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WP Central

The new SkyDrive login screen

Two weeks ago Hotmail became Outlook.com with a new Metro…errr..modern look to it and now it is finally time for SkyDrive to get the same makeover.

Heading to www.skydrive.com you can see the new site redesign (log out and refresh if you are not seeing it) that brings it up to par with the Windows 8, Windows Phone and Outlook’s new appearance. And yes, Microsoft is not calling it Metro but rather are using ‘modern’ instead—take that as you will.

Besides the new look, SkyDrive also gets some new features on board including instant search, contextual toolbar, thumbnail multi-select, drag-and-drop organization, and HTML5 sorting which should make the service is more fun to use.

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Surface Tablet

Rum'o'meter

Microsoft will be unveiling its Windows RT Surface tablets this coming October with a price tag of $199, according to an Engadget source. Microsoft first unveiled the Surface family of Windows tablets earlier this year, and pricing rumours have been flying all around the room. The tipster reportedly revealed details from a session at Microsoft's recent TechReady15 conference and notes that the Surface Windows RT tablet will launch on October 26th.

Should Engadget's source be correct, this will definitely put the Surface on the map as an affordable tablet experience compared to competing Android and Apple offerings. With the low-end Windows RT version sporting 32GB storage, Office 2013, a variety of connectivity ports, and weighing in at just 676g, $199 would be an excellent launch price. For comparison sake, the Apple iPad 2 starts from $399 for the 16GB WiFi model (or $499 should you desire the new Retina iPad). Too good to be true?

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Exclusive Windows Phone fear for your Xbox Avatar!

You probably wouldn't have guessed it, but here at WPCentral we love two things: Windows Phone and our readers. That's why when redeemable Xbox Avatar codes for Windows Phone gear caught our eye during a press event, we grabbed a handful and ran. It was a close call but with the help of the good ol' rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle, we managed to escape with 30 of them (15 for each sex).

Here's what you need to do to enter our little giveaway here:

  1. Comment on this article. Anything will do, really. But make sure you specify which code you want -- either male or female. Otherwise we'll laugh at you when you don't get a code.
  2. (Optional) Share this with friends via your choice of technology. (See the social buttons at the bottom of this post.)

We'll then randomly choose 30 of you and email you the redeem code. That's it! You have 24 hours. Go!  Commenting is now closed. Results will be posted in 24 hours or less.

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WP Central

Image removed by request from ALPS

With just a few weeks before Nokia World is scheduled to take place it is not too surprising to see more and more leaks happening regarding the Finnish company’s Windows Phone 8 plans.

The photo to the right is just another piece of that puzzle and is certainly one of the more unique pieces of evidence to come out. What we are allegedly looking at is the display frame for a new Nokia Windows Phone that came from one of Nokia’s new screen sub-contractors called ALPS (that company does make capactive panels for smartphones).

Measuring roughly 4.3” across the part looks to be a reference design used to manufacture the expected high-resolution display (1280x720 or 800x480). Besides the new Windows Phone 8 logo and hole for the ambient light sensor not much else can be garnered from the image.

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Ask Ziggy

The speech recognition service, offering similar capabilities to Apples Siri is set to get a sweet little cash injection. The company has just walked away from talks to inject $5 million US into expanding its service to include more accents and languages.

The company is working closely with Nuance Communications to deliver mobile apps for Android and Apple devices and even bring the service to normal cell phones too. They aim to bring the service to tablets and computing headsets also.

Ask Ziggy also announced that they intend to release its SDK shortly. Sounds like good news for the company. It is clear that investors see the market value of these speech recognition systems. As Windows Phones users, we have had Ask Ziggy for some time and overall folks seem happy with the service.

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Little Acorns iOS

iOS version

If there’s one thing we love in the gaming division at Windows Phone Central, it’s bringing our readers exclusive news about upcoming Xbox Live releases. Once again we have the scoop on this week’s new Xbox Live game: Little Acorns from Chillingo.

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Blue Update

Windows 8 is done, recently reaching RTM and tomorrow some folks will be lucky enough to get their hands on the final code. Word from a few prominent bloggers is that Microsoft may not quite be finished with WinRT just yet.  Suggestion is that MS maybe moving to update the WinRT environment faster than the current three-year cycle dictates.

If this rumour were true then it would mean a major break with updating policy from Microsoft. WinRT is functionally still a long way from complete, a series of rapid updates could do much to fill in the gaps. Although haven’t we heard the promise of rapid updates somewhere before?

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WP Central

WP Central

Although the Windows Phone 8 software development kit (SDK) was leaked a few weeks ago, allowing us to go through it like drug-starved loonies, the big question on everyone's mind is When will Microsoft actually release the package to developers?

As one can imagine, SDKs do take quite a lot of work to put together. There are APIs to lockdown, questions and answers to be formulated and it all needs to be written up so that developers will have an easy ‘cookbook’ for making apps. In that regard, we can see why it would take the Windows Phone Team some time to put one together.

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Microsoft Store Grand Opening in Boston

We first caught wind of a new Microsoft retail store heading to Boston, MA back in May and now we are finding out the Grand Opening is set for August 23, 2012.

Boston's store will be located at the Shops at Prudential Center. More specifically, the store will be located in the center's Boylston Arcade. Not sure if this was by chance or design but Boston's Apple Store is located across within stone's throw on Boylston Street as well.  Which should make for an interesting Grand Opening and healthy competition.

If you're going to be in the Boston area for the Grand Opening, we've got a discussion going on in the forums. It may be a great opportunity to meet up with your fellow Windows Phone Central readers.

Thanks, gemini5150, for the tip!

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WP Central

Say what you will about Microsoft and Apple but the two companies either appear to be the only adults in the room or alternatively, they have formed an alliance against Android. Or maybe both.

Evidence has come forth in the Apple-Samsung trial that the former has licensed so-called ‘design patents’ to Microsoft, which indemnify them against lawsuits from Apple over their Windows Phone and Surface tablets. This may partially explain why Apple was trying to collect patent royalties from Samsung in their late 2010 offer to the company.

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EA Games

EA Games sees a strong partner in Microsoft

Electronic Arts (or EA - the devil of gaming, as its better known within the gaming industry) is currently in talks with Microsoft to bring mobile games to the next version of Windows (on all platforms). EA sees Windows as central to its handset strategy (so we'll be including Windows Phone too) and have previously worked with both Microsoft and Nokia in getting titles released on the mobile platform.

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Longer Lighter Thinner Windows RT

Microsoft has so far been rather coy when it comes to the actual performance characteristics of their forthcoming WinRT tablets. That’s to have been expected due to the new ARM requirements but many have wondered how frugal with battery and weight a Windows RT tablet could really be.

Windows on ARM devices are designed to compete with existing tablets currently available in the market. So far the iPad has been leading the way with great all-day performance and setting the bar for its competition. The good news is some of these initial performance specs look good, even when based on non-final firmware.

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WP Central

It looks like Samsung may have inadvertently leaked their upcoming Windows Phone 8 device for peppy T-Mobile. And if accurate, fans will be very excited.

The data presented in the document, found by TmoNews, hints that this device is none other than the Samsung Odyssey, which was initially leaked in court documents at the end of July.

The info comes from Samsung's wap.samsungmobile.com site which notoriously shows upcoming devices before they are announced...

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Weather Update

An update has been released for Nokia's Weather Windows Phone app, which is available in the OEM collection on the Marketplace. The app is a "suped-up" version of The Weather Channel app that is available for all Windows Phone owners to use, and sports some interesting functionality and features. The manufacturer launched their own version of the app back in July and already they've released an update.

It was previously limited in availability but this update brings with it new region support. While no changelog is presently available, we expect backend changes and improvements to be bundled with the release. 

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September the Red Carpet Month for Windows Phone 8?

Windows Phone 8 Red Carpet Day

Roll out the red carpet for Windows Phone 8

Rum'o'meter

Rumour is that Microsoft maybe ready to launch Windows Phone 8 as early as September. We certainly know that both Nokia and HTC are prepping to show off their new shiny Windows Phone 8 toys around that time. Could it be that Microsoft are going for a full launch rather than just simply an RTM and device previews at the end of next month? We’d hope so, but it's just a rumour.

The guys over at pocketnow seem to think this might be the case after getting -what they say appears to be- a legit memo from an MS partner with a specific launch date.

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SoundGecko

Long Zheng, the man behind the popular istartedsomething blog and MetroTwit, has teamed up with Andrew Armstrong and Ed Hooper to found 121cast.  As described from their website, 

121cast is reinventing the radio by creating an online platform that delivers personalised audio for consumption on the go.

Our vision is to be the "radio station" of choice for smartphone owners with an intelligent and contextual audio stream to compliment the busy lifestyle and heavy information consumption of the modern professional.

121cast was founded by Andrew Armstrong, Ed Hooper and Long Zheng in February 2012 and is based in Melbourne Australia.

In June, 121cast was awarded an Entrepreneurial Fellowship by the University of Melbourne Faculty of Engineering to complete the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP).

The first product to come out of their startup is SoundGecko. With so much information flying around the interwebs, and so many juicy posts on Windows Phone Central, it's hard to keep up. But what if you could have articles read to you while snuggling up to people on the train, or driving? Well, that's exactly what SoundGecko does.

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WP Central Round up of Jogging/Running Apps

WPCentral's roundup of running/jogging apps for your Windows Phone

Several months ago the popular fitness app RunKeeper was pulled from the Windows Phone Marketplace. The reason was simple, the developer decided to drop support for the app and focus on other platforms. This opened the door for other fitness apps to step up and fill the gap.

We decided to take a peek at the popular fitness apps that concentrated on running/jogging to see what alternatives are out there. Plus Dan just joined a fitness center and is looking for a good jogging app.

After reading user reviews on the Marketplace and taking a peek at the apps ourselves, we've narrowed the field to five.  All five have similarities with online components and making use of your Windows Phone's GPS.  One even adds a storyline and a bit of suspense to your workouts.  As always, if we missed the running app that you think is the bee's knees, jump in below and share your thoughts in the comments.

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Uncapped data package for Lumias in South Africa

WP Central

It is quite a well known fact that smartphones tend to use a lot of data, and this is particularly true with Windows Phones which are very well connected to the world around you. In fact, Microsoft even urges users to get an unlimited/uncapped data package for their phones. That's not a problem in the U.S. as many providers have competitive packages offering just that.

For those living in South Africa however, mobile internet (and fixed line for that matter) is a bit of a sore spot. It is not uncommon practice to charge R2 ($0.25) per MB when not buying a large bundle, and many users get hit with massive bills after the first month of using their new smartphone. This is worsened by service providers who bundle tiny amounts of data with contracts giving people the impression that it will be enough.

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Deal Flux updated to v1.2

Deal Flux is a popular deal finder app for your Windows Phone. It was recently updated to version 1.2 that adds social integration and a few new deal sites to the app.

Dailysteals.com, Tech.Woot and Sport.Woot has been added as deal sources. This brings the total number of sources/categories that Deal Flux taps into up to seventeen.  All of which should bring you more deals to choose from.

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WhatsApp

Lo and behold, WhatsApp for Windows Phone has returned. The popular messenger app vanished from view just over a week ago and has remained "private" since. We got in touch with the WhatsApp team in attempt to withdraw information detailing the reasons why it was hidden from consumers who may be looking to download (or reinstall) the app, but had no luck with replies received from employees.

We later relayed the news that WhatsApp for Windows Phone was possibly removed because of security concerns and vulnerabilities. A German website reported an Android WhatsApp sniffing tool was able to intercept messages sent using the messaging app over a WiFi connection. WhatsApp later denied this as the cause for the app pull and assured Windows Phone Central that this was not a security related incident.

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WP Central

We’ve covered the whole how-to-keep-your-Wi-Fi-alive issue before on Windows Phone Central. It was first realized that some apps keep the data-connection channel open which then allows your Wi-Fi to stay on when the phone is placed in standby (screen off).

Then a bloke over at XDA Forums created an app to mimic that scenario and it worked quite well except for the fact that it appeared to play a dummy song in your music controls.

Jaxbot from Windows Phone Hacker has now thrown his hat in the ring with Keep Alive. It too is a homebrew app that does not require root, meaning regular ‘dev unlocked’ phones can use it but it uses a slightly different method. Instead of pretending to stream a dummy song, Jaxbot evidently has set up his own server which then keeps your phone connected—data is kept at a minimum as it is just using pings to keep the connection open.

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WP Central

In the ongoing saga between Samsung and Apple, documents came out late last night from the court case that detailed a proposal by Apple to charge Samsung for royalties on their smartphones.

It’s interesting for a few reasons. For one, Apple almost never enters into cross-platform patent royalty deals with other companies, specifically if it is tied to any of their “product differentiating” technologies. Back in 2010 though, Apple was willing to make an exception to this with Samsung because they are a major parts supplier for Cupertino and they wanted to preserve that relationship. Apple was also “shocked” at just how much Samsung was willing to allegedly copy the iPhone.

In the documents, Apple spells out some license terms it was willing to offer Samsung back in October 2010—just a few weeks before Windows Phone 7 became available.  Although Android was offered a $24-per-device royalty fee, which yes, is extremely high, Apple evidently also wanted $9 per ‘Windows Mobile 7’ device as well.

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