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Quick Look: Take Me Home for Windows Phone

Take Me Home for Windows Phone

Here's a quick look at an interesting navigation application for your Windows Phone. Take Me Home is a no-frills, basic navigation app that will generate directions to a series of saved addresses.

Take Me Home has two pages, one entitled Settings where you enter your addresses and assign it an icon and another that will tap into mobile Google Maps to generate directions to your destination.  You do have two options on the Settings Page to turn on/off location services and auto navigate features.  Once you've entered the address, swipe over to the Navigation Page and you can generate the directions.

I like the concept and ease of generating directions to saved locations but Take Me Home only provides text directions. You can tap on the individual step in the directions overview to pull up a thumbnail map but that is a little cumbersome.  

I do like the options to choose walking, transit and driving directions. This could come in handy when traveling and you need to rely on mass transit or your feet to get you to your destination.

The developer notes in the Marketplace description that more features are on the way and hopefully a map view that routes your course is among them.  As is, Take Me Home is a decent app for your Windows Phone but does have room for improvement.

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Pre-order Nokia Lumia 900 for $25 at Microsoft Stores

Lumia 900

Should you be eager to get your hands on the Lumia 900, Nokia's top Windows Phone, then you might want to check out your local Microsoft Store where you can pre-order your own 900 for just $25 down.  Still no word on what the full price will be for the Lumia 900 and the pre-order offer isn't available online.  The 4G handset is set to arrive on March 18th for $99 at AT&T, which other sources have since confirmed.

The 4.3" AMOLED screen, 1.4Ghz processor, 16GB storage, 8MP rear camera (with front-facing camera) specifications are bound to peak interest enough to be reserved for a small upfront fee. 

Source: The Verge

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Mobile Bank for Windows Phone

The Scandinavian Bank Nordea has released their banking app, Mobile Bank, over at the Windows Phone Marketplace. It offers customers an easy way to take care of tier everyday banking needs such as check account balances, transfer funds and pay bills.

Additional key features include:

  • Currency converter
  • Mortgage calculator
  • Rate exchange information
  • Stock Quotes
  • News from Nordea's newsroom

The Nordea Mobile Bank is a free application and you can find it here in the Windows Phone Marketplace.

source: Nordea; Thanks, parcp67, for the tip!

QR: Mobile Bank

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Lumia 800 Windows Phone stock selling out in Finland

Lumia 800

According to a report at e's Phoneblog and Kauppalehti the Lumia 800, which launched in Finland yesterday, has been selling at a fairly fast rate. Jonne works at Gigantti (an electronics retailer) and states that while he doesn't know the exact Lumia 800 sale figures at the store, he has sold more handsets than he did N8s within two days of the Symbian handset being launched. 

Elisa's Executive Vice President, Henri Korpi, told Kauuppalehti today that they have sold out of Nokia's mid-range Windows Phone in some of their stores. Still no numbers provided, but we are expecting to see some positive feedback should figures become available. What makes this story extra special is that Lumia 800 buyers in the land of Nokia are braving snow storms (-27°C) to reach retailers. Now that is dedication.

Source: Kauppalehti.fi (translation), via: e's Phoneblog

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The Harvest concept art

Update:

Sam Williams, GM or Luma Arcade, has posted the following comment clarifying the situation:

I'm General Manager and co-owner of Luma Arcade.

We have indeed begun the process of winding down operations for our current office in Johannesburg. However, our team and production capacity are alive and well. Closing our Johannesburg office is not a decision taken lightly of course, but as more and more of our best production capacity has come from our team in the US and outside South Africa, we've restructured to accommodate working with South African staff directly from our US parent company (which is not a part of Luma Studios) rather than through our South African subsidiary (which also, was not a part of Luma Studios).

We're hopeful that this restructuring will provide a healthier, more productive working relationship for the talented team that remains based in Johannesburg, and put us the best position possible to grow our fantastic talent pool further and keep making great games like The Harvest, and our forthcoming iOS / Android title, Bladeslinger. Stay tuned, Luma's not going anywhere.

If you have any follow up questions, feel free to email me directly (sam.williams AT lumaarcade.com). And in the future, we have a general email for inquiries about the company (info AT lumaarcade.com). Should be helpful for looking into rumors before posting a story in the future.

Thanks,

Sam Williams
GM, Luma Arcade

 

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Nokia explains its ClearBlack screen technology

ClearBlack

Nokia has been known to do some very innovative things with their phones especially in creating new technology (see their flexible display).  So it's with great interest to see them explain their "ClearBlack" screen system to the masses--or at least attempt to.

For those who don't know, Nokia uses ClearBlack screens on a few of their phones, including the Lumia 710, 800 and 900 series. In simplest terms, it's a circular polarizer that sits between the GorillaGlass and LCD/AMOLED screen, resulting in glare-elimination, higher contrast and better readability due to the elimination of reflected light. It is similar to wearing polarizing sunglasses and that effect but is much more complicated.

In the post on Nokia Conversations, they explain the multiple layers in ClearBlack and what they do:

ClearBlack

There’s both a linear polariser and retardation layers between the surface of your phone and the display. When light hits your screen, this is what happens:

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Photogram

There has been a recent upsurge in interest for an official Instagram client for Windows Phone recently. The desire for the popular photo-manipulation and sharing app has been driven, in part, by numerous developers working on unofficial apps for the service. We first reported one in development by Bil Simser called 'Metogram' (later renamed to 'Photogram') and since then, two other apps have hit the Marketplace, Metogram and Instacam. The problem, however, is two fold:

  1. Instagram does not allow 3rd party access to photo uploading APIs
  2. Instgram does not allow one to register via the website, only by the official iOS app

Simser has been in contact with the head honchos of Instagram in an effort to get special permission for photo uploading. At the time, Instagram cited a somewhat dubious reason for denying such an API, namely an effort to reduce spam and low-quality images. However, Simser was determined to see if an exception could be made in this case seeing as Windows Phone users do not have any options.

That request has now been denied by Instagram. In an email to his beta testers (we're amongst them), Simser notes that since Instagram is not allowing uploads:

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AdDuplex presentation slides from WPUG London meet up

WP Central

At the recent Windows Phone User Group meet up in London we witnessed a couple of Windows Phone developers showcasing their apps to the audience. As well as this, we had Alan Mendelevich of AdDuplex who came to the event with a developer orientated presentation. The main argument was developers should ensure that effort is poured into not only building the app, but also promoting it around the web (as well as offline).

The 48 slides are packed full of humorous illustrations and useful points for developers of the platform to take note of. While there's no speech to accompany the written detail, it's easy to understand the message surrounding Windows Phone app marketing and monetization.

Head on over to SlideShow to view (and download) the presentation.

Source: SlideShare

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Bug Village

Everyone expects a game like Bug Village to have lots of bugs in it – ants, bees, and whatnot. But when the Windows Phone version launched a few weeks ago, it was infested by a few software bugs, and nobody likes those. Thankfully Babaroga and Glu Mobile worked quickly to kill off the worst offenders.

Bug Village version 1.1 release notes:

  • When resuming the game via Fast App Switching, task timers now advance correctly
  • The ‘Air Freshener’ Achievement (Kill 100 stinkbugs) is now attainable
  • The ‘Ding!’ Achievement (Reach level 25) now unlocks at the correct time

Previously, players really couldn’t use the Fast App Switching feature since it paused the game’s timer. With the game’s tasks all revolving around passing of the clock, the last thing you wanted was for the timer to stop and halt your progress. Fast App Switching now works fine (though it did crash on me once), a chime signifying that the timer has advanced when resuming. As for the Achievements, several players have already unlocked the full 200 GamerScore since the patch went live - definitely a nice improvement.

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Babylon

Babylon is a popular online translation service that is making its way over to the mobile world. Back in December, we mentioned that the company had taken advantage of Microsoft's Mobile Acceleration Week 2011 in Israel to build the popular language translator for Windows Phone. From the description at the time:

"As the leading name in text translation, it was only natural that Babylon would transition over to mobile devices. And so they did. Already available on iOS and Android, Babylon for Windows Phone allows you to translate any word, in any language, to the language of your choice, in real time. Of course, there is a lot more to the app including a currency converter, since presumably you will be using the app when traveling. The UI is super simplistic and hence very intuitive and does exactly what it is meant to do, how it is meant to do it."

That app is now live and while the service is very powerful it's not the best translator we've used, partially because it doesn't have direct sharing options (though you can copy paste) nor the ability to pronounce anything i.e. text-to-speech. That latter part irks us a bit as apps built off of Bing's Translator service can do this quite readily. Still, for direct translations of whole paragraphs, it's not too shabby and it is free meaning it is worth the download if you need such a service.

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Nokia Lumia Belgium launch includes cupcake handout

The Amazing Everyday

The Lumia 800 launched in Belgium yesterday and to celebrate it Nokia took "The Amazing Everyday" to a number of railway stations, where commuters (and travelers alike) could receive a free cupcake.

Not only this, but the organisers have planned an "Amazing Moments" contest (much like what we saw in France not so long ago), which will see entrants choosing from five amazing moments offered (or create your own) and explaining the reasons why they made that choice. A panel of judges will then select winners. We're looking forward to see some more unique marketing from the manufacturer.

The Lumia 710 is aiming for a March 1st launch in Belgium, according to the Nokia Momentum Map. A handful of photos of the cupcake distribution can been viewed in an album on the Nokia Belgique Facebook page, while a video of the handout in action can be checked out after the break (sporting a familiar music track).

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February is fitness month at Mobile Nations!

February is Fitness Month at Mobile Nations

New Years is over, January has come and gone, and for many of us, our get fit and get healthy resolutions have come and gone with it. Rather than leaving them lying in ruin with what's left of our waist lines and good intentions, however, we want to do something about it. And we want you to do something about it with us!

Enter fitness month!

Whether CrackBerry challenged Android Central, WPCentral threw down the gauntlet on webOS Nation, or iMore called them all out, who remembers? The important thing is this -- we're using February to get off our collective apps and get into shape.

Want to eat better? We're with you! Want to get stronger? We're spotting! Want to get into better cardio shape? We're so there!

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Windows Phone "Droidrage" winners announced

Droidrage Cure

The other day @BenThePCGuy (a.k.a. Ben Rudolph) sought out to ease the pain smartphone users suffering from "DroidRage" after what appeared to be a massive adware outbreak on the Android Marketplace. He asked those afflicted to share their stories via Twitter. Ben would then pick the best (or worst) stories to receive a free Windows Phone.

The contest netted nearly a thousand responses. The lucky twenty will soon be receiving a free Windows Phone to help ease their frustrations. Here is a sampling of the winning submissions.

  • "I REALLY wish my Galaxy Nexus would stop rebooting while I'm on the phone."
  • "Android crashes even when i (try) unlock the screen..i bought it only because other phones was too expensive for me!"
  • "Battery issues, freezing, worried about malware, viruses... my DroidX gives me more trouble than my 2 teenage kids!"
  • "4 phones in 3 months. 3 hard resets in 6 months. I am dying alive from DROIDRAGE & cannot wait for my new windowsphone!"

You can see all the twenty winners of new Windows Phones by hitting the source link below.  This is the second of such promotions (Ben did the same thing back in December) and there's not telling when the third such promotion will take place.  

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Cocktail Flow adds Big Game package to the mixology

Cocktail Flow for Windows Phone

Cocktail Flow is a popular cocktail/mixed drink application for your Windows Phone. The app is well presented and one of Cocktail Flow's main features is the drink packages. These are collections of drinks for special occasions, holidays, and classes of drinks (e.g. shooters, non-alcoholic drinks).

In preparation for this weekends Super Bowl, the developer has added the "Big Game" package to the mix. The package contains thirty football themed drink recipes that can be served not only during the Super Bowl but any football event. Drinks include the Quick Kick, Brady Bomb, Go for it on 4th Down, and Manning Martini.

Cocktail Flow has a free trial version and the full version will run you $2.99. You can grab Cocktail Flow here at the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Thanks, Gergely, for the tip!

QR: Cocktail Flow

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Nokia chargers pump juice into Windows Phones faster

Nokia Handset Charger

While it's been confirmed by Nokia already, the team over at WeLoveWP.hk have run some tests on charging the Lumia Windows Phone with a number of options. Turns out when put up against generic USB chargers (eg. Apple), USB ports and another Nokia charging unit, the Nokia Lumia adapters provided more charge for a faster rate of recharge.

Check out the summarised results below:

  • Computer USB 2.0 port: 3.85V - ~110mA
  • Nokia DC-11K Mobile Charging Unit: 3.9V - 330mA
  • Apple Charger: 3.88V - 300mA
  • Lumia 800 AC-16 Charger: 3.95V - 600mA

Should you have a Nokia Lumia charger in your procession, using it over your PC (or other USB based chargers) will pump the juice into your Lumia handsets at a faster rate.

Source: WeLoveWP.hk

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Lumia 710 Windows Phone launches today in the UK

Lumia 710

It's official, well... more official than it was. The Nokia Lumia 710 (our review) has launched in the UK and is available from a number retailers and carriers (some are still pending availability). Should the Lumia 800 be not within your price range, or you'd rather have the 710, then today marks the day where you'll be soon able to get your paws on the handset.

As this is a simple reminder of what's coming to the UK shores, should you be looking for a SIM-free option there's always ebuyer that's stocking the 710 for £250 (inc. VAT) and will be available for delivery in just over a weeks time. Let us know in the comments if you're looking to purchase one for yourself or if you're looking forward to the 900.

Source: Windows Phone UK

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WizTiles Pro zips on to the Windows Phone Marketplace

Wiztiles Pro for Windows Phone

The other day we mentioned the Windows Phone app Wiztiles that allows you to create custom tiles and themes on your Windows Phone. It's a very good app for customizing your Windows Phone and a new version was recently released, Wiztiles Pro, that brings a slightly different user interface into play as well as these changes/features.

  • Faster launching of custom tiles
  • Easy access to 12 new themes
  • Theme versioning
  • Theme preview with screenshots
  • Create tiles without using a theme
  • Added mini icons to metro theme for use with wallpaper themes
  • Added backgrounds with gradients to metro theme
  • Added url parameters to browser task for theme designers
  • Added disabled back tile for theme designers

The free version required you to enter the URL where the Wiztile theme was being stored. With Wiztile Pro, you have a "download themes" button on the Theme Page that sends you to featured themes created by the Wiztile community of users. Wiztiles Pro still has the ability to download themes by entering a URL link but the more direct method is a nice touch.

Wiztiles

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Air Pick

If you weren't aware of the event or you've been hiding under a rock the past few weeks, there was a Windows Phone User Group (WMPUG) meet up yesterday in London, which both myself and Jay Bennett attended. As well as having Will from Windows Phone UK making a brief appearance, we had a handful of developers (including Alan Mendelevich from AdDuplex and Lawrence Gripper) with two walking the audience through their apps. 

One of the presentations was of Air Pick Voice (APV) by KeyboardP. Wait, that name rings a bell? Indeed it does as we've covered KeyboardP's project before, but under a different name - PhoneZune. APV will allow the user to control their music collection (on a PC workstation or laptop) via the WiFi, using an app on their Windows Phone. What makes this really special is that it's all voice controlled. From manipulating playback, to selecting songs, you no longer need to be in the same room as the PC to 'pump up the jam' your way.

To refresh your memory of what this project will allow you to do, check out the video below, and we'll advance on with what's new in terms of development and features for version 1 (which is just around the corner).

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InstaCam is a Windows Phone Instagram client

InstaCam is now in the Marketplace

InstaCam is a Windows Phone Instagram client that just hit the Marketplace yesterday.  It allows you to take pictures on your phone, add different effects, and then share them via Facebook, Twitter or email.  You can log into your Instagram account to check "likes" and comments on your uploaded content.  You can also view other people's photos and leave comments, or follow them if you're a fan of their work.  The search function can find photos based on key words in pictures' tags.  Not an Instagram user?  No worries, you can still use InstaCam to browse content anonymously.

This first iteration of InstaCam contains a lot of features, including a couple exclusive photo effects.  However, there are more features on the way.  The developers are already planning on adding geolocation search, view changes, and more.

InstaCam is free and can be downloaded here at the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Thanks, peestandingup, for the tip!

QR: InstaCam

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Jet Car Stunts

With this week’s Xbox Live release of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, racing fans have a lot to keep them busy. But the Xbox Live Deal of the Week, Jet Car Stunts, is worth a look too. Even though it’s got cars, it couldn’t be more different than a traditional racing game.

In Jet Car Stunts, you pilot the titular flying automobile across tracks that are suspended in the air. The goal is not just to get good completion times on each track, but also to stay on the track and avoid plummeting to your doom. It’s not my cup of tea, but people who like difficult challenge-based games like Trials will probably enjoy it. Don’t forget to check out our mini interview with the developer! Also note that the first Achievement you’ll get is worth only 2 GamerScore, which might annoy OCD gamers.

Jet Car Stunts is on sale for $1.99 (down from $2.99) for one week only. Grab it here on the Marketplace.

QR: Jet Car Stunts

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VP of Design at Nokia interviewed by The Guardian

WP Central

The Guardian has interviewed Marko Ahtisaari (seen above), executive vice president of design at Nokia. Being responsible for the look and feel of the Lumia family of handsets, Ahtisaari was questioned on how the unique polycarbonate body design (Lumia 800 and 900) came to be, the partnership (and integration) with Microsoft, and what will be brought to the table by Nokia next. 

"Live Tiles; they're abstractions of data, a panoramic view of your data. It's a different approach - 'glanceability', such as in the People Hub. Our goal in the studio is to design so that people can have their head up again. Touchscreen designs are often immersive; we'll often see couples in a restaurant pinching and zooming, but not interacting with each other. And there's a trend of having smaller and smaller targets on screen so you have to get closer and closer.

If we can make the interfaces more direct, so you can have your head up again – this is something that, while it would never come up in a focus group, is deeply appreciated by people, because the most important things are happening not only in the vessel of your phone, but also with the people and the environment around you."

Discussing MeeGo, iOS and Android, Ahtisaari speaks highly of the platform UIs, but notes fragmentation and lack of evolution since  innovation (especially the case with iOS). We shouldn't view what's currently available as the end of user interface development, he continues:

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SJ7

The Sega Master System and Game Gear emulator for Windows Phone which allows you to load up ROMs is now live in the Marketplace! Going by the name of Sonic's Jewels (SJ7), the app fetches for a fair $1.29 with a free trial.

In our preview a few days ago (see video after the break) we gave the emulator high praise for being extremely well designed with fluid transitions and numerous options including:

  • Pinnable games to the Start screen with Live Tiles
  • Three save slots per game; instant resume
  • Skydrive support for importing games
  • Frame skips for 1st Gen devices
  • Portrait & Landscape support

Needless to say, we really like it. The one down side that as of right now, there is no sound emulation. But guess what? The developer has solved this problem and the next update brings full sound emulation to the mix. Don't believe us? Head past the break for a demonstration.

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WP Central

The official Vimeo app is now available in the Marketplace, which allows users to upload, manage and view content on the network. While there's already an unofficial app available by Ashtech Software (our review), it's good to see some more big brand love for the platform (plus the official offering is free). 

The app itself looks great, the development team really have used the Metro UI to create a unique experience for Windows Phone users. Some feature highlights:

  • Watch and manage all your existing Vimeo videos
  • Watch videos from your Vimeo inbox, Watch Later queue, or videos you have liked
  • Easily like, comment on, and add videos to your Watch Later queue
  • Discover new and fascinating featured videos
  • Quickly search for videos on Vimeo
  • Easily upload your footage in HD
  • Pause and resume uploads
  • Replace existing videos
  • Edit titles, descriptions, tags, privacy settings, and credits
  • Share via Facebook, Twitter, email, or SMS
  • Add videos to your Groups, Channels, and Albums
  • Get stats on plays, likes, and comments

You can download Vimeo from the Marketplace for free. 

Thanks everyone who tipped us on this!

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Portals 2D is a free download until February 7th

Portals 2D

Should you enjoy Portal on the consoles and PC, then you'll love Portals 2D (by Weesals) on your Windows Phone. Taking an interesting 2D birds-eye route, this indie title feels like a unique game due to the different camera angle from 1st person to the clouds. The concept is exactly the same with cubes, portals, lasers, a portal gun and the requirement of a quick thinking mind.

The most intriguing feature of this Portals 2D is not the superb graphics (vaguely reminiscent of GTA China Town Wars?), but the price - it's available for absolutely nothing until February 7th. You can download Portals 2D from the Marketplace. Note that there are two entries for this app, be sure to download the one we link to.

Thanks gh8421 for the tip!

QR: Portals 2D

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