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3 years ago

Microsoft Launches Xbox Live Rewards Program

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With the holiday shopping season in full swing, Microsoft is pushing hard to make their consumer products and services some of the must-haves for Christmas. As far as Windows Phone goes, we’ve seen product placements and advertising all over the place. The other big area that Microsoft is pushing right now is Xbox.

Microsoft’s recent launch of the Kinect accessory is driving a lot of new Xbox purchases, and with all of those consoles hitting the market, Microsoft is tossing out some incentives for all of those new owners to get their Xbox Live accounts up and running.

The Xbox Live Rewards program offers Microsoft Points in return for things like Xbox Live Gold account setup or renewal, purchases from the Xbox Live Marketplace, and completing monthly surveys. Now you don’t have to pay for the full Gold account to earn points, but there are several more ways to earn the points if you have a Gold account. Microsoft Points are redeemable for items from the Xbox Live Marketplace, and though this doesn’t translate over to the world of Windows Phone 7, we are hoping that Microsoft makes that transition sooner rather than later.

If you’re interested, head on over to the Xbox Live Rewards site and sign up. Rewards are available to those in the US or UK only.

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3 years ago

Photo Magic - Review

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Photo Magic - Review

Like to apply special effects to your photos? Want an easy way to go about doing so on your Windows Phone?

Appa Mundi Ltd is offering Photo Magic over at the Marketplace that will let you transform photos on your Windows Phone at the swipe of a finger.

The Windows Phone 7 app can apply six effects to images stored in your media gallery or freshly captured images. The seven effects are:

  • Pencil - pencil sketch of your photo
  • Sepia - the brown tonal effect
  • Twenties -antique feel to the picture
  • Cartoon - turns your photo into a cartoon drawing
  • Movie - high contrast
  • Paint - water color effect

To apply the effects, you simply choose a photo from your media galleries or create a new photo (launches your camera app). Once loaded into the application all five effects are applied and reviewable in the Photo Magic hub. Simply swipe through the pages to preview the altered image.

Once you find a style you like, you can save it to your media gallery as well as share it on Facebook or Twitter. Some of the effects took a little time to be applied and you can choose the image file size (small, medium, large) to either speed things up or create better detail.  I found that each effect has a varying degree of success depending on the photo.  Sometimes the Cartoon Effect really turns the photo into a cartoon but with some photos it's hard to tell teh Cartoon Effect from the Paint Effect.  While some of the effects can be hit or miss, overall I was pleased with Photo Magic.

If you use your Windows Phone to capture or share images, Photo Magic is a simple and easy way to apply special effects to your photos. The full version of Photo Magic will run $1.99 and there is a free trial version available at the Marketplace.

Ease on past the break to see an example of each style.

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3 years ago

I am a Tenor - Review

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I am a Tenor - Review

Software developer Gaia srl is offering an interesting, dare I say unusual, application for Windows Phone 7. "I am a Tenor" is being offered over at the Marketplace for $1.99 and it seems to be a blend of karaoke and voice manipulation.

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3 years ago

Translator - Review

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Translator - Review

Need a simple, straight forward translation application? It doesn't get any simpler than Translator from Microsoft.

The Windows Phone 7 application will translate words and phrases to and from English, Italian, Spanish, German and French. Translator will also provide you with a list of commonly used phrases that can be translated to the various languages.

The interface is straight forward and simple. The "from" and "to" languages are shown above two text entry fields. To change the languages, simply tap the language and choose the desired language from the list. If you want to reverse the translation order, tap the "swap button" at the bottom of the screen.

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3 years ago

T-Mobile's HD7 lacks multi-language keyboard support, polyglots upset [Updated]

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Update: HTC has contacted Jeff directly and corrected themselves. Evidently, it was due to "lack of time" as to why the extra language packs were not included and that they will be added in an update. As interesting, they said "by February this should not be an issue". which gives more credence to that rumored update coming down the road.

It turns out that the choices for keyboard languages (ergo configuration, see Settings --> Keyboard) are an option left up to OEMs and carriers. While most Windows Phones have multiple languages supported (e.g. French, German, Italian, Spanish and English) the HD7 curiously has only English on board.

Why that is remains a mystery, but at least according to HTC, the decision was not theirs:

If your Windows Phone 7 does not contain a display language that you would like to use, there is currently no way to get a new language pack installed on the phone. Microsoft makes language packs available (as they're created) to the device manufacturers (OEMs) at the time of manufacturing and it is up to the device manufacturer and mobile operator to decide which languages to include. In this case, it was T-Mobile’s decision to only include English.

As a result, some Spanish speaking Americans (who make up more than 12% of the population) are a little bit upset. Specifically, when they type in Spanish, it auto-corrects their words since the dictionary is dependent upon language selection. What's more, the HD7 on T-Mobile seems to be alone in this single language support when compared other WP7 devices (as far as we know at the moment).

No response from T-Mobile on the issue, but hopefully they'll make a note of it to include in an update in the future. Till then, you multi-lingual folk may want to steer clear of that phone if you think this matters to you.

[See also possible reception and magenta camera issues]

Source: T-Mobile Support Forums; Thanks, Jeff G., for the link

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3 years ago

Windows Phone Marketplace officially hits 3,000 apps

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Yup, just a small but significant mention here: the Marketplace just hit over 3,000 apps this morning. Not bad 7 weeks out from the official launch and we suppose a great way to start off December. They only hit 2,000 about 3 weeks ago.

According to WP7AppList, there are around 3,050 programs now available, with an average of 68 being added everyday. That latter number seems to be increasing of late, something we expect to continue especially with the addition of the VB tools made available this week.

A big congrats to the Windows Phone Development Team.

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3 years ago

Microsoft agrees to address homebrew demand with ChevronWP7 developers, unlocker discontinued

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In a rapid fire week, Microsoft, via Brandon Watson, have contacted the developers of the unlocking tool ChevronWP7. Instead of filing a cease and desist or making other legal threats, Microsoft instead did the right thing: opened discussions with them, specifically about the strong desire for a homebrew community.

While MS has been extremely supportive of professional developers, the idea of "homebrew" apps is not to be underestimated. After all, it drove a lot of the Windows Mobile community as well as Android and HP WebOS (see PreCentral). As a sign of good faith, the developers of ChevronWP7 have agreed to discontinue support and distribution of the tool. In return, Microsoft seems to be fast-tracking discussions with them:

To pursue these goals with Microsoft’s support, Brandon Watson has agreed to engage in further discussions with us about officially facilitating homebrew development on WP7. To fast-track discussions, we are discontinuing the unlocking tool effective immediately.

We see this as a win-win for both sides as Microsoft gets the controversial unlocker pulled but the community gets their ear on this homebrew issue. See, we can all work this out. Now lets see what comes of it.

Source: ChevronWP7

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3 years ago

ChevronWP7 custom ringtone manager released!

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Well, that was fast.

Looks like you can now download the ChevronWP7 custom ringtone manager--the first homebrew app for Windows Phone 7. The program is a .XAP (pronounced "zap") file and can be deployed using the Microsoft “Application Deployment” tool with the Windows Phone 7 Developer SDK.

To use the app, you basically build a custom .XAP file with up to 5 ringers on board and then "install" it to the phone (kind of like the .cab managers of Windows Mobile days). Ther ringers have to be in WMA format at 48KHz as "required by the OS", so there will be some encoding before you just copy over.

While you can't use the app on-the-go, it sure beats being limited to the default ringers. Remember, you need to unlock the phone first before you attempt and you are taking a risk, albeit small, here.

Source/Get it here: ChevronWP7

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3 years ago

Samsung: Our phones do not support network reconfiguration

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In a sort of follow up to our earlier story, about how MMS does not work if you switch SIM cards on some unlocked Windows Phones, Samsung responded in a Tweet on their policy.

Evidently, they say their phones are configured to work on a specfic networks and only those networks. So if you buy an unlocked/unsubsidized Samsung phone from some carrier, don't expect it to work on other networks. In other words: buyer beware.

That's a real shame for consumers and we're not sure why they would support being so carrier-locked. Perhaps they can share some more information on their decision and how they expect consumers to respond.

Source: Twitter; Thanks, Chris H., for the tip

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3 years ago

Hexic Rush - Review

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Hexic Rush - Review

Hexic is one of those arcade-style pattern-matching puzzle games that could be considered a Tetris spin-off. This type of game is extremely well suited to a mobile platform like Windows Phone 7, because the game can be easily controlled by using the touch-screen. Hexic Rush is one of the inaugural Xbox Live games on Windows Phone 7 created by Microsoft Game Studios, and therefore it has something of a high standard to meet as one of the games that is intended to introduce Windows Phone as a gaming platform. The full review is after the break.

Pros: 
Addicting game-play, simple controls.
Cons: 
Minor learning curve, not as full-featured as some other options.
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3 years ago

Software Review: Tetris

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Software Review: Tetris

There are a number of video games that could be described as a classic, but perhaps none more so than Tetris. The game that instantly brings to mind images of St. Basil’s Cathedral and Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy had appeared on nearly every computing platform and has spawned countless variations and spin-offs.

Tetris for Windows Phone 7 is an Xbox Live game developed by one of the biggest names in gaming, Electronic Arts. With a classic game like Tetris, there’s no question about the entertainment value of the game itself; the real question is how well the platform lends itself to the game-play. The full review is after the break.

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3 years ago

Game Chest: Solitaire Edition - Review

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Game Chest: Solitaire Edition - Review

With Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is hoping to capture a couple of different gaming markets; the heavy gamer, and the casual gamer. The heavy gamer would be someone who potentially already uses Xbox Live at home with their Xbox 360 console, and games like The Harvest, Need For Speed Undercover, and Assassin’s Creed are games that are targeted to them. The casual gamer is less likely to spend the big bucks on the higher end games, and more likely to buy puzzle or card games such as Game Chest: Solitaire Edition from Microsoft Game Studios.

Pros: 
Familiar games, easy to learn, fun for short games
Cons: 
Won't keep you busy for too long
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3 years ago

Software Review: Need For Speed Undercover

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Software Review: Need For Speed Undercover

Need For Speed is one of the most recognizable game titles ever. As the quintessential racing game, Need For Speed games offer a number of different racing styles and game types. I personally cut my teeth on Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Porsche Unleashed, and Underground; all of which offered very different game-play styles, car options, and race types. Additionally, as one of the most recognized names in the Xbox Live category in the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace; Need For Speed Undercover is one of the games that Microsoft is using to showcase Windows Phone and Xbox Live as a mobile gaming platform (see Dan’s post on how Microsoft is chipping away at Apple’s exclusivity).

You’ve already seen the first look at Need For Speed, let’s get into the details of what makes this one of the more complete games in the Xbox Live arsenal.

Pros: 
Intense graphics, high level of customizations, intuitive controls
Cons: 
Slightly expensive
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3 years ago

Ringtone loader coming tomorrow for Windows Phone 7 [Hack]

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Chris Walsh and co. are getting very close to releasing the very first side-loaded homebrew app for Windows Phone 7: ringtone loader.

That should come to many as a worthy installation, even if the rumored update from Microsoft will contain such functionality. Not much is known at this time about what it can/can't do, but we imagine creating ringtones from your Zune library will be the cornerstone.

Of course you'll need to use ChevronWP7 to unlock your device first. Yeah, Microsoft would prefer you not to (shocking) but you're adults, we'll leave the ethical issues up to you.

Source: Twitter

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3 years ago

WPCentral First Look: Birdy Bounce--addictive simplicity [Video]

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This is one of those weird games that when you see it, you think "looks silly, no interest". Trust me, I know the feeling. All I can say is Birdy Bounce ($0.99) is really addictive and a lot of fun, even though your brain won't understand why. It's just simple, has great graphics and a great drop noise. To keep from getting repetitive the studio (Mod Monkeys) states:

The levels of Birdy Bounce are generated by an intelligent level randomization algorithm which provides a new experience every time you start playing while avoiding impossible situations to keep the fun for a long time.

Version 1.5 was released today and it included better pause support, scoreboard, and some general fixes. It currently has a 4.5 out of 5 ranking and I implore you to try it as it's the perfect 60 second game killer.

(BTW, my high score is 16,469, which I'm guessing many of you could crush)

Get it here (opens Zune Desktop).

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