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We're hearing additional confirmation of rumors that Microsoft is speeding up their release cycle for Windows. Mary Jo Foley's sources say we may see Windows 8.1 update 2 as soon as August, which could include a new start menu, but probably not floating modern apps in desktop mode, which may take until Spring 2015 to arrive in Windows 9. We had heard Windows Phone update cycles would be sped up too, so it would be no surprise if Windows had things kicked up a notch too.

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Some of you were looking for file managers for Windows Phone 8.1, so a couple of developers have quickly delivered. These file managers let you access your Documents, Downloads, and other user folders. You can essentially read, copy, and move files.

The two apps that we’re looking at are Aerize Explorer and Pocket Explorer. They share similar features with a few differences. Both apps are currently works in progress but can already be downloaded from the Windows Phone Store.

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Another Case Solved is a new puzzle game for Windows Phone 8 that has you playing detective to solve the mystery of a curious candy conspiracy. The story line has your city clamping down on candy cravings by outlawing the source. You will need to figure out what is behind the candy craze by gathering clues, interviewing witnesses and solve a series of mind-bending clues.

Another Case Solved has seen a decent amount of success over on iOS and based on tinkering with the game for a short period, it should be well received on the Windows Phone and Windows 8 platforms as well.

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There was nothing worse than accidentally exiting a game on a Windows Phone by hitting the search capacitive button. This turned gameplay into a terrible experience, especially if the game didn't pause and issues arose. It also made it difficult for players to hop back into the gaming seat and pick off where he (or she) left off. This has changed in Windows Phone 8.1.

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Reuters has released a Windows app for desktop and tablet owners to keep tabs on the world's biggest news. All of the major news topics are covered, including technology, politics, and business. Rich video and imagery keeps things interesting, and sharing options helps you get the word out about important stories to your social circle.

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Windows Phone 8.1 has a lot going on under the hood, from unified app stores with Windows 8.1 to new tools for developers. One of those tools is dubbed the ‘Social Extensibility Framework’ and while an odd term, it will have vast consequences for Windows Phone users going forward.

In case you’re wondering, this is the ‘What happened to Facebook in Windows Phone 8.1?’ discussion. While some of you have lamented the changes, no doubt due in part to habit, in the long run this improved architecture alteration will give companies a more consistent and unified approach to Windows Phone.

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Word Flow is the new name for the keyboard in Windows Phone 8.1. That keyboard includes a Shape writing feature where you swipe letters on the keyboard as opposed to the traditional touch-typing method. You slide your finger across the keyboard, pausing ever so slightly on the keys you want used and the software does the rest to create the words (here's our hands-on video).

While many will swear by Shape writing (it even set the World Record for typing speed), some aren’t yet sold on this new keyboard feature. WPCentral reader, PxuLL, has started this discussion over in the Forums asking if you use Shape writing.

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American carriers are making progress in being more open and customer-friendly — particularly T-Mobile — but Sprint is preparing to take a significant step forward by ensuring that the devices they sell to customers are able to be SIM unlocked. Eventually. In 2015. In an FAQ on Sprint's unlocking policy, the company states that they are "working to ensure that all devices developed and launched on or after February 11, 2015 are capable of being unlocked domestically."

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For today only, purchase the Incipio Feather Snap-On Case for Nokia Lumia 521 and save 32% off the list price!

Lightweight and durable, the Feather Case for Nokia Lumia 521 is engineered to provide inconspicuous protection. The snap-on application of this hard case allows for quick installation when needed and its soft touch finish provides a comfortable grip in the hand.

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Bing Rewards is a neat program from Microsoft that enables web surfers who utilize Bing to earn rewards for using the service. Today, Microsoft announced integration with US carriers for converting points to air miles. If you're not familiar with air miles, airlines have their own frequent flyer programs that reward customers with savings and promotions on point schemes. If you search with Bing, you'll be able to convert points earned to miles with participating programs.

Bing Rewards will be pairing with American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Icelandair Saga Club, IHG Rewards Club, LifeMiles, My BestBuy Rewards, SVM FuelCircle, US Airways and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. All you have to do is (once you've received the certificate) select your preferred loyalty program, enter your member number and all points or miles will be transferred to the specified account. Be sure to read through terms and conditions and other details on the Bing Rewards website for further information.

Source: Bing Rewards

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We’ve enjoyed the ability to set custom alerts with our Windows Phone contacts for a while now and with Windows Phone 8.1, we know have the ability to extend this customization to our app notification alerts.

While custom alerts for our contacts may be old hat for some, for those new to the Windows Phone platform all you need to do is go into your contacts and choose the edit button. You will see two options to set a custom ringtone and text tone just below their name. Customizing an alert sound for an app is just as simple.

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Samsung isn't the only one updating its App Folder application for Windows Phone today as Nokia has pushed out an update to its own version. Downloadable from the Windows Phone Store right now there's not a lot to shout about, just some general performance improvements.

But we'll never turn our noses up at performance improvements. And if you've not yet downloaded it, give it a shot, it's completely free.

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Consumers thoroughly enjoy using Cortana and what she can bring to the Windows Phone experience and while many are impressed by the whole setup and how Cortana looks on-screen, there may be many hidden animations you may not be aware of. We know Cortana had an Easter egg in the form of Clippy (the famous Word assistant), but Leon Zandman decided to investigate further into how this was triggered and stumbled onto numerous Cortana personae.

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With NFC on your smartphone, using it to pay for your morning commute across London may be getting closer to reality. According to a report in the Financial Times, carriers EE and Vodafone have begun talks with Transport for London over beginning trials of a mobile wallet to pay for your travel.

The initial trial is expected to be a “pay as you go” scheme using apps owned by the mobile operators that can be preloaded with money. Operators could also consider payment for tickets on a weekly or monthly basis, according to a person familiar with the plans.

The barriers at London Underground stations will work with smartphones for NFC payments, though that facility would need to be activated first. With the successful Oyster card scheme costly for TfL to run, they're opening up to other methods of contactless payments for travellers.

Source: Financial Times

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Samsung is an illusive partner for Microsoft when it comes to Windows Phone. The manufacturer has produced some excellent hardware for the platform (annoyingly so), but still refuses to market its products effectively and offer necessary support. That all said, we're seeing constant updates pushed out for its Windows Phone apps and today we're looking at a new release for App Folder.

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Nokia's DT-900 wireless charging pad is no stranger to the deals corner and it's back once again. This time out if you head on over to Tanga, you'll be able to pick one up for $14.99 plus shipping to anywhere in the mainland U.S. It doesn't say which color you'll be getting, though the pictures on the site at least show black and white. So maybe it's pot luck.

It isn't the cheapest we've seen the DT-900 at over time, but $14.99 for a pretty decent Qi compatible wireless charger isn't to be sniffed at. It works with a ton of Lumia devices, so it's definitely worth snagging if you've been waiting on another deal to appear.

Let us know if you're grabbing one!

Source: Tanga Thanks Sean for the tip!

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We all have our favorite weather apps. Some folks like simple weather apps that display the weather in clean layouts with minimal distractions. While some of you may like detailed information and prefer more in-depth weather apps. And a lot of you really like Amazing Weather HD for Windows Phone. We’ve covered many updates to Amazing Weather, but we feel like this is an update a lot of you really want – especially if you’re rocking Windows Phone 8.1. Ready for transparent Live tiles?

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The Nokia Lumia 1520 on AT&T is an amazing phone. However, the lack of support for the Qi wireless charging standard is its biggest flag. You remember what happened. AT&T had opted to neuter the device by giving it PMA support through a wireless charging shell. PMA is the other wireless charging standard competing for acceptance. It’s also a standard that AT&T publically supports. They said it couldn’t be undone, that every Lumia 1520 from AT&T would need an accessory to wireless charge. Well, never say never when it comes to the Windows Phone community.

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Baconit and Readit are the best Reddit clients on Windows Phone. With each update the two apps get better and better. Today we’re looking at version 3.0 of Baconit in the Windows Phone Store. It’s a major update and one that you won’t want to miss if you’re a fan of Reddit. You’ll find a new start experience and so much more. Let’s check out version 3.0 of Baconit.

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A few days ago we took an in-depth look at how Microsoft improved Data Sense in Windows Phone 8.1. Everyone on limited data plans should become intimately familiar with how Data Sense can help you. There are a few more ‘senses’ in Windows Phone 8.1 including Wi-Fi Sense and Storage Sense. Today we’re going to check out Wi-Fi Sense and make sure you understand everything there is to know about it.

Let’s make sense of Wi-Fi Sense!

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Microsoft India has kicked off a new Gold Rush promotion for Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers. The promotion is open for all gamers with a Gamertag profile registered under India, Singapore, Taiwan, and Korea and continues till June 30, 2014.

Xbox LIVE Gold is a premium multiplayer gaming network that offers free games, exclusive member discounts, and entertainment for your Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

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Netflix has released their Q1 2014 earnings report today, and bundled deep in the news about numbers and dollars is a short paragraph about pricing.

Later this quarter, Netflix plans to increase prices for new streaming customers by $1 to $2 more per month. Current subscribers will continue to pay what they're paying ($7.99 here in the states) for a "generous time period."

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You may not know this, but Microsoft has actually overhauled their Maps app for Windows Phone with the 8.1 release. The reason you may not be aware is due to the majority of you using Lumias. Nokia has their HERE Maps application, which prioritizes over Microsoft’s Maps. But with the Preview being available, Microsoft’s Maps app is once again back on the Apps list (if not, you can use third-party apps to re-create the shortcut).

So what’s new in Maps for 8.1? There are quite a few features, which we’ll discuss below, including how best to use them!

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