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WP Central

The official Six Flags app from Nokia is a wild ride

The Six Flags app from Nokia for their Lumia line of Windows Phones received a small update today. Now at version 1.19 the update looks to be some minor bug fixes and under the hood optimizations that usually follow an initial public release. In other words, we’ve found no observable new features but presumably it will run a little faster now.

The official Six Flags app from Nokia is a companion app for the park which provides park info (location, hours), maps within the park (with augmented reality), videos, food and shop information (including descriptions) and park events (with a calendar). The deal between Nokia and Six Flags is mutual as the parks reportedly are heavily advertising the flagship Lumia 900.

Interestingly, neither Android or iOS have a Six Flags app making Lumia Windows Phones the first.

Pick up the exclusive Six Flags app from Nokia here in the Nokia Collection. Check out our hands on video after the break with the QR code. Thanks, Jose, for the heads up

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O2 UK announce July availability for Lumia 610

WP Central Nokia 610

Chrome finish and sleek lines come as standard

O2 UK have announced via their coming soon page that the Nokia's Tango-flavoured Lumia 610 will be arriving this month. Availability is simply set as July so that should be any time now.

The 610 has been built from the ground up to adhere to the new lower specification requirements made possible with Tango. The new lower spec devices have courted some controversy due to a lack of 100% application compatibility. The Lumia 610 represents Nokia’s attempt to bring the price of Windows Phone down sufficiently to allow it to be sold on great value monthly contracts or the ever-popular Pay-As-You-Go. I think its great Nokia are endeavouring to get these phones to as many people as possible. In my opinion, based on some limited time with the device, they have done well to keep the quality up. I would be surprised if it’s not a popular choice for Pay As You Go consumers.

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Another SkyDrive app appears in Windows 8 Marketplace

WP Central Skydrive Desktop App For Win8

Microsoft in a surprising move has updated the Windows 8 Marketplace so that there is now another SkyDrive app available. This is not the WinRT version but instead a shortcut to the full-blown desktop app that is currently available to all. SkyDrive is going to be a linchpin of Microsoft’s cloud based continuous client strategy. So what are they up to?

Windows 8 already has the WinRT version of SkyDrive, but currently that does not support folder synchronisation. I have to say I find this rather odd. I would have expected MS to simply update the existing built-in app to support such a function.

I do think there are number of reasons they have chosen this route. Firstly, it could be that a pure WinRT version will make it impossible to execute that level of interaction with the classic desktop environment. It could also be there to help aid install until a fully featured SkyDrive app baked in  with the WinRT environment and the Classic environment.

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Lumia 800

Swedish carrier Three (or "3") is offering the Nokia Lumia 800 on a 2-year contract for 299 kr (about $40), but that's not all as the carrier is also bundling the 4G slim version of the Xbox 360 for free. 2GBs of data is included in the plan, and with a free Xbox who can grumble?

We've previously covered similar offers in Sweden with the LG Optimus 7, so it's good to see carriers using Lumia Windows Phones in attempt to push more out the doors. The Lumia 800 itself is a sturdy mid-range Windows Phone that sports a 1.4Ghz chip, 512MB RAM, 16GB storage, 3.7 AMOLED display (with Clear Black technology), and has access to Nokia's collection of OEM exclusive apps.

Source: Three, via: WinGadget.se

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Official eBay Windows Phone app updated to version 1.18

eBay

We've received notifications that an update is available for the highly rated eBay app for Windows Phone - version 1.18. What's new in this latest release? We're not entirely sure, though our Daniel Rubino experienced issues with logging in on version 1.17, but can achieve this task after updating.

Other than the potential login fix (should you be affected), we're not entirely sure what's included. The previous version of the eBay app introduced auction creation support for Windows Phone, so we could well be seeing some bundled fixes and minor optimisation with 1.18. 

You can download the official eBay app from the Marketplace. Notice anything new which we've overlooked? Let us know in the comments.

QR: eBay

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WP Central

Although we’re still stuck with plain ol’ Angry Birds on Windows Phone, Rovio may finally be embracing Microsoft. Rovio now has a few titles coming to the Windows Phone platform including Angry Birds Space.

The latest franchise though is ‘Amazing Alex’ which is just about to launch on iOS and Android. The game is another physics-based puzzler where users must place objects on the screen in a certain way to cause a chain reaction. The game isn’t an original Rovio title as another firm, Mystery Coconut, released it in 2011. Rovio later picked it up and tweaked it a bit (evidently it wasn’t much of a hit, initially).

WP Central

In a tweet to the Nokia Blog’s Mark Guim, Rovio confirmed that “PC, Mac & Windows Phone versions are to come later, post launch”.

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Nokia scaling back Windows Phone 7 production

Compal Communications is Nokia's primary ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) for the Lumia Windows Phone. June revenues for Compel fell 39.5% due to a reduction in orders from Nokia.  Similar reductions are expected for July.

The move isn't surprising in that Nokia will begin shifting to Windows Phone 8 devices and the company wouldn't want to be stuck with a major inventory of the Windows Phone 7 ones.  This scale back could include any of the Lumia phones from Nokia including the 610, 710, 800 or 900.

What does the scaled back production mean to the average consumer? Most shoppers probably won't even notice it and Nokia is still slated to release the pink Lumia 900 over on AT&T on July 15th (a vote of confidence from the carrier, no doubt). Seeing how some of the color patterns of the Lumia 900 flew off the shelf earlier this year (remember the cyan model), we expect plenty of inventory on the pink version.

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Robert Williams

Reports are in that Robert Williams, Windows Phone Executive, has left the software giant and has made the move to Amazon. It seems as though there's an ugly trend starting to appear, but we do hope this is the end of it.

Sounds familiar, right? It was only five months ago when Brandon Watson, Director of Developer Experience for Windows Phone, left Microsoft to work on the Amazon Kindle. Of course, we're not forgetting Charlie Kindel, General Manager of the Windows Phone Developer Ecosystem, who left the company late last year.

It seems everyone is migrating elsewhere and we're beginning to wonder if we'll have a Windows Phone team left. So what's Williams' new role at Amazon? He's only the new Director of the App Store. Sounds rather snazzy, eh? Williams was the Senior Director Business Development in the Windows Phone division, and we expect his hard work and experience will be sorely missed at Redmond.

Robert Williams Amazon Tweet

At least he's still presumably using his Windows Phone if the above tweet is anything to go by. We - of course - wish Williams all the best in the future and look forward to welcoming whoever takes his place at Microsoft.

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WP Central

Earlier this morning we reported on a neat little trick that a few Windows Phone apps can do which is keep your Wi-Fi connection active even when the display is powered off.

That’s pretty useful feature for some people who are using a public Wi-Fi access point that requires you to “accept” the terms of service each time you re-connect. On a Windows Phone, every time you turn the display off it kills the Wi-Fi connection meaning you are forced to reconnect which can be problematic--even more so if you’re downloading some files.

Over at XDA, developer Ha Mai Tung (WinPhoneViet.com) has created a neat little homebrew app called Keep WiFi Alive which exploits the trick that some audio apps use. The app creates a fake music stream that makes the OS “think” it is downloading music, thereby keeping the Wi-Fi connection active.  The app is simple to use—just launch and hit the button.  To disable you can either turn off Wi-Fi in Settings or restart the phone.

Demo of Keep WiFi Alive

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WP Central
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Windows Phone confusing to RIM's CEO

The Windows Phone platform is confusing. At least to Research In Motion's CEO that is.

In a recent interview CNET, Thorsten Heins said that Microsoft is overwhelming consumers with Windows Phone 7, 7.5 and now 8. He said,

"It's confusing at the moment, but that's the way they communicate."

It's understandable that Heins will speak highly of RIM and down play the competition but RIM doesn't exactly have a crystal clear approach on things. The obvious way to illustrate this is to ask where is Blackberry 10?  But there's more.

Beyond the delay of Blackberry 10's release, RIM has had to deal with lay-offs, resignations and quarterly loses. All the while Microsoft is posting gains, expanding through acquisitions and partnerships, and introducing new products (Surface anyone?). Sure, Microsoft has mulitple versions of Windows Phone in circulation but so does RIM with Blackberry 6 and 7. While Windows Phone may have confused RIM, I'll take stability and growth with a little confusion any day.

And it may not be fair to compare these two companies with Microsoft's more diversified portfolio of products. Still... is the Windows Phone platform any more confusing than RIM's?  Then you have to wonder if Heins should be calling out Microsoft's platform when RIM seems to be on the down hill slide?

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Samsung SGH-i687 with Windows Phone 8 coming this fall?

WP Central

It’s about time we start hearing about actual Windows Phone 8 hardware—or at least the bit of bread crumbs hinting at their existence.

Such is the case with the Samsung SGH-i687 which showed up on Sammy’s site under the User Agent Profile. Not too much is revealed and the only hint at Windows Phone 8 is the mention of Internet Explorer 10 as the browser. It’s been speculated and somewhat confirmed that current Windows Phone 7 devices won’t be getting that browser update and even if they were, we can’t see Samsung prepping a Windows Phone 7 device so late in the game.

The other interesting if not somewhat disappointing figure is the 480x800 (WVGA) screen. Windows Phone 8 of course brings two higher resolutions—720x1280 and 768x1280—to the fold and many of us are hoping to get our hands on a device with such a high pixel density.

WP Central

From Samsung's site on the i687 IE10 listed as a supported browser

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WP Central

Amazon & Android. New competition or just hype?

Amazon, the online retailer we all know and love, are testing a smartphone. According to reports, sources within companies who supply hardware for Amazon's upcoming handset have confirmed that testing of said device is already underway, with production set to take place later this year or early 2013.

With what we've seen with the Kindle Fire tablet, it's a strong possibility that the online giant could well be using Google's Android OS to power their new hardware, which could then be sold under the Kindle brand. What's interesting to note, probably only from a Windows Phone point-of-view, is that Brandon Watson is currently at Amazon working away on the Kindle. Could he be collaborating with the company on a new smartphone after leaving Microsoft?

The WSJ reports that Amazon's smartphone has a display size sitting in the region between 4 and 5 inches - a perfect size to compete with the likes of the TITAN II and Galaxy S 3. It'll be interesting should Amazon choose to go with Android and launch a smartphone, since the platform is pack full of competitive companies, not to mention the established iPhone, BlackBerries, Windows Phones, etc. 

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WP Central

It looks like things are not as good as they should be in the Nokia camp. According to a poll of 38 Reuters analysts the Finnish company are expected to announce next week a second quarter operating loss of 236 million Euros ($289 million USD), almost double its loss in Q1 this year. Shares have fallen to the lowest value since 1996 which is terrible news to hear.

The team here at Windows Phone Central are clearly giving Nokia some love since they adopted Windows Phone as their primary operating system, however it is clear that the public's perception of Nokia may well have fallen by the wayside. We all know that Nokia had the phone market pretty much sown up a few years ago with Symbian and its S series OS outselling all other manufactures. Things have changed greatly since those days; now with iOS and Android dominating the smartphone market. In many countries where Windows Phone is growing it is still heavily out gunned by the opposition. Take here in the UK for example: For the last two years RIM have held the top spot with the BlackBerry being the number one selling smartphone. Nokia now have Windows Phones that are cheaper than a BlackBerry but it seems that getting the youngsters to part with their BlackBerry smartphones is just too much.

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WP Central

Can we expect changes in the Windows Phone 8 Lock screen? 

Back at the Summit a few weeks ago, Microsoft was very clear that they were not showing all of Windows Phone 8, in fact we were only getting a peek. The reason for that is multifaceted but their official position is they don’t want to show consumer features to consumers when we’re still months from release. Then there’s the whole idea of trying to prevent an Osborne effect i.e. hurting current sales by enticing customers to wait for new phones this fall.

One tiny area of interest was an observation today from a reader (erichon99) in the new Start screen video by Microsoft. At about the 2:15 mark (snapshot below) you can see some icons on the Lock screen: 1 Missed Call/Voicemail, 4 text messages and presumably 13 new Hotmail/Live mail messages.

What caught our reader’s attention was the new Hotmail/Live mail icon which ironically is the old Windows flag logo (yet the new logo is clearly used for the capacitive button). To be honest, we think this is just a mockup oversight and we have no idea if Hotmail/Live mail would use the old logo though we’re leaning towards ‘no’ on that one--in other words, nothing to see here. However...

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Xbox 360 Impressions: Jeremy McGrath's Offroad

Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad

2XL Games made a name for themselves with off-road racer Baja: Edge of Control for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. After that, they switched gears to mobile development for several years, continuing to focus on off-the-pavement racing games. Now 2XL is back on consoles with Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad for XBLA and PSN. After coming away bored and disappointed from another recent XBLA racer (Bang Bang Racing from Digital Reality), I’m happy to report that 2XL has a grasp on making a downloadable digital racer both simple and fun.

Offroad features five different vehicles types, from Rally Cars to Trophy Trucks. Before you head to the track, you’ll choose one of 8 livery options for your vehicle and then customize it with upgrade points. Experience earned from completing races or performing in-race actions like big jumps and passing competitors can be spent on upgrading your ride’s acceleration, top speed, handling, and breaking. Nothing too complex, but the customization options are appreciated.

Head past the break for our full impressions.

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WP Central

We're almost at the point where we're going to start leaving flowers at the grave of the poor Sony Ericsson (now Sony Mobile) Jolie Windows Phone, which has had prototypes circulating throughout the web for a good number of months now. We last looked at the black version of "Jolie" when a hands-on video was published on YouTube.

Back to the white / silver version, and an owner of said Windows Phone has sent in some more photos to Windows Phone Italy. Not only does the slide-out keyboard look inviting, the overall look and design of the device itself is unique, compared to the Windows Phones we had when the platform launched almost two years ago.

It's a shame that such a stunning 2010-esque Windows Phone simply never came to be. But the tractor beams installed on the Android mothership appeared to be too advanced for Microsoft to best (and too expensive to acquire), which led to Sony ditching Windows Phone for the green droid. Check out some more shots after the break.

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Windows Store WPCentral

Kevin Turner today announced that Microsoft’s first ‘international’ store would be opening in Toronto, Canada. Whilst not exactly too far from the US, this still represents the first time Microsoft have ventured from their home turf to setup shop. The first emporium will open to the public in Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto later this year. The stores should be open in time to showcase Windows Phone 8, Surface & of course Office 15.

Whilst most will see this news as the right step forward, I remain a little cautious that this will lead to a rapid surge to get international Stores around the world. Why do I have my doubts? Microsoft often plays in Canada with some of its strategies. I remember the heady days of the Zune when Microsoft announced this service would go international (to Canada). From then until now, it has taken the company years to get some of its core Zune services to the rest of the world. The Zune didn’t end up going international, Zune services only went that way with the arrival of Windows Phone.

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Tuenti Head

Telefonica introducing a cross-platform mobile messaging service

Tuenti (official website) has announced an upcoming Windows Phone app, as well as a solution for iOS. Currently the service is available for both Android and BlackBerry (as beta - launched today), with the remaining two apps coming in the next few weeks. So what's the deal with Tuenti and should you be interested?

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Switzerland is the latest country that has laid host to the Lumia Windows Phone challenge, a Nokia marketing campaign which is taking a number of countries by storm. Much like the famous 'Smoked by Windows Phone' competition that Ben Rudolph started back at CES 2012, the Lumia Challenge puts a Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone against a competitor device.

Should the participant beat the Lumia they pocket a prize, but should they lose they have to publicly admit defeat. According to Nokia Switzerland, the Lumia 900 won 197 of 200 challenges. Locations included Zurich, Bern, Basel, Lucerne, Winterthur, St. Gallen, Neuchâtel, Geneva and Lausanne.

While everything may appear doom and gloom at Nokia HQ with all-time-low stock prices, upcoming Windows Phone 8 ("Apollo"), and difficult times ahead for platform penetration, the manufacturer can at least still gloat at the fact Lumia smartphones are more efficient than the competition.

Source: YouTube; thanks, Roman, for the tip!

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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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