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WP Central Skype Wi-Fi connection feature

Windows Phone is very careful with how much power it uses. Normal behaviour for the OS is that whilst running on battery it will drop the Wi-Fi connection after a short period in order to conserve as much juice as possible. We have seen reports that point the finger at some apps which are seemingly overriding normal power saving behaviour. Is this a feature or a bug, I decided to do some tests.

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WP Central

Warning: This game comes with Bro-ops & could be awesome for your health

We’ve given you a sneak back in early June but now you too can get your hands on Glu Mobile’s Gun Bros game for Windows Phone. And it’s free.

The game is a classic top-down arcade shooter (reminds us a lot of SmashTV) where you and your ‘Bro’ go around and basically destroy everything you can. We like that idea. Plus you can upgrade you weapons along the way giving a unique level of customization.

We took it for just a quick spin (see the video below) on our Titan II and boy to the graphics look stellar…very arcade like and the controls aren’t too shabby (dual virtual sticks), so we’re thinking it should be good but look for our detailed review a little later.

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WP Central

Is the Bing Social sidebar finally coming to the UK?

It seems that the Bing UK team are beginning to (or are testing a potential) rollout of the design refresh we've seen in the US. Unfortunately, while we can clearly see a familiar login element, we are not receiving the actual sidebar itself. Once Bing UK was loaded, we could login via Windows Live and subsequently connect to Facebook.

After logging in was achieved, and Facebook accounts were connected, once loading search results we were presented with a new look, as well as our name (with drop down arrow for menu options) accompanied by a settings icon. Rewind back to the release of the Bing US design refresh and you'll see something similar (see below screencap) to what we currently have with Bing UK.

Bing US Refresh

We could well be on the verge of an identical design refresh with further social integration, which the US has enjoyed for some time. Have you noticed anything changing on Bing UK? Let us know in the comments.

Thanks, Louis, for the heads up!

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WP Central

Are you a fan of plants? Do you hate zombies? Then if you haven’t already purchased Plants vs. Zombies from PopCap Games, now is your chance because it’s the Deal of the Week!

Plants vs. Zombies is up there with one of the best Xbox LIVE titles for Windows Phone. It has cute graphics, hilarious and bizarre gameplay and it has an addictive quality that makes many users unable to put it down. For these reasons we give it a big thumbs-up and highly recommend it.

The game mostly involves planting plants that shoot at various zombies attacking your house. Variations in plants, ammo, tactics and zombies keep this alternate-tower defense game from getting stale.

WP Central

All is not perfect though as PvZ hasn’t had an update since January and it is still missing proper Mango support (gah!) which is a heck of a shame since it’s so easy to fix. Hopefully PopCap can get around to fixing that and maybe adding a few bonuses for the rest of us?

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RCS-e confirmed for Windows Phone 8

During the IFA Preview today in Munich, Deutsche Telekom confirmed that Windows Phone 7.8 will have Rich Communications Suite (RCS-e) functionality. The functionality was noted earlier in the leaked details and will come in the form of a separate application and integrated with Windows Phone 8. The RCS-e services will be a cross platform, cross network functionality Previously, RCS-e was announced during the Summit a few weeks ago for Windows Phone 8 but it's a technology that most people are not familiar.

In Deutsche Telekom's presentation they discussed using Joyn services that will provide chat, file transfer and video chat features between carriers. . Joyn will be interoperable between Orange, Telefonica and Vodafone networks for now with O2 Germany coming on board after launch.

The service will provide free chat and file transfers and charge for video chat. Commercial availability is planned for October. It will be interesting to see how the RCS-e services match up with existing services such as Skype. Equally interesting will be to see if the U.S. Carriers can play nice to establish such interoperability.

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WP Central

As the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (MPC) in Toronto continues, Windows Phone 8 made a brief appearance today for the 16,000 people who showed up for the annual conference. In fact, anecdotal evidence from attendees suggests Windows Phone has a rather large presence at the conference.

As far as we know, no new features were presented but instead Microsoft focused on the new Start screen, being “business ready” and integration with Microsoft’s services, including Xbox 360 and Windows 8.

One of the most important signals that Microsoft is shifting strategy is the recognition that “Windows Phone” just doesn’t have the same brand recognition as Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android (or perhaps its reputation preceded it). We saw this demonstrated with “Lumia” trending higher than “Windows Phone” in Google searches. Now, Microsoft seems to have recognized this problem and is looking to take it on with Windows Phone 8.

WP Central

Gruhler at WPC'12 in Toronto talking about Windows Phone 8

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Microsoft Slate Design re-brand

Andrew Kim, currently attending the Art Centre College of Design has completed what I can only describe as one of the most compelling Microsoft rebranding exercises I have ever seen.  Andrew explains clearly, not only what he thinks is wrong with the current Microsoft picture but goes on to design it. And what a job he does.

Whilst Microsoft is on the tipping point of bringing together its whole eco system there remains a problem, image. Those that remember the launch of Windows 7 should know to what I’m referring. Microsoft has an often-confusing marketing message, that video, um, where they had the party to celebrate the Windows 7 launch says all. I am certainly not looking for a repeat of that! Now that Microsoft has some amazing products and the Metro UI to shout about, it is time they had a good think about a serious ‘reimagining’ of their company-wide image.

Whilst the name Windows is strong with consumers, the branding simply does not match. Andrew shows how they might be able to re-assert themselves as ‘bringers of tomorrow, a company that seeks to push our world forward though progress through technology. I see branding & marketing message as Microsoft’s next major hurdle. I feel that whilst the new Windows Logo is nice, it is not without problems, I personally also find it a little uncomfortable visually.

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WP Central\

Winner of the Imagine Cup '12 - quadSquad with enable talk

The annual Imagine Cup organized by Microsoft to support student creativity in solving real world problems has just wrapped in Sidney, Australia. As usual, some of the top winners were related to Windows Phone development so we’re going to take a moment to give them their props.

WP Central

Early glove prototype

First place (Software Design) – quadSqaud (Ukraine) - In what is probably one of the most unique and coolest uses of a Windows Phone so far, quadSquad have created a company called enable talk (enabletalk.com) around their gesture interpretation technology.

In short, the problem for many people who use sign-language is the inability to readily communicate with those who don’t speak the same language (there are many sign-languages out in the world and they all have the full capacity of spoken language). 

quadSquad solve this problem by having users wear special sensory gloves that detect the signing. That data is then sent to the Windows Phone where the software takes over, converting the sign to spoken word—literally. enable talk uses Microsoft’s text-to-speech feature to “say” the whole word once it’s signed, giving signers a way to verbally communicate with those unfamiliar with the language.

Creating software is one thing but the team also made the glove system by hand (pun!) which is no small feat. Then they had to record all the gestures in a computer that can be stored for later recognition. The whole thing fits well within Microsoft’s Kinect strategy and of course helps address a real-world problem too. Awesome.

WP Central

The Drexel Dragons won for Game Design (phone) with Math Dash

First place (Game Design—phone) – Drexel Dragons (US) - Ah, math. We hated it in school and we still kind of dislike it as adults but who can deny that it’s not critical? Drexel Dragons took on the challenge of making a game that can help students learn math. What better way to do that than make a game called Math Dash?

Math Dash is a Windows Phone game that allows users to complete problems by dragging the answers (in the form of sparkly ‘atoms’) into the equation field. With the correct answer, users get points for the game and yes, another new math problem. A simple progress bar keeps track of you right versus wrong answers, allowing you to jump to the next level or signaling that you lost. In addition, you can drag number atoms on to other orbs to create new numbers, should you not have the right one to choose. Finally there are also power-ups and hazards to keep it interesting and feeling like a game.

The concept behind Imagine Cup is great—it gives students a chance to shine and actually makes the world slightly better; kudos to Microsoft and all the student developers who come together every year for the competition. Each first-place winning team takes home $8, 000 for their effort.

Check the videos of both winners after the break...

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Official Windows Phone 2012 Olympics App just around the corner?

The 2012 Summer Olympics are just over two weeks away. The London games are set to begin on July 17, 2012 and the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) is eagerly working on an official Windows Phone app for the games. LOCOG's Chief Information Officer Gerry Pennell stated the release is imminent and should be available in days.

While features of the Windows Phone app weren't mentioned, the Windows Phone version should be similar to the iOS and Android Olympics app that sends game results and schedules to the app.  A version of the app is also in the works for Blackberry devices.

There are currently a handful of 2012 Olympic apps already on the Marketplace and it will be nice to see an official offering join the ranks. Speaking of what's already available, look for a roundup of these Olympic apps this Friday.

We'll keep you posted when the official apps hits the Marketplace.

Source: V3; Thanks, Vijay, for the tip!

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WP Central

The "new" Outsider app for Windows Phone

Delays with publishing in the Marketplace should not be a surprise anymore to those familiar with Windows Phone and such was the case with Liquid Daffodil’s Outsider app which is finally live in the Marketplace.

If you recall, Outsider is the re-brand of the Windows Phone community app I’m a WP7! along with its companion app, Outsider Extras. The app was submitted 31 days ago but due to some debate and controversy over the logo, it was delayed a bit.

Outsider contains the same features as I’m a WP7! that includes tips, videos, ringtones, wallpaper, hangouts, gamer hubs, meetups, checkins, messaging and more. It’s a whole sub-community of users and is the largest of its kind for Windows Phone.

WP Central

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WP Central

Faster, Eco! Kill, Kill!

Jaxbot over at Windows Phone Hacker as an interesting experiment going on for those with rooted phones (mostly first gen Windows Phones). The app is called ‘Eco’ and is an aggressive battery saver app.

In short, it turns of all unneeded processes, sensors and clears out the memory for a kind of fresh start and then some. Jaxbot is not even clear if it will actually save battery life (he’s awaiting a battery replacement, hence his need for this) but he’s looking for feedback from users to see if he should go further with it.

Windows Phone users do have a ‘Battery Saver’ option already under Settings which disables all Push services until they recharge again but ‘Eco’ is much more than that, at least in theory.

We’re quite okay with our battery life but we know there are some of you who are either extreme users or have OCD and need to save every drop.  For those peeps, you may want to give this a go.

Head to Windows Phone Hacker for more info and the XAP file. Remember, you need a rooted phone which is more than just developer unlocked. Check the demo video after the break. 

For more info on battery saving tricks, see the homebrew Live Tile battery meter, custom battery icons and how ads in free apps can be huting your power consumption

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Who’s the best at finding out Xbox Live releases ahead of time? Why, Windows Phone Central, of course! We’ve got the exclusive first word of tomorrow’s new Live title... Gun Bros, which we first announced back in April, launches this Wednesday.

Gun Bros

Gun Bros is a top-down twin-stick shooter, not unlike Zombies on the Phone. But instead of a horror theme, this one’s pure sci-fi, with much more content to boot. Players choose from one of two titular bruddas, outfit them with a bevy of high-tech weapons and armor, and then descend onto several contested planets and start filling their alien invaders full of lasers. Don’t worry; I hear the aliens always drink the last of the milk and then leave the jug in the refrigerator instead of throwing it away. Such atrocities will not go unpunished!

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WP Central

It was only a couple of weeks ago that we brought you a video overview of gMaps Pro for Windows Phone. The popular app has now received an update bringing a few welcomed feature improvements.

  • Improved and slick StreetView
  • Your places (with favorites, recent and pinned items)
  • Latitude as layer on your map
  • New localizations: Portuguese, Japanese
  • Offline Chinese offset detection

The big difference for me is the StreetView update. It was a bit jerky to say the least. The update and made is smooth and sweet, just like on the web. Nice job gMaps.

You can download the free (ad supported) version of gMaps here or use the QR code below for the Pro version. I can't stand adverts on my apps!

QR:gMapsPro

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Windows Phone 8, not a phone version of Windows 8

Over at Pocket Lint there is an interesting interview with Greg Sullivan, the Senior Product manager for Windows Phone detailing why Microsoft has decided to continue down the route of an entirely separate operating system for phones rather than using Windows RT.

Sullivan states that he believes that the phone is "unique enough to devote a specific effort... and differentiating that", going on to make comparisons to the most successful tablet on the market at this time:

"When I use an iPad I think it’s a really pleasurable experience, it’s a great consumption device, but I constantly run into guardrails. I want to connect a USB mass storage, oh I can't. I want to print to a printer other than the one Lexmark or whatever, I can't. I keep wanting to do things I can't do. I think it's primarily because of the fundamental strategy where they [Apple] took a phone OS and stretched it up to a tablet."

"We are taking a PC OS and shrinking it down. We could have done the same thing, but it doesn't make sense. When we deliver Surface or any Windows 8 device, the Pro model will run every Windows app ever written. That think will run Visicalc 1.0 from 1981. I saw a demo. It's amazing. It's part of the promise."

"They draw the line between the phone/tablet and the PC, and we are drawing the line between the PC/tablet and the phone."

Let's back up a little bit, and remember the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT. Windows 8 is your full-fat, all inclusive, no compromise operating system which runs on the traditional x86 infrastructure. This means it can be installed on your existing or new systems built on an Intel or AMD processor (or something more exotic using the same instruction set)...

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2012, Microsoft’s Epic Year?

Steve Ballmer took to the stage yesterday at Microsoft’s annual powwow, the Worldwide Partners Conference. Steve was as bullish as ever calling 2012 an “EPIC!” year for Microsoft. Steve is always excited but this time Microsoft does have it ‘going on’. Why is Steve so pumped, and what makes 2012 a year of “epic”?

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Could this be Wordament's youngest champ?

Be ready to be humbled.

Meet Joseph. He may very well be the youngest Wordament champ. He's five and a half years old and is already tearing up the Windows Phone Xbox Live game.

Joseph's game stats are as follows:

  • Best Word: Lumberjacks for 120 points
  • Total Score: 1,075,940
  • Total Words: 83,460
  • Best Game Score: 1,229
  • Best Word Count: 68
  • Full Games Completed: 3,032
  • Top Ten wins: 4
  • Best Ranking: 6

He's also a bit of a ham for the camera scoring near or above 500 points and ranking in the 90+ percentile while on camera. But we all can relate to his request for "just one more game". Most say it daily as our wives, husbands, parents, children, pets or bosses try to get our attention.  I just wish I could sit as comfortably in my lazy boy.

For those who haven't already downloaded Wordament yet, you can find it here at the Windows Phone Marketplace. It is a free Xbox Live title and very addictive. For those already hooked on Wordament, how does your Wordament stats compare to Joseph's?

Source: Wordament Blog

QR: Wordament

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WP Central

In addition to announcing the availability of the new Pink Lumia 900, AT&T today have also confirmed that the Tango update (either build 8773 or the slightly newer 8779) will also be coming to the Lumia 900. From the AT&T blog:

“Nokia is also bringing a lot of new enhancements to the Lumia 900. Nokia Lumia users will begin to see software updates for Windows Phone 7.5 Refresh in the coming weeks, which will add several new capabilities to their devices including flip-to-silence.”

We detail some of those new capabilities here in a previous post--in short, enhancements to MMS including multiple messages, voice notes and some minor fixes are included. In addition, AT&T reiterated that Nokia will be bringing a usage tracking counter and a new contact sharing feature in the near future as well, continuing Nokia’s trend to “fill the gaps” in Windows Phone for its customers.

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Is VideoSurf's technology used in Windows Phone 8?

With today’s leak of supposed Windows Phone 7.8 features (that list is reportedly not complete either) perhaps the most interesting aspect was the new Windows Phone 8 feature with TV support via Bing Audio.

We speculated that this was an IntoNow-like service whereby you can ID television shows by letting your phone sample audio from whatever you are watching. This is analogous to the Bing Audio music ID feature introduced in Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. The question is how would Microsoft do this? Did they just invent their own video-audio ID service?

The answer may be found with an acquisition by Microsoft late last year of a company called VideoSurf (www.videosurf.com; press release).

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GateGuru lands at the Windows Phone Marketplace

GateGuru for Windows Phone

GateGuru is a travel app that has recently landed at the Windows Phone Marketplace. GateGuru has been a successful travel app on the iOS and Android platforms, success the developers are hoping will carry over to the Windows Phone platform.

GateGuru Screens

GateGuru covers over 180 airports across the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia providing maps detailing airport amenities, gate locations, check points and tips on how to get around or what to look for. Additional features include:

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WP Central

Windows 8 will allow you to poke people in the eye this October

Today at Microsoft's worldwide partner conference, Tami Reller, Corporate Vice President of Windows, announced when consumers can expect to see Windows 8 be released. October 2012 was the month provided, with manufacturers getting their mucky paws on the release (as well as Windows Server 2012) in the first week of August.

Reller also notes that business customers with volume licenses will also gain early access, matching Microsoft partners. ZDNet adds that Microsoft hasn't (and wont) let on when TechNet and MSDN members will gain access to the final version. Windows 8 will be available in 109 languages across 231 markets worldwide at launch.

Windows 8

Should you be hoping to build a new computer or order a PC before release, be sure to note that to upgrade to Windows 8 is just $39.99. If you haven't already, check out the release preview for an insight as to what's on the horizon. So, who's excited?

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WP Central

Windows Phone 7.8 will share the same Start screen as Windows Phone 8 but little else

Although Windows Phone 7.8 is months from release, speculation as to what the update may or may not contain has been a hot topic for current Windows Phone users (see our editorial on the subject here).

The site WP7Forum.ru have a mixed reputation when coming to leaks and rumors, so like anything we should take this latest release with a grain of salt.

The data itself contains the supposed feature set of Windows Phone 7.8 and it is what many of us have come to expect—mostly the same with a few new apps. For instance, Skype is still “only an app” so no new system wide integration should be expected. That’s a technical issue and we’re 99% sure the new NT kernel is needed for those advanced VOIP features to keep it “on” all the time without killing your battery.

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Nokia is back to updating a lot of their core apps one of which we completely forgot about: Pulse.

We last covered Nokia Pulse when it was announced at Nokia World back in fall 2011. It’s Nokia’s social-app and at the time we had little use for it—there were no Lumias on the market and Nokia’s service wasn’t exactly all that feature-rich.

Today, Nokia announced that Pulse Beta (yup, it’s still not ready for official release) is going to version 0.9 within in the next day or two (ours is still at 0.8 in the Marketplace). The good news is there are plenty of new features coming with 0.9 that are making us reconsider using this app:

  • You can now sign-in on Nokia Pulse with your Facebook account
  • You can start a new conversation as soon as you open Nokia Pulse
  • The Nokia Pulse live tile now shows more information about unread messages
  • The overall performance of Nokia Pulse has been improved
  • You can now consolidate multiple email addresses for a person…
  • …and more easily correct a misspelled email address
  • Your friend who aren’t using Nokia Pulse just yet will get a direct link to the mobile client for their specific phone for a mobile Nokia Pulse experience

Nokia Pulse is kind of powerful. It’s basically a messaging app on steroids. For instance it allows you to send mapping information (via Nokia Maps) to a contact for a meet-up, you can create groups for mass messaging, add in notes, reviews, phone numbers all with a few taps.

WP Central

Back last year, Nokia introducing a messaging service was akin to when Samsung announced ChatOn—it’s kind of cool but there are alternatives out there.  Flash-forward today though and it’s a bit different—Nokia now means something and we’re much more inclined to jump on their ship as opposed to Samsung’s (then again, ChatOn is multi-platform, Pulse currently is not. However, Nokia Pulse is going to Android and iOS presumably after it is feature-complete on Windows Phone).

You can download Nokia’s Pulse here in the Marketplace. Being a beta, it is not yet restricted to Lumia phones. Let’s repeat that: currently ALL Windows Phones users can try this out but our bet is with v1.0 it will land in the Nokia Collection, so grab it and try it now. Also remember, you're looking for version 0.9 as the latest which may show up in 12-48 hours (we're still on the old v0.8).

Take a look at the video demo and announcement after the break along with the QR code...

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The overwhelming majority of Lumia 900 users are loving their phone

We know from personal experience that owners of the Lumia 900 (review) have a lot of pride in their device and that feeling has now been quantified in a new study commissioned by Nokia. Nokia hired Nielsen’s back in April to survey US buyers of their flagship Windows Phone to see how happy they were with their purchase decision. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 96 per cent of owners are extremely satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their Lumia 900
  • 95 per cent of owners are willing to recommend the Lumia 900
  • 83 per cent say that their expectations are better or much better than expected
  • 85 per cent say they would repurchase the Lumia 900
  • 91 per cent think their phone is better than other mobiles out on the market
  • 95 per cent thought downloading an app from the Marketplace was easy to do

The survey was the online one we reported back in May and consisted of 810 people averaging 18 minutes to complete the questionnaire. Of course we wonder now how many of you skewed the results lending a sampling bias to Nielsen by not necessarily representing the average consumer (as opposed to “enthusiasts”). Ahem.

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Xbox and Nexus Q

In last decade there have been many great rivaleries: Tyson Vs. Hollifield, Baggy pants vs Skinny Jeans, Alien VS. Predator - the list just goes on and on. Now a new fight is brewing: Google's Nexus Q and Microsoft's Xbox 360.

Google has recently announced their new form of media consumption for their users. It's small, round, glows like Tron, and  looks a bit like the Death Star. This sphere will go head to head with the Xbox 360. Microsoft has been rebranding the Xbox 360 for the last few years, turning it from an exclusive gaming system to your main media device. More and more people have been using the console to watch movies, stream music, and to video chat. With Smart Glass coming out hopefully in the fall, Microsoft will be integrating your phone or tablet as both a second screen and remote control.

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ARMED! Preview now available for free on Windows 8

ARMED Preview

Just before summer started, Dallas-based Sickhead Games announced they would be porting their popular indie strategy title ARMED! to Windows 8 and iOS. They weren’t lying, as ARMED! Preview is now available on the Windows 8 store.

Why the ‘Preview’ moniker? As most PC users know, Windows 8 hasn’t been officially released yet. Lots of people are running preview builds in the wild though, and ARMED! Preview is meant for them. The build is free and basically functions as a public beta; you can submit feedback through the Sickhead website. Not a bad move, as it’s best to test online multiplayer games as much as possible before you start charging for them. Also note that the promised cross-platform multiplayer between ARMED! on Windows 8 and Windows Phone has not gone live yet, but it’s still in the works.

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