apphub

Explained: A familiar error message for some Windows Phone users

Ever since WhatsApp was pulled and then re-released this past weekend, we have had a small deluge in complaints from users that they cannot install the update. Instead, they are greeted with the above error message, resulting in user frustration. What’s more, uninstalling the app, resetting the phone and dancing around in a circle did not fix the problem either.

We’ve been trying to figure out exactly why some users have the problem while others, including ourselves, do not. Just as interestingly, we wanted to know which apps were exhibiting the error.

Microsoft has now detailed the problem on the Windows Phone Blog and there’s good news and some bad news. The good news is they acknowledge that there is an issue and they even know what is causing it. As it turns out, there are some problems with certificates for new apps published in the Marketplace within the last week. 

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Backing up app data on SkyDrive--not cool with Microsoft?

An interesting controversy spring up over at the AppHub forums over the use of SkyDrive for backing up app data—not so much photos and documents (which is fine) but rather unintelligible files created by apps for app-specific data.

The crux of it was someone from the SkyDrive team made a comment that using SkyDrive for such a purpose goes against the user agreement for the API and it could result in the Windows Phone app being yanked from the Marketplace.

Justin Angel, Principal Engineer for Windows Phone experience at Nokia, fervently objected to this idea noting

“As SkyDrive API usage is not part of the Application Certification Guidelines I resent that team threatening app developers with expulsion from the marketplace for misuse of their API.”

It’s certainly a good point although we see the reasoning behind the SkyDrive team’s position. Luckily things are not as dire as expected.

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Todd Brix has announced on the Windows Phone Developer Blog that Windows Phone 8 will support 180 countries at launch. The platform currently covers 63 markets, making this a fairly sizeable improvement. Developers will also be able to make full use of this added support, which will be a bonus for consumers in those markets.

So which countries are being added? Check out the chart after the break for all the juicy details...

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We reported a few days ago that Microsoft was experiencing a unique problem: the Windows Phone Marketplace has grown so much, so fast that their servers and backend getting hammered, resulting in app-publishing slowdowns. Everything from submissions, to certifications to the App Hub itself was getting slower.

Today, Microsoft's Todd Brix addressed the problem in a blog post noting that they have an immediate method for addressing these problems and a more long term one. The addition of all those new markets over the last few months has taken its toll on the App Hub experience, more than they had anticipated. As a result they will be re-working their backend, which will take some time:

"We’re already in the process of developing a more robust and scalable Marketplace service that will address current problems and pave the way for the even more rapid growth we’re expecting in the years ahead. But engineering work this significant doesn’t happen overnight. Our plan is to have it complete by late summer."

For the short term, they already have started to work on these two areas:

  • Adding more server capacity to better handle the increased load.
  • Streamlining our processes to accelerate the rate at which apps can be ingested, certified, and published.

As a result, developers are now seeing shorter turnarounds from their submission to publication dates, which is a good thing. However, the more substantial changes won't be felt until later this summer.

So once again, good news and bad news as Microsoft is adjusts to the sudden influx of new developers and markets for Windows Phone.

Source: Windows Phone Blog

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#lumiahack takes on Durban, South Africa

      

Over this past weekend Nokia hosted a hackathon in Durban, South Africa. Previously they have held similar events at other cities across the country, and are still having one up in Johannesburg soon. So there are many just like it, but this one was mine.

For those of you who don't know what a "hackathon" actually is, you might be surprised to hear that it's got nothing to do with hacking in the security sense. It's actually just a bunch of people hacking away at whatever the objective is, for a period of time. So, this particular Windows Phone hackathon was coders getting together and making phone apps from 4:30pm on Friday, straight through to the same time on Sunday - essentially 48 hours straight of coding joy.

The Durban event was held at the Moses Mabida Stadium - the stadium built for the Fifa 2010 soccer/ football (fight!) world cup. It wasn't on the actual field or anything- rain and computers just don't go- but rather in the room that the players do their glory walk onto the field from.

This hackathon differed from some of the international ones I have seen because this was exclusively for students (I had to use my slate as a cleaver just to get past security). Very few of them had prior knowledge of the platform, and many were actually rather new to programming. Over the weekend the guys from Microsoft did WP7 workshops to get them up to speed, and a bunch of us were there to provide support when people were stuck. The point in the whole thing was to get students excited about the platform, and to give them a jumpstart onto the WP7 bandwagon. They were each given a Microsoft DreamSpark account (which gives students all the MS software free, including a free AppHub account), and encouraged to publish at least one app onto the Windows Phone Marketplace by the end of the weekend. Nokia definitely succeeded in both of these, as many people told me how impressed they were with the platform after the weekend even though they had previously written it off, and most got at least one app submitted for certification on the Marketplace by Sunday.

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Microsoft has announced the opening of AppHub submissions to the 23 new countries added to the pool of support. Developers in these countries (and beyond) will be able to submit their work to the localised Marketplaces, which will open up to consumers in the near future.

To recap on the newly added countries: Bahrain, Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Estonia, Iceland, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Vietnam. The total number of supported markets is now at a respectable 63.

A quick reminder to developers - it's now reportedly taking more than 7 days to approve Marketplace submissions. Something to consider when keeping to announced release dates.

Source: Windows Phone Developer Blog

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The Windows Phone team is set to enable AppHub access for developers to 23 more countries, which were announced late last month by Joe Belfiore, in the next two weeks. Where will we be seeing this new support? Bahrain, Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Estonia, Iceland, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

Todd Brix states that after this batch of countries is rolled out, the total number of supported countries will be bumped to 63 - an impressive amount of targetable markets for platform developers. Do note, however, that there may be some issues with some of the newly added markets, as Brix explains (and Carbon found out):

"Keep in mind that some new markets— Bahrain, China, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE—are subject to additional certification requirements due to local laws or norms. Check Section 3.10 of our content policy for more details."

As a final note, it's warned that app submissions are taking up to seven days to certify due to volumes, and this delay may well increase. Something for developers to be aware of when submitting apps with a published date in mind.

Source: Windows Phone Developer Blog

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Being a developer is tough, and every developer will agree.  If they don't, they're in denial. We have long hours, we get no sleep, we spend hours tweaking things that 90% of users will never notice (much like designers), and often get no recognition for any of this.  You don't just wake up one day and are suddenly a coder, it takes work.

I used to lecture Microsoft technologies at a University and the number one reason students gave as to why they were studying programming was: "I heard there was lots of money in it". Surprisingly, those were the same people that now work at McDonalds (and make amazing burgers I might add!).  And as far as I can work out, it's also these types of people that make 5 minute apps.

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Joe Belfiore has just announced via the Windows Phone Developer Blog that the Windows Phone Marketplace is being enabled in 23 new regions. This won't be effective immediately, but in the coming months the Marketplace will be available to publishers and consumers in the following regions:

Bahrain
Bulgaria
China
Costa Rica
Croatia
Estonia
Iceland
Iraq
Israel
Kazakhstan
Latvia
Lithuania
Qatar
Romania
Saudi Arabia
Slovakia
Slovenia
Thailand
Turkey
UAE
Ukraine
Venezuela
Vietnam

This is part of a bigger move by Microsoft to get Windows Phone into "high growth" markets, and is accompanied by the official announcement of the low-cost Nokia Lumia 610 device.

He also goes on to say how much this actually effects publishers:

In terms of actual potential app customers, the addition of new price points and customers in China and the other new markets represents a near 60% increase in the total addressable market for Windows Phone. I told you it was a big step!

Next up is a new WP7 SDK update. The technical preview of the new update has gone live and will allow developers to test out their applications in the emulator which now supports a mode where the device memory is limited to just 256MB. This will allow developers to ensure that their apps work as expected on low-cost devices before publishing to these new markets. Developers can also opt-out of providing support for the new phones, but by default are automatically opted-in. Although there is automatic opt-in for this, developers will still need to update their apps to select the new markets to publish to.

The team used feedback from users who had opted-in to determine how much memory current WP7 apps were using, and if they would run with the new memory limits. Only around 5% of the current apps failed this test, and the developers have been contacted. So the good news, is that unless Microsoft has reached out to you, chances are that your app will work as-is.

Source: Windows Phone Developer Blog

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Over at the Windows Phone Developer Blog Todd Brix just announced that with the new year comes new markets for Windows Phone. Since the initial release of Windows Phone the geographic availability of the Marketplace has been spreading, and with this there are 6 new markets: Argentina, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru and the Philippines.

In the post he mentions that this does not mean that those markets are available to WP7 users there just yet, but rather that developers can now publish their application there in anticipation.

There are also a few extra rules which govern what content will pass certification. So if you have an application that may possibly have questionable content I would suggest publishing it first to the rest of the world, and then these new markets, to make sure you don't get stuck in certification hell.

With the these new rules in-place I imagine that quite a few developers will not be able to get their applications to these areas:

Examples of potentially offensive content in certain countries/regions include, but are not limited to the following:
• People in revealing clothing or in sexually suggestive poses
• Religious references
• Alcohol references
• Sexual or bathroom humor
• Simulated or actual gambling

However that's not totally a bad thing, because from the look of it these markets will never have to deal with any fart-apps!

Source: Windows Phone Developer Blog

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Free Nokias for Australian Developers!

If you needed any more convincing that Microsoft is serious about pushing development on their mobile platform, then here's the next episode in our series on Microsoft-giving-stuff-to-devs-for-work-they-would-have-done-anyway. And before you ask, yeah, that title is a work in progress.

Previously we saw promotions for UK developers to get free gadgets, and giveaways for Canadian developers, now all you Australian dev's can get in on the action.
The requirements are pretty much in-line with the other promo's where all you need to do is publish a certain number of apps to the Windows Phone Marketplace by a certain date, and then receive either a Lumia 710, or a Lumia 800 depending on how many you can get out by then.
 

  1. Qualifying apps must be published between Jan 1st 2012 and 12 midnight EST Mar 30th, 2012.
  2. Publish 3 new apps for a Nokia Lumia 710 or 4 new apps for a Nokia Lumia 800
  3. The sooner you publish your new apps the sooner you’ll receive your Nokia Phone (subject to availability).
  4. Apps must be new and published to the public marketplace and excludes updates to existing apps.
  5. This offer is only open to Australian based developers who submit apps to an Australian registered Windows Phone Marketplace account.
  6. For budgeting purposes, this offer is limited to the first 50 developers who publish 3 or more apps and is limited to 1 phone per developer.
  7. There are a number of promotions in progress with Nokia in Australia; the apps submitted for this challenge must differ from those submitted elsewhere. ie no double counting.

If you are an Android or iPhone (or any other platform for that matter) developer, I'm guessing promotions like this may help tip your decision in our favor. If not, maybe Indie success will.

Either way, the time is now!

Source: WPDownUnder

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So we've had trouble in the U.S. and Europe surrounding submission approval for apps, as well as flaws in the system which allow spam and useless apps to flood the Marketplace. We now turn to Japan where a social bookmarking app, Hatena Viewer, has been rejected due to links within the app pointing to 2ch/Futaba (Japanese 4chan equivalent).

Hatena Viewer is a Hatena Bookmark client, which shares the same functionality as Digg. AppHub stated the rejection reason as the following:

"It appears the application contains several articles linking to 2chan."

They really don't like anything 2ch4chan, etc. related, and this is what bothers the Japanese developers. Due to this type of app publishing user generated content, the developers can't control what is linked to or submitted. Also, what's more interesting, Hatena Bookmark for iOS is available without age restrictions (link below).

As well as the Hatena Viewer app being rejected, a 2ch viewer app was also turned down due to the following reason, provided by the Windows Phone Policy Team:

"Windows Marketplace does not currently support age restricted content. Therefore all content must be appropriate for users to the of 13. It has been determined that content from sources such as 2chan and 4chan are not allowed in the Marketplace.

While we cannot provide specific instruction to you as to how you can modify your application, we would recommend ensuring all content is appropriate for users to the age of 13 and the adult categories are removed."

Nanapho.jp sums it up pretty effectively:

  • Currently there's no mechanism in place on the Marketplace with regards to content with age requirements
  • All content must suit 13 year olds
  • 2ch and 4chan's content is not permitted
  • Adapt to the age of 13 if you want to update all of the content within application, to remove the adult appeal

What do you make of the situation?

Source: iOS Hatena BookmarkNanapho.jp (Translate) & Nanapho.jp (Translate)

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If you recall, once a developer had submitted a "Mango" 7.1 app to the Marketplace, it essentially cut them off from access to the non-Mango 7.0 version. That meant that the pre-Mango version was frozen, basically forever, with no chance for bug fixes. And although the goal is to get Mango on 100% of the devices and basically all the updates are rolling out now, developers were still a little unhappy about that limitation.

Microsoft of course listened and figured out a way to let devs have access to both 7.0 and 7.1 versions of their apps. They announced this awhile ago but it has just officially been instantiated in the developer AppHub, meaning devs can update their old pre-Mango apps just like before.

As you can see from the image above, thanks to our developer Jay Bennett, devs will have the option via a drop down menu to choose which app to modify. Seems like a good solution to us and hopefully devs will take advantage of it.

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While Windows Phone Mango is set to blow the minds of users, it's also destined to bring a lot for developers too. Todd Brix has just published an article over at the Windows Phone Developer blog that not only runs through what's great about the update including the launch of the web Marketplace, but takes us through what's new for developers on the platform.

The web Marketplace is an obvious plus for developers with the increased reach and new channel to attract potential customers as well as opening up more marketing opportunities. However, it's been a true annoyance that the advertising service provided by Microsoft for the Windows Phone platform is restricted to the US - but not anymore. pubCenter now supports Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Developers from the above countries can use the advertising SDK to create a stream of revenue to help fund the development work poured into the app. Remember when we covered the report that Microsoft Advertising has a 71% higher ad yield than AdMob on Windows Phone? Now you can take advantage of this with the improved coverage.

Should you be outside the reach of the AppHub itself, Todd reminds us that there are local services available for developers to make use of:

Moving on Todd continues to discuss how well the Marketplace is growing with the lack of malware and spam and surpassing 30,000 apps. We'll now end with an interesting quote from the article:

"We’re also always improving the Windows Phone Developer Tools to make it faster and easier for developers around the world to create MORE amazing apps and games. Watch for another blog post tomorrow from Cliff Simpkins with an update on the SDK and developer builds of Windows Phone 7.5."

Source: Windows Phone Developer blog

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We were told not so long ago by the software giant that app submissions would be turned on for "Mango" late August. Well, it's now late August and Todd Brix has published an update on the Windows Phone Developer blog detailing the gradual enabling of the submission process in AppHub.

A more detailed overview of the submission process will be posted within 24 hours so we'll keep an eye out for juicy bits. Be sure to have your apps at the ready.

Source: Windows Phone Developer Blog

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Microsoft has been busy updating their Windows Phone App Hub. This is where Windows Phone developers go to manage their accounts, change settings, submit applications to the Marketplace and generally stay up to date with everything Windows Phone.  We mentioned some of the details of the update earlier but here's how it breaks down.

The update focuses on three areas.

More geographic markets for developers: Essentially Microsoft is broadening Windows Phone's horizons by adding 19 new consumer markets that include Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and Taiwan.

There will also be 7 new developer markets that include Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, South Africa and South Korea.

In addition to market expansion the App Hub is now localized for Korean and Simplified Chinese and price tiers have been successfully modified on a country-by-country basis to adjust for fluctuations in the global currency exchange rates.

Lastly, on the geographic front, Microsoft's Advertising PubCenter support will be extended to 18 additional countries by the end of 2011. They include Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. This will enable developers in these countries to receive mobile in-app advertising revenue in their local currency.

Continued after the break

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We've covered quite a few events, tutorials and whatnots where Windows Phone 7 owners are able to get their devices unlocked - be it through homebrew or via the official channel with developer subscription. We've now received word from a reader who explained how signing up to DreamBuildPlay will provide you with a year developer trial, which you can use to unlock your device once you've passed authentication.

We've just tried this out for ourselves, but unfortunately we weren't given a redemption code to use for a 12 month trial with AppHub. While this competition has unfortunately filled up its redeem code limit, we urge everyone to keep the lookout for other events that offer a free developer subscription, should you be looking to unlock your device without paying the $90.

Thanks for the tip TrentTech!

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Kenikh, over at the XDA Developers forum, has posted an offer that is very interesting indeed. The first 500 BizSpark members to request a free AppHub subscription shall receive just that. To get in with a chance on gaining a free subscription, follow the simple steps below.

  1. Signup to BizSpark (if not done so already)
  2. Follow the steps on this page (must have a BizSpark account)
  3. Await further instruction/confirmation

There has been some posts in that same thread from other members who have experienced issues with their code not working and the fact that there is a country limitation (although no official word has been provided on the exact whitelist). Let us know how you get on in the comments should you be interested in the offer.

Source: XDA Developers

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