Rumors

We know that Samsung is working on launching the ATIV SE on Verizon, but what about the rest of the world? SamMobile has reported that the manufacturer is actively developing another Windows Phone – the ATIV Core. It's believed to be a mid-range smartphone and will be a launching product for Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft's next major update for the platform.

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We're looking forward to a handful of new devices this month. Nokia should have two - the Lumia 630 and the Lumia 930. Samsung is the other OEM expecting to put out a new Windows Phone handset. That's the ATIV SE and is one we've been watching for sometime. However, the specs of the phone have remained somewhat elusive. That changes today.

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It’s Monday morning, just days before Microsoft’s Build conference kicks off in San Francisco. Windows Phone 8.1 is one of a few announcements expected by Redmond, with Nokia following up later in the day with some their own press event.

While Windows Phone 8.1 is going to be the big news, a lot of you are only concerned with one thing: When do you get it?

The distribution of 8.1 will include a few steps, including getting it into manufacturers’ hands, pushing updates through carriers and most tantalizing, the Developer Preview Program. That program, accessed through an app on the Windows Phone Store and open to anybody with a free App Studio account, will allow everyone to install Windows Phone 8.1 on any Windows Phone 8 device weeks before “official” carrier updates.

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The next firmware update from Nokia, which will be bundled with the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 release, has had its internal codename – Lumia Cherry Blossom Pink – leaked thanks to screenshots published on a Chinese website. Just like Bittersweet Shimmer, which later became known as Lumia Black once released to the public, we expect Nokia to drop 'Lumia Cherry Blossom Pink' for a catchier phrase. Other screenshots were included to tease some of the features in the upcoming operating system update.

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Sorry, there is no Nokia 'Lumia 1820'

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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We'll be the first to say that we wish HTC would take its new One (M8) Android device and slap Windows Phone on it. It's a truly beautiful smartphone, just read Android Central's in-depth review of the device to get an idea how it looks. We ran a quick poll yesterday asking if you would like to see a Windows Phone version, but rumors are suggesting one may be in the works.

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Next week, Microsoft is expected to unveil Windows Phone 8.1. Usually with big OS refreshes you get a few hardware launches, as well. That’s no different this time around as we’re expecting the Lumia 630 (aka ‘Moneypenny’), Lumia 930 (aka ‘Martini’, a non-Verizon version of the Icon) and eventually ‘Goldfinger’, which we hear is going to be a somewhat radical departure in terms of user interaction.

One of those 8.1 launch devices is reportedly the Samsung ATIV SE, another refresh from Samsung destined for Verizon. Not much is known about this device except that it may have a five inch, 1080P display and that it’s being built for Windows Phone 8.1. A render has been leaked by Evleaks that suggests a strong similarity between it and other ATIV devices in terms of aesthetics.

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In the next few months, Nokia is expected to release a forthcoming firmware update for their Lumia line. That should be no secret as we’re also expecting an OS update called Windows Phone 8.1. Firmware helps make your phone’s hardware better, and it’s very specific to your device. The OS though is general. That’s why the Developer Preview Program only gives the OS update, but requires additional firmware updates later on to complete the experience.

OS updates and firmware are like Sith, there are always two.

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The Nokia Lumia 520 was the sleeper hit for Windows Phone in 2013. The inexpensive Windows Phone went on to become the most popular Windows Phone ever. Last time we checked into stats from AdDuplex the Lumia 520 commanded 33.0 percent of the marketshare for Windows Phone devices. The Lumia 920 (7.4 percent) and Lumia 620 (7.0 percent) came in second and third. Which is why we’re greatly anticipating the true successor to the Lumia 520 in Nokia’s smartphone lineup. Ready for the Lumia 530?

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As we get closer to the official unveiling of Windows Phone 8.1 we’ll start to see more and more handsets with the updated OS leak. We’ve seen a few from Nokia and an offering from Samsung. We’ve recently seen Nokia’s upcoming Lumia 630/635 (aka “Moneypenny”). Now today, we’re looking at some images of the Samsung ATIV SE. An upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 handset slated for Verizon later this year.

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Microsoft is beginning to try new things to tackle Android and iOS in the competitive smartphone market. Slashing the Windows Phone licensing fees for some OEM partners may be one option the company is looking into. According to a report on India Times, Microsoft is waiving license costs and offering the operating system to at least two Indian phone vendors for free.

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We know you’re eagerly waiting for the next WhatsApp update. And why not? After all the beta leaks, it’s looking to be a doozy. From custom notifications, media download controls, custom backgrounds, privacy controls to many subtle UI changes, the next version of WhatsApp is looking to be a wow-worthy update.

Tonight, another private beta update has gone out (build 398), and it brings something even better than the ability to set a background image for all your chats: the ability to set custom images for individual contacts. Give your best friend one image, your significant other another and yet another for your colleagues, the choice is yours.

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We’re less than a month away from actually seeing Windows Phone 8.1 ourselves at Microsoft’s Build conference in San Francisco. We know a lot about the next big version of Windows Phone, but there’s still more info trickling out as we lead up to the big unveil. Today we’re looking at the default camera application that Windows Phone 8.1 handsets will ship with. Video after the break.

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Although the app-gap for Windows Phone dwindles each and every day, there are still a few banner apps missing. One of those is Starbucks for the US market (there’s already one for Mexico and Russia, who are managed by different companies).

The Starbucks apps aren’t just store locators, like the well-done app we covered this morning, but they help manage your account, keep track of awards and lets you replenish your pre-purchase card. The apps on iOS and Android are quite popular, but Windows Phones in US are left on the sidelines.

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Build 2014 is right around the corner, and we’re expecting a few big announcements from Microsoft during that three day event. While Windows Phone 8.1 is anticipated to be unveiled, we have also been hearing about a Surface 2 with LTE. Announced last year during a Reddit AMA, a recent FCC filing suggests that the device is close to being released.

Windows Phone Central has now learned that Surface 2’s with LTE for AT&T have now started shipping to select Microsoft Stores to build up inventory.

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Asus and Intel have been working together to combine two experiences - Windows and Android. This enables tablets and other form factors to run Windows and then Android, depending on which mode has been enabled by the user. Asus presented the TD300 at CES 2014, but now Digitimes reports that the company is postponing launch plans due to pressure from Google.

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At this rate we might not have much surprises left for Build 2014 next month in San Francisco. We’ve learned a lot about the big picture for the future of Windows Phone ever since the beta Windows Phone 8.1 SDK was leaked. Since then it’s been a steady stream of information about the upcoming update.

Earlier this week we finally got out first look at Cortana in action on video. Earlier today some more Windows Phone 8.1 information made its way onto the web. Today we’re learning a bit more about the Action Center in Windows Phone 8.1.

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