive to Verizon for two months, after which it will be available to all WP8 devices. RedBox Instant lets users browse and watch movies, reserve new releases at local Redbox stores, and rent and buy movies digitally, on demand. The first month is free, but thereafter it costs $8 per month.
Twitter recently made a new version of its Windows Phone app available to smartphones running Microsoft's operating system. The app adds several new features, including notifications when there are new tweets from favorited accounts. The app also makes it possible to delete individual direct messages and makes various other bug fixes and performance improvements. Twitter for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Instagram today made a version of its picture-taking and -sharing application available to the Windows Phone platform. Instagram lets WP8 device owners take pictures, apply filters and frames, and share them with friends. The app also lets people follow and view the photos of others, as well as make and respond to comments. Instagram is calling the app a beta for now, as it does not include all the features available to the Android and iOS versions. Instagram is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Nokia today published a new version of its music application and rebranded the service Nokia MixRadio. MixRadio builds on the Nokia Music service, which lets users create radio stations and stream music to their Lumia smartphones. More than 18 million tracks are available and Nokia has 150 curated radio stations, all of which can be streamed for free. The application was updated with a number of new features including Play Me, a personalized mix inspired by each user's music profile; thumbs up/down ratings to help users refine their profile; and the ability to share mixes through Facebook, Twitter, email, and SMS. Premium features, such as unlimited downloads to devices, require a $3.99 per month subscription. The new app can be downloaded from the Windows Phone Store.
Nokia today said that an update is available for its Nokia Camera application that adds support for RAW imaging. The feature was first announced last month and is available only to the Nokia Lumia 1520 at the moment. RAW imaging support will be available to the Lumia 1020 in early 2014, bundled together with the Lumia Black system update. Once 1520 owners download the Nokia Camera update, they'll have to select the DNG capture mode in the settings tools. Nokia warns that RAW image files will be much larger than standard JPEGs. Windows device owners can use the Windows Explorer desktop tool to download RAW images, but Mac users will need to download the latest version of the Nokia Photo Transfer app. The photo app was recently updated to support RAW files. Nokia Camera is free to download for Lumia smartphones.
Nokia today added LiveSight to its HERE Transit application in order to make public transportation stations easier to find. LiveSight uses the device's camera and augmented reality technology to overlay mapping, location, and other data on a live image through the camera viewfinder. LiveSight is already built into the base Nokia HERE Maps app, and is now part of Nokia HERE Transit thanks to an update that's available today. Nokia also said that HERE Transit offers a wider array of traveling options. For example, travelers can choose between different train, bus, and other routes, as well as how many transfers they're willing to make to reach their destination. HERE Transit now runs in 52 countries and in 792 cities. It is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Nokia's shareholders today approved Microsoft's proposed acquisition of the company's handset business, according to the Financial Times. About 80% of Nokia's shareholders sided with management in favoring the deal, which will see Nokia's phone-making unit sold to Microsoft for $7.2 billion. Microsoft believes the deal will strengthen the footing of its Windows Phone platform. Nokia's Lumia-branded smartphones represent the lion's share of Windows Phones sold throughout the world. Nokia will still hold onto its networking business. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop is expected to run the new hardware division from Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond. The deal still needs to meet regulatory approval.
Microsoft today announced a new application for Windows Phone 8 devices called Office Remote. The app lets any WP8 device control a PowerPoint, Word, or Excel presentation. The app requires a Bluetooth-enabled computer with Office 2013 and a desktop plug-in. With all the components together, WP8 device owners will be able use their smartphone to advance slides, view thumbnails, jump between slides, access speaker cues, and more. Office Remote for Windows Phone 8 is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Google today pushed out a modest refresh of its search application for the Windows Phone platform. According to Google, the app now displays voice commands faster, supports account sign-in, improves Google image viewing, and fixes bugs. Google Search for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today announced that developers will be able to add support for Facebook Login to Windows and Windows Phone 8 applications. Apps that use Facebook Login allow device owners to sign in using their existing Facebook credentials rather than force them to create a separate account for that particular app. This often increases consumer engagement with apps, as it removes a roadblock for some users who might seek to minimize the number of accounts they own across the web. Developers will also be able to tap into the Facebook social graph to improve the performance of their applications, and their relevancy to end users. The feature is being rolled out in Facebook beta 5.2 and Microsoft provides detailed instructions for developers on how to add Facebook Login to their apps.