Editorials

Despite the fact Windows Phone 8.1 has been garnering some fantastic reviews from both tech pundits and the masses, it’s not all roses and ponies. I was reminded of this last night when playing with the Xbox Music app that comes with 8.1.

On the surface, the app looks decent. It’s a continuation of the new app structure started late last year by Microsoft, which replaces the ‘built in’ Music + Video hubs of the past. Microsoft is changing the architecture so that the Windows Phone Team can quickly add new features and fix bugs, all without an OS update.

But let’s not mince words: the music experience on Windows Phone 8.1 is subpar, and it has become worse since 8.0.  In fact, it sits with a pathetic 2.5 stars (out of 5) on the Store, which is awful for a Microsoft app.

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For those in the US whom also have Windows Phone 8.1 installed, Cortana is probably one of your most frequented new features on your phone. If you’re outside the US, you’ll have to wait a little longer for Microsoft to localize your language (unless you follow our simple tutorial).

When sharing images of my 8.1 screen, a lot of people have asked me why I pin Cortana as a wide Tile. After all, I could just hit the dedicated Search key (Tip: you can long press the Search key on the Lock screen to call up Cortana). On the surface, it’s seems like a simple question, but I’ll explain why if you have Cortana, making her a permanent Tile on your screen may be a good idea.

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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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In doing this job, there’s the easy news – apps, device reviews, leaks – and then there’s the hard news, like criticizing Microsoft, leaking too much or talking about illegal apps. Today’s story falls into the latter category, but it’s more about the aftermath.

Long story short, a developer named Al Gihuni released a free app called ‘Free Market’. The app did something unique: it allowed you to find an app listed in a different region, perhaps at a lower price. The idea here is that some developers price their apps differently based on the market, or sometimes they run regional sales. ‘Free Market’ though took advantage of that by letting users find those price differences with a few clicks and the app tagline – “Download paid apps for free!” – was quite inflammatory.

Developers were not pleased, to say the least.

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Like a lot of people who are always connected, knowing what is happening in the world at this moment is a priority for me. Sure, I can load up an RSS news feed and pull down some published news stories, but what about the breaking stuff, the things happening right now? The internet is a powerfully fast tool for delivering information. Having a steady stream of breaking bulletins is the logical end of that technology, and Breaking News is that service.

Breaking News (www.breakingnews.com) is owned by NBC News Digital, though it operates as a separate entity. What makes it unique though is it’s not just a stream of “stuff” coming in that you have to make sense of. Nor do you have to configure anything. Instead, there are a team editors who curate, fact check and maintain the feed, making sure only scrutinized content gets through.

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My Nokia Lumia 1520 is the perfect size device and everything else is just too small. Picking up a Lumia 1020 feels ridiculous and borrowing a friend’s Apple iPhone 5S to make a call feels like a joke. As the smartphone market evolves, I am no longer the only person to find a love for the “extra-large” phone. In a world where a 3.5” display was once gorgeous, 4.5” is the new standard and 5.5” is the future.

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Downloading apps from the Windows Phone Store can open up a whole new world of possibilities. No, that wasn’t a sales pitch for the app team. It’s a truly great way to experience some exciting content made by developers from around the world. Some apps and games are free, while others are commercially licensed, requiring a purchase.

I’ve rounded up some of my top paid apps for you to try out, should you not have them installed already. While this may be a small collection, they’re apps I rely on a daily basis.

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So, you want to adopt BYOD?

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is the current hot trend. (And has been for a while, really.) There are many perceived advantages for a company that allows employees to bring their own devices to work and have access to your company resources, but is BYOD right for you? Can you make mistakes when developing your BYOD policies? Can you really let any device connect to your resources?

Lets look at a few top issues that you should be aware of.

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Popular mobile games often take a long time to arrive on Windows Phone - if they ever make the trip at all. Last year I wrote an editorial explaining the delay in porting games to Windows Phone and the market situations that make such delays inevitable. To make a long story short, bringing games from iOS and Android to Windows Phone at the same time as the lead version often doesn’t make financial sense for the publisher… Not that we have to like it.

In fact, one of our dedicated readers doesn’t care to wait-and-see whether popular games like Candy Crush Saga will make it to Windows Phone at all. Tjecco been running a forum thread dedicated to contacting mobile developers about support for Microsoft’s mobile OS for a while now. With the help of other fine readers, he continues to reach out to developers and update the thread with their responses. Find out which developers have recently confirmed Windows Phone support (and what you can do to help) after the break!

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Yesterday, I finally picked up my matte white/silver Lumia Icon from Verizon. Nokia wanted back the review device, so I had to decide if I wanted the Icon on my Verizon account. Of course I did, it’s a great phone.

In playing with the white/silver version, which in my opinion looks much better than the all black one, I can’t help but notice how much it borrows from the Surface 2 design language. Let me be clear here: I’m not saying this is the oft rumored ‘Surface Phone’ from Microsoft. Or that Nokia worked with Microsoft in any way on this device. That’s not true at all.

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A few days ago, we reported that Microsoft is looking to create an open-source framework for bringing Xbox Live features to games for all mobile platforms. An additional report from The Verge has since added additional fuel to the fire, giving us a slightly clearer picture of what that means for Xbox Live on Windows Phone and other mobile devices.

Xbox Windows Phone has long been in dire need of a change. Read on to find out what went wrong, and how likely it is that the upcoming open-source framework will set mobile Xbox Live games back on track.

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So the big headline late last night was that the new Nokia X, a low-end smartphone running Android 4.1, was “rooted”. That’s geek talk for getting access to the bootloader so that you can load other things on to the phone, after all, all smartphones are just mini-computers.

Immediately sites jumped on it as proof that Nokia’s strategy would never work, because you know, you can now flash the Google Play store and even an updated version of the Android onto the darn thing.

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We recently received reports that Microsoft would be slashing the costs of their Windows licensees by up to 70% in an effort to take on competitors in the lower end and tablet markets including Google’s Chrome OS and Apple’s iOS. The Redmond based company may take it a step further though, according to reports released today, Microsoft could be experimenting with a free version of Windows 8 and an alternative way of bringing in consumers.

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Today, at the start of Mobile World Congress, Nokia made it official. They are building Android-powered phones . I’m not going to rehash all of the data or walk you through the basics of the phone since that’s already been covered in-depth quite well today.

While some at Microsoft may be embarrassed by what Nokia is doing, I can see how it’s a smart move that will help.

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Barcelona – Early this morning, Nokia held their highly anticipated press conference here at Mobile World Congress 2014. Anticipated is the word used because while two new and admirable low-end entry phones were introduced – the Asha 230 and Nokia 220 – all eyes were focused on ‘X’.

Yes, Nokia has gone Android. But if you think that’s all there is to the story, you may be missing the point. We sat down with Jo Harlow, Executive Vice President, Smart Devices at Nokia, for some answers to our eager questions.

If you watched the live stream of Nokia’s presentation on the Nokia X, X+ and XL devices, you may have noticed that their message was crafted perfectly. Yes, the words ‘Android’ and ‘Google’ were used, but Stephen Elop was purposeful in focusing on Microsoft’s services and Nokia’s Lumia line. It was as if they knew that one wrong word could be misconstrued as “Nokia has doubts about Windows Phone” or that this new device series was an admission of failure.

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A real quick analysis of today’s announcements by Microsoft, specifically in regards to Windows Phone, shows that Microsoft is loosening the belt on their mobile OS. Back when Windows Phone 7 Series was announced at this very event four years ago, Microsoft had set very strict hardware requirements in an effort to keep the user experience consistent and ensure a quality experience.

That’s a very different approach from Android, which has a more ‘anything goes’ method for hardware, resulting in proliferation of Android throughout the mobile market. Apple, of course does the opposite: they only make their own hardware, so there are no manufacturer opportunities.

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If you want the best smartphone camera right now, you buy a Nokia Lumia 1020. It’s been that way ever since the Lumia 1020 launched on AT&T here in the United States a little over six months ago. After the initial US availability of the device in July, it slowly showed up around the world on other carriers over the next few months.

It’s not a wildly popular device like the Lumia 520. The Lumia 1020 was never designed to move huge volumes of sales. Instead the Lumia 1020 was as an exercise in combining elegant hardware, innovative software and the best possible mobile imaging capabilities into a smartphone. It's unashamedly a niche device.

We’ve had the Lumia 1020 since launch and have loved every minute of it. But six months is a long time in tech, so we're going to take some time and look back at how the Nokia Lumia 1020 has performed over the past six months.

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The search engine that was first launched five years ago by Microsoft in 2009 as a competitor to the giant multinational corporation, Google, now has a global markets share of 5.62% across desktops and 2.64% across mobile devices. Bing is currently ranked as the world’s third most popular search engine and sits behind Yahoo’s 8.22% and Google’s massive 83.04% desktop search engine market share.

However, Microsoft is not just trying to get users to visit their own website – they are playing the covert operations game and acting as the backend for many services you and your friends may use. In fact, you might be loving Bing and not even know it.

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Stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld's been back on the prowl recently with his oddball and descriptively-titled Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, though his eponymous "show about nothing" has never been far from the public consciousness (see: iToilet and Google Wallet). Seinfeld himself showed up on The Tonight Show this week and he, as he's prone to do, talked about how we use our smartphones and the way they've changed how we communicate.

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The news of Facebook acquiring WhatsApp for an enormous pile of money is front and center in the mobile communication industry today, and for good reason. Having watched WhatsApp grow from nothing into a cross platform winner over the last 5 years and doing a darn good job of executing on a growth plan, I'm impressed with what they've done. And while I was shocked to see the deal's valuation, I've taken some time to think about it rationally, and it might not be that insane.

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In a surprise move today, Google announced the sale of Motorola Mobility to Lenovo for $2.91 billion dollars. On the face of it, that looks like financial loss from the original $12.5 billion purchase price by Google in 2012. However, keep in mind that price for just the hardware division, as Google will retain "the vast majority" of the Motorola patent portfolio (licensing them to Lenovo).

In many ways, it’s a brilliant move. Google is better served by the patent protection, but they probably couldn’t just buy them from Motorola in 2012. Instead, they had to purchase the whole package (hardware plus patents) and get into the awkward device manufacturing game. With today’s deal, they successfully spun off the hardware but retain those patents, which is really what they wanted in the first place.

There’s another reason why this may have happened: Samsung. Grab your conspiracy hats and read on why the sale of Motorola Mobility may be a big threat to Microsoft and Apple going forward.

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While it may not look it, this Monday has been an especially busy one, particularly behind the scenes of our site. Because of that, I don’t like spending time typing out articles debunking the news. It’s a waste of my time and slightly irritating, but alas, this is also what I signed up for (having said that, following me on Twitter isn’t a bad idea either, since I can respond to things there more directly).

But let me take a few moments to address a bunch of questions that readers have been slinging at us, sometimes with visceral disdain. And yes, I’ll start doing these rants and opinion pieces weekly, as requested by Kevin Michaluk, our Chief Media Officer of Mobile Nations.

Let’s start with the most obvious….

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This week we’ve seen the recent set of financial results from both Microsoft, and it’s soon-to-be-acquired mobile phone business from Nokia.

It’s pretty easy to paint a pretty picture for Microsoft. They beat the Street’s expectations on revenue and earnings, and things are going well in terms of enterprise sales. On the consumer front, you could focus on the doubling of Surface sales and decent showing in Xbox sales.

But I’d like to open up the discussion a bit more. Let’s talk about the long term potential for Microsoft’s business. To pre-frame the discussion, consider that when I say “long term” I really mean it. I’m talking about the next decade or more.

Microsoft is exposed to the enterprise business as well as the consumer business. I think that for the next few years (at least) it’s tough to argue that Microsoft is in any kind of trouble. They’re growing across the board whether it’s SQL Server or Azure or Office 365. All of these are recurring revenue businesses, which I think is wonderful.

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This morning, the Windows Phone Central inbox was flooded with tips about one Eldar Murtazin, who has taken to Twitter to make some comments about the future of Windows Phone and its UI design. Specifically, he claims that Microsoft will have “another UI” with the Live Tile system going away, replaced instead with a UI inspired by Android.

The future design of Windows Phone is certainly of concern, especially to our readers. Microsoft has bet a lot of the design language of Modern UI, making it the corner piece in Windows 8 and the Xbox One. Could they really be re-thinking everything?

Furthermore, who is Murtazin and why should you care? We take a look at the latest rumors and show why they are baseless.

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