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Start backgrounds are probably one of the more interesting changes we’ve seen in Windows Phone 8.1. It’s another step Microsoft has made to allow users to customize and make their Windows Phone experience unique and personal. We happen to be very big fans of the Start backgrounds and have seen the community respond to them positively as well. A lot of you were timid and curbed your enthusiasm when Start backgrounds leaked a month ago, but the response after actually using it has been the opposite.

Today we’re going to highlight some tips, apps, resources and images to make Windows Phone truly beautiful with a unique Start background.  

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Apple, Google, and Microsoft are but a few of the names that have announced a commitment to including features to deter smartphone theft in all future products. Even the carriers are on board, with the big four announcing support and commitment as well.

What they're all committing to is the "Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment." All phones sold by the signees after July 2015 will offer, at no additional cost, the following tools and services:

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One of the fun features of Windows Phone 8.1 is the ability to add a background image to your Start Screen and let it shine through transparent Live Tiles.

There is a new Windows Phone 8.1 app in the Windows Phone Store that lets you take this customization one step further. Start Screen Customizer provides you with the ability to choose a solid colored background or adjust the tones of a background image to give your Start Screen a little more pop.

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Despite the fact Windows Phone 8.1 has been garnering some fantastic reviews from both tech pundits and the masses, it’s not all roses and ponies. I was reminded of this last night when playing with the Xbox Music app that comes with 8.1.

On the surface, the app looks decent. It’s a continuation of the new app structure started late last year by Microsoft, which replaces the ‘built in’ Music + Video hubs of the past. Microsoft is changing the architecture so that the Windows Phone Team can quickly add new features and fix bugs, all without an OS update.

But let’s not mince words: the music experience on Windows Phone 8.1 is subpar, and it has become worse since 8.0.  In fact, it sits with a pathetic 2.5 stars (out of 5) on the Store, which is awful for a Microsoft app.

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Hobby Lobby is a popular arts and crafts retail chain here in the United States. They are in the news right now due to a bit of controversy, but that doesn’t stop them releasing a new app for Windows Phone! Head to hobbylobby.com and you’ll see a big banner promoting their new app. Talk about support for Windows Phone! There are over 561 stores in the United States and now one app for your phone.

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There are so many new features in Windows Phone 8.1. Of course Cortana and the notification center will steal the headlines, but it’s the other features that help make this a momentous update. We’re going to highlight quiet hours and show you how to get the most out of it. Quiet hours is the new “do not disturb” feature in Windows Phone 8.1 that’s powered by Cortana.

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The Windows Phone keyboard became even better with the 8.1 update. A few enhancements that you may not know about include auto-importing of names from your contacts, which improves the auto-complete feature in Word Flow. Another is the awesome Shape writing, which we’ve come to love in our daily usage.

But what about swearing? (Warning: curse words ahead).

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Rogers has announced some new roaming add-ons for Canadian travelers. Not too long ago, Rogers unveiled a $7.99 daily roaming plan for the U.S. (which already faces stiff competition against WIND’s $15 unlimited plan), and this new one is built for roaming worldwide. But don’t get too excited; it’s $9.99 for a day for up to 20 MB (depending on where you're going), with no voice or text. That’s better than the $10 - $15 they’d normally charge per megabyte without a package. This add-on will be applied automatically after you start using data abroad, though you’ll get SMS alerts about usage.

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For those in the US whom also have Windows Phone 8.1 installed, Cortana is probably one of your most frequented new features on your phone. If you’re outside the US, you’ll have to wait a little longer for Microsoft to localize your language (unless you follow our simple tutorial).

When sharing images of my 8.1 screen, a lot of people have asked me why I pin Cortana as a wide Tile. After all, I could just hit the dedicated Search key (Tip: you can long press the Search key on the Lock screen to call up Cortana). On the surface, it’s seems like a simple question, but I’ll explain why if you have Cortana, making her a permanent Tile on your screen may be a good idea.

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Windows Phone 8.1, released yesterday through the Preview for Developer program, sure has a lot of new features. We tried to document most, if not all, of those in our colossal review/overview of the OS, but as suspected some items will fall through the cracks.

Reader of the site Nicholas M. brought to our attention that 8.1 not only has independent volume levels for Ringer + Notifications versus Media + Apps, but also a separate volume slider for headphones. We looked into the finding and also discovered that there’s a fourth volume slider, one for Bluetooth.

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Last fall, I had the pleasure of traveling to Casual Connect USA and interviewing Polish game developer Artifex Mundi. They announced three upcoming games to us during the event: Nightmares from the Deep: The Siren’s Call, Deadlings, and Enigmatis: The Mists of Ravenwood. Siren’s Call came out in November, followed by Deadlings in February, leaving only Mists of Ravenwood unreleased.

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Cortana is full of personality (maybe not as much as Arsenio might like you to think), and the developers that built out the assistant's library of responses were sure to build in some good doses of self referential humor. A lot of times what a tool really needs to do to connect with users is put a smile on the user's face. And what's not to love about Clippy?

Wait, Clippy?

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Halo: Spartan Assault has gone universal: you can buy it once on one Windows-powered device and download it on your others. As we noted yesterday, Microsoft started accepting submissions for universal apps, and combined with the new unified pricing tiers and [universal app development] and automated certification we're starting to see the first universal apps appear. A notable entrant: Halo: Spartan Assault.

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One of the many features of Windows Phone 8.1 is the ability to add a third row of tiles to your Windows Phone Start Screen. We’ve already gotten used to seeing the third row in action on the larger screened Nokia Lumia 1520 but how is it performing on the smaller screened devices?

WPCentral member nexialbinding has started this discussion in the forums asking just that. Nexialbinding updated a Lumia 920 and is a little put off on how terrible things look with the extra row added.

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Microsoft has today unveiled a cheaper subscription option for Office 365 – Personal. Previously, consumers had to fork out $10 a month for the Home package, allowing up to 5 installations of Office. With the new iPad suite now available, the company has launched a package that limits installations, but opens up support for iPads and comes with a more affordable price tag.

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The Xbox team have announced the roll out of the latest update to hit Microsoft's next-gen video game console. We've previously looked at the update, which was tested by consumers to make sure everything is working as it should. There are numerous enhancements included so pop past the break to see what's new.

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Back in late February Microsoft announced that nine new OEMs would be joining the Windows Phone ecosystem. It also announced a new site, oem.windowsphone.com, for OEMs to get information and learn how to bring Windows Phone devices to market quickly. Companies like HTC and Samsung won’t really need this portal. That site is now live and potential OEMs can get the help they need to build and ship a new Windows Phone.

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While I totally love the messaging app on Windows Phone, sometimes long, meandering conversations can be annoying with their constant alerts. I’d rather text passively when I choose to, rather then get distracted by a ping every second.

Apart from the plethora of big feature additions that you’ve been reading about at Windows Phone Central, Windows Phone 8.1 has also introduced a nifty feature that allows you to mute text message threads. As far as we know, no other smartphone platforms has this useful feature, making it quite interesting for Windows Phone users.

Let's take a look at how it works!

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Did you upgrade to Windows Phone 8.1?

Today was a very busy day when at 7 am EST the Windows Phone 8.1 Preview for Developers went live. That allowed those with developer accounts (pro tip: anyone can become one) to download and install Windows Phone 8.1 on their device. Take a moment to let us know if you upgraded your smartphone from Windows Phone 8 to Windows Phone 8.1 if you’re not busy playing with Cortana.

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Microsoft has confirmed that support for the original Windows 8.1 software will be discontinued in favor of the more recently released Windows 8.1 Update. They will be treating the Update version as it's own service and support baseline, and users who wish to continue to receive security patches will have to migrate to Windows 8.1 Update.

If you opted to manually download and install updates in the original Windows 8.1 software, you'll have 30 days in which to install the Update version. After those 30 days are over, any newly-downloaded updates will be marked as not applicable for your device.

The source link has a full list of related tech bulletins and articles for those who want to dig a little deeper into the "why this was done" question. For the rest of us, just know that it's time to install Windows 8.1 Update if we want to continue to participate in Patch Tuesday.

Source: TechNet Blog; Via: Infoworld

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It appears that Microsoft is finished with the "Scroogled" ad campaign. Over the weekend, Derrick Connell — a Microsoft corporate VP, and head of the Bing Experiences team — answered a small Q&A at Yabbly and and had the following to say:

We are always evaluating and evolving our marketing campaigns. There are times when we use our marketing to highlight differences in how we see the world compared to competitors, and the Scroogled campaign is an example of this. Moving forward, we will continue to use all the right approaches and tactics when and where they make sense.

While that doesn't necessarily say the Scroogled campaign is ending, it does sound as if they are drifting away from it. What say you? Was it an effective campaign, or one that should be abandoned to make room for fresh ideas?

Via: ZDNet

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