Software

We are getting reports from the Windows Phone Central faithful around the world that their Nokia Lumia 920s are starting to receive the eagerly-awaited Amber and GDR2 updates from Nokia and Microsoft. So far, we have heard from readers in Denmark and India who have received the Amber firmware update on their Lumia 920s. There is also word that Microsoft's GDR2 update has made its way to Sweden and Spain. Lumia 920s in Australia began seeing GDR2 earlier today, and we expect that others are en route as well.

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Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 Consumer Preview introduced their latest version of the Trident based web browser, Internet Explorer 11. Today the company has released the developer preview of IE11 for those still on Windows 7.

Internet Explorer 11 promises to bring improved performance, faster page load times, new standards support for next generation sites, and a completely redesigned “F12” developer toolkit.

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We’ve been reporting on 6Sec, the new Vine app from developer extraordinaire Rudy Huyn (Wikipedia, Fuse, TVShow) for a few weeks now, detailing some of the progress of the app. Then earlier this morning, we told you it was set for public release after many hard hours of beta testing by nearly a thousand users.

While an official Vine app was announced last week for Windows Phone, from our understanding that app is still in gestation and we don’t expect it for weeks if not months to hit the Store. Even then, we have a sneaky suspicion that Huyn’s version will still be better, due to his flair for design and perfection.

Luckily for Windows Phone 8 fans, you can now join in on the Vine-phenomenon by downloading 6Sec right from the Store today.

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Just around six months ago we reported on how the popular streaming app iHeartRadio was pulled from the Windows Phone Store, with an error in it being "posted early”. The issue surrounding the app involve it basically not working any longer, and it was generating quite a negative buzz in user reviews.

Well, here we are on July 1st and behold, iHeartRadio is back on Windows Phone 8 with a 1.0 release. And no, this isn’t the same version we say in January as it has a fresh new coat of paint (aka redesigned) and features some nifty Windows Phone 8 tools, such as Lockscreen support.

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Earlier today, we reported on a Windows Phone Store weakness allowing savvy users to download Nokia-exclusive applications onto non-Nokia hardware (well, try to at least, as often those apps are API dependent). But we did a little more digging and discovered the weakness doesn't just cover Nokia apps. You can manipulate the Store into providing any device or operator-exclusive app for your device.

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We’ve seen Wi-Fi calling in the past from carriers and it usually involves having a separate router-like device that you need to “rent” from your operator. The problem with that system, besides the extra cost, is it’s not mobile so it only works at home (as opposed to a friend’s house or your local Starbucks).

T-Mobile has a new Wi-Fi calling initiative and the low-cost Nokia Lumia 521 is the first Windows Phone to have the feature (the T-Mobile Lumia 925 will have it too at launch, and perhaps the Lumia 810 may get it with its Amber update later this summer).

So how is it? It’s actually one of the coolest things we’ve used that has improved mobile connectivity. Sure, it making calls this way still counts towards your minutes, but it goes a long way in improving reception in certain cellular dead-zones.

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Today, Microsoft announced plans to add enhancements and new features to their online Office Web Apps. The service is a direct competitor to Google’s Docs and Microsoft aims to overpower the service with tight SkyDrive integration and a larger feature set inherited from their full desktop Office suite.

New features include real-time co-authoring of documents and the ability for users to run Office Web apps on Android tablets via mobile Chrome web browser support. The new lineup of features aren’t scheduled to be released until a year from now.

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Holiday Inn launches Windows 8 RT app

Hotel giant Holiday Inn, owned by UK-based InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), has released a travel app for Windows 8. The app is incredibly simple, but effective. It lets you book rooms and check on reservations anywhere in the world with a straight-forward interface and controls. It also lets users sign in to their Priority Club Rewards account, or sign up if they do not have one.

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Overview and review of Windows Phone 8

Let’s be clear about something: Windows Phone 7 was simply a warm up act for Windows Phone 8. It was the start of something big and different for Microsoft, a way for them to take a distinctive approach to the current smartphone exemplar. But Microsoft were hindered by numerous roadblocks: an aging kernel (the core of the OS), limited hardware and a desire to be more conservative in features waiting instead for user-feedback and to see how people actually use their phones.

With Windows Phone 8, the gloves are off.

There are two areas in which Windows Phone 8 differs from its predecessor: the core of the OS has been updated with the NT kernel and the addition and refinement of features. Consumers don’t need to know about the kernel specifics but they will see the results: new, top of the line hardware. That hardware will be evident in a few weeks when devices like the HTC 8X and Nokia Lumia 920 become available.

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Windows Live Essentials has been part of most Windows Users standard installation for many years now. This familiar and ‘essentials’ set of applications does much to make Windows come to life as a useful productivity tool. Providing photo editing, movie making, blogging, email, synchronising and instant messaging apps, ‘Essentials’ forms a solid backbone for basic computing throughput when using Microsoft operating systems.

Whereas a certain other well-known fruit themed OSX has the luxury of these types of applications being built in, Microsoft decided after Vista to detangle these common apps from their OS. In part to make future updates easier to deliver and in part due to avoid any undue and potentially messy encounters with anti-trust bodies. So what’s the skinny on Essentials 2012? 

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Good Technology has released their annual report detailing the spread of device activations for Q2. Good are well known for being at the forefront of providing technology for IT departments to facilitate users who wish to use their own devices for work, commonly referred to as BYOD, or to allow departments to use technology that's not quite as secure or manageable out of the box. The premise is simple; the software provides a heavily encrypted shell to keep corporate email private and secure. Windows Phone is making its presence known in the workplace according to this report.

The Good Windows Phone client was only debuted in April 2012 but already it’s showing as accounting for 1.2% of the overall activations. Bear in mind that the lion’s share of activations are currently going to the non-enterprise friendly, but current executive fondle-thing-business toy, the IPad. The iPad is accounting for a whopping 94.5 of all activations.

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SoundGecko is coming to Windows Phone soon

With today's busy world, sometimes finding time to read you favorite article or keep up with the news can be difficult. Luckily, there may be a solution for some of you on the horizon. 

SoundGecko is a new, amazing service where you find any article, email it to them, and they will send you back an MP3 file of that article. The service can connect up with your SkyDrive or DropBox service to automatically deposit audio files of new articles, allowing to you to pull them down on-the-go. The smartphone app is simply a method to flag articles for the service for conversion.

Currently, the app is only available on the iPhone and Chrome browser (via an extension) but fear not, a Windows Phone version is in the works and we'll have some information on that coming soon...

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Microsoft is rolling out another update to its SkyDrive Windows Phone client today. Not a huge amount has changed in the latest version but it does bring some welcome graphical changes.

The logo has been updated to now fall in line with that seen on the web and on the desktop version  of the client, gone is the swish and onwards with the ‘flattening’. It is also adhering more to the Metro feel, dropping the rather dull skeuomorphic yellow folder icons and replacing them with their authentically digital counterparts. Yes, that means blue squares to you and me.

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Phew! We've been following the evolution of eBuddy XMS on Windows Phone since inception. The once ugly duckling app is now a beautiful and powerful alternative to the native Threads feature built into Windows Phone.

We're now hearing from the team that an update is propagating through the Marketplace, enabling 30-way group messaging across iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone devices! (If your friends are still rocking Nokia s40/s60 devices, they have to wait a little longer.)

eBuddy XMS is a free app that you can find here at the Windows Phone Marketplace. We haven't gotten our hands on the update yet, but if you have, share your thoughts in the comments or on our forums.

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Microsoft has released an update to the Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac, the app which allows Windows Phone owners to connect their devices to their Apple PC and carry out a number of tasks. From updating the smartphone to synchronising media files, the software suite is a must-have for any Windows Phone owner using a Mac.

So what's included in the v2.02 update? We're not entirely sure as the change log that's stated to be for 2.02 is actually from the previous 2.01 update. We suspect that improvements have been made to increase reliability and avoid the pesky connectivity issues between the Mac and Windows Phone. Be sure to head on over to the Mac App Store to download it, should you not have the app already.

Thanks, everyone, for tipping us!

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HTC has recently updated their Locations app for Windows Phone, which now sports handy offline navigation. Nokia beat the gun with implementing support for navigation not requiring data connectivity in their Drive app. Now HTC handset owners will be able to enjoy the same functionality as both Lumia and HTC Android owners.

HTC Locations enables the user to "share your favorite locations with photo, voice and note. Share your favorite locations to your friends", with downloadable maps as well as offline navigation. It's a pretty simple app with neat functionality.

Should you own a HTC Windows Phone, you can download HTC Locations from the OEM collection of apps.

Via: Engadget; Thanks, SolunaKitty, for the tip!

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Windows Phone hacker Heathcliff74 is announcing the immediate availability WP7 Root Tools 0.9 today. 'Root Tools is a suite of tools for Windows Phone that we've been following since inception and already features a full blown registry registry editor, file system browser, and certificate injection capabilities. But the new version comes jammed pack full of additional new and exciting features that will no doubt re-energize the homebrew community. I'm talking about features such as:

  • True and unfettered root access
  • Better performance
  • Increased device support
  • A new policy editor
  • A new software development kit

The more exciting news here, however, is the shiny new SDK (0.1) in tow, offering homebrew developers a set of APIs that tap into the same root-level features that the tool relies on. An application wishing to wield such power, however, must first seek permission from the user. That is, the users must explicity mark a particular app as "trusted". Grumble all you want, this gate is in place for obvious and serious security and privacy reasons. You don't want all those private photos on Twitter, right?

With no shortage of gullible install-everything phone users out there (see Android) policing root-required homebrew applications, Heathcliff74 admits, "will be tough." At this stage, we'll have to rely on the attentive homebrew development community to continue sniffing out crapware. In the future, however, a more centralized model complete with app certification may be in order.

All that serious stuff aside, Heathcliff74 was kind enough to let me play with the SDK prior to release and let me tell you: it's easy to use and full of awesome. Working with Delphi aficionado [ed -- *snicker*] David Golden (@GoldenTao), of MetroTwit fame, we decided to retry the implementation of my grandiose hackathon idea -- to create a complete backup the phone, including Marketplace apps. And succeed we did.

 

Screenshots of the upcoming Complete Backup app.

While the app isn't quite ready yet -- we still need to button up some networking code, resolve app guids to names, create a restoration app, etc. -- it will support the complete backup (and eventual restore) of Windows Phone application data to the PC via native sockets. And better yet, it'll be completely open-source and available on GitHub.

So at this point, you're probably thinking: "Where do I get this spoonful of delicious?" Simple. Head over to Heathcliff74's new home on the Internet, where he will blog about and host the WP7 Root Tools XAP. But be warned: The software drills deep into the phone. I can't recommend enough that you use Zune to backup your device prior to install. Oh, and you need to have a device that's "Interop Unlocked" (or flashed with a custom hacked ROM). Sorry.

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Though we reported awhile back that BitTorrent applications had an uncertain future in the Windows Phone Marketplace (for perhaps obvious reasons), it looks like Microsoft may have decided what to do about potential app submissions.

'TorrrentRemote' is a new app from codeJoker and it looks like it's near complete. What's more impressive and pertinent though is evidently Brandon Watson from Microsoft told the developer it "should be fine" for the Marketplace. Of course, this isn't a native BitTorrent application but instead accesses uTorrent running on your PC remotely. Presumably this is why it can get approval through the marketplace, as opposed to DTor.

Of course we know mistakes can be made in these areas, so we'll wait and see what happens. But if accurate, we're at least a little excited.

[via 1800PocketPC]

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File under: Whoa, completely forgot about that...

Last February, we got a gander at SPB's Mobile Shell 5.0 and then , never heard about it again. (See out hands-on video at MWC).

Well, today that's changed as SPB has finally re-announced the extremely popular UI replacement for Windows Mobile (and Android and Symbian...wait, whuh?)

Some of the key features mentioned are

  • The first complete 3D mobile phone interface, offering an extremely fast and natural user experience. User interactions become much more intuitive in a real 3D environment.
  • Single place to access all smartphone features: combining traditional widget based homescreen and application launcher via stunning 3D homescreen.
  • Fast switching between screens with a single gesture.

There's no date on when you can buy it and unfortunately, SPB seems to be aiming at OEMs and carriers as their #1 customers. Lets hope they didn't cut our the end-user!  Stay tuned...and check out that swipe at HTC Sense in the video. Hello!

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