How To

It’s no secret that Windows Phone accessories aren’t exactly flooding the market at the moment. And while there are great places like the WPCentral store, here in South Africa our choices are more limited.

You see, many local stores don’t stock anything, and shipping items from the states just isn’t worth it most of the time. I even went to an official Nokia store here to get a cyan cover for my Lumia 800, and not only did they not have any colors besides black, their black ones were 3rd party products. Yep, the Nokia store did not sell Nokia covers.

Recently I have been wanting a dock or stand for my Lumia 900 to prop it up on my desk, but of course, I couldn’t find one. Rather than waiting to get one shipped, I thought I would make my own.

Enter: 3D Printers.

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Sorting through a number of emails can easily become a tricky business, especially if there is a large collection waiting for you to synchronise your email client - we're sure you've experienced the post-holiday email craze, right?

Microsoft has designed Outlook.com to be extraordinarily easy to use, and to get common tasks done quickly. We took a look yesterday at how to automate inbox clean-ups to either delete or move emails and keep the inbox clutter free.

Today we'll be looking at how we can utilise Instant Actions to make email management easier. So just what are 'Instant Actions' on Outlook.com? They're quick tools that enable users to quickly manage individual emails. On hovering over a message in a folder, you'll see three icons appear under the received date (see below).

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Outlook.com, the new face of webmail from Microsoft

Microsoft unveiled Outlook.com back in July, launching a new web-based email service that would be the successor to its popular Hotmail brand. The move was part of Microsoft's plan to bring products and services closer together, which leads to further integration into Windows, Windows Phone and other platforms.

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If only backing up was this easy

Continuing on with our series of Windows Phone how tos for those who are new to the platform, today we'll be looking at how to backup and restore our smartphones. Backing up is a chore than many have to undertake on their PC, whether it be apps, documents or photos from a memorable vacation - it's always best to have more than one copy of everything. The same goes for contents on your smartphone.

Should anything happen to your Windows Phone, or if you’d like to revert to an earlier snapshot, you’ll need a backup at hand to get everything working in perfect order. Unfortunately Microsoft doesn’t currently offer an official facility to manually backup a Windows Phone (not even in Zune), but luckily there are alternatives thanks to an active developing community.

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Enjoying music collections while on the go is a breeze with Windows Phone. Simply synchronise selected media onto a device and either Zune or the Windows Phone Connector for Mac will do the rest. But what if you wanted to organise music into moods, easy-to-sync lists or to quickly extract favourite music? This is where playlists come in.

Many make use of playlists in media players already. Sorting through 30,000 songs to build a collection of favourites is a task majority of music fans go through when wanting to take their sounds on the move. Most devices and smartphones have a limited capacity for media, so until we have 1TB storage options for Windows Phone, it makes sense to move across said playlists.

How does one go about achieving this?

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Information overload is all too common in our busy, hectic lives these days. One of the central themes through the entire Windows Phone operating system is of deep social integration. From the very start we have had Twitter and Facebook woven into the very fabric of the system. Sometimes though, too much social activity can mean it is hard to see the updates from those that matter most.

When you get to the point where you have hundreds of contacts on Facebook and the same amount or more again on Twitter, things can get hectic. We’re going to show you how easy it is to setup and create your own custom Live Tiles to cut out the static and see the updates from those that matter most...

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Nokia has launched a new app that will make it easy for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry users to make the move or convert to Windows Phone. The app makes moving all your contacts, calendars and apps over from your old phone to your new Lumia Windows Phone nice and easy.

Welcome Home to Windows Phone is an app from Markspace that migrates all the information and is compatible with both PC and Mac systems. The app will first back up everything from your old device and then transfer contacts, appointments, pictures, songs and videos to your new Windows Phone. The Welcome Home app will only copy DRM-free (unrestricted rights) songs and videos.

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We reported a few days ago that some developers at XDA Forums have managed to get those pesky video-out drivers working on their Windows Phone 7 devices. The drivers, often used by Microsoft during press and developer events for demonstration purposes, have never been released publicly and that won’t change for WP7 anytime soon.

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Sync, damn you, sync!

Syncing multiple calendars is never fun. It’s even less fun across various services, like Gmail to Outlook.com for instance, which is the focus of this tutorial.

We recently had to solve this problem for ourselves because although like you we primarily use our Hotmail/Live Mail/Outlook.com calendar for all events, we sometimes need to have our external Google calendar sync to our phone too.

There are a few ways to go about this but we’re going to show you the more unified approach that we prefer. It’s a bit tricky and nearly caused us to punch our wall a few times to figure it out. But for you, it will be dead simple and should literally take you no more than 5 minutes.

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With the launch of Microsoft's new Outlook.com, which is set to replace its current Live (formerly Hotmail) email service, a number of Windows Phone owners quickly acted to save their desired @outlook.com email address. All good and dandy, but using the new Outlook address in place of your Live ID is a separate matter.

Should you decide to completely replace your Live ID with your new Outlook address, then you'll be required to reset your Windows Phone to be able to make use of integrated services and the Marketplace. This is a pain for those who have a lot of apps installed and have the device set up to the way that suits the owner. The good news is that all your purchases are saved and moved across to the new Outlook address, but what if you weren't aware of the fact you'd need to reset your device and don't wish to do so?

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There's a risk to changing your LiveID on Windows Phone

With today’s announcement of Outlook.com many of you have noticed that if you were logged into Hotmail with your old account and navigated to Outlook.com you were automatically logged in to the new “preview” of Microsoft’s new email service.

What’s more, you actually have the option—even on an old Hotmail address—to change it to @outlook.com. But there is a catch for Windows Phone users…

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With the recent release of the Microsoft Office 2013 Customer Preview, many have been hitting a giant wall when it comes to connecting Hotmail and Gmail accounts in Outlook.

Outlook 2013 supports Exchange ActiveSync as an explicit option when creating accounts, which kisses goodbye to the pesky Outlook Connector. The problem is when Outlook can't detect Hotmail (or Gmail) accounts correctly. Should a valid address be entered into the account setup assistant and it can't configure Exchange ActiveSync, it will resort to POP and SMTP protocols. This isn't ideal.

Lucky for those who suffer from the above issue, a simple workaround is available that enables Hotmail users to enjoy the new Outlook experience...

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Earlier this morning we reported on a neat little trick that a few Windows Phone apps can do which is keep your Wi-Fi connection active even when the display is powered off.

That’s pretty useful feature for some people who are using a public Wi-Fi access point that requires you to “accept” the terms of service each time you re-connect. On a Windows Phone, every time you turn the display off it kills the Wi-Fi connection meaning you are forced to reconnect which can be problematic--even more so if you’re downloading some files.

Over at XDA, developer Ha Mai Tung (WinPhoneViet.com) has created a neat little homebrew app called Keep WiFi Alive which exploits the trick that some audio apps use. The app creates a fake music stream that makes the OS “think” it is downloading music, thereby keeping the Wi-Fi connection active.  The app is simple to use—just launch and hit the button.  To disable you can either turn off Wi-Fi in Settings or restart the phone.

Demo of Keep WiFi Alive

The app is homebrew, meaning you’ll need a developer unlocked device (either AppHub or Chevron) and does not require interop access, meaning many of you can use it if you can sideload the XAP. It’s still in beta form so there could be some bugs and of course battery usage will presumably increase, so be warned.

Source: XDA Forums; via Windows Phone Daily, Plaffo

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Browsing Bild.de can be hazardous to Tango's health

With Windows Phone Tango rolling out it is perhaps not a surprise that some isolated bugs may be discovered along the way. So far, not too many have cropped up but there is one that is interesting though seemingly rare.

Users have found that navigating to the German news site Bild.de on their phone, with “Desktop” enabled can result in the browser locking up the device. The site Bild.de does default to a mobile WAP version and there is a Windows Phone app too but users are free to use their IE9 in desktop mode to view the site “as is”.

We’ve tested the scenario on our Tango phone (Focus 2) and sure enough, upon loading the page the second time it does lock up the device. Since Internet Explorer is a native app, native apps can crash the OS whereas third-party apps should not be able to do so.

The theory seems to revolve around the idea that Bild.de is very graphic intensive with a lot of photos being pushed to the browser. Combined with Tango's low-overhead for 256MB devices and it seems to zap all of the available memory on the phone (of course we can’t rule out javascript errors or something else, either). You can replicate the crash yourself by following these directions:

  • Turn “Desktop” mode on in the browser
  • Navigate to Bild.de, it may load just fine
  • Navigate to another site then go back to Bild.de
  • Browser should crash when loading

The resulting crash means you would have to pull the battery (or hold the power button for 10 seconds) to reboot the phone. We tried this on a Windows Phone Mango device (HTC Titan) and could not replicate the crash. We also had no issues with a Galaxy Nexus with Android 4.1 meaning this most certainly seems correlated with Windows Phone “Tango”.

Is it a dire bug? Certainly not but it could be used as a browser-exploit by some nefarious people out there, even though that seems remote to us. Still, hopefully Microsoft will see this and patch it up for their next OS build.

Update: To make things even more confusing, it's not all devices. Our Lumia 900 with Tango is okay, but reports at XDA of the Radar, Omnia 7, Lumia 800 and our Focus 2 do have the crash.

Source: XDA; Thanks DerAusgewanderte, for the tip

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Samsung has the Tango update but AT&T is not pushing it

Although AT&T itself is not pushing out any Tango-8773 updates for its current Windows Phones, the OEMs evidently have it on tap, or at least Samsung does.

We’ve had isolated reports that the Focus S was getting two OS updates (some are reporting new firmware, we’re still at 2103.11.10.1). However, whenever George Ponder or I would plug in our Focus S devices, it was always reported back to us that we had the latest update (7740).

The trick is to rig the system—basically use the same trick many of you did for Mango where you put your phone into Airplane mode (disable all radios), plug into Zune and check for an update. You then navigate away and go back to “Check for update” but as soon as it starts to look (about 2 seconds) you kill your internet on your PC. Now you wait about 30 seconds and an update will be shown. For more info on how that works, read our tutorial here.

You need to do that at least twice—once for 8112 and again for 8773 (Tango)—but yes, it does work and it’s officially from Samsung. We manually installed 8107 back in the day, so our phone was already on that OS version. The majority of you will need to upgrade to 8107, then presumably it will go to 8112 or 8773.

The changelog for Windows Phone 8112/8773 on the Focus S

So why is this happening? We can only speculate that Samsung has delivered the update to AT&T but the carrier is either holding it, still evaluating it, not releasing it or maybe they’re waiting on HTC and Nokia to do a universal roll out. Honestly, your guess is as good as ours.

We also have heard this works for the Focus Flash and possibly the Focus 2 (we manually installed Tango on our Focus 2 so can’t really verify). In other words, for all of you Samsung users who are on AT&T (and even non-branded versions), feel free to try this method to grab some updates.

We’ll keep you posted if anything official happens in the meantime.

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While it is very rare for any Windows Phone to crash or freeze, we have on a few occasions seen it happen. It's rare because 3rd party apps don't have access to the core of the OS and therefore it's very difficult to cause the system to become unstable. Still, the problem may pop up and we figured we would cover you for the Lumia 800 & 900.

Why these two Nokia devices? With their unibody design, there's no physical way to access and therefore pull the battery. That puts users in a pickle if they need to soft-reset a stuck device. So without further ado, here's how you do it:

Lumia 900

  • Press and hold the volume keys, power button and camera together for 3-5 seconds
  • The phone should soft-reset (although some say you should feel 3 vibrations, ours never has)

Lumia 800

  • Press and hold the volume keys and power button together for 3-5 seconds
  • The phone should soft-reset

That's it. So although you will probably never need this it's good to know if you're in a pinch.

Edit: Some are saying in comments that just holding the power button for 10 seconds works too.

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Recently here at Windows Phone Central we've received a few help requests through our app from users whose live tiles all appear to have stopped updating, including our own. Previously there have been bugs in our app that would cause its tile to fail, but when all live tiles on a device that rely on Background tasks get stuck, there's a bigger problem.

Up until this point I have been unable to reproduce the issue myself so I've been struggling to assist those of you asking us for a solution. In a stroke of luck though my Lumia 800's tiles recently stopped updating at all (excluding those updated through push notifications), and after a simple restart of the phone didn't help I have a solution to share with you all.

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Final Fantasy is finally available, and we’ve already provided some beginner tips and resources to help players get started. Even advanced players will need help with the game’s Achievements, though. Why? They’re all secret, meaning players can’t view them in-game or through Xbox Live prior to earning them. This led many to speculate that the Achievements would all be story-related. As it turns out, that did not prove to be the case.

We know this because Achievement hunter-extraordinaire Zebrasqual managed to uncover Final Fantasy’s full Achievement list. Windows Phone Central then broke those Achievements down into categories for your convenience. Not only that, we’ve got tips and resources for the more challenging ones that will set you on the right track. It won't be easy though, so prepare for a lengthy journey!

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In our latest how-to guide, we show you how to make the most of your Windows Phone and SkyDrive cloud storage

We've touched on the basics with Microsoft's SkyDrive services and the SkyDrive App for your Windows Phone. But how does all that translate into every day use?

The obvious every day use for SkyDrive and your Windows Phone is to free up storage space and make content easily available. Why bog down your Windows Phone with documents, pictures, and music files when you can store them in the Cloud and access them at your leisure? But did you know that several quality apps utilize SkyDrive? Of course you did... and we'll try to cover a few along the way as we look at every day uses for your SkyDrive account.

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Curious about how SkyDrive can make your life more useful? Read our guide to find out.

Cloud storage is becoming more and more mainstream, especially among smartphone and tablet owners where local storage is limited. Storing data in the clouds (remotely hosted servers) enables the owner to access data from any supported location. DropBox is probably the best known example of cloud storage for PC users with native clients available for both Windows and Mac.

Microsoft has its own cloud storage solution, but how does SkyDrive compare to competitors? We'll take a quick glance at some features of Microsoft's product against Dropbox, Apple's iCloud and Google Drive. Microsoft has also published a chart of their own, which offers a more in-depth comparison.

 

  SkyDrive DropBox iCloud Drive Free Storage 7GB* 2.5GB 5GB 5GB Price +20GB - $10/yr
+50GB - $25/yr
+100GB - $50/yr 50GB - $99/yr
100GB - $199/yr 10GB - $20/yr
20GB - $40/yr
50GB - $100/yr 25GB - $2.49/mo
100GB - $4.99/mo
~16TB available Platforms iOS, Mac, PC, WP Droid, iOS, Mac, PC, WP iOS, Mac Droid, Mac, PC

*25GB is available for existing users.

According to the table above, SkyDrive is a more attractive option compared to competitors, but what about Windows Phone? Microsoft has developed its own cloud storage solution that was formed with the Live umbrella of products, and its fully integrated into Windows Phone with a complimentary app to go with. But where exactly is this integration?

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