Editorials

One area where it’s always difficult to please your audience is in regards to technology. Between hardware and software advancements you have a public who not only yearns but demands frequent updates for their devices. Some of it is rational and some of it resembles the tantrums of children. But somewhere in between, there is the truth.

Microsoft is in a precarious situation with Windows Phone as they have a lot of so-called 'chicken versus egg' problems to solve. For instance, they need more mainstream apps. But in order to get more apps, they have to have enough devices in user’s hands to convince developers to get on board with Windows Phone. But how can you convince people to buy your phone if you don’t have the apps (either real or perceived)?

With Windows Phone 8 build 10327 (GDR2), Microsoft is pushing out their second minor update for their new operating system this year (the first was GDR1 aka Portico). The concern for a lot of current users is GDR2 doesn’t really bring much to the table in terms of new features. Sure FM radio and an improved Xbox Music library are nice to have, but it’s far from the dozens of features people are demanding on Microsoft’s UserVoice forum.

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Over the weekend, we posted an in depth article on the ‘Other Storage’ issue prevalent on Windows Phone 8 GDR1 devices. The problem is that for some users that area fills up with a lot of data, often of an unknown origin, with no way to gain it back besides a hard reset. From 2 to 10 GB, users have had their data disappear and it prevents them from installing new apps or games due to the restricted size. Case in point, our Lumia 720 has 2.4 GB of Other storage, which can be severely limiting on a device where you only start with around 5 GB.

Two things need to be separated here before going forward: the bug and the architecture of the OS. It is true that with GDR1 devices (any phone below OS build 10327) there is a bug related to uninstallation of XAP files for app installation than can leave remnants behind. While for small apps, this is not a big deal, if you uninstall or download a trial of say NOVA 3 (1 GB) it can have a devastating effect on space.

But there is also the design of the OS. In other words Windows Phone 8 is meant to have some space occupied by Other storage as a way to cache frequently accessed media, graphics, app and game data for fast, offline loading. That’s not a bug but the architecture and it can’t really be “fixed”.

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A vexing problem for those on Windows Phone 8 is that of space-filling ‘Other Storage’ found under Settings > Phone Storage. The problem is after a few days, weeks or months of usage, that mysterious area begins to fill up with “stuff” and users really have no recourse to getting it back.

While Nokia and other OEMs have introduced apps to delete Temporary Files, which for some does gain back significant space, it does not touch the other Other Storage problem for many.

Now, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore stated in a Tweet today that at least in GDR2 (OS build 10327), the problem has been addressed. But from our usage of the Lumia 1020, we’re not too sure users will still be satisfied.

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In tech media, it’s always the big, whizz-bang devices that tend to garner the most attention from enthusiasts. After all, they tend to have a disposable income and they are at the forefront of mobile technology. They're also the loudest for complaints or praise, dominating the conversation.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a perfect example, coming in at nearly $700 without a subsidy and $299 with—most people can’t afford it, but it reaps the headlines. And people still want it to have better, more expensive specs. Meanwhile, mid to low range devices are met with derision and scorn as people who are in well financed, established markets chime in on a device not aimed at them. We even see it here on this site, where people just want quad-cores, 1080P displays and envelope-pushing gizmos, yet they lament devices like the Lumia 625.

But the reality of the market is that smartphone prices are dropping favoring devices like the Lumia 52x and Lumia 62x or Huawei with their Ascend W1 and W2. According to the IDC, the average smartphone price has plummeted from $450 to just $375 in the last year. That trend is expected to continue with the average price headed to $350 and lower in 2013 and that directly cuts into the profit margins of Apple and Samsung, who often bet on high-end smartphones like the iPhone 5 or Galaxy S4 (neither of which are cheap).

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This morning Nokia reported its financial results for the June quarter.  Overall, Nokia is hanging in there.  The company is seeing much stronger results from its ownership in Nokia Siemens Networks, while the business of making phones has not yet returned to profitability.

As far as Lumia goes, Nokia managed to sell 7.4 million of these Windows-based smartphones compared to 5.6 million last quarter.  Naturally, with BlackBerry having shipped only 6.8 million phones last quarter (a number that has been in decline), the media jumped all over this to declare Nokia the victor as the #3 player in smartphones.

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Love it or hate it, Windows 8 is an operating system that is trying to break new ground. Microsoft’s move to rethink their world famous platform is the grandest risk and endeavor that the company has ever taken. For those of us on Facebook, think of when an update is released and brings minor changes, but a major user backlash. The idea that people don’t enjoy change is just one of the battles the Redmond company faces as it climbs the hill to a new beginning.

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You may recall reading about my account of what happened when I took my Nokia Lumia 920 out for a spin on my bike with a sub-standard bike mount back in June and how it took a beating that only an action hero could withstand.

I figured I would post a follow up on how my Lumia 920's story, like those of the silver screen, had a fairly happy ending, complete with a new grey chassis.

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The War

There was once a time when being a heavy Google services user and a Microsoft fan was the easiest choice on the block. The boys in Redmond could provide a robust and productive operating system platform while the Mountain View search cowboys could back you up with web services. Now, the two companies are going head to head and it might just be causing a hellish nightmare for consumers.

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Sometimes technology is a collection of circuitry and silicon, sometimes though – it is a magical moment full of feelings and memories. The best experiences are born when technology transcends our knowledge and connects us with what we love. British science fiction writer and futurist, Arthur C. Clarke, once said:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Microsoft has been around for a long time and for those of us who live off of the technology they provide, some of the memories will never seep away.

In 2007, the company released a four minute commercial that has come to be known as “Your Digital Lifestyle”. The ad highlighted the then current hi-tech Microsoft products of the time and how one green shirted hipster used them to party the night away. The commercial is set to a cover of Ash’s Girl from Mars by Canadian group, Magneta Lane.

Buckle up, because we are going on a field trip to six years ago; along the way, we are going to jam with our green shirted friend and revisit some of our past Microsoft technology goodies. Windows Vista will probably be seen along the way, but there will be plenty of other experiences to combat that bad flavor.

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It looks like this is the third week in a row with no new Xbox Windows Phone game. That officially makes this the second drought of the year. Now, last week I complained about the lack of release and some people felt I was being too harsh. So this week we’ll look at the bright side of a new game not coming out.

The most obvious advantage of not having a new Xbox release is that it allows us to catch up on our reviews! We published our Tiny Plane review today, and last week our Monopoly Millionaire review ran. If Microsoft bothered to keep publishing a new game each week like gamers want and expect, we probably couldn’t have finished those reviews. What can I say? It takes me a while to play a game and then give it a lengthy and detailed review.

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Despite high expectations, the internet is not a place where you can say whatever you want. There are etiquettes to make sure everyone could have reasonably enjoyable online experience. That's why there are moderators and administrators everywhere to have personal assaults in discussion threads removed, and to have user who spam banned.

The same applies to Windows Phone Store, and Windows Store. The app review you submitted don't just appear immediately. Instead, there is someone (or some bot) at Microsoft having a quick look at it first, and have it published if nothing particularly naught is found. You guys should have been used to it already, after so long time.

However, according to Chinese site WPDang, online etiquette does not exist in the Chinese Windows Phone Store, which is causing a growing problem for user experience.

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If you follow our Xbox Windows Phone editorial coverage, then you know I’ve often been critical of the Xbox certification process. Microsoft created a set of certification policies back in the Xbox 360’s early years that were intended to ensure the highest quality game releases and discourage the release of buggy games. These same policies were then extended wholesale to subsequent Xbox platforms, including Games for Windows Live (PC), Windows 8, and Windows Phone.

Problem is the aging and restrictive policies weren’t designed to reflect the changing nature of the games industry, and certainly not to account for the differences in development between consoles and platforms like Windows Phone. Modern game development isn’t about shipping a game and then trying not to ever update it. No, games these days (whether they have In-App Purchases or not) are updated continuously throughout their life spans.

Indie hits like Minecraft and top smartphone games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope would never have remained as relevant as they are without the constant stream of updates and support from their developers. And the Xbox certification policies dating back to 2005 have been nothing but an impediment towards that kind of support. BUT it turns out that Microsoft discreetly relaxed their policies towards updating games earlier this year – on the Xbox 360, at least.

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Those busted corners on the Nokia Lumia 920 in the pictures above look nasty, eh? Those gashes, along with some slight scratches on the front of the phone’s screen are the result of my Lumia 920 falling off my bike when a brand new handlebar mount that I bought broke apart when I hit some rough pavement at about 15 miles per hour.

As heart-breaking as that was, let me tell you why those banged up corners are so amazing.

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Earlier this year, Windows Phone experienced an extended Xbox game release drought that actually began at the end of 2012. As the weeks stretched on, we became increasingly worried about the future of Xbox games on Windows Phone. The severity of the drought prompted me to write our seven-part “How Microsoft can save Xbox games for Windows Phone” series, which all Windows Phone gamers still need to read.

In February, Skulls of the Shogun basically broke the drought, though the following week there was no new release. But since then, we’ve seen a steady release of Xbox games for Windows Phone 7 and 8 from major publishers like Gameloft, Rovio, and Ubisoft. It looked like the days of drought were behind us.

Then last week we got no new Xbox release. It stung, but maybe this week would be different. Well, as far as we can tell, there is no new Xbox game this week either. Could this be the start of a new drought?

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According to Tom Warren of The Verge, Microsoft’s Xbox Music streaming service will see a web-based interface launching next week. This would provide a substantial boost for the service as it is currently only available on Microsoft based platforms. Bringing Xbox Music to the web would allow access for Linux and Mac OS X users.

The Verge announced that unspecified sources had revealed the plans, and that Xbox Music will be accessible next week at music.xbox.com allowing users to stream content in addition to managing their playlists. We expect to see a preview of the web interface this week at BUILD 2013, before it launches.

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File this under “Did they just say that?”

In an interview with the Financial Times, Richard Yu, chairman of Huawei's consumer business group, said that the company would be open to buying Nokia to boost their smartphone sales, especially in non-Asian markets where the Chinese OEM is still facing some challenges.

Cnet interprets some of Yu's comments as suggesting that if Huawei were to buy Nokia, Windows Phone itself may be up for reconsideration. The reason is price: Windows Phone still has a license fee, whereas Android is "free". We're not confident that Huawei would do such a thing, even if they were to buy Nokia, but it's clear they don't have much faith in the Microsoft OS either.

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The second week of Talk Mobile 2013 kicks off tomorrow, and the discussion is going to center around mobile apps. With five days of awesome content lined up and sure to be some great conversations in the comments, we really want to expand your interaction with the whole Talk Mobile crew.

Starting tomorrow after fresh Talk Mobile content goes live we're going to do something we wanted to do for the last week of Talk Mobile, but couldn't thanks to everybody traveling for the awesome Talk Mobile launch party: we'll be holding a live video hangout with a rotating cast of Talk Mobile editors, developers, designers, our special guests, and everybody else involved in making Talk Mobile happen. You can expect the hangouts to go live a little bit after we publish the Talk Mobile articles. After all, they're pretty big hunks of text and video, we want you to have some time to digest it all first!

So tune back in to your favorite Mobile Nations site(s) tomorrow for more great Talk Mobile content. It's time to get the conversation about apps started!

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With the announcement of Microsoft’s Xbox One, there has been a collection of hatred focused on new video game DRM restrictions. Unfortunately many users don’t truly know the actual measures being put in place on Xbox One video games. In addition, there are a collection of new benefits that come with Xbox One games that are being overlooked. Let’s take a look and talk about how Xbox DRM licensing will actually work. My goal is to help you understand Microsoft’s decisions and see some of the benefits of the new DRM system. If you are still angry at the end of the article, which is fine – PlayStation 4 is a great alternative and I hope you enjoy it (Just let me know how good “The Last of Us” really is).

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Today has been an exciting day for both video gamers at E3 and Apple fans at WWDC. Despite what you may think, I actually followed Apple’s event just as closely as Microsoft’s press releases on the Xbox One.

As I sat on our sister site, iMore.com, and watched the WWDC Live blog I realized that I absolutely loved the updates to iOS7. Apple decided to go for a “flat” design and get rid of faux textures for a completely modern approach. As I watched on and became more excited I realized something; flat design, no faux textures, and Bing integration – this was Windows Phone.

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“Wake up Sam”, that’s what my internal Cortana said on the morning of May 14.

Paul and I were in Santa Monica, CA to get an early preview of an upcoming, unannounced, non-console “Halo” action title. That’s all we knew, but the fact that Microsoft and 343 Industries invited Windows Phone Central gave us an idea of what platform we would be playing this on.

Was it finally happening? Halo on Windows Phone? As you know by now, the answer was a loud yes. And bonus, Windows 8 was getting in on the action. If you read us regularly, you might have figured out by now I’m a big Halo fan. So what do I think about Halo: Spartan Assault so far?

Spoiler alert: Forget E3 and Build, I want it to be July already.

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