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.
Skype today announced an update to its app for Windows Phone devices that introduces location sharing for the first time. Skype version 2.22 is compatible with Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1. The sharing feature permits users to transmit their location data to others within IM conversations. The recipient can then pinpoint the sender via Bing Maps. The update also makes it easier to save photos and adds more granular controls for notifications. Skype for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.
Opera Software today released a beta version of its Opera Mini browser for Windows Phone devices. Opera has long offered versions of its data-saving browser to Android, iOS, and other platforms. Opera Mini for Windows Phone carries over the same basic design and features from other versions of the app, which includes the Speed Dial start screen, Smart Page social networking updates, easy-to-control tabs, and data compression to reduce mobile internet use. The beta is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
AT&T today said the Windows Phone 8.1 system update is now available to the Nokia Lumia 920 and Lumia 820. Both devices gain Cortana and a host of other features with the new operating system. It is free to download and install.
Nokia debuted two new smartphones in Berlin today, both of which focus on providing a better camera experience. These Windows Phones are solid addition to Nokia's lineup. Here are our first thoughts.
Nokia today revealed the Lumia 735, a device that features advanced self-imaging tools. The 735 has a 5-megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens and dedicated "Lumia Selfie" app. The app automatically launches the user-facing camera and has its own editing features, such as filters, toning, and even slimming down faces and whitening teeth. The rear camera has a 6.7-megapixel sensor, Zeiss optics, f/1.9 aperture, and a tool that helps users center their face in the frame for higher-quality selfies. The phone has a 4.7-inch 720p HD display, 2,220mAh battery, 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, and 8GB of storage. The Lumia 735 runs Windows Phone 8.1 and will come with the Denim system update preloaded. The device will ship with a free, three-month trial of Skype International unlimited. The device costs 219 Euro, or about $290.
Nokia today announced the Lumia 830, what Nokia calls a flagship device that doesn't have a premium price. It runs Windows Phone 8.1 and the just-announced Lumia Denim system update. It is smaller than the 930, but offers many of the same features, such as the design. It includes a PureView 10-megapixel camera with Zeiss optics and optical image stabilization. A new Rich Capture mode snaps a series of images with and without the flash so users can later choose to add light to their image for more balanced results. The HDR mode has been improved, too, so high-contrast images can more properly exposed to get all the details. The front-facing camera rates just 1.0 megapixels and captures 720p video. The 830 has a removable rear cover and has wireless charging built in to power the 2,220mAh battery. With the 830, Nokia is showing off a new charging plate. The charging plate is "smart" in that it includes NFC and customized notifications when it senses that the device's battery requires charging or an incoming call. The plate comes in the same orange, green, and white colors. The 830 itself measures 8.3mm and it contains a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 5-inch 720p display, 16GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 128GB. The Lumia 830 is priced at 330 Euro, or about $435. It ships globally starting this month.
Microsoft's handset division, Nokia, today announced Lumia Denim, the next update to its Windows Phone platform for Nokia-branded hardware. Lumia Denim's chief improvement is making Cortana is easier to use. It introduces a "Hey, Cortana" catchphrase that can be used to launch Cortana for filing reminders and other actions. Denim brings geofencing powers to Cortana, too, which can recognize geographic areas for assisting in reminders and tasks. Lumia Denim also makes improvements to the camera application. For example, the start-up process has been sped up so the camera launches faster. The camera is quicker to capture individual shots, as well, and adds a quick-capture mode that records 4K video with 8.7-megapixel images. The software can then pull out individual shots from the video to make for more compelling images. Lumia Denim will first be available on the Lumia 930, 1520, and Icon, with others to follow in the fourth quarter. The separate camera app will also be made available during the fourth quarter to just the 930, 1520, and Icon.
Broadcom today announced the BCM4358, a high-end Wi-Fi radio for flagship smartphones and tablets. The BCM4358 employs an 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO configuration for improved throughput and speeds, which Broadcom says can reach 650Mbps. Broadcom says the combo chip makes significant improvements with respect to Bluetooth performance, too. In addition to the wireless speed bumps, the BCM4358 is much more accurate at determining location. Broadcom says it is accurate down to one meter. The BCM4358 has integrated power and low-noise amplifiers, as well as beamforming and Low Density Parity Check Codes. It supports the Android, Windows, and Chrome operating systems. The BM4358 is already in mass production and Broadcom says it will appear in high-end devices before the end of the year.
Nokia is preparing to release versions of its mapping application for the Android and iOS platforms. Nokia executive Sean Fernback told The Wall Street Journal the apps will offer features not available to Google Maps and Apple Maps. For example, Nokia Maps users will be able to download maps of cities, regions, or states so they may be used when offline. This is a hallmark feature of Nokia's HERE Maps for Windows Phone. Nokia believes its offline maps will draw users away from Google and Apple's alternatives. The offline maps will support searches, as well. "I'm convinced people are looking for alternatives," said Fernback. "Google Maps is a good solution for many, their maps work very well, but it has looked the same and done the same for a long time." Nokia released a version of its HERE Maps for iOS back in 2012, but later pulled the app after it received poor reviews. Nokia plans to release the new Android and iOS mapping apps before the end of the year. Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft earlier this year, but retained ownership of its mapping business.
T-Mobile today voiced support for the HTC One for Windows on its web site. The company will sell the device in the weeks ahead. It is already sold by Verizon Wireless, and will also soon be sold by AT&T. The One for Windows runs Windows Phone rather than Android.
Microsoft today announced it is making changes to the Windows Store in order to improve the quality of the apps therein. To start, it has established three main criteria apps need to pass in order to be certified for sale through the store. App names need to clearly and accurately reflect what the app does; the app must fall into a category so it is easier to discern the app's function and purpose; and app icons must be sufficiently differentiated from other apps to avoid confusion. Microsoft said many of its developers were receptive to making changes so their apps fall in line with the new policy. Some developers, however, did not, and Microsoft has removed 1,500 apps from the Windows Store. Microsoft said it will continue to review apps currently in the store to make sure they adhere to the new policies.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law that will mandate all smartphones to come with a kill switch by July 2015. The law's goal is to curb smartphone thefts. Lawmakers believe that allowing smartphones owners to render their device unusable after it is stolen will reduce the appeal to thieves, who won't be able to use or sell them. Minnesota enacted a similar law earlier this year, and the CTIA Wireless Association said all carriers will support kill switches by July 2015, too. Apple already added a kill switch functionality to iOS, and Google and Microsoft are working on similar tools for Android and Windows Phone.
Huawei recently said it has no plans to release a Tizen-based smartphone, and also said it will no longer make smartphones using Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system. "Some telecom carriers are pushing us to design Tizen phones but I say 'no' to them. In the past we had a team to do research on Tizen but I canceled it," said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer business group, to The Wall Street Journal. "We feel Tizen has no chance to be successful. Even for Windows Phone it's difficult to be successful." Tizen is a Linux-based platform created by Samsung and Intel. Samsung, Tizen's primary backer, has delayed plans to realize a Tizen phone indefinitely as it builds up the app ecosystem. Huawei remains a member of the Tizen Association, but its new stance on the platform further clouds Tizen's potential. As for Windows Phone, Huawei complained of losing money on the platform for two years. "We have tried using the Windows Phone OS. But it has been difficult to persuade consumers to buy a Windows phone," said Yu. "It wasn't profitable for us. So for now we've decided to put any releases of new Windows phones on hold. We have worries about Android being the only option, but we have no choice. And we have a good collaboration with Google." Google's Android platform holds about 85% of the global smartphone market, with Apple's iOS holding 11% and Windows Phone holding 2.5%. BlackBerry's share of the market is less than 1%.
AT&T chimed in this evening to say it, too, will carry the HTC One for Windows. AT&T said pricing and availability will be announced at a later date. Verizon is selling the phone starting tomorrow.
HTC gives Windows Phone fans what they've always wanted: A premium device with Microsoft's operating system. Here are our initial thoughts on HTC's latest device.
HTC today announced the One for Windows Phone, a variant of the One (M8) that swaps Google's mobile platform for Microsoft's. The One for Windows Phone runs the latest operating system from Microsoft and carries over a few HTC apps, such as Blinkfeed, the HTC duo-camera, SenseTV, Video Highlights, and BoomSound. The One for Windows Phone adopts some of the M8's motion gestures, such as double-tap to wake, but also loses a few. Apart from the operating system, the hardware is identical to the One (M8) with Android. It has the same 5-inch 1080p HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, Ultra-pixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera, and premium aluminum design. The HTC One for Windows Phone is exclusive to Verizon Wireless. It is available online from VerizonWireless.com beginning today and reaches Verizon stores August 20 for $99 with a new contract or $30 with Verizon Edge.
BlackBerry today updated BBM for the Windows Phone platform to version 1.01. The app has officially graduated from beta status. The update, though minor, squashes a number of bugs in the app, as well as boosts performance, such as start-up time. BBM for Windows Phone is free.
AT&T today said owners of the Lumia 1020 can download and install the Windows Phone 8.1 update. The improved operating system adds Cortana, Action Center, the Word Flow keyboard and other features. The system update is free.
Microsoft today made available the Live Lock Screen application for Windows Phone 8.1. The Live Lock Screens were first announced as a WP8.1 feature back in April. The app, which is being offered as a beta, lets users change the way the clock is displayed and adds more image options for wallpaper. The app also adds the ability to set just an accent color or make use of the preloaded Lock backgrounds as your wallpaper. Last, wallpaper images can be set to change every hour, every four hours, every 12 hours, daily, or never. Live Lock Screen Beta is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Facebook recently rolled out an update to the Facebook Messenger application for Windows Phone devices. The update introduces one new feature, the ability to record and send voice messages to other Facebook users. The update also cuts down on data usage. Facebook Messenger for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store. The app is now necessary for messaging Facebook users, as Facebook is pulling the messaging capabilities from its main Facebook mobile app.
Microsoft today announced the Nokia 130, a simple, inexpensive handset meant for first-timers and emerging markets. The candybar-style phone runs the Series 30 platform and includes a 1.8-inch screen, stereo headphone jack, Bluetooth 3.0, and support for memory cards up to 32GB. According to Microsoft, the Nokia 130 supports both video and audio playback, and includes an FM radio. The phone has a flashlight, but no camera. The Nokia 130 will reach select markets this quarter. Pricing is expected to be about $25 and it will be sold in single- and dual-SIM variants. Microsoft Devices Group includes the handset division of Nokia, which Microsoft acquired earlier this year. Microsoft's Jo Harlow said though the company is killing off Nokia's Android/X devices, it still believes there is a good market opportunity for entry-level phones in addition to its Lumia Windows Phone devices.
Microsoft recently indicated it will cease to support Skype on devices running Windows Phone 7 and Symbian. The company said it will retire the official Skype app for WP7, as well as any ancillary apps that support it over the next few weeks. "We want everyone to experience the best Skype has to offer – from enhanced quality to better reliability to improved security – and the newest version of Skype is the way to do that. So everyone can benefit from the latest improvements, we sometimes retire older versions of Skype across all platforms, including mobile devices," explained the company. Of Symbian, Microsoft said, "Symbian wasn't built for the cloud-connected world, so we are retiring the Skype for Symbian app and focusing on bringing the best possible experience to the most popular mobile platforms: Windows Phone, iOS, and Android." Symbian is Nokia's old smartphone operating system and was among the first to support Skype years ago.
AT&T today added a bright green option to its lineup of Lumia 1520s. The green 1520 ships with Windows Phone 8.1 preinstalled, which is the latest version of Windows Phone and includes Cortana. AT&T is offering the green 1520 for $24.28 per month with AT&T Next 18 or $29.95 per month with Next 12. Alternately, the 1520 costs $200 with a new two-year contract or $585 at full retail. The red, black, yellow, and white versions are also available.
Skype today updated its mobile application for devices running Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1. The new version of Skype makes it possible to send photos to one or more contacts at a time, as well as receive photos from other Windows Phone and iOS devices. Photos shared to desktop or Android machines will instead send a link rather than the actual file. The app also makes it possible to see more chat view history; supports text mark-up (asterisks for bold, etc.); adds favorites to the chat view; and makes several performance improvements. Skype said it continues to work on its mobile app across platforms and hopes to share these features with them soon. Skype is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft has made available a new version of Facebook for the Windows Phone platform. The latest update to the social networking app mixes in several new features that were previously only available in the beta, as well as overhauls both the user experience and performance. The app adds support for more languages and the ability to upload videos directly to Facebook. Facebook for Windows Phone can now work hand-in-hand with the separate Facebook Messenger app for Windows Phone. Last, the app can now connect directly with the People Hub. In Windows Phone 8.1, contacts, events, and photos albums in the People Hub are controlled by Facebook. Facebook for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today began distributing the first update to Windows Phone 8.1. The update, announced last month, adds a number of new features to the platform, including Live Folders and Apps Corner. It also makes improvements to Xbox Music and SMS handling. The update is available to developers, as well as to consumers who've downloaded the Windows Phone Preview for Developers.
An image has been found on public Verizon Wireless web servers that appears to show an HTC phone running Windows Phone. The phone appears almost identical to the One (M8), HTC's current flagship phone with a curved metal body. Unsurprisingly, the screen shows an LTE indicator and Cortana, the voice assistant feature in the just-released 8.1 version of Windows Phone. No further details have been confirmed.
AT&T today said Windows Phone 8.1 is now available to the Nokia Lumia 925 and Lumia 520. The update, which can be downloaded and installed over the air, adds Cortana, Action Center, and more Start screen flexibility, among many other enhancements.
BlackBerry and Microsoft today announced the immediate availability of BBM for the Windows Phone platform. BBM is being offered as a beta, but it includes many of the features available to the Android and iOS versions of the app. BBM for Windows Phone supports regular chats and group chats; makes it easy to find and connect with BBM contacts; includes BBM feeds for social networking; and offers a Live Tile that can be pinned to the Start screen. BlackBerry will add more features to the app over time. BBM Beta for Windows Phone 8 is free to download and available from the Windows Phone Store now.
Microsoft today announced the first update to Windows Phone 8.1, which adds several new features to the smartphone platform. To start, the update will expand Cortana's availability outside the U.S. Microsoft its offering Cortana to China and the U.K. as a beta, and Canada, India, and Australia as a alpha. In the U.S., Cortana has been improved with natural language scenarios, snooze times for reminders, and a bit more personality. The update adds a feature called Live Folders, which can be placed on the Start screen. The Live Tiles of the apps in the folder appear on the Tile of the Folder, so users will be able to see when the apps in the folder have been updated. The folders can be arranged and shaped however users want. The update improves the performance of the XBox Music application, which should see improvements in app load and list scrolling, as well as the return of several features, such as background sync and swipe-to-advance. The Windows Store Live Tile has been improved to provide dynamic updates concerning new apps. Users will have ability to select multiple SMS messages for deletion and forwarding. Last, the update includes a new feature called Apps Corner, which is aimed at business users. It sandboxes select apps and restricts which ones can be used so businesses can have more control over employee devices. Microsoft said the update will be pushed to developers in preview form in early August and will be distributed to consumers within several months.
Facebook rolled out a minor update to Messenger for Windows Phone today. The latest version of the chatting app supports video messages, both capturing and playback. The app also makes several under-the-hood improvements. Facebook Messenger for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store. Facebook users will need to download the separate app in order to send messages, as Facebook is discontinuing messaging support in the main Facebook app shortly.
Microsoft today said it has enabled Foursquare recommendations within Cortana, the virtual personal assistant that's part of Windows Phone 8.1. Cortana will now proactively showcase local recommendations on handsets, though the feature must first be enabled by device owners. Users can click on the items to discover more information about the nearby venues, but the separate Foursquare application is required to access that info. There is no need to update or download anything to see the recommendations within Cortana, as Cortana's Foursquare integration comes from Microsoft's servers. It is free to use.
AT&T today said Windows Phone 8.1 is now available to the Lumia 1520. Customers can use the onboard tools to download and install the OS over the air, which includes Cortana, Internet Explorer 11, and the Action Center. AT&T also revealed a green variant of the Lumia 1520 in a promotional video. The green Lumia 1520 will be available soon.
Uber today made available a version of its mobile application for the Windows Phone platform. Uber lets Windows Phone users request rides through its on-demand taxiing service. The Windows Phone app supports credit card payments and provides rate comparisons, allows users to set pickup locations, see the progress of their pending taxi, and receive emailed receipts. Uber runs on all Windows Phone 8 and 8.1 smartphones. The application itself is free to download from the Windows Phone Store. The app was available last year, but was yanked from the store in August 2013.
Skype today announced version 5.0 for the Android platform and added one big feature: the ability to cross-integrate contacts between Skype and the phone. Skype 5.0 can scan the local phone address book for other registered Skype users and will then automatically add them to the Skype app's people list. Skype will also be able to sync the Skype address book with other Microsoft services to make sure it finds and adds all possible Skype users. Android users will be able to turn this feature off if they wish, or pick and choose which contacts are added to Skype. Users' actual phone number will not be shared as part of their public profile. Skype said similar features will soon appear in its apps for other platforms, such as iOS and Windows Phone.
Microsoft today revealed the Lumia 530, a new entry-level Windows Phone that succeeds last year's 520. The device features the same colorful design language common to Lumia models and includes interchangeable rear shells for personalization. The Lumia 530 runs Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana, MixRadio, and HERE Maps. The 530 features a 4-inch 854 x 480 display, is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200 processor, and includes a 5-megapixel camera. Connectivity is limited to HSPA at 21Mbps, but it includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and aGPS. System memory is limited to 512MB and storage is limited to 4GB. The Lumia 530 supports microSD cards up to 128GB and will be sold in a dual-SIM variant in select markets. The Lumia 530 will be available globally and begins shipping in August. The target price point is about $130. T-Mobile is the only U.S. carrier to voice support for the 530, which it said will go on sale later this year.
Microsoft today announced a sweeping company-wide re-organization that includes major changes to the mobile device business acquired from Nokia. Of Microsoft's 18,000 layoffs today, 12,500 are within the former Nokia units. Microsoft will combine the smartphone and feature phone units, with the feature phone operations continuing "for maximum efficiency with a smaller team." Nokia's Android-based Nokia X lineup will be abandoned. Select future models will be reworked to run Windows Phone to address new low price points for Lumia. Existing Nokia X phones will be supported, but the software will not appear in any new phones. The company will focus primarily on Windows-Phone-powered Lumia phones, and tablets. In an open email to employees, Stephen Elop explained that "the role of phones within Microsoft is different than it was within Nokia. Whereas the hardware business of phones within Nokia was an end unto itself, within Microsoft all our devices are intended to embody the finest of Microsoft’s digital work and digital life experiences, while accruing value to Microsoft’s overall strategy."
Nokia today began rolling out automatic updates to Windows Phone 8.1 for all Lumia devices that currently have Windows Phone 8. The update includes all new Windows Phone 8.1 features from Microsoft, plus several new enhancements specific to Lumia devices. Lumia devices will gain updated Nokia Camera apps, plus Nokia Device Hub, which intelligently tracks accessories used with the device. The Lumia 1520 and Icon phones will gain Nokia Rich Recording and Dolby surround sound video capture, plus Screen Share. Standard Windows Phone 8.1 features include a more customizable home screen, Action Center quick settings, Wi-Fi Sense for automatically connecting to free hotspots, and the Cortana voice assistant. The update will roll out to all eligible devices "in the coming weeks."
BlackBerry today followed up on its promise from earlier this year and released a beta version of BlackBerry Messenger for the Windows Phone platform. The app covers the BBM basics, which means it can be used to chat with individuals or groups, as well as share pictures, voice notes, contacts, and location. The app also supports group chats, in which users can discuss shared calendars, files, and photos. BlackBerry said the beta is limited for now ahead of a wider release. The company will work to add features, including stickers, BBM Voice, BBM Channels, and Glympse in future releases. BBM is already available for Android, iOS, and BlackBerry devices.
Cricket Wireless, which is owned by AT&T, today announced the availability of the Nokia Lumia 630 smartphone. The 630, which is a variant of the Lumia 635 (being sold by T-Mobile and MetroPCS), will reach Cricket stores on July 11. Cricket is offering the Lumia 630 for free with a $50 mail-in rebate card. The device is an entry-level Windows Phone with a 4.5-inch screen and 5-megapixel camera. Cricket is also offering discounts ranging from $20 to $50 on a wide selection of handsets, including the ZTE Sonata 4G, Prelude, and Overture 4G; the Moto G; the Nokia 520 and 1320; and the Samsung Galaxy Express 4G. Cricket is the new brand name being used by AT&T's former Aio Wireless unit. AT&T is transitioning Cricket's CDMA customers to its GSM network so it can eventually repurpose Cricket's spectrum. All the devices covered by Cricket's new promotion operate on AT&T's GSM network.