Monthly Archives: June 2011

Angry Birds lands on Windows Phone 7, ready to explore the third ecosystem

Nowadays, you can’t really claim to have a mobile OS worthy of the title if your users can’t run Angry Birds on it. Good news from Microsoft, then, as Windows Phone 7 can finally be admitted at the grown-up table now that it has released its port of Rovio’s epic bird-launching experience. $2.99 is the Marketplace price for the full version, though there’s also the option to try out the first few levels for free. Because, you know, there might still be people out there who haven’t yet been exposed to the charms of this perniciously addictive little game.


Leave a comment

Posted by on June 30, 2011 in WP7



HTC 7 Pro review: U.S. Cellular’s first Windows Phone

Even glancing at U.S. Cellular’s smartphone lineup, one thing stands out. With the exception of a couple of BlackBerrys, Android completely dominates. Or it did, until the HTC 7 Pro muscled its way in, a rebranding of Sprint’s HTC Arrive.

As staunch supporters of mobile platform diversity and consumer choice, this is a very good thing. The handset, while heavy, has some interesting design elements, including a screen that tilts up when you slide open the QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard itself has rubbery buttons that are easy to press, and the HD video capture and playback are perks.

Although it’s a fine phone, the HTC 7 Pro isn’t at the top of the Windows Phone game. The screen isn’t as vibrant as all its peers’, and the camera software could perform better for indoor shots. The experience as a whole suffers a bit from the first-generation Windows Phone 7 software, although there is copy and paste, and it will be upgradable to Windows Phone 7.5 Mango after that update launches this fall, an addition that will automatically give the HTC 7 Pro a boost.

Overall, we’re happy with the phone as a midrange device, though it isn’t the high-end stunner Microsoft needs to compete against Android.


Leave a comment

Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Windows Phone


Tags: , ,

Top five things Windows Phone needs to improve

The previews for the next version of Windows Phone 7 are out, and overall, the response from the press has been largely favorable, including CNET’s. The Mango update brings more than 500 new features to Microsoft’s mobile operating system and continues to build on a solid platform, with smarter integration of apps, more-robust features, and a faster browser. It also addresses a number of issues we had with the software when it first launched in November, so Microsoft definitely deserves kudos.

However, as much as there is to love about Windows Phone 7.5, more needs to be done. As our colleagues Jay Greene and Maggie Reardon at CNET News point out, Windows Phone still has much to prove in a market where Android and the iPhone dominate. Below, we talk about five of the biggest hurdles for Windows Phone and how improving in these areas could help the OS succeed.

1. Visibility and education
This is one of the biggest challenge facing Microsoft right now. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at CES 2011 that people love Windows Phone once they see it, which I believe to be true, but it’s the “getting the people to see” it part that’s the problem. (The fact that some salespeople are steering customers away from Windows Phone certainly isn’t helping the cause, either.)

I loved the message of the first Windows Phone “Really?” commercials. I think we often get too wrapped up in our tech, so I appreciate where Microsoft was trying to go with the ad. The problem is the company didn’t show how Windows Phone would make things better. Aside from a tiny flash of the Start screen at the end, nowhere in the commercial do we see any features of the phone.

Subsequent ads have gotten a little better at showcasing some of the capabilities of the OS, but it’s still fairly generic and to be honest, a little dizzying. I understand it’s hard to condense an entire OS into a 30-second promo, so perhaps you focus on a certain angle–gaming, music, business features, social networking, and so forth. Also, Windows Phone is different and better than the competition in a number of ways, so why not highlight that? It worked for Verizon and the Motorola Droid.

The point is that if you want to persuade people to buy your phone, you need to show them what it can do and why it’s better than anything else out there, and so far Microsoft hasn’t done a very good job of that.

2. Hardware
Like Android, Microsoft has an advantage by working with multiple handset manufacturers, including HTC, Samsung, LG, and, more recently, Acer, Fujitsu, and Nokia. This means more phones, different designs, and, most of all, more choice for customers. However, as important as it is to offer variety, it’s also important to deliver a compelling and relevant product.

Though the hardware on the first-generation Window Phone devices might have been good enough eight months ago, thanks to the release of such products as the HTC ThunderBolt, Motorola Atrix 4G, and Samsung Galaxy S II, we’re quickly entering a stage where people are looking for and expecting the latest technology, such as high-res displays, dual-core processors, and 4G support. We know that 4G-capable devices are on tap and there are rumblings of a dual-core Nokia Windows Phone, but Microsoft can’t wait too long to release them, which leads us to the next issue.

3. Timeliness
To give credit where credit is due, Microsoft has done a lot more with its software in eight months than some platforms have done in the past year, but Windows Phone is also arriving to the game late, so it doesn’t have the luxury of time. As it is, Mango is scheduled for release in the fall and new devices, including those from Nokia, are expected by the holiday season. Yes, it takes time to put out a quality product, but Ice Cream Sandwich and iOS 5 are also expected around the same time, so Microsoft will need to continue to be aggressive if it doesn’t want fall further behind.

4. Loosen up some restrictions
With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft placed some pretty rigid restrictions on hardware and software. On the one hand, it definitely provides a consistent user experience from one device to the other, but we also think there could be some benefit by opening it up a bit to allow for more customization, both on the OEM and user’s part. This includes reconsidering some policies as needed, such as having to sync non-Exchange Outlook accounts through the cloud, which has been a sticking point with a number of users.

5. Few missing links

As I said earlier, Windows Phone 7 Mango fixes a number of issues we had with the first release of the software, but there are still some features we’d like to see in the near future. This includes universal search, tethering, and expanded landscape support (though Mango adds this in photos), among others. To be fair, we haven’t seen everything Mango has to offer yet, so we can only hope that some of these are addressed in the final release. We also hope that Microsoft irons out some of Mango’s features, such as the accuracy of voice-to-text and inconsistent results in Local Scout.

So there you have it, five areas where we think Windows Phone needs the most improvement. The good news is that these issues have more to do with Microsoft’s marketing and strategy than the software itself, which we think is very good. What do you guys think? What improvements would you like to see in Windows Phone?


Leave a comment

Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Windows Phone


Tags: , ,

Why Nokia picked Microsoft: Windows Phone 7’s 20,000 apps and counting

That number might not seem like much compared to the gazillion apps at Android Market or Apple’s App Store, but those 20,000 apps answer a question on many techies’ lips this week: Why didn’t Nokia pick MeeGo? Windows Phone Marketplace passed the 20k threshold about a month ago.

The N9’s unexpected launch on June 21 was one of the most perplexing mobile phone announcements in recent memory. The N9 is a stunning piece of hardware that runs smart-looking software — MeeGo 1.2. But Nokia has all but abandoned MeeGo and Symbian, which despite market share declines is still the most widely used mobile operating system on the planet. The N9 had lots of gawkers drooling over its sexiness but disappointed that with MeeGo there’s no point.

MeeGo was supposed to be Nokia’s future before CEO, and former Microsoft divisional president, Stephen Elop cut the Windows Phone distribution deal earlier this year. Instead of a slow transition from Symbian to MeeGo, Nokia would fast-track to Microsoft’s mobile OS.

Nokia’s other MeeGo phone is the N900, and the selection of apps is meager at best. The company’s Ovi Store, serves up 90-top free apps, 88 bestsellers and 166 new ones for N900, with the latter category actually looking like the entire selection available. By comparison, the number of apps available for Windows Phone is simply enormous. Microsoft has developers, and they’re working the apps. Remember, that Windows Phone only became available in autumn with about 1,000. Less than two months ago, the number was 18,000. It was 20k in late May. Who knows, 25,000 may be close coming.

I used to own a N900. It was a brick, but I still loved the smartphone. It had real character, and MeeGo was a major reason why. There was something quite different about using the N900 compared to iPhone or any Android handset. The N900 felt more like a pocket computer, and MeeGo provided dramatic capabilities. I still miss N900.

But platforms need applications. Either the phone’s manufacturer provides them or third-parties do — and ideally both. MeeGo doesn’t have much from either. Nokia is really good at doing hardware but long hasn’t been able to compete on software and services. From that perspective, the Microsoft marriage has potential.

The questions now: How long before there are 25,000 apps, and what will the number be when the first Nokia Windows Phone ships. Earlier this week, Elop quietly showed off the first prototype — “Sea Ray” — and of course it leaked out right away.

Microsoft doesn’t need hundreds of thousands of apps for Windows Phone to succeed. The platform just needs enough of them. Which ones is more important than how many. Still, larger number has marketing value for both potential customers and developers.

That said, compared to Android Market and App Store, 20,000 doesn’t seem like much. They offer more than 200,000 and App Store 450,000 apps, respectively.


Leave a comment

Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Android


Tags: ,

Plants vs Zombies for Windows Phone 7 now available

While Windows Phone 7 might be a little slow to attract big-name apps to its Marketplace, the tide has started turning. Evernote recently introduced its WP7 app and the uber-popular, multi-protocol messaging client IM+ is now beta testing. But while marquee mobile applications may still be playing catch-up on Microsoft’s smartphone platform, games are another story. There are plenty of top-shelf titles available to choose from, and now there’s one more: Plants vs. Zombies.

PVZ was a runaway hit on iOS when it debuted in February of 2010 (followed by an HD version for the iPad in May) and it continues to be extremely popular. Nintendo DS owners were next to get a small-screen version of zombie slaying, and Android users got their first taste in May with an Amazon Appstore exclusive launch.

Now, it’s your turn, Windows Phone 7 user! Just tap on through to the Marketplace on your smartphone and head to the games section where you’ll find PopCap’s addictive little tower defense game waiting for you to purchase at the ever-so-slighty-inflated price of $4.99 (two bucks more than the iOS version). As with the previous versions for other platforms, there’s plenty packed into PVZ for WP7: 50 levels to battle through, an arsenal of 49 plants to unlock, more than two dozen unique zombies to slay, and four different modes of play (including puzzle mode and a boatload of minigames). There are also 15 in-game achievements to collect, and don’t forget to collect those coins — they’ll let you purchase power ups and Sinky the Snail, a snoozy little fellow who hoovers up additional coins automatically as they appear.

If you’ve got the reader app installed, scan the Tag at the end of the post for a more tap-free installation process.


Leave a comment

Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Windows Phone 7


Tags: ,

300 interactive children’s ebooks coming to Windows Phone 7

We have complained numerous times about ebook spam, but an influx of 300 ebooks from Touchybooks is exactly what Marketplace needs.

According to the company, which makes interactive ebooks for children, Microsoft has asked the company to port their apps to Windows Phone 7, with 150 already in Marketplace, and 20 being added every day. TouchyBooks averages two new titles per week in four languages: English, Spanish, French and German. Italian language editions are planned for June 2011.

“The interactive books for kids by Touchybooks are amazing experiences that really add value to Windows Phone Marketplace. Microsoft and Windows Phone really back these types of projects”, said Isabel Gómez Miragaya, Applications and Games Manager for Windows Phone.

TouchyBooks stories are beautiful interactive eBooks for kids ages 2-7, featuring adapted text and language for beginning readers, with text narration offering ‘Read by Myself’ and ‘Read to Me’ options for most of the stories. Each title includes colorful and child friendly illustrations. TouchyBooks’ eBookstore has served over over 500,000 downloads in 90 countries .

Priced from $0.99 – $3.99, with free demo versions, TouchyBooks also features drag and drop articles, hot spots, sound effects, background music, and multi-animation touch – i.e. if you touch it again, it does something new.


Leave a comment

Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Uncategorized


Tags: ,

Microsoft updates SkyDrive online interface

Two weeks after Apple made a lot of noise by introducing iCloud, Microsoft today announced updates to its own cloud service, SkyDrive, to give it wider appeal.

Microsoft launched the free service in 2007 to give users a place to remotely store files and access them anywhere from a Web browser. While it’s integrated with Windows, Office and Windows Phone 7, it’s not an exceptionally well-known service.

The Redmond-based company wants to change that, especially as Apple pushes cloud synchronization in its upcoming mobile operating system, iOS 5. Today, Microsoft started rolling out cosmetic and back-end changes to the SkyDrive interface, taking advantage of HTML5 for the most cross-browser compatibility.

In a browser, SkyDrive is designed to look like Windows Explorer – the file and folder system familiar to all Windows users. Today’s update dramatically slices the amount of time it takes to switch among folders, including the utilization of a user’s own computer hardware to more quickly render photos and gallery transitions, Microsoft said.

Through support for HTML5 and CSS3 – newer versions of the standard languages of the Internet – SkyDrive now automatically resizes and reorganizes photo thumbnails when viewed inside a gallery folder, Microsoft said in a blog post. Videos in SkyDrive now can take advantage of the HTML5 video tag so users don’t have to download special players or plugins.

Microsoft also removed advertisements from the right-hand column to make room for a pane that allows users to quickly open, rename or delete files. And the company added the ability to pin a user’s SkyDrive to the Windows 7 taskbar through Internet Explorer 9.

Microsoft demonstrates the changes in the video embedded below. Also of note, the company seems to have lessened emphasis on the “Windows Live” piece of the “Windows Live SkyDrive” brand, in favor of the simpler “SkyDrive.”


Leave a comment

Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Microsoft



Windows Phone 7 gets sanctioned jailbreak via ChevronWP7

Remember ChevronWP7, the tool by the team of the same name that allowed users to sideload apps on their Windows Phone 7 handsets? Well, the team is back at it, though this time with Microsoft’s blessing.

In a blog post, the ChevronWP7 team announced that it will soon release a new tool called ChevronWP7 Labs that will unlock Windows Phone 7 devices and allow owners to install homebrew applications on their phones. According to the team, the new tool has been created with the approval of Microsoft, so the software giant should not be actively trying to disable it with software updates, something that iOS jailbreakers are all to familiar with from Apple.

The ChevronWP7 Labs tool is not free, as users will have to pay a small fee sent via PayPal to the developers, though can you really put a price on true freedom with your phone? Expect the unlocking tool to be available soon.


Leave a comment

Posted by on June 29, 2011 in iOS


Tags: ,

Nokia To Launch A WP7 QWERTY Phone?

Nokia announced its tie up with Microsoft to produce Windows Phone 7 handsets with Nokia’s hardware a few months ago, and the first Nokia WP7 device is expected by the end of this year (Q4). While nobody has any clue as to what device it could be, assumptions are already being made as to what Nokia could offer. For the time being it seems like the first device would be a basic touchscreen slab; very typical of the WP7 platform.

The Windows Phone 7 platform has a couple of QWERTY phones, though not as much as you would find in Android. If latest reports are to be believed, Nokia could be preparing a Windows Phone handset with a similar form factor. This info comes from an event held by Nokia a couple of days ago, where a company representative disclosed the company’s plans to snatch the business smartphone market, which is almost dominantly held by RIM’s BlackBerry. Though the representative did not directly confirm a QWERTY WP7 device by Nokia, it is almost clear that Nokia could have it all planned.

2011 will be a very busy year for Nokia with a couple of flagships to be launched, not to mention the launch of the company’s first WP7 handset. The company is holding a Nokia Connection event on June 21st, where the company will supposedly show off some new Symbian Anna handsets, and probably announce the WP7 phone that has been talked about for quite a long time now.


Leave a comment

Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Nokia, WP7


Tags: , ,

Evernote Unveils Windows Phone 7 App

Evernote, a cloud-based service that stores text, audio files, and images that are accessible from a multitude of devices, has launched an app for Windows Phone 7. Evernote was an early force on Apple’s iPhone and has also had a mobile app for Android phones for a while, so it was only a matter of time before the Windows Phone 7 version appeared.,1468,i=298453,00.jpg,1468,i=307060,00.jpg

As much as the company tends to deliver a fairly consistent design and set of functionality across its tools, the Evernote app for Windows Phone 7 looks rather different from both the iPhone and Android versions. The new app takes advantage of the Windows Phone 7 Panorama interface, giving it a distinctive look. From the panorama panel, you’ll find a list of all your notes, notebooks, tags, and recent notes. Luckily, in terms of functionality and usability, it’s very close to the other mobile apps.

Another interface element in the Windows Phone 7 Evernote app is an application bar that resides at the top of most pages and shows three dots when more information and functionality is available for the page you’re currently viewing. Tap the dots to see the options.

As with all the other downloadables in Evernote’s repertoire, the Windows Phone 7 app gives you access to any notes you’ve stored in Evernote from any other device.

Other Evernote applications include Evernote for Windows and Mac, downloadable desktop programs that give Evernote users maximum screen real estate for working on their files; a Web-based version, accessible from any browser; Evernote for iPad, as well as the previously mentioned mobile versions and a few others. While all the apps are free to download, Evernote’s service is based on a freemium model in which users can pay up to $45 per year for more storage space and a few premium features.


Leave a comment

Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Uncategorized


Tags: ,