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Dell Venue Pro - First Impressions

With Dell offering the Venue Pro for $299.99 out of contract, it was a Windows Phone deal too hard to pass on. So, we ordered one (actually two). Over the next few days we'll put it through the ringer and give you our thoughts on Dell's Windows Phone but as far as first impressions goes, the Venue Pro isn't too shabby.

The Venue Pro has two standout features; the 4.1" AMOLED screen and bottom slide-out keyboard. The screen looks really good. It's bright, full of contrast and has a bit of a pop to it. Compared to the Super AMOLED screen of the Samsung Focus and SVGA screen of the HTC HD7S, the Venue Pro holds its own.

The fit and feel of the phone is comfortable in the hand. The jury is still out on the power button though. It's tiny and sits back on the top of the phone. Not the easiest to access and might have been better off on the side of the phone. The Venue Pro has a solid feel about it but does feel a little awkward when you extend the keyboard. Maybe a little top heavy. Speaking of which, the keyboard reminds me of the front facing keyboards we saw on Windows Mobile phones such as the Samsung Jack. It'll do but after handling the Venue Pro for a short time, I'm beginning to wonder if Dell would have been better off by scrapping the keyboard and opting for a thinner phone.

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Samsung Focus v1.4 update now live

Title says it all. The Windows Phone Blog has just posted that the Focus (v1.4 only) is getting NoDo + Security fix as an update (7390 + 7392). So go and plug your phone into your computer now and head to Settings and "check for update" to get it sent on over to your phone.

No word on when the v1.3 Focus will get he 7392 "Security update".

As a side note, they go on to explain why occasionally you may a specific update for your phone, unrelated to the OS (the Focus for Mango has one recently)--these are basically fixes and improvements for your phone's hardware. They're nothing new, per se, as Roger's rolled one out, the Mozart has received one, etc.

"A few months back I explained that you may occasionally receive a notification of a hardware-specific update for your particular Windows Phone. These updates improve things like battery life, call clarity and touch responsiveness - to name a few examples. These updates are designed to make specific improvements. Not every phone around the world needs the same package of improvements. In some cases no update at all is needed. I wanted to remind you of this because some of you will start to see these types of updates soon, and I wanted you to have a little insight into what is included. It’s all part of keeping your Windows Phone in tip-top shape."

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Busy day here at WPCentral, what with the news and all plus two of us here have received our unlocked (AT&T) Dell Venue Pros, which as we reported are now available for $299.

We received lots of inquiries about the status of the firmware of this device--specifically is it the latest, greatest firmware to rule them all (v2.12)? Well, Dell did claim all unlocked phones would ship with 2.12 starting at the end of June and true to their word, they do.

As you can see in the picture, the 2.12 firmware and OS version 7392 are on board, making these device as up to date as you can get (without flashing Mango). So far, we've had no lockups or WiFi issue and we have a reported 15+GB of storage available and 512MB of RAM (480 available).

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Windows Phone 7 for Silverlight Developers ebook

András Velvárt (Vbandi), the developing power behind the SurfCube app (award-winning 3D web browser), has just announced that his ebook "Windows Phone 7 for Silverlight Developers" is now available to purchase. There are nearly 50 topics covered in the ebook, including Silverlight, design (Metro UI), Panorama (pivot), input on the phone, accelerometer, performance and publishing to the Marketplace.

You can download a copy for just $4.99 from Silverlight show. The ebook is available as PDF download and contains 46 pages. You can view two excerpts before purchasing - input on the phone and portrait, landscape & themes. Dave Cambell, MVP of the year, had this to say about the developer resource:

"Wow... get some great in-your-hands training on WP7 development from András Velvárt... I bought my copy, and it's more than worth the $4.99 price... great job András and SilverlightShow!"

Source: Dotneteers

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Do you like slicing fruit as much as we do? Then you’ll want to check out the Fruit Ninja-themed lock screen wallpapers that Microsoft released today. The pack contains both transparent and non-transparent versions of three different designs, for a total of six images. With these, even when you don’t have time to play Fruit Ninja, you’ll still look like you do.

What’s the occasion? As some of our readers who play console games may know, Fruit Ninja Kinect is coming to Xbox 360 on August 10 for 800 MS Points ($10). It adds motion support and multi-player to everyone’s favorite fruit fighting game. The wallpapers are a way of thanking Windows Phone gamers for making Fruit Ninja such a success while perhaps reminding them to check it out on 360 too.

You can grab the Fruit Ninja wallpaper pack here. (This is a Filesonic link. Scroll down and click on Slow Download to download it for free.)

Microsoft is also running a Fruit Ninja contest at Comic Con later this month. Non-attendees can enter too. Check out the details below:

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ChevronWP7 Labs to cost $9?

With the announcement of ChevronWP7 Labs bringing a new unlocking tool/service to the Windows Phone developer table, we all began rejoicing at the prospect of a continued homebrew community with Microsoft's indirect support.

Our Daniel Rubino put forward the question to readers as to how much they thought would be reasonable for the service. He mentioned $5-15 could be considered suffice for a small pint fund that the team could use at weekends. We weren't far off with this estimate as Chris Walsh has mentioned over Twitter that ChevronWP7 Labs will set interested users back by only $9. A Small fee compared to the $99 with AppHub (which was recently re-launched).

 

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IM+ now sports a free version

If you're among the IM+ users who purchased the app back when it was released with a price tag of $9.99, you were kicking yourself at the price drop to $4.99 that came soon after. Now prepare to kick yourself on another part of your body as SHAPE Services has just brought in a free (ad-supported) version of IM+.

The main app, which continues to set new buyers back $4.99, has been given a new title of IM+ Pro with the only noticeable difference between the two versions is being the placement of adverts - functionality appears to be fully implemented in the free offering. To get the free version, grab the link here in the Marketplace.

Source: Windows Phone Metro  Thanks to the many who tipped us on this!

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Nokia "Sea Ray" endorses Qualcomm processor

We're not going to recapitulate the whole torrid history of Nokia and Qualcomm, we'll just say that the two have buried the hatchet and moved on.

As a sign of perhaps good faith, we noticed (and wondered) what the "Q" logo was during the Sea Ray's boot sequence (0:46). MonSmartphone was sharp enough to make the connection that it's Qualcomm's "Q" meaning that indeed, Nokia and specifically the "Sea Ray" will be sporting some of Q's silicon under the hood. While not ground breaking, we'll file this under: interesting.

[Side note: Had you told us five years ago about a Nokia device running a Microsoft OS and using a Qualcomm processor...well, we would have said some funny things about you. Times are a changin'!]

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Just the other day it was revealed, surprisingly, that KDDI of Japan (via their mobile operator brand 'AU'), will be launching the Fujitsu-Toshiba IS12T (still love that name!) in July. What makes this big news of course is that this will be the first "Mango" device in the world to go on sale.

Now we're getting word that KDDI, Fujitsu-Toshiba and Microsoft Japan are set to make it official by having a press event on July 27th. Evidently media invites have gone out and yes, they plan on showing off and announcing the pink-n-waterproof handset for the Japanese market--the first Windows Phone for Japan and the first worldwide with Mango.

Combined with that Nokia Sea Ray leak and confirmation that it is running Windows Phone 7 build 7710, which is RTM and guess what folks? We're pretty sure Mango is way, way closer than we thought.

Source: Gigazine; via Nanapho

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WP7 Sliding Keyboard heading to Marketplace

While we previously wrote about how Swype could look to move onto the Windows Phone platrform with Nokia heading up the show, this is some pretty interesting development by Invoke IT. The above demo of the app Sliding Keyboard is performed by YouTube user hermitd31.

This app is standalone and allows the user to swipe instead of type. The keyboard is a slight shade of blue to differentiate between the stock keyboard and should the user tap in the text area while Sliding Keyboard is active WP7 will take over with the default popping up. One is able to swipe and save to the clipboard for import in other apps.

You can download Sliding Keyboard from the Marketplace for a mere 79p and while the majority of reviews are somewhat negative, it's good to see a Swype alternative that's readily available.

Via: WPSauce

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An initial ruling against HTC by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) is evidently starting to have ripple effects. The case was brought by Apple, who is accusing HTC of infringing upon 10 patents of which the ITC found HTC to be violating two. Two caveats: the ITC's ruling is preliminary and not final but, Apple just needs to win on one patent infringement claim to potentially halt imports by HTC into the U.S. [Read Nilay Patel's excellent piece at ThisIsMyNext]

The patents in question seem specifically tied to the Android OS and other firms seem to be taking notice. According to 21st Century Business Herald, based in China:

"Some of these vendors worry about the risk of becoming embroiled in patent infringement due to adoption of Android, and have drawn up three strategies to cope with potential impact. The three strategies are enhancement of support to Microsoft Mango operating system, promotion of smartphone customization by mobile telecom carriers for protection through binding common interest (especially carriers partnering with Apple and Microsoft), self-development of own operating systems, the source pointed out. China-based smartphone vendors Huawei Device and ZTE have planned to adopt Mango, the source indicated."

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With the recent AppHub re-launch, we are seeing some alterations with app pricing in some countries. Australia, being a worthy example, are used to having $.99 apps costing them around $1.25 (AUD$1.18). With a recent change, more accuracy between the conversions is now present with that same price tag only setting the buyer back by $1.05 (AUD$.99).

According to a reader at 1800PocketPC, Switzerland is also witnessing a slight reduction. Have you noticed a drop in price (or re-calculation) where you reside? Let us know in the comments!

Source: Chris Walsh, via: 1800PocketPC 

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Yesterday we ran a story on a fan concept that gave the ability to shrink down the program tiles on the Windows Phone Start screen. The post turned out to be wildly popular, with over 80 comments from you folks where you actively (and cordially) debated and discussed the merits of such a proposed UI. Very impressive and some great ideas too.

Today, we have a follow up to that, asking the question "What if Windows Phone had folders?'. This was the route taken by Apple and their iOS as a means to organize programs. While Windows Phone has a "jump list", it's the Start menu where users can customize and organize. It's that latter part where we've seen users create iconic separators to help better tidy up.

WPCentral member Sebastien "ArtSooby" Bruneau has posted up a few shots of what he thinks would work, namely those folders. His idea is take off of the current People Tile, where you have little photos flashing around of your contacts. But instead he envisions having a "Folder tile" with the apps inside flashing in the same manner. Once again, an elegant idea as it is keeping within the bounds of Metro's design principles. We could imagine that tapping on a folder tile will expand to show it's contents, allowing a quick selection (we'll leave the mechanics to Microsoft, ahem).

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Here's a cool little update: Microsoft has pushed out, seemingly in addition to the AppHub features, changes in categories to the Marketplace for Windows Phone.

Simply launch your Marketplace and head to Apps. You'll see a few changes including replacing "and" with "+" signs, making things surprisingly easier to read. In addition, we now have a dedicated "Books" and "Business" category (we're not too sure if the latter is new).

We bet this has something to do with the AppHub's "private beta market" launching tonight as well as MS just wanting to further divvy up their 26K apps they have available. Let us know if you find any other little changes that we missed in comments!

Edit: Games too, have new, more detailed categoreis as well, including things like "shooter" "classics", "strategy + simulation", etc. Very nice.

(Thanks, Tahiti Bob, for the heads up!)

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Look at what we have here, leaking clearly out of a development factory in either China or Hong Kong (forgive us, it's 2am), we get a nice clear look at the Nokia N9, cough, 'Sea Ray' for Windows Phone 7. We can finally see the buttons near the bottom, putting to rest the "virtual button "speculation from earlier.

Watch as halfway through the video the device even boots up with a new "7" logo screen and it pops in a build of Mango (check out the Mango lock screen, natch). The camera also boots up quickly and we get the first glimpse of what that will be like.

Updates: We also have word that this version of Mango is RTM aka release to manufacturer, meaning this may be pretty close to final for everything. Specifically it is build 7710 (Thanks, anon).

By the looks of it, no front facing camera. In fact, in the camera app we should see the camera toggle, like here.

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WPCentral Podcast 118


Hooray, the WPCentral Podcast is back for week #4. Join Daniel Rubino and Jay Bennett for another exciting podcast where all things Windows Phone and Microsoft are covered. This week, we have another long one in store for you, seeing as it was such a busy last seven days. Download now! Show notes after the break.

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For our developers our there, you may have noticed the Microsoft AppHub was down today for some maintenance which included the addition of "new features".

The Hub came back up in the last hour and devs seem to be impressed with the changes:

  • Updated layout
  • New crash reports
  • Export of download/purchase details
  • Private beta Marketplace

The last one is pretty huge as it allows devs to privately distribute their app to select users, without them having to "sideload" the app. In short, that means devs can expand their testing pool to beyond those with developer unlocked devices, as well as "manage" the software including pushing updates. It should be a powerful tool the community and developers to get better apps to the Marketplace for final release.

Update: Another new feature for devs is "edit application details". From Manan at Techi-buzz:

"The...feature makes it easy for application developers to make changes to the application’s listing in the marketplace and description without having to submit a new version. The developer can the edit applications category, artwork and category."

Oh and yes, developers in Hungary and presumably numerous other countries can now register too. (@vbandi)

Source: AppHub

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Microsoft Tags Porsche

Porsche has begun tagging their automobiles. Tagging them with Microsoft Tags that is. You know, the multi-colored, triangular Microsoft Tags that can be scanned to pull up all sorts of information from your Windows Phone.

Porsche has begun adding the Tags on cars at dealerships in five States to test the waters. Porsche's hopes is to make their products and dealerships more accessible. When scanned (with your Windows Phone or other Microsoft Tag capable smartphone) the Tag will send you to mobile sites with more information about the particular model along with videos, photos and sales contact info.

In addition to tagging their cars, Porsche is including Microsoft Tags in the print ads. Initial reactions, according to Porsche, are good with customers liking the "cool" factor the Tags bring to the table. Now if they can just do something about the price tag on Porsche.

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Microsoft expediting Samsung Update

The most recent Windows Phone update from Microsoft is indicating the Samsung Focus v1.4 update may happen sooner than later.

Eric Hautala is reporting that v1.4 has been tested by AT&T and Microsoft is now expediting scheduling. It is expected in the next 24 hours Microsoft will be able to tell consumers when to expect to see the update alert on their Focus.

Once alerted, you will receive two back to back notifications. First will to install the 7008 update and then you'll move to the 7392 update (which includes the 7390). If you need to refresh your memory on updating instructions, Microsoft still has the Update Central site up and running for help and how-to directions.

Source: Windowsteamblog

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Cellfire available for WP7

For those who aren't familiar with Cellfire, it's a service that provides users with an easy and less cluttered way of using coupons for groceries, restaurants, entertainment and more. The team have recently announced their submission to the Windows Phone Marketplace, we covered the app when it appeared on WinMob. Note that Cellfire is aimed at US residents only.

So if you enjoy saving money and wish to use coupons when you're out and about, let your WP7 handset do all the work for you. Clip the coupons to your grocer's savings card and away you go or simply show the sales person the coupon on your device. You can download Cellfire from the Marketplace for absolutely nothing at all.

Source: Cellfire blog

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There are a few options available for advertising on WP7, our George Ponder ran through a shortlist not so long ago. According to Microsoft in a recent blog post on the Microsoft advertising website, using the Microsoft Ad SDK with Windows Phone applications, developers are likely to earn more revenue from usage compared to Google AdMob. When making such a bold statement such as this, one would need to provide evidence of findings, correct?

Herm Mogilevskiy, developer of the Paper Toss app, and Jeff Weber, the developer of the Krashlander app both took part in a test to demonstrate the effectiveness of Microsoft Advertising. Using both ad networks (Google and Microsoft) on a 50/50 rotation between June 2nd-20th, both apps accumulated almost 2.33 million impressions (or ad requests) covering both networks.

As you can see in the chart above, Microsoft Advertising brought in more revenue through a higher fill rate and eCPM (estimated Cost-Per-[1,000]Impressions). Jamie Wells continued with:

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Here we go again. The rabidly popular 'Weather Live' app which we reported on last week has disappeared from the Marketplace. The app, which started off at 3 stars quickly rose up in popularity, even bumping the #1 in News & Weather WPCentral app to #2--a first since we released our app months ago.

Now, despite receiving an update or two (we forget), the app is gone from the Marketplace without a trace. Was it the pulling weather data from an un-credited source? Did it violate the Marketplace rules? We're not sure but we hope it returns and soon as it's one of our favorites. The current version still works on your device though, so don't uninstall. This is one of numerous apps that have disappeared recently, including the Colbert Report, MTV News, Kayak, Project Sunburst and Cartoon TV (before it returned, gutted).

We've reached out to the developer for comment and we'll hopefully post a response if/when they get back to us.

Update: We've heard back from the developer--

"The app is using the undocumented (but very popular) Google weather API and late yesterday, there was a major outage at the back end. As such, all live tiles stopped working at the time. I suspect it is because Google blocked my server's access since I have ~1500 queries per hour on the hour...

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The U.S. Army is wrapping up a six week testing of three major smartphone OSs: Windows Phone, Android and the iPhone, with hundreds of devices and even some tablets.  Evidently no BlackBerry or WebOS love. The point is for the Army to "anoint" two OSs approval for usage by soldiers who are deployed or just currently in service. They won't support more in order to keep development costs down as the Army is set to have their own app store for soldiers. In addition, the Army hopes that the variety will help ward off cyber-attacks as well as giving soldiers ample choice for personal preference.

The military is going with commercially available hardware/software in order to keep costs down, plus as they point out, today's commercially available smartphones are pretty powerful:

"It's a computer; it's a display unit; it's a video-out unit," he said. "Since it is a computer-based utility in a 7-ounce package, we just started realizing there was a vast amount of potential."

Of course, deployment into the battlefield may take some time as no platform currently has encrypted transmissions, but that is something the military hopes to overcome later in the year.

Of note, the iPhone has problems in desert grounds i.e. reception issues between AT&T's coverage and the iPhone's less than stellar performance. Also at least one Android device had to be replaced:

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Yalla adds paid app support [Developers]

Good news for developers outside the loving arms of Microsoft's AppHub: Marketplace submission proxy, Yalla Apps, has added a few services to make your lives easier.  First and foremost, devs can now use Yalla to submit paid apps and collect money from sales in the Marketplace.  They have also begun offering payment via MoneyBookers, making payment to international developers much more convenient. 

In addition, Yalla has changed their charging structure.  For an annual subscription price of $99, users will be able to submit unlimited paid apps and up to 100 free ones.  They will also receive a free device unlock, which normally costs 100 credits. 

"Our aim is to enable people to have easy access and availability to technology, to give them the means to use their skills. The new enhancements made on the Yalla Apps platform are the perfect way of making the platform even more accessible to developers in the Middle East and Africa region, with further ways for users to make revenue from their creations and get their apps out on the market using Windows Phone 7 Marketplace," said Gustavo Fuchs, Microsoft Mobility director, Middle East & Africa.

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