It’s the elephant in the room – the Windows Phone 7 marketplace’s selection of apps is a little threadbare compared to its counterparts. So, for other phone users, a basic photo editor might not be anything to look twice at, but for Windows Phone 7 owners, it should be a nice tool to add to your collection. With Photo Editor, you can open up all of the photos you snap with your phone, and proceed to crop, rotate, adjust brightness and contrast, and use a few preset effects. You can also use the paint and doodle tools to add a personalized touch, adding a little of that Japanese Purikura photo booth flair. The Photo Editor costs $0.99, but you can try it out for free, first.
Category Archives: Windows Phone 7
Microsoft’s big Mango update to Windows Phone brought the platform to version 7.5. It has over 500 new features, most aimed at the consumer, but some of these features will also help professionals.
1. Connecting to a hidden SSID: Some people use a hidden SSID under the illusion that it provides some level of security, even though it doesn’t. Windows Phone 7 originally wouldn’t connect to a hidden Wi-Fi access point at all. Now it will, but there is a caveat. The manufacturer or carrier also has to ensure the phone is running an updated Wi-Fi driver. If you have Mango and still cannot connect to a hidden SSID, contact your carrier. Mango has the capability and Microsoft has done all it can on this front.
2. Threaded email conversations: This is one of those love it or hate it features and some people love it. If you fall into that camp, then do nothing. Mango enables this by default. You can easily turn it off on a per-mailbox basis though.
3. Linked inboxes: If you have to manage multiple mailboxes, you can now see them all at once. Mango keeps the databases separate, but visually it looks like one big mailbox with all of your mail. A reply is sent from the mailbox it was sent to and all preferences are kept separate, so things like how long an email is retained and signatures are on a per-mailbox basis. You can link all, some, or none of your mailboxes, depending on your preferences.
4. Better live tiles: Live tiles in Windows Phone 7 were nice but didn’t always function properly, especially third-party tiles. The more you had enabled, the more likely you were to run into problems. Once you had 15, you were maxed out. Additional live tiles were static. Mango upped the limit to 30 live tiles and improved the performance of all of them. They work best when a third-party developer redoes its tile to support multitasking. So feel free to add as many inboxes, people, and weather tiles to your homescreen. Having multiple weather tiles, with apps like WeatherLive, makes traveling easier as you can see the weather conditions at all of your travel destinations at a glance.
5. Contact history: This has been greatly improved. Simply pull up a contact in the people hub, or tap on a person if they are pinned to your homescreen, and swipe to the history section. You will be able to see all of your recent interactions with them via phone, SMS, and email. Tapping on any of those will bring you to that item. You could reply to an email right there, for instance. An additional swipe to the What’s New section will show you their social interactions on Twitter and Facebook, including things like @replies to you.
6. Task switching: If you are like most professionals, you are doing multiple things at once. Twitter, email, checking out an Excel document, looking for directions, etc. Now you can seamlessly move through these by pressing and holding the back button. A task window showing thumbnails of recent apps pops up that will allow you to go directly to any of them. This works with all apps, but the experience is faster and more likely to return you to exactly where you were if it has been rewritten to support this feature. If you have ever used or seen the app-switching cards in WebOS, then you know exactly what this looks like.
This barely scratches the surface, but it gives you a hint of some of the improvements in Mango that makes the life of a professional, especially one that travels, a bit easier.
Nokia will be launching its Windows Phone 7 devices next week, Microsoft’s Andy Lees has revealed.
The news comes via Engadget, which said that Lees – Microsoft’s Windows Phone chief – hinted of the launch of the Nokia Windows Phone devices next week at the AsiaD event.
He said that the Finnish handsets manufacturer will have “differentiating hardware and software” at its Nokia World 2011 event in London.
The Nokia World 2011 event will begin on October 26.
Furthermore, Engadget quotes Lees:
“Nokia will announce its rollout plans with Windows Phone, among other things. It made an evaluation early on, and saw our roadmap for this year and next year, and it decided to bet the whole company on Windows Phone based on that. We’ve seen that other hardware makers have seen this occurrence as an accelerant, which in turn helps both Microsoft and Nokia. I’m also excited about naming some new OEMs that will be coming onboard [with WP7].”
Industry observers have been waiting for Nokia to release its own crop of Windows Phone devices since it announced in February that it will be using the Microsoft platform instead of its Symbian platform in future smartphones.
Microsoft wants to reduce components costs, lower phone prices, and gain market share.
A Microsoft official said the company and its partners may reduce the price of Windows Phone 7 devices by as much as 50% in some cases in order to boost demand for the system, which significantly trails Apple and Google-powered phones in the smartphone market.
“We are supporting componentry that that will allow us to go below $200,” Windows Phone head Andy Lees told Bloomberg. Lees said Microsoft is counting on higher sales volumes to make up for lower margins that would result from a price cut.
Carriers like AT&T already offers some Windows Phones, such as the Samsung Focus, for as little as $50, but unlocked devices from retailers like Amazon sell for $250 or more. Microsoft currently holds about 5.7% of the U.S. mobile OS market, according to the latest data from ComScore. Google leads the pack with about 43.7%, while Apple is second with 27.3%.
In addition to price cuts, Microsoft hopes the release of Mango, or Windows Phone 7.5, will boost sales. Mango adds more than 500 new features to the Windows Phone platform, including multitasking, 4G support, and the ability to work with rights-protected email.
“It leapfrogs the competition in many areas,” said Lees, while speaking on stage at the All Things D conference in Hong Kong.
On Monday, Microsoft and AT&T introduced three new phones that come with Mango pre-installed–the HTC Titan, which features a big 4.7-inch display, the Samsung Focus S, which boasts 1.4-GHz processor, and the budget Samsung Focus Flash, which has a 3.7-inch display. AT&T has yet to announce pricing for the phones.
Microsoft is also counting on its alliance with Nokia, still the world’s largest seller of phones by volume, to significantly boost market share. Next week, the Finnish company is expected to introduce its own line of Windows Phone 7 devices at its Nokia World conference.
“They are going to be investing very aggressively,” said Lees. “They’ve bet the success of the whole company on Windows Phone.”
Microsoft also recently struck a deal with handset maker Samsung under which the two companies will jointly invest in smartphone research, development, sales, and marketing. “You’ll see that ramp up in 2012,” said Lees.
Lees also announced that Microsoft plans to start selling Windows Phone 7 devices in China next year.
Summary: Will these Windows Phone 7 “Mango” phones from AT&T make it to a stocking near you this holiday?
Microsoft’s Phone President Andy Lees showed off three AT&T-branded Windows Phone 7 (Mango) phones at the All Things Digital Asia conference in Hong Kong this morning.
While you may be able to recite the features of Mango by heart, you probably couldn’t tell these WP7 handsets apart, especially when they’re all displaying the same ‘Metro’ home screen (see right). Well, consider this as your cheat sheet to AT&T’s upcoming WP7 offerings: the HTC Titan (left), Samsung Focus S (center) and Samsung Focus Flash (right).
True to its name, the HTC Titan from AT&T has the biggest display of the bunch at 4.7 inches, which beats yesterday’s largest phone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, by 0.05-inch. According to the Window Phone Blog, it has a 9.9-mm profile, a 1.5 GHz processor under the hood, an 8-megapixel rear camera with dual LED flash (plus a front cam), and offers a brushed aluminum back with the curves (and build) that HTC phones are known for.
Samsung Focus S
The Samsung Focus S may be the middle child in AT&T’s WP7 portfolio but there is nothing middling about the phone. It serves up Samsung’s specialty: a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display, powered by a 1.4 GHz CPU that is capable of 4G speeds, along with a 8-megapixel rear and 1.3-megapixel front camera, in a svelte 8.55-millimeters package. What’s not to like about these specs?
Samsung Focus Flash
It’s easier to differentiate the Samsung Focus S from the Focus Flash as the latter has a more modest 3.7-inch Super AMOLED screen, sharper lines and a slightly slower 1.4 GHz processor under the display. It’ll likely be the most budget-friendly WP7 from AT&T so bargain hunters should keep their eye out on the Focus Flash rather than its flashier brothers.
AT&T has yet to announce a ship date or pricing for these phones so no need to lineup at your local store for now. There’s still plenty of time until the holiday.
The folks over at Microsoft were kind enough to let Platform Nation in on some Windows Phone 7 action for the last couple of months, and while I was initially hoping to give you all the details on Mango (Windows Phone’s latest OS release), I decided to give you an overview of some of the apps I’ve been using instead. If you’re looking for an OS review, stay tuned, as we’ll be getting more coverage on Windows Phone 7, which will include a full overview of the (in my opinion) incredible features that are packed into this OS. I even picked up an HTC Trophy from Verizon for myself and my wife, we liked what we saw that much.
But I’m getting ahead of myself; in this recap, I thought I’d highlight some of the quality Free apps in the marketplace that I’ve come across so far. This is far from an inclusive or exhaustive list, but what you’re about to see is what I have used and loved so far. The links for the apps will take you to the Marketplace for the app, where you can download and add it to your phone from the website – no syncing to your computer is necessary!
Weave – News Reader: Weave is an app that “gets” what being a Windows Phone 7 app is all about. It utilizes the Metro theme well, bringing you news based on topics you select when you first load it up. Think the default options suck (they don’t)? Then use the in-app Google Feed search service to add more, or even punch in the RSS feed address directly (Like, say, http://feeds.feedburner.com/platformnation). Going through the news in the list will show you twenty articles on a page, with a click taking you to whatever the article has before the More tag. You can easily view the article from within the app to see the entire article, share the article with Twitter, Facebook, instapaper, or even email the link to yourself. There is also a section of the app for featured articles, which takes the top news from what you like and puts them in a list of about 8 tiles horizontally. Personally, I didn’t find it to be particularly useful, and usually just opted to go into the list of news for the particular topics I was interested in. There’s some lag time initially while it loads up all the news, and if you have a lot of categories, this could take a little time (30 seconds at most), but you can read what you had downloaded before while you wait. Overall, a solid news reader, and at 1MB, a lightweight one as well. Would be nice to see some Live Tile support (A top story headline perhaps).
AppFlow and WP7applist – App Discovery: I list these two different apps together because they both do the same thing, and do it well. Even with just 30,000 apps so far, finding what you want (or what you SHOULD want) can be a little tricky. Surfing through the default marketplace on the phone is hit or miss for app discovery, so using AppFlow or WP7applist will help wade through the crap to get to what you should have. Both feature search functions such as New & Impressive (new apps with high ratings), Apps Gone Free, and Highest Rated. AppFlow has a few more search functions, such as Hidden Gems (low download but high rating) or David vs. Goliath (Official and unofficial apps for the same function, compared together). WP7applist does have a nice live tile that shows the number of new marketplace releases in the last 24 hours. Pick up either one, and start finding more things to download.
Sudoku, Minesweeper and Flowerz – Games: Free games are always good. Free Xbox Live games are better. And free Xbox Live games with achievement points? Sign me up. Sudoku and Minesweeper should need no introduction. Both have a similar looking layout, with clean and crisp graphics that are both intuitive and responsive. As a nice added bonus, you gain experience for completing (or partial credit for failing) each game, and this experience will allow you to level up and unlock powerups. Examples of these powerups would be things like adding in all possible answers in pencil mode, or providing one correct answer (in Sudoku), or revealing a section of squares (which mark all the mines) or getting a shield that protects you from one mistake (in Minesweeper). These powerups use energy that is accumulated over time, so it doesn’t imbalance the games too much, it just adds a nice perk to playing. Both of these games offer 50 achievement points each. Flowerz, which is a match-3 game, offers 200 points. While well put together, the limited game modes in Flowerz will make it tough to plow through beyond the first couple of playthroughs. That being said, there is some decent challenge to the game, and I liked the leaderboard integration, that keeps you going by showing your score against what your friends have done in the game. I just wish it wasn’t so.. blah.
TouchDevelop – App Development: My final app for this first review is a great example of what I really hope is the new Microsoft when it comes to developing software that really makes your excited about them. TouchDevelop is a development tool for Windows Phone 7 that allows you to create apps from within the phone itself. Well, “Apps” is a strong word – scripts might be better, as you run them from within this app, but there is a social aspect in that you can publish your scripts for others to use. The tool is very robust, while still being accessible, and there are great tutorials to help you along. If you ever wanted to channel your inner developer, or if you want to see some of the stuff that other people are creating with this tool, check this app out. It stands out as being something truly unique and, well, awesome. I have a feeling that as more people get on board with this tool, you will begin to see some truly creative programs being shared, and this will only help to create cooler features for your phone.
Like I said, there are a TON of great free apps out there (and I have more that I use every day). Hopefully these apps will get you started on getting your news, finding new apps, playing some games, and maybe even making some of your own.
If you like what you read, or want to give feedback on what you want to see in the future, let us know in the comments section below.
PORTLAND, OR, United States – In an effort to make sure mobile developers are prepared to start writing apps for Windows Phone, Symbian Qt has been added to the Windows Phone API mapping tool. The mapping tool is a utility for developers that serves as a translation dictionary between the Windows Phone platform and other mobile operating systems. The tool enables developers who are familiar with APIs from other platforms to see the equivalent class, method or notification events inside Windows Phone.
Intended strictly for developers, the Windows Phone API mapping tool includes core libraries for Qt 4.7 for Symbian, which includes: QtCore; QtGUI; QtLocation; QtNetwork; QtSql; QtXml; QtWebKit; QML Elements; and QML Components. There are also code samples and tutorials to help developers too.
If you’re totally new to Windows Phone development, check out the white paper “Windows Phone Guide for Symbian Qt Application Developers”, released by Microsoft and Nokia that outlines the Windows Phone development cycle for Symbian Qt developers. There are 8 chapters, including Application Design guidelines, C# programming, Porting Applications to Windows Phone and more.
Rounding out the resources recently released, there’s a roadshow that will allow prospective Windows Phone developers to ask questions and receive in-person training. The Nokia Windows Phone Training roadshow starts in Paris and moves to select locations throughout Europe and a few sessions in Australia as well.
The HTC HD7 Windows Phone 7 smartphone was one of the first mobile phones to receive the mobile handset version of the popular Windows 7 PC operating system. Unlike Android operating systems, and much like Apple iOS software, the Windows Phone 7 operating system mimics a system many PC users are already familiar with using on their laptops and desktop computers. Also, compatibility between a mobile handset and any software or applications that handset owner may be using on their PC is guaranteed because the operating systems are basically one and the same.
Aside from being one of the very few phones which don’t employ Android or iOS software, the HTC HD7 is familiar in many regards. Physically, HTC employs the same basic form factor as most mobile handsets today, with a rectangular, black slab appearance. One way it stands out in design is with its handy kickstand which props the phone up for hands-free viewing of movies, videos and other content.
The 4.3 inch capacitive touchscreen LCD display offers 480 x 800 pixel resolution, and supports multitouch gesture navigation. A light sensor and a proximity sensor are built into the screen, and a protective layer of anti-scratch Corning Gorilla Glass overlays the display. Talk time runs to 6.3 hours on a single charge, 5.3 hours when operating on 3G, and standby time is 13 days.
The HTC HD7 offers a rear facing camcorder for recording video and still shots, and records in 1280 x 720 pixel resolution, which translates to 720P HD. The rear facing camcorder also features a dual LED flash, autofocus and several preprogrammed scenes. The HTC HD7 has an FM radio built into the handset, and video and audio players as well. The audio player supports MP3, WMA, M4A (Apple lossless) and M4B, while the video player can handle MPEG4, WMV, 3GP and 3G2 file formats.
On the software side, a Facebook app is preloaded, HTML web browsing is supported and the HTC HD7 is equipped to handle Adobe Flash media player videos and web pages. As we mentioned above, Windows phone 7 is the operating system on board the HTC HD7, and the processor is a 1.0 GHz chip with 576 MB of RAM and 512 MB of ROM memory supporting it.
Computerworld – The recent iOS 5 announcement highlighted several interesting additions to Apple’s app-focused operating system, such as the new Siri voice command interface, which will be available only on the iPhone 4S. In contrast, Microsoft’s new Mango version of Windows Phone 7 (which is actually version 7.5) helps fulfill that platform’s promise of helping people focus on the tasks they want to accomplish and the information they want to receive, rather than the apps they run — especially when it comes to social networking and communications.
I had a chance to try Mango out using a Samsung Focus. My conclusion? Windows Phone 7 now feels like a complete, polished operating system rather than a work in progress.
Changes to social networking and contacts
Microsoft has clearly targeted social networking and contacts with Mango. For a start, it fixes the most glaring issue with earlier versions of Windows Phone — incomplete support of social networking and difficulty with multitasking — and now supports Twitter and LinkedIn.
Mango targets social networking.
Click to view larger image
Social networking is now woven through the entire Windows Phone experience. You don’t need to consciously launch a Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn app in order to gain the benefits of social networking, because their capabilities are integrated directly into the way you use the phone.
For example, a new profile pane for each contact shows a combined history of your communications with that contact, whether it be via email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or text messaging. A new pictures pane shows the photos that each contact has posted to Facebook and Windows Live. In addition, the new Me tile aggregates updates and content from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Windows Live, so you can see at a glance all the recent updates from your contacts on multiple social networking services. You can also use the Me pane to send updates to multiple social networking sites with a single post.
Another welcome change: Mango finally adds threaded messaging for email and text messaging, so you can easily follow all messages in a single conversation. And Mango introduces something even better: You can hold a single conversation with someone across multiple communications services. For example, if you start a conversation with someone on Facebook chat, you can continue that same conversation via text messaging.
Also new is the ability to filter which updates from which social networks you want displayed. If you’re suffering from Twitter fatigue, for example, you can tell Windows Phone to stop displaying Twitter updates. When you’re ready again for the unending Twitter stream, enable it.
And you can now place your contacts into groups — family, colleagues, people on your softball team and so on — using a feature appropriately named Groups. You can send out a single message to the entire group in several ways. You’ll also be able to see the combined social networking updates (and the newest phones) of everyone in the group at a glance. One feature I found especially useful: You can pin a group to your Start screen, and the group’s tile will tell you when anyone in the group posts to a social network or sends you a message. The tile also alerts you when you’ve missed a call.
Facebook integration has been strengthened, so events from Facebook are now included in your phone’s calendar. However, you can’t make changes to the Facebook events from the calendar — you’ll have to head to Facebook for that.
Microsoft also claims that Live Tiles update more frequently than in the past. As a practical matter, I didn’t notice a difference, but those addicted to the need for instant updates may see one.
Each of these changes to social networking is useful, but what really counts is the cumulative effect. Use Mango for a while, and you’ll find yourself more easily focusing on the content of your communications with others, and less on the mechanics of communications.
Bing takes center stage
The second most important set of Mango additions centers on Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, which has gained a bunch of new features.
To begin with, the new Local Scout feature integrates into Bing Maps and shows a variety of local information, including places to eat, drink and shop, as well as local attractions and events. It grabs that information from a variety of partners such as Yelp.
Overall, Local Scout is a nifty addition, but it’s only as good as the partner information, which is not always stellar. Restaurant information wasn’t comprehensive; in my neighborhood, for example, it left out several of the best restaurants and most interesting stores. As for local things to see and do, it included events well over an hour’s drive away, which may not fit everyone’s idea of local. And I found the recommendations in its “highlights” section, which are supposed to list the most interesting places and things to do, downright strange at times — for example, it listed a nearby burrito joint as one of the top three attractions in my vicinity. Note to Local Scout: My neighborhood is a whole lot more interesting than that.
Bing also adds a feature called Bing Vision, which is like a combination of the Google Goggles and Barcode Scanner Android apps. It scans bar codes, QR codes, Microsoft tags and the covers of CDs, DVDs and books; it then provides information about the object it scanned. I found the results to be hit-and-miss. It was able to identify the wireless Sonos 3 music system from a bar code, for example, but got the pricing wrong. It did, however, properly identify a CD of the opera Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner.
Bing Vision also says it will translate foreign words and signs into English. Based on my experience with it, though, it needs to re-take Languages 101. For example, when presented with the simple French phrase, Decrivez un acteur, it defined it as “Define an actor” rather than “Describe an actor.” Worse yet, when confronted by the simple sentence, Votre francais est excellent, it translated it as “Your English is excellent.”
A new music identification feature works like the Shazam music recognition app: It listens to and then identifies the song being played. I found it surprisingly accurate. As with similar apps, it had no trouble identifying popular music — and while I’ve found that Shazam often chokes on classical music, the Bing feature was no slouch, correctly identifying Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 after only a few seconds of listening.
The music ID feature also shows how Bing may eventually become less a standalone search engine than a kind of virtual glue connecting disparate parts of Windows Phone. For example, you can identify a song, have Bing search for the guitar tablature and lyrics, and then send the links to a music group you’ve set up.
Multitasking and apps
With Mango, Windows Phone joins the other major phone platforms in allowing a form of multitasking. You can now easily switch between running apps by pressing and holding the Back button. If all the open apps don’t fit on one screen, you can swipe to see others.
Apps have been better integrated into the operating system. Do a Bing search, for example, and you’ll see any related Windows Phone apps you might want to download. Tap the Music + Videos tile and swipe to the right, and you’ll see any related apps you’ve installed on your device, such as a built-in radio player app.
Speaking of apps: Microsoft Marketplace now has a substantial number — about 30,000. That’s certainly nowhere near the estimated 500,000 for iOS or 250,000 for Android. But you’ll find most of the popular apps you might expect, and you now have a solid choice of many others as well.
Mango introduces a number of welcome tweaks to the interface, notably on the Start screen. It’s much easier to customize it — you now have the ability to pin an item to the Start screen and move and delete tiles. You can also pin Groups and individual contacts, making it easier to follow friends. The Lock screen has received a modest makeover so that, if you’re listening to audio, you don’t need to unlock the phone in order to control your music player.
The on-screen keyboard is now context-sensitive, so it changes according to your task. When you’re text messaging, for example, you can choose from ASCII emoticons, and when you’re inputting an email address, you’ll find .com and @ keys.
Mango gives Windows Phone the ability to share its 3G or 4G Internet connection with up to five other devices by setting up a Wi-Fi hot spot, something that Android devices and the iPhone already offer. But if you’ve got a Windows Phone device, don’t start celebrating yet because this feature won’t work on existing devices; only new ones will have this capability. (My review unit didn’t support tethering, so I was unable to test this feature.)
As with Android and the iPhone, you’ll have to pay extra for the tethering capability. Prices may vary depending on your carrier, although $20 per month is often the going rate. And tethering will not be available on every new Windows Phone device with Mango; availability will depend upon the specific device and carrier, so check before buying if this is important to you.
Windows Phone has always included voice commands, but you can now compose text messages and instant messages using your voice; Mango also will read text to you. But there’s nothing in Windows Phone that comes close to the new Siri feature in iOS 5, which performs complex, multistep tasks by voice alone.
A new SmartDJ feature automatically creates playlists from your music collection, and there’s better Xbox Live integration so that you can do things such as track how you’ve done in various games. There are now parental controls as well.
The bottom line
All in all, Mango is a significant upgrade to Windows Phone, and it brings out even more of the platform’s strengths, notably the way in which information is brought to you, rather than you having to go out and search for it. With Bing’s new features, and other improved functionality such as multitasking, Windows Phone is now a polished operating system.
Those with existing Windows Phone devices will welcome the upgrade. As for those buying a new phone, if you’re looking for a smartphone with a task-based approach rather than an app-based one, you’ll find Windows Phone 7.5 Mango to be a solid OS.
Preston Gralla is a contributing editor for Computerworld.com and the author of more than 35 books, including How the Internet Works (Que, 2006).