Editorials

Despite the fact Windows Phone 8.1 has been garnering some fantastic reviews from both tech pundits and the masses, it’s not all roses and ponies. I was reminded of this last night when playing with the Xbox Music app that comes with 8.1.

On the surface, the app looks decent. It’s a continuation of the new app structure started late last year by Microsoft, which replaces the ‘built in’ Music + Video hubs of the past. Microsoft is changing the architecture so that the Windows Phone Team can quickly add new features and fix bugs, all without an OS update.

But let’s not mince words: the music experience on Windows Phone 8.1 is subpar, and it has become worse since 8.0.  In fact, it sits with a pathetic 2.5 stars (out of 5) on the Store, which is awful for a Microsoft app.

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For those in the US whom also have Windows Phone 8.1 installed, Cortana is probably one of your most frequented new features on your phone. If you’re outside the US, you’ll have to wait a little longer for Microsoft to localize your language (unless you follow our simple tutorial).

When sharing images of my 8.1 screen, a lot of people have asked me why I pin Cortana as a wide Tile. After all, I could just hit the dedicated Search key (Tip: you can long press the Search key on the Lock screen to call up Cortana). On the surface, it’s seems like a simple question, but I’ll explain why if you have Cortana, making her a permanent Tile on your screen may be a good idea.

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It’s time for another edition of the Mobile Nations Community Update! As usual, things around Android Central, CrackBerry, iMore, Smartwatch Fans and Windows Phone Central have been busy.

The past month has been a mix of new devices, financial analysis, conference coverage, and site planning. The HTC One M8 has been announced, BlackBerry held their Q4 financial results conference call, Rene and iMore hit up (and did a fabulous job) covering Macworld|iWorld 2014, and Windows Phone Central is in the middle of Microsoft Build 2014 conference coverage as we speak.

You may have also noticed the unveiling of the Mobile Nations Newsroom, put together to provide you with a better experience. We’re excited about it, and hope you enjoy the benefits it will provide: in addition to enhanced news coverage, expect to see a lot more original content.

Let’s get down to it. I have some exciting ‘hints’ to share regarding future developments on Smartwatch Fans… keep reading to learn more!

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With Microsoft’s Build 2014 just right around the corner, it looks like I have to squash some rumors floating around. The latest is “confirmation” of a Lumia 1820.

The first report of a Lumia 1820 came from a non-reputable Twitter source, who promised it would feature a hilariously spec’d “3GB RAM 5.2 inch QHD screen and Snapdragon 805” along with a Lytro camera. I said back before Mobile World Congress that it was nonsense, as many were “predicting” it would be announced at that Nokia event. It was not.

Now, the unicorn phone has returned.

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“I think everybody’s happy with free-to-play for now.” That's Kyu Lee, founder of Gamevil, a veteran mobile game developer with more than a decade of experience. They’ve been churning out freemium games — free to download and play, but full of in-app purchases — at a solid clip for years now, resulting in plenty of players and a well-known RPG series.

Will Stallwood, founder of Cipher Prime, is on the other side of the fence, saying, “Having a paywall is almost disgraceful.” Cipher Prime has been carefully crafting paid games since 2008. The music is amazing. The gameplay is varied and polished. The graphics are beautiful. You won’t find ads or purchase prompts anywhere. Playing any of their titles is a pure experience.

On the one side are established developers that are casting a wide net and trying to maintain user loyalty. On the other you find a group of independents trying to maintain the experiential integrity of a game, and leaving players alone once they’ve paid up. Which one is doing it right?

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In doing this job, there’s the easy news – apps, device reviews, leaks – and then there’s the hard news, like criticizing Microsoft, leaking too much or talking about illegal apps. Today’s story falls into the latter category, but it’s more about the aftermath.

Long story short, a developer named Al Gihuni released a free app called ‘Free Market’. The app did something unique: it allowed you to find an app listed in a different region, perhaps at a lower price. The idea here is that some developers price their apps differently based on the market, or sometimes they run regional sales. ‘Free Market’ though took advantage of that by letting users find those price differences with a few clicks and the app tagline – “Download paid apps for free!” – was quite inflammatory.

Developers were not pleased, to say the least.

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Like a lot of people who are always connected, knowing what is happening in the world at this moment is a priority for me. Sure, I can load up an RSS news feed and pull down some published news stories, but what about the breaking stuff, the things happening right now? The internet is a powerfully fast tool for delivering information. Having a steady stream of breaking bulletins is the logical end of that technology, and Breaking News is that service.

Breaking News (www.breakingnews.com) is owned by NBC News Digital, though it operates as a separate entity. What makes it unique though is it’s not just a stream of “stuff” coming in that you have to make sense of. Nor do you have to configure anything. Instead, there are a team editors who curate, fact check and maintain the feed, making sure only scrutinized content gets through.

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My Nokia Lumia 1520 is the perfect size device and everything else is just too small. Picking up a Lumia 1020 feels ridiculous and borrowing a friend’s Apple iPhone 5S to make a call feels like a joke. As the smartphone market evolves, I am no longer the only person to find a love for the “extra-large” phone. In a world where a 3.5” display was once gorgeous, 4.5” is the new standard and 5.5” is the future.

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Downloading apps from the Windows Phone Store can open up a whole new world of possibilities. No, that wasn’t a sales pitch for the app team. It’s a truly great way to experience some exciting content made by developers from around the world. Some apps and games are free, while others are commercially licensed, requiring a purchase.

I’ve rounded up some of my top paid apps for you to try out, should you not have them installed already. While this may be a small collection, they’re apps I rely on a daily basis.

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So, you want to adopt BYOD?

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is the current hot trend. (And has been for a while, really.) There are many perceived advantages for a company that allows employees to bring their own devices to work and have access to your company resources, but is BYOD right for you? Can you make mistakes when developing your BYOD policies? Can you really let any device connect to your resources?

Lets look at a few top issues that you should be aware of.

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Popular mobile games often take a long time to arrive on Windows Phone - if they ever make the trip at all. Last year I wrote an editorial explaining the delay in porting games to Windows Phone and the market situations that make such delays inevitable. To make a long story short, bringing games from iOS and Android to Windows Phone at the same time as the lead version often doesn’t make financial sense for the publisher… Not that we have to like it.

In fact, one of our dedicated readers doesn’t care to wait-and-see whether popular games like Candy Crush Saga will make it to Windows Phone at all. Tjecco been running a forum thread dedicated to contacting mobile developers about support for Microsoft’s mobile OS for a while now. With the help of other fine readers, he continues to reach out to developers and update the thread with their responses. Find out which developers have recently confirmed Windows Phone support (and what you can do to help) after the break!

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Yesterday, I finally picked up my matte white/silver Lumia Icon from Verizon. Nokia wanted back the review device, so I had to decide if I wanted the Icon on my Verizon account. Of course I did, it’s a great phone.

In playing with the white/silver version, which in my opinion looks much better than the all black one, I can’t help but notice how much it borrows from the Surface 2 design language. Let me be clear here: I’m not saying this is the oft rumored ‘Surface Phone’ from Microsoft. Or that Nokia worked with Microsoft in any way on this device. That’s not true at all.

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Mobile Nations Community Update, March 2014

Welcome yet again to the Mobile Nations Community Update! Around Android Central, CrackBerry, iMore, Smartwatch Fans and Windows Phone Central, it’s been a fun start to 2014. Lots of events with boatloads of new devices to talk about.

We recently wrapped up our coverage of Mobile World Congress, and the event has left us with a legacy of devices, devices, and MORE devices to discuss in our forums. In the end, we have somewhere in the neighbourhood of 35 new device forums across all Mobile Nations communities. If you want to talk Samsung Galaxy S5, Nokia X Series or even the BlackBerry Z5 or Q20, we’ve got you covered.

All told, our communities are having a great time discussing the plethora of new devices that have hit the scene. Fun times for sure, but there’s much more goodness to come in 2014. We’re just getting started.

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A few days ago, we reported that Microsoft is looking to create an open-source framework for bringing Xbox Live features to games for all mobile platforms. An additional report from The Verge has since added additional fuel to the fire, giving us a slightly clearer picture of what that means for Xbox Live on Windows Phone and other mobile devices.

Xbox Windows Phone has long been in dire need of a change. Read on to find out what went wrong, and how likely it is that the upcoming open-source framework will set mobile Xbox Live games back on track.

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So the big headline late last night was that the new Nokia X, a low-end smartphone running Android 4.1, was “rooted”. That’s geek talk for getting access to the bootloader so that you can load other things on to the phone, after all, all smartphones are just mini-computers.

Immediately sites jumped on it as proof that Nokia’s strategy would never work, because you know, you can now flash the Google Play store and even an updated version of the Android onto the darn thing.

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We recently received reports that Microsoft would be slashing the costs of their Windows licensees by up to 70% in an effort to take on competitors in the lower end and tablet markets including Google’s Chrome OS and Apple’s iOS. The Redmond based company may take it a step further though, according to reports released today, Microsoft could be experimenting with a free version of Windows 8 and an alternative way of bringing in consumers.

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Today, at the start of Mobile World Congress, Nokia made it official. They are building Android-powered phones . I’m not going to rehash all of the data or walk you through the basics of the phone since that’s already been covered in-depth quite well today.

While some at Microsoft may be embarrassed by what Nokia is doing, I can see how it’s a smart move that will help.

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Barcelona – Early this morning, Nokia held their highly anticipated press conference here at Mobile World Congress 2014. Anticipated is the word used because while two new and admirable low-end entry phones were introduced – the Asha 230 and Nokia 220 – all eyes were focused on ‘X’.

Yes, Nokia has gone Android. But if you think that’s all there is to the story, you may be missing the point. We sat down with Jo Harlow, Executive Vice President, Smart Devices at Nokia, for some answers to our eager questions.

If you watched the live stream of Nokia’s presentation on the Nokia X, X+ and XL devices, you may have noticed that their message was crafted perfectly. Yes, the words ‘Android’ and ‘Google’ were used, but Stephen Elop was purposeful in focusing on Microsoft’s services and Nokia’s Lumia line. It was as if they knew that one wrong word could be misconstrued as “Nokia has doubts about Windows Phone” or that this new device series was an admission of failure.

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A real quick analysis of today’s announcements by Microsoft, specifically in regards to Windows Phone, shows that Microsoft is loosening the belt on their mobile OS. Back when Windows Phone 7 Series was announced at this very event four years ago, Microsoft had set very strict hardware requirements in an effort to keep the user experience consistent and ensure a quality experience.

That’s a very different approach from Android, which has a more ‘anything goes’ method for hardware, resulting in proliferation of Android throughout the mobile market. Apple, of course does the opposite: they only make their own hardware, so there are no manufacturer opportunities.

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If you want the best smartphone camera right now, you buy a Nokia Lumia 1020. It’s been that way ever since the Lumia 1020 launched on AT&T here in the United States a little over six months ago. After the initial US availability of the device in July, it slowly showed up around the world on other carriers over the next few months.

It’s not a wildly popular device like the Lumia 520. The Lumia 1020 was never designed to move huge volumes of sales. Instead the Lumia 1020 was as an exercise in combining elegant hardware, innovative software and the best possible mobile imaging capabilities into a smartphone. It's unashamedly a niche device.

We’ve had the Lumia 1020 since launch and have loved every minute of it. But six months is a long time in tech, so we're going to take some time and look back at how the Nokia Lumia 1020 has performed over the past six months.

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