Editorials

Earlier today, Microsoft's new Windows 10 OS took its first baby steps into the wild through the Windows Insider Program, which lets users take an early look at the OS. Previously I mentioned how you can get back the Modern Start Screen instead of the new Start Menu, something that tablet and Surface owners will want to check out.

Now, I am doing a 10-minute video tour of Windows 10, including how it looks and runs on the Surface Pro 3.

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80% of India respondents are on Cyan, while only 47% of those in the US can say the same

Microsoft had a big day yesterday, finally releasing a new preview version of their 8.1.1 Windows Phone operating system. The update is only for those using the popular Preview for Developers early-access program. Besides improving performance and fixing bugs, the update also unblocked the awaiting Lumia Cyan firmware for many more users, though not all. The question we were curious about is exactly how many of you are now on Lumia Cyan.

After ten thousand votes casts, we now have a definitive, if not surprising, answer.

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Running an app store is likely not an easy technical task. It is probably made more difficult when you are like Microsoft, who is rumored to be combining the Windows Phone and Windows Stores into one, or at least starting that process. Regardless, when outages happen, it can frustrate consumers. When it happens and goes on for days, you start to tick off developers.

Starting this past weekend, people with existing in-app purchases, aka 'durable IAPs', through various apps like MetroMail and Rudy Huyn's '6' apps are having different levels of success. However, the real issue appears to be for users who pay for a service, like remove ads, only to have the ads comeback, making the usual '99 cent' unlock seem like a fraud.

The problem is not app related, but rather server side with Microsoft and their Store. Developers know this as the 'ANID2 problem' and it has happened before, though this time around it seems particularly frustrating, perhaps due to the larger installed user base.

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My 17 reasons to buy a case for the HTC One (M8) for Windows Phone in reality boils down to ONE BIG reason - it's a slippery phone! In addition to the hardware being beautiful in all its metal-given glory, it is also easy to drop. And drop my HTC One M8 I did... I accidentally dropped mine SEVENTEEN TIMES in the past four months. What follows is an account of how it held up over that time and of eventually what busted. The TL;DR? You will probably want to buy a case for it.

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OAuth, app permissions, and a false sense of security

Disclaimer

There is nothing new in this post. I'm just bringing this up now because a lot of people seem to not know the facts. It also has nothing to do with Windows Phone specifically, but rather pretty much every platform. The point of this post is not to spread FUD, but to remind people to not take security for granted.

OAuth

For those that don't know what OAuth is, it is an open standard for authorization. OAuth provides client applications a 'secure delegated access' to server resources on behalf of a resource owner. It specifies a process for resource owners to authorize third-party access to their server resources without sharing their credentials.

These days OAuth is used pretty much everywhere where an external client needs to login to some sort of service. You've used it with Google (I used it to upload the video in this post), Microsoft apps (Skype, Xbox Smartglass, Visual Studio), Twitter, Facebook, and countless others.

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You've seen the proclamations: "Windows Phone is doomed." "…a distant third." "No chance to catch up." Anyone who follows technology sites these days, especially the mainstream US-based ones, have seen those quotes used in news articles and often even in comments. It reflects the slow, but middling growth of Windows Phone, which has never taken off in the US, hovering at just 4% (Kantar, August 2014).

Sure, worldwide Windows Phone fares better, with Italy at 13% and the UK nearly at 10%, but I am not here to sugarcoat the stats. They speak for themselves, and I am not taking issue here with their accuracy or what they mean.

I am more interested in perception, the way people talk about these things because although Windows Phone market share is comparatively small, it says nothing of user satisfaction, which consistently ranks very high, if not the highest, amongst all the operating systems. Although not many people are using Windows Phone, comparatively, those who do are enjoying the experience, both for hardware and software. That is something not easily dismissed. Now, if Microsoft had little market share and the users hated the devices and the OS experience that I think would be worthy of media Schadenfreude, but I digress.

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This morning, Microsoft detailed plans to push their Bing apps, like Weather, Finance, Food, News, to the MSN branding. Microsoft started this process some time ago when they first ditched 'Bing' in the name of those apps, and instead kept them with just their category-generic names.

During the Microsoft #moreLumia event last week, I showed you folks how the Microsoft Weather app and Lumia Denim play nicer together. Specifically, Glance gets what look to be third-party app support, letting other Lock screen apps appear on the Glance screen (see it above on a Lumia 830).

I also dug deeper into the Weather app as it is called 'Weather beta' in the app listing. This section is where I first noticed the 'MSN Weather' name pop up as seen in the About section of the app.

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The HTC One M8 for Windows, currently only on Verizon, is expected to get a wider release in the coming weeks and months, including on AT&T in the US. As a result, a few of you are at least contemplating jumping from your Lumia to this new flagship Windows Phone, which looks to be the only one for the next few months. The hardware is certainly compelling and – spoiler alert – so far I am categorically enjoying using it as my daily driver.

However, you may be wondering what you lose by switching over in terms of those Nokia apps. I'll break it down for you.

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This week, the Surface 2 is getting its price chopped by $100 officially, and even more if you opt for an official refurbished one. With Microsoft's sale, it brings the 32 GB version down to $349, and the refurbed at a very affordable $279 (while supplies last). Even the LTE-enabled style is discounted by $100, and it comes with 64 GB of internal storage.

So, with all the focus and hype on the Surface Pro 3, why should you even consider getting a Surface 2? Glad you asked because I have a few reasons.

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The best Windows Phone you can buy - August 2014

Last December we looked at the best Windows Phone you could buy, concluding that the Nokia Lumia 925 was the top choice for Windows Phone shoppers. The svelte profile, sexy looks, and beautiful display make the Lumia 925 one of our favorite Windows Phones. However, it's hard to recommend buying it brand new today when it's well over a year old at this point. So it is time to refresh on our best Windows Phone recommendations.

Today we're going to look at the Windows Phone landscape and select the best Windows Phone you can buy right now.

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Earlier this morning, the Nokia Developer Team tweeted out some information regarding developer devices getting Lumia Cyan. The Lumia 920 is now getting Lumia Cyan, with the Lumia 620 getting it next week and the Lumia 820 in early September. Good news, right?

Unfortunately, a few fan blogs took this news to mean that phones enrolled with the Preview for Developers program are now getting the Lumia Cyan update, which is far from accurate.

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Today's announcements from Microsoft at Gamescom have been pretty exciting for console gamers. We saw the announcement of a brand new theme park simulator, ScreamRide, for Xbox One and 360, as well as fresh looks at several upcoming Xbox One games like Halo: The Master Chief Collection. And hey, Quantum Break looked pretty exciting in motion to boot.

But the real bombshell of the presentation was the news that Rise of the Tomb Raider from Square-Enix and Crystal Dynamics will be exclusive to Xbox One in 2015! Tomb Raider has been a mainstay gaming series since the Playstation One and Sega Saturn days, with this year's HD remake of the Tomb Raider reboot gracing both Xbox One and Playstation 4. But the sequel Rise won't show up on the Playstation 4, giving Microsoft a big peacock of a feather in its cap.

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Editor's rant here! I realize that there is a lot of news and buzz about Windows Phone these days, which is always a good thing. I also appreciate that our audience is growing every day, and we welcome you warmly.

Comments are a crucial aspect of our community. The fact is you folks are often our connection to the rest of the world. If we miss something, or get something wrong, we love learning more from you in those posts, as you are a valuable resource too. As our site grows, there are more challenges for us to face including moderating comments. A few solutions are due in the coming weeks, but for now, here are a few guidelines that can keep your fellow WPCentral readers happy.

It is time to lay down the law and for you to eat your veggies or something.

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It is Friday, and as we all eagerly wait for the Xbox Music app update (fingers crossed), we figured it is time for our weekly poll.

This week's poll is a hot topic: Cortana and local accents.

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that Cortana is heading to China and the UK as 'betas.' This expansion means they work, but they are missing some features too, which is not controversial. What is controversial is the choice for voicing.

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3 reasons you should get your kid a Windows Phone

Looking to get your kid a cellphone? Skip the feature phone and give them a smartphone, but not just any smartphone – a Windows Phone. It's an amazing platform with a handful of models that make it the ideal first smartphone. Here's why I think your kid's first phone should be Windows Phone.

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Not happy with the Xbox Music platform? Take Beats Music or Spotify for as spin.

Xbox Music. It's more than just the app you love to hate right now on Windows Phone 8.1. It's also a music streaming and subscription service that spans nearly every device you own. It's available on Windows Phone, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Android, iOS, and the web. Xbox Music is the successor to the beloved Zune platform.

Right now I'm still happy with the overall Xbox Music service, even though I think there are a handful of ways Microsoft could greatly improve the service. That said, I acknowledge that the Windows Phone 8.1 app is still pretty bad. Though the Windows 8 app was terrible at one point, but now I'm very happy with it on Windows 8.1. So there's hope.

I've been getting a lot of questions about what are some other solid music streaming and subscription services available as an alternative to Xbox Music. I'm going to look at some of those alternatives to Xbox Music that make the most sense to those with a Windows Phone.

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Readers of this site know that Microsoft's Xbox Music and Video are good services at their core, but many speed bumps keep them from reaching their potential. Whether it is stiff competition from Amazon and Apple or an awkward software experience, the Microsoft teams behind both services have their work cutout for them. Toss in the rebuilding attempts at the Xbox Music app for Windows Phone 8.1, and many consumers are left frustrated.

In yesterday's earnings call, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella dropped a strong, but subtle, hint that Xbox Music and Video may be on the chopping block.

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On Friday, Windows Phone Central broke the news about 'McLaren' being cancelled by Microsoft. Not much was known about the flagship Windows Phone except it was to feature the first instance of Microsoft's new 3D Touch UI. Although prototype phones likely get cancelled on occasion, the absence of McLaren causes a potential problem: what is going to the next Windows Phone flagship for the fall?

With the lack of high-end, high-profile Windows Phones for this November Microsoft may be in a bind. However, there may be a way out, and that involves making an updated Lumia 925.

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sent around an email to employees last week. For those reading between the lines it was a clear message that job cuts were coming. Today they made it official. Microsoft will cut up to 18,000 jobs in the coming months.

I think he's doing what needs to be done, and I suspect this will setup Microsoft to be more successful in mobile and cloud services.

I've been following the technology sector for a long time. Usually when a company announces major job cuts it means they are in trouble, but it would be a sweeping generalization to say this is always the case. I remember when BlackBerry (then Research In Motion) announced a significant round of cuts back in the early 2000s. Analysts and investors freaked out. But in reality the company was just cleaning house as it prepared for even faster growth. The business went on to hit incredible new highs. Job cuts are not always a bad sign.

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Before the formal debut which is planned for September this year, Microsoft and its Chinese joint-venture partner BesTV just brought the Chinese version of Xbox One to China International Cartoon & Game Expo (July 10 - 14, in Shanghai), for a brief demonstration. A quite lengthy commercial for the console was revealed, highlighting the Chinese Xbox One's, um, for lack of better words, let's say "highly localized functionality and marketing strategy".

Here is the video itself, in Chinese, for your enjoyment. There are English subtitles, but sadly they are blocked by all those human heads. I'll try to explain what exactly happened in the video below.

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Eight months on and the Lumia 1520 is still my daily Windows Phone and that's weird

There is little doubt that I live a abnormal life when it comes to smartphones and mobile technology. At last count, I have over 50 smartphones dating back to 2006 and every Windows Phone made in the last three years. Combined with the rapid release of Lumias – with occasional releases from Samsung – and I have plenty of choices to use every day.

That is why it is surprising (to myself at least) that eight months after its release I am still using the Lumia 1520 as my daily driver. To put it another way, this is my longest streak in using a single Windows Phone since probably the original Samsung Focus. Although for regular folks, using a phone for eight months uninterrupted is the norm, for me, it is the exception. For that reason, here is why I still love the Lumia 1520.

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5 ways Microsoft can make Xbox Music even better

Make me king of Xbox Music and here's what I'd do

Hold the pitchforks, I'm not talking about the Xbox Music app on Windows Phone. The headline above is about how to make the Xbox Music service better. I don't think I'm too naïve, but Microsoft will eventually make the Windows Phone 8.1 Music app exactly how you want. If there's a feature or two missing you can look to third-party devs to fill that gap with the Xbox Music APIs. Instead let's look at the core service itself and what Microsoft should do to make it compete with the Spotifys and Beats Music of the music streaming world.

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