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WPCentral Podcast 116


Join Daniel Rubino and Jay Bennett as they discuss the busy, busy week in Windows Phone, from apps to more Mango news, it's all covered here.

Show notes aftter the break...

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New Galaxy S II like device to run WP7?

Could a version of the ever popular Samsung handset be making a move to Microsoft's platform? Possibly. The Galaxy S II  (see Android Central) model number is SGH-i927, add on 10 to that number and you get SGH-i937 (if you don't then you should reach out to a calculator for some advice), which has appeared on Occasional Gamer's list of devices recently (see the Google cached page below).

Not only that but the model number has reportedly cropped onto Bluetooth SIG and features identical Bluetooth characteristics as Mango handsets. Could we possibly see the same specification on WP7 as is present on Android? This news could also bring the possibility of a new Omnia for us Europeans (while Americans get a new Focus), which would be exciting stuff.

The Galaxy S II sports a 1.2 GHz CPU with a 4.3" 800x480 Super AMOLED Plus screen along with a front-facing 2MP camera and 8MP in the back. In addition, it comes with 16 or 32GB of memory on board and a 1650mah battery to power it all. No word if any of those specs would carry over directly to the SGH-i937.

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LG E906 sports IE9 and runs Mango

We have learned that LG is planning to bring a new device to the table, running Windows Phone 7.5 (codenamed Mango). The device, LG E906, was WiFi Interoperbilitly certified earlier this year in May (see above image) and the browser stated in an XML document containing the handset specification is IE9. Not much more than this is readily available, we'll keep a look out for anything that should arise.

You can check out the XML document from LG for more specification detail on the LG E906.

Via: Nanapho.jp

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Arcane's Tower Defense incoming to Marketplace

Arcane's Tower Defense is one of those games Windows Phone 7 users should look out for. Sporting fantastic graphics and extended playability with custom map creation. While we have a number of tower defence games already available on the Marketplace, this is a new twist which will hopefully raise the standards. Some features to take note of:

  • 5 ages to unlock towers, talents, spells and improve their powers.
  • 6 different and unique upgradable towers.
  • 8 Spells to improve your defense.
  • 19 Upgradable tower talents to boost your strategy.
  • And many different goblins with their own stats and abilities.
  • Plus an extra free application : a standalone map editor.

Arcane's Tower Defense will be available on the Marketplace in the next few days, for $1.99. We'll have a review up to follow. To recap on the release candidate gameplay, check out the video after the break. 

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TellMe used to be a separate company specializing in voice recognition technology, until Microsoft swooped in, bought and merged them with their own exiting voice research team in early 2009. Flash forward a few months and we finally saw the first iterations of TellMe on the Samsung Intrepid in October 2009, giving us an idea of what to expect from the future partnership.

Mango will be improving the user experience with the option to use speech for text input with SMS conversation. More control will be at hand with replying, having messages read out loud and more (see our video demo with Bing services here).

But the big question is: Will Windows Phone developers ever have access to these tools? As of now, the answer is 'no' but Microsoft is starting to budge on the issue and they look like they will be opening up their TellMe voice services for WP7 developers. No timeline is given, but they are now registering developer interest via a list. So to all devs: go voice your opinion on the matter and hopefully Microsoft will movea a bit faster.

Head here, near the bottom, to register your interest: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/Tellme/developers/

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Dropbox updates Terms of Use [UPDATE]

We're using cloud services more and more with our Windows Phones, as well as with other devices.  One such service, Dropbox, can't seem to catch a break these days.

First, we have the Dropbox Reader that can drill into your accounts. Then Dropbox left the back door open to their services that essentially removed password protection. Now we see the cloud storage company has updated its Terms of Services claiming "worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty free, sublicenseable rights" to your stuff (yes, they use the word stuff in a legal document).

The TOS agreement may not be alarming to some but we thought you should know how Dropbox considers the content you place in their hands.

To quote from Dropbox's TOS:

"By submitting your stuff to the Services, you grant us (and those we work with to provide the Services) worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display that stuff to the extent reasonably necessary for the Service. This license is solely to enable us to technically administer, display, and operate the Services. You must ensure you have the rights you need to grant us that permission."

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Real-time multiplayer gameplay on mobile devices has long been a feature many gamers would like to have on the move (we have some form of multiplayer gameplay though - Haypi Kingdom being an example), but with constant connection dips (while on the move) and data limitations in place, plus many more factors, it's never been fully implemented.

Victor Bahl, director of the Mobile Computing Research Center at Microsoft Research, explains the problem:

"Multiplayer gaming on smartphones is a very challenging technical problem, Gamers move around, the wireless channel is hostile, the bandwidth you need is not always there, disconnections can happen, and smartphones are energy-constrained. If you just take a game and put it on a smartphone, it is not going to work."

Fear not, all is not lost. The talented team at Microsoft Research has been hard at work on 'Switchboard' - a potential answer to most (if not all) problems with multiplayer smartphone gaming in its current form.

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We already understand that Nokia is fully backing Windows Phone 7 with devices coming later this year and through 2012, but their support for MeeGo was questionable with only a single device being launched. Now it seems as though the N9 might not be available in some parts of Europe if their website product availability checker is to be held for reliability.

You'll also notice that France, Italy, Germany and Spain are also absent from the list. Could we be seeing Nokia planning to bring only Windows Phone handsets to these countries? Shame if this becomes a reality. While I'm very much looking forward to purchasing a Nokia WP7 device (especially if it's anything like the previewed Sea Ray), the N9 does look like a smashing phone.

So fellow Brits (and European neighbours), would we be that bothered if the N9 is not available in the countries above (I believe I'm asking a silly question on a WP7 website but still interest could be present)?

Source: Nokia, via: Telegraph, T3

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This has been a pretty eventful week, with some great resources for developers popping up here and there. Firstly, the Mango beta is now available for registered developers, then again if you're not aware of this news, where have you been for the past week? Not only that, but one day after release two ways to get Mango on your non-developer-unlocked device surfaced.

The WPCentral forums have expanded to accommodate discussions surrounding Microsoft services including SkyDrive, Xbox Live and more. Staying on WPcentral for a moment longer, we've published podcast episode 115! Oh yeah, we're back into the swing of things! Also, we have interviewed the good folks at IQ this week who develop the official Pikchur app.

IM+ has been in the discussion box for being delayed and over-priced but at least the latter has been addressed as it's had a price drop to $4.99, but has now angered users who've already purchased the app for the full price. Facebook gets updated to version 2.0 and now features push notifications! With the recent addition of official apps, the Windows Phone Marketplace has passed 25,000 apps!

Gaming on Microsoft products (namely Windows and Xbox) is merging together over at Xbox.com, soon you'll be able to purchase Games for Windows and Xbox titles all under one roof. Twin Blades is set to return on July 6th but everything seems slightly greener, though the fun remains high! Angry Birds is also here, no need to sulk to Android and iOS users over this title any more.

The Dell Venue Pro on T-Mobile is set to finally receive a firmware update next month. Did we say finally? We run through the easy process in importing contacts from Outlook to your WP7 handset via your Live ID, while Orange UK kicks off the Orange Selects Marketplace launch with giving away apps for free to customers (one for each day of July - 31 in total).

Nokia has stated that any apps developed by them for their devices will not be confined to their handsets only and will be released to other brands. SiriusXM stream comes back online and the Sat Rad Player app returns to the Marketplace. Have you ever noticed the different shapes used on smartphone platforms?

On the hardware front, Compal is said to make Acer and Nokia handsets. Front facing camera is still a possibility in Mango, so we can hopefully expect some video conferencing support in WP7 from OEMs this fall. HTC Eternity is revealed as well its specifications which feature a front facing camera, just to confirm the above news.

Let's take a small break and have a slice of WP7 cake.

Developers! Did you think the WP7 sweepstakes were finished? Think again, although free advertising isn't on the prize list any longer, free devices are up for grabs. Still deciding whether or not to go with requiring users to purchase your app or release it for free and rely on advertising revenue? Check out this documentation on setting up advertising in your app for some pointers.

Microsoft addressed some issues people have been experiencing while attempting to update to the Mango beta. In short, Focus 1.4s are still not able to be updated - fix coming mid-July hopefully. They have also released a developer Marketplace survey, good signs that they're still listening to constant streams of feedback.

Head on past the break for the run through.

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Guess we're going to have to keep adding to that list. Yes, the official app for TripIt by Concur Technologies is now available. Up till now, we only had the excellent MyTrips 3rd party app which we still recommend you take a look at, as an alternative. But you can't beat free and so it's nice to see the super popular travel planner service now on Windows Phone.

We actually all use TripIt around these parts when our various Smartphone writers are globe trotting to conferences and events. If you haven't tried the TripIt service, it scans your email for travel information (flights, hotels, etc.) and automatically adds them to your upcoming trips. It's eerily awesome how well it works, allowing you to add things to your calendar, share them with others and just keep all your travel itinerary in one, accessible place.

You can grab TripIt here in the Marketplace and if that doesn't suit you, give MyTrips ($1.99) a whirl. (Thanks, sixseven, for the heads up)

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Google+ destined for iOS, WP7 on the horizon?

The search giant is pushing forward with its latest social media product (anyone remember the rise and sudden fall of Buzz?) called Google+ and beta testing has been well underway with invites being rolled out. TechRadar reports that Google has confirmed that an iOS app will be hitting the App Store in the closing future which will feature native support. Question is, will they support Windows Phone 7?

Google+ is seen as the potential Facebook Killer and has a lot of hype to live up to according to the social media sphere. Since we already have Facebook and soon-to-be Twitter integration, I think Google+ could be a worthwhile addition. If we look at the current Google presence on WP7, it's nothing to be proud of. Users of docs, calendar, GMail, GTalk and other services have to switch between apps and there's no fluidity.

Google+ could become a hub of sorts, which could include all the social features which is present on the web version (chat, video conferencing, messaging etc.) while bringing in other Google services into one location. Then again, we do have Skype coming and WP7 is a very social integrated OS already. Would we really need another social network?

Via: TechRadar

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WP7 PlentyOfFish app released

What's that? Yet another official app? Of course it is, this is international official app release week for Windows Phone 7 remember? It seems even the WP7 users who are seeking love will be able to use their handsets to find romance with the official PlentyOfFish app entering the Marketplace.

While no information is detailed in the description as to what features are presently available in the app (apart from search and profiles), we'd assume messaging and more is included. You can download the app (Zune link) from the Marketplace for free (as well as register and use the service) but be aware that a payment is required to use advanced features.

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Windows 8 UI on Android Tablet [Video]

This is a pretty neat video of not only the Windows Phone 7 lock screen for Android, which is being worked on by the guys at WP7Android, but they have managed to build a Windows 8 live tile look too with Desktop Visualizer and ADW EX on a Galaxy tablet, running Honeycomb 3.1. Apart from the stock Android style clock and icons on the bottom left (which I cannot stand personally) what they've managed to achieve with the tiles is really impressive.

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The July 2011 issue of the MSDN Magazine features a great resource for aspiring developers - making money on Windows Phone 7 with Microsoft Ad Control. We wont cover absolutely everything since the article is massive but the detail it goes into is great for anyone new to the whole advertising and revenue realm. Unfortunately PubCenter is still not yet available to anyone outside of the US.

Before you dive onto this path of revenue, you must first ask yourself if this is the most effective way to earn revenue from your app(s). We have covered the debate surrorunding paid apps vs advertising (also which advertising network should you use). Once you've decided on what's best for your app(s), should it be advertising then you should check out the article as it will help you (as a developer) to:-

  • get started and set up with Microsoft Advertising in your application(s).
  • create an advertising-supported app using XAML or in code.
  • improve the advertising experience for your users and potentially earn more profit.

Be sure to read through the article (using the link below) to pick on some useful tips and tricks or to understand completely with how to successfully kick off your free app campaign backed by advertising.

Source: MSDN Magazine

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WP7 style Birthday cake

This is pretty awesome and it looks delicious. Just a shame I wouldn't want to eat it and keep it on display instead. Twitter user Alper Özçetin celebrated his birthday with a twist this year. A full size Windows Phone 7 styled Samsung Birthday cake, isn't this every user's dream? Designed by Duygu Dem, we noticed the missing back and search buttons, but it's still darn impressive.

Source: Twitter, via: WPSauce

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Developer Interview: IQ, makers of Pikchur

This week's interview features Dave McCanless (Designer) and Roger Peters (Director of Technology) from IQ Agency, who are the developing power behind the recently released official Pikchur app (not to mention a concept for Tesco). Dave and Roger walk us through the development process on Windows Phone, how IQ is using the mobile platform for establishing brand awareness and what they think of WP7's future in this competitive market.

We first hooked up with IQ when their live tile categorisation idea broke into the WP7 community.

Head on past the break to read the interview.

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Smartphone OS shapes

This is an extremely interesting observation. Many would ignore shapes used on smartphone handsets, simply because those shapes would be tied to app launchers or tiles which all contain either images or information. As one can see in the image above, Clayton Miller, a graphic and interaction designer (creater of 10/GUI), has aligned the different shapes adopted by the smartphone market.

From one perspective, you could assume that the shapes shown above is an illustration of the transformation from a square to a circle. Microsoft use the simple four-sided approach with the Metro UI, Apple keep things aesthetically pleasing with a roundrect, Nokia use a squircle and HP have a full circle to play with. Clayton states that Android doesn't have a unified shape, a possible symptom of fragmentation?

It's worth noting that smaller competitors use same shapes as the big players, Bada from Samsung makes use of squares but can't come close to Microsoft's tile implementation and RIM use roundrects throughout but are no match for Apple's iconic design.

Source: Clayton Miller

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Games for Windows moving to Xbox.com

Microsoft is continuing to merge services together, which is fantastic news particularly in this case. The Games for Windows Marketplace is merging with Xbox Live's website, even though it was just overhauled back in November . We've always personally found Microsoft products to be horribly fragmented, but it seems Windows Phone 7 is the start of something magical and is driving change within the big company too. Leading to design improvements in Windows 8, advancement in mobile technology and Xbox Live, acquisition of Skype and now the combining of games for multiple platforms in one location.

"Games for Windows Marketplace will fully transition over to Xbox.com. Now you can get all of your gaming needs in one place. It’s convenient, it’s concentrated, and it’s a whole lot of great games."

In the PC world, Steam plays a heavyweight competitor to Microsoft's Games for Windows, merging the marketplace with Xbox.com should hopefully improve the dated layout. There are many Xbox gamers who also use their PC as a platform, I'm sure they'll welcome the merge with having both stores in one location. Could we see the implementation of Microsoft Points in the Games for Windows store?

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There's no doubt that if you've been to our site over the last few days you've seen how Microsoft has flooded the Marketplace with some big name apps along with the conveniently timed Mango preview and Angry Birds for Xbox LIVE.

While we're used to having a few "official" apps every week added, the last 14 days has been a whirlwind, so much so that we wanted to tally it all up. From our count, Microsoft has gained some 51 big titles or apps in the last two weeks. That number we're prepared to revise in case we missed some--something that's easy to do. It's also worth noting that we've hit 25,000+ apps in the Marketplace--a number reached in just 8 months of effort.

This strategy by Microsoft was brilliant in many ways, getting our attention along with the media's in general as they were fixated on "Mango" (also, we're sure devs are quite happy this week too). The question we have is: How long will this flood last? In all likelihood, things will wind down this weekend. On the other hand, perhaps this is sustained effort. Needless to say, we'll be keeping our eyes open. One thing is for certain though: Microsoft is playing for keeps here and they are certainly courting all the big companies for apps, making sure customers have all the options available to them on the Windows Phone platform.

So to recap, join us after the break and see the big ol' list of who recently made it to the Windows Phone 7 party. Did we miss something? Shout out in comments and we'll add it!

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We haven't had a chance to listen to episode 34 of Windows Phone Radio, but we know they featured Matthew Bennett, who helped design the ringtones and sound scheme for Windows Phone:

“This week we crash the studio of Matthew Bennett, the senior sensory designer behind the soundtrack to Windows Phone. Matthew talks about the design and philosophy behind the sounds of Windows Phone, and what that might lead to in Mango.”

That's all well and good (and we hear very interesting) but the bigger news could be that  some extra ringtones will be coming to Mango users this fall. As reported earlier, Mango features customized ringtones via Zune Desktop and software on the phone, so having the ability add extra ringtones is now doable. Evidently Bennett has teamed up with Mark Mothersbaugh, lead singer of Devo (who recently put out a new album) to do a few new takes on the official ringtone of Windows Phone.

These extra ringtones won't be on any retail devices and will be made available via the Windows Phone Radio site. From Sheeds' Blog, who first reported on this and did an excellent write up:

"Don’t expect ‘Whip it’ – or any of the many Movies, TV or Gaming compositions (some quite famous!) Mark has contributed since his Devo days, but rather a “mash-up” and variations on the existing themes and styles of the Metro ring-tone and audio composition styles – which Matthew refers to as their “audio DNA and Design language”.

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Yowser, that was fast. The return of the official Foursquare app has been less than 36 hours and they've already pushed through a v2.1 update. Though it's still a bit laggy for our likes, at least from user comments you seem to enjoy the new look and functionality. Oh and that Live Tile is kind of kewl too.

Changes in v2.1 include:

  • Addresses a few small reported issues.
  • Improves robustness of photo uploading to check-ins,venues and tips

Hopefully they can work on optimizing the speed of the app in a v2.2--usually devs like to get some quick bugs out of the way before tinkering with the code, so we'll patiently wait. Grab the updated version here in the Marketplace. (Thanks, Strick979 & Amir, for the heads up!)

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Accuweather for WP7 joins the crowd

It has been on heck of a week over at the Windows Phone Marketplace. From Angry Birds to Best Buy as well as Fox News and the New York Times, we've seen a lot of new apps hit the Marketplace.  Even Major League Baseball got into the act.

Closing the week out Accuweather for Windows Phone 7 has blown into the Marketplace. The popular weather website is now mobile bringing you a ton of weather related information.

Features include:

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Remember our recent reminder of the last sweepstake entry date closing in on developers? Well, the date did close, but we have another sweepstake to let you in on! Unfortunately this doesn't feature free advertising including a large bundle of impressions, but 10 unlocked Samsung Focus handsets are on offer.

Entry process is pretty much identical to previous user group sweepstakes. Build apps, submit them to the Marketplace, then fill in the form on the sweepstake website.  Sounds good but there is no code displayed when filling in the form and clicking the "what's this?" link on the event code field brings up a window that suggests using JULY1 as the code if one isn't displayed.  We've reached out for confirmation/clarification on this and once we get a reply we'll update things as necessary.

You can enter with more than one app to increase your chance in winning. Entry closing date for this round is July 31st. I wonder if there'll be an August one too? Be sure to check out the content rules and you can find the entry form using the link below.

Source: WP7 User Group, via: Silver Arcade

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Microsoft to buy Hulu?

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Microsoft is one of several companies interested in buying online video giant Hulu.  Anonymous sources said that Google and Yahoo! have also met with Hulu reps in meetings arranged by Morgan Stanley and Guggenheim Partners, their financial advisors.  The three potential suitors are eyeing the mass of popular shows that millions over viewers tune in to online, and the over 600 advertisers that have jumped on board with Hulu, including big players like McDonald's, Toyota and Johnson & Johnson. Of course, as these things go, none of the alleged parties are admitted anything.

Hulu's ownership has been struggling with the site's popularity, as they have attracted advertising revenue, but at the same time have caught serious flak from cable and satellite providers, who carry the same content.  They backed off from an earlier initial public offering that was projected to earn them a cool $2 billion, so it is thought that that may be what it would take for a sale to happen.  Netflix, who is seen as a similar kind of service, is valued at just about the same amount. 

Microsoft seems like a good fit, as they already offer access to Hulu Plus on XBox Live.  The acquisition would make further integration with XBL, and potentially WP7, that much easier and sweeter.  Their recent purchase of Skype is a clear sign that they are not afraid to throw around some cash to expand their multimedia capabilities. 

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