All posts by Liwen Guo

Fascinated by technology and good design. Also developing for Windows Phone. Visit my website and follow me on Twitter.

Windows Phone 8 guarantees 18 months of over-the-air updates, but is that enough?

While current Windows Phones – even those that just launched this year – will be cut off with Windows Phone 7.8, future Windows Phone 8 devices will get at least 18 months of software updates. Moreover, these updates won’t require the Zune software anymore, but will be pushed out over-the-air to eligible devices.

However, Apple has historically provided iOS updates for its various devices over a much longer timeframe – the iPhone 3GS, introduced back in 2009, will receive iOS 6 later this year, plus minor updates after that, which makes for over 40 months of updates. If the Windows Phone team sticks to its yearly release schedule, 18 months would mean only one major update plus six months of additional minor updates.

In fact, first-generation Windows Phones, which launched in late 2010, would already be outdated by now, so that of course brings us to the “at least”. Microsoft has seemingly learned to under-promise and over-deliver, but still, shouldn’t it – like Apple – be able to guarantee at least two major updates, especially now with the switch to the NT kernel in Windows Phone 8?

Windows Phone 7.8 update will bypass carriers, include new Start Screen

As rumored previously, current Windows Phones aren’t getting updates to Windows Phone 8 because of the kernel switch from Windows CE to NT. However, there will be an update for current users dubbed Windows Phone 7.8, which will bring over the new Start screen improvements – including a third, smaller tile size and discluding the annoying negative space at the right.

Plus, at least according to Paul Thurrott (we couldn’t find mentions of this features anywhere else), it will be delivered directly to all devices, without interference from carriers.

Will this update be enough for our readers, or should Windows Phone 7.8 include more features?

Source: Winsupersite

Deal: Nokia Lumia 710 for only 170€ in Germany

German online store Cyberport is currently selling the unlocked black Lumia 710 with either blue or red backplates for 169,90 €, considerably less than the regular price of 200 bucks. For those who don’t like color, the completely black version costs 10 euro more, though we’d just order an additional black backplate then, clocking in at an extra 5,90 €.

While there’s no guarantee you’ll get an update to Windows Phone 8, you still won’t find any better smartphone for the price –  a 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor, 512 MB of RAM, a 5 megapixel camera, and a 3.7″ ClearBlack WVGA display coupled with Mango easily make this device stand out in a sea of unusably slow Android devices, at least in this price range.

The faster processor and better touch response also present a nice stop-gap upgrade for owners of first-gen Windows Phones.

Head over to Cyberport.de to buy the device. Tip: use the mobile site (seems to work in Chrome and Safari only) to shave off the shipping costs.

Apple fixes embarrassing Siri flaw, now denies the existence of other phones

image[9]

Apple apparently thought Siri made a “mistake” when it recommended the Nokia Lumia 900 as the best smartphone ever. While quite hilarious, the iPhone 4S’s virtual assistant has quickly been patched to give out hard-coded answers like “the one you’re holding“, “you’re kidding, right?” and and the reality-denying “wait… there are other phones?” instead of relying on user satisfaction ratings.

To be fair, the previous response was determined by a grand total of four reviews, as you can still see on Wolfram Alpha, where Siri gets its data from. Still, over 300 reviews on Amazon don’t paint a very different picture…

Hopefully at some point not just consumer ratings but market share itself will deliver Apple a wake-up call.

Source: CNET, image credit: The Verge

Samsung’s Windows Phone 8 strategy: take on Nokia – with recycled Android devices?

Samsung is apparently looking to switch up their Windows Phone game later this year by introducing several Windows Phone 8-based smartphones and Windows 8-based tablets, reports Australian website Smarthouse, adding to previous rumors that have indicated a Samsung Windows Phone 8 device based on the Galaxy S III.

The new report, which quotes a senior executive from Samsung, suggests that the company is specifically aiming at Nokia with a “very clear” strategy that includes two Windows 8 tablets with screen sizes of 11″ and 14″, and, alongside the aforementioned Galaxy S III variant, a Galaxy Note equivalent as well. At 5.3 inches and with support for a custom stylus, it’s not known yet inhowfar Windows Phone 8 is going to support these features natively or being opened for customization by OEMs.

The new Samsung Windows smartphone offering will be branded Focus and will sit alongside the Samsung Galaxy offering.

SmartHouse has been told the Company will also launch two Windows tablets and a Windows based Note offering.

Even though the report is quite bullish about Samsung’s strategy, we can’t see how recycled Galaxy Android devices, as good as they may be, can compete with Nokia’s arguably higher-quality offerings. Just looking at the current Windows Phone landscape, the Focus S, which is based on the Galaxy S II, has been virtually forgotten with all the buzz surrounding the Lumia 800, 900 and even HTC’s Titan and Radar devices.

If Samsung is really trying to make a splash with Windows Phone, they’ll have to do better than that – at least getting the “Focus” brand out of the US, as the rest-of-the-world is still stuck with the Omnia brand name. What do our readers think?

Source: Smarthouse

Developers: Tired of iOS-style web apps? Microsoft releases Metro-theme for jQuery Mobile

Many mobile-optimized websites have iOS-like designs – and there’s a good reason for that: Most mobile UI frameworks were initially targeted at the iPhone, and its visual style does work pretty well, for the most part. But Windows Phone looks very differently and, arguably, cleaner and fresher, so such web apps usually don’t quite fit in with the Metro look. To remedy this situation, Microsoft has recently released a Metro-style theme for jQuery Mobile, which makes Metro easily available for web developers.

We checked out the demo page (also pictured above), which shows off some of the features of the theme. For the most part, it looks and works pretty well, although there are a few issues: animations (predictably) aren’t quite as slick and smooth as you’d expect from native apps, and the supposedly fixed header doesn’t keep its position at the top while scrolling, but does jump back after the scrolling is finished (though this appears to be a general issue with jQuery Mobile). An app bar is also implemented, which actually animates nicely, but doesn’t make much sense since the browser itself also displays an app bar.

Still, the Metro-theme is a welcome addition for Windows Phone users, and since the code is open source, there’s nothing stopping other developers from forking and improving it (interestingly, the theme appears to be sponsored by Microsoft Open Technologies, a subsidiary focusing on open source work that was only founded two weeks ago).

For developers interested in implementing the theme in their own web app, check out the post on MSDN for more details and download it on GitHub.

Steve Wozniak, after getting his Nokia Lumia 900: “I’m shocked” how beautiful Windows Phone is


We knew Steve Wozniak was lining up for a Nokia Lumia 900, but did he actually get the phone, and, if yes, does he like it? Turns out, the answer is “yes” to both, according to an interview Dan Patterson, Todd Moore and Gina Smith (who also co-wrote his autobiography) from aNewDomain conducted with the computing legend.

Although the iPhone remains as his main device – due to its better app ecosystem, mostly – the Apple co-founder says that he really likes the “personal experience” of the Windows Phone and will carry the Lumia “with me almost everywhere”. Here are some quotes we dug up from the interview:

Just for looks and beauty, I definitely favor the Windows 7 Phone over Android.

I’m kinda shocked how every screen is much more beautiful than the same apps on Android and iPhone.

I’m just shocked, I haven’t seen anything yet [in Windows Phone] that isn’t more beautiful than the other platforms.

It’s more intuitive and beautiful.

As far as eyes and visual, the Windows Phone is beautiful. [...] Especially compared to Android, it’s just no contest. The iPhone has a lot of beauty and simplicity, and you don’t get lost as much in it, but it’s more awkward to use.

It [the animation and design] just makes me feel like “oh my gosh, I’m more with a friend than I’m with a tool”.

Woz also goes into quite a lot of detail about the particular user interface elements that he likes, such as the overflowing text in panoramic views, how “things are zooming in from the left and zooming in from the right”, the animations when the app bar buttons pop up, and so on, but also raises some valid criticisms – in addition to the relative lack of third-party apps, he notes how there is no universal speech input as on Android or iOS.

Still, such praise from someone as well-respected as Steve Wozniak, who is known to regularly line up for new iPhone releases just to be like the regular folks, is definitely a great thing, and falls in line with what other people like Path founder Dave Morin, who also used to work for Apple, said about Windows Phone recently.

Update: Steve Wozniak himself left a follow-up comment on the original article (thanks for the tip, Favorite Browser):

Wrong. iPhone is my favorite phone. I did give my opinion that the Windows 7 Phone had superior visual appearance and operation cues that were also more attractive. In my opinion, it sets the mark for user interface. I would recommend it over my Android phones given that it doesn’t yet have the breadth of apps. I surmise that Microsoft hired someone from Apple and put money into having a role in the UI and appearance of some key apps. I also surmised that Steve Jobs might have been reincarnated at MS due to a lot of what I see and feel with this phone making me think of a lot of great Apple things.

The full interview is embedded below.

Source: aNewDomain, via WPCentral

Rumor: Windows Phone 8 being tested on Nokia Lumia 800, new features detailed

A poster on the Chinese WPXAP.com forums claims that Windows Phone 8 is currently being tested internally on a number of current and future devices. He cites a friend working for Microsoft in the US, who has been testing the Apollo update on his retail Lumia 800 as well as an unreleased Nokia WP8 device since last month. This, of course, also suggests that current Windows Phones will be able to run Windows Phone 8, unlike earlier rumors. Compatibility with current apps, however, is indeed preserved, with the few incompatibilities that exist being worked on.

While the interface – at least for now – is said to be largely unchanged, according to the poster, speed and touch response are much improved (perhaps all the way down to 1ms?). Other new features include folders, an overhauled Internet Explorer, improved Chinese language support, and “gravity sensing” which we assume to mean an option to lock the orientation. Also, contrary to other reports, the poster specifically says that bulk deletion of text messages is not available yet.

Regarding the VPN support that is currently enabled on the test version, the poster warns that it could be removed once Apollo ships. He claims that the same also happended to some features that were originally being tested for the Mango update. For instance, a feature to close running apps in the app switcher by tapping an X, and an option to disable “gravity sensing” – again, we assume it to refer to an orientation lock – failed to make the cut for the shipping version of Mango as well.

Of course, take all this with a grain of salt, since there’s no way to verify these claims for now. However, after reading through the thread (I’m Chinese, after all ;)) it definitely seems possible that the poster is legit.

Source: WPXAP.com, via Insideris.com. Thanks Anon!

For devs and designers: Nokia Lumia 900 PSD template

If you want to showcase your Windows Phone app or a concept design, it’s always nice to put the screenshot or graphic onto an actual device. Official press images, though, are often low-res or show the device at an angle, and are thus unsuited for the task. That’s why I’ve been creating PSDs for many popular smartphones, and the latest addition is the Nokia Lumia 900.

The PSD comes in black, cyan, and white versions, which you can switch between using different layers. The actual screen has a 960×1600 resolution, exactly double the 480×800 WVGA so you can use even higher-res images. Otherwise, just scale it down to half.

You can download the Lumia 900 PSD over at my blog. Enjoy.

Windows Phone 8 rumors: Nokia prepping PureView and QWERTY devices, Lenovo and Asus to join the game

His self-appointed retirement from leaking Microsoft rumors later this month is apparently not stopping the MS Nerd from revealing some new tidbits concerning the upcoming Windows Phone 8 “Apollo” release in a series of tweets today.

He sheds some light onto Nokia’s WP8 devices, which will include a PureView flagship (albeit with the Nokia N8′s 12 megapixel sensor) with a ClearBlack 1280×720 display destined for Verizon, and a QWERTY landscape-slider with a traditional 4″ WVGA display set to arrive on Sprint. The rather interesting part here, however, is the chip these devices are supposed to be running on: the MSM8960, part of the Snapdragon S4 family. For readers unfamilar with Qualcomm’s product range, the S4 is the second generation dual-core Snapdragon that can also be found Android devices such as the AT&T version of the HTC One X; despite only sporting two cores, its CPU performance is actually comparable to – if not better than – the quad-core Tegra 3 from Nvidia, whereas its GPU performance falls short.

As for the other two major US carriers, MS Nerd claims that T-Mobile will get an HTC device for launch while AT&T is getting two Samsung devices.

Regarding hardware partnerships, Lenovo and ASUS are said to be joining the likes of Nokia, HTC and Samsung as Windows Phone OEMs, whereas there’s “no sign” of LG, Dell or Acer. Considering the latters’ spotty track record – LG’s refurbishing of a first-gen device under a designer brand name, Dell’s failed execution of what seemed to be a great portrait slider, and Acer’s low-end second-gen offering – that doesn’t seem entirely unlikely, although we would still take this with a grain of salt. On the other hand, the notion of Lenovo and ASUS as new hardware partners is much more plausible and corroborates earlier rumors.

So, what do our readers make of this? Is the strategy of seperate flagship devices for each US carrier sustainable?

Source: MS_Nerd (Twitter), (2), (3), (4)

VentureBeat awards Windows Phone chief Terry Myerson “Top Mobile Mover” prize

Terry Myerson, who took over the Windows Phone lead from Andy Lees late last year, was awarded VentureBeat’s first Top Mobile Mover award. The prize was announced through a blog post and awarded at the publication’s Mobile Summit conference.

Windows Phone lead Myerson beat out other industry figures like Jack Dorsey, who co-founded both Twitter and mobile payments startup Square, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs, Google’s Android chief Andy Rubin and, interestingly, Nokia’s VP of mobile phones Mary McDowell.

The post provides some background on Myerson and his work within Microsoft:

Noted for his no-nonsense approach, Myerson helped lead the charge for Microsoft’s momentous “reset,” when the company essentially threw out everything it had been doing with Windows Mobile and reinvented its mobile operating system from the ground up.

[...]

Myerson is now charged with leading the Windows Phone business, improving Windows Phone’s marketing efforts, managing relationships with wireless carriers, implementing new software features in recent Windows Phone updates, and most notably, navigating Microsoft’s strategic partnership with Nokia.

As for why they chose Myerson, the post notes:

Windows Phone is early in its lifecycle, but it’s an attractive, responsive operating system that’s getting a lot of notice. You can count on it to make big waves in the mobile market this year. That’s why we’ve named Myerson our Top Mobile Mover for 2012.

Read the whole announcement at VentureBeat (via Windows Team Blog).

HTC Radar and Nokia Lumia 710 consistently among T-Mobile’s top three before slipping in March

Following up earlier numbers that pegged Windows Phone’s marketshare at 7.1 % for the first quarter, new data from the analysts at Canaccord Genuity (via AllThingsD) shows either the HTC Radar or Nokia Lumia 710 to be the number-three seller at T-Mobile since last December, up until this February. Combined with similar data from November, that makes for four straight months of a Windows Phone among the top three at a major US carrier, albeit the smallest of the Big Four.

With the introduction of yet another Galaxy S variant, though, the number-three spot was lost to an Android handset in March. Hopefully the impending Nokia Lumia 900 launch at AT&T, which is already going to be big and “a notch above anything we’ve ever done”, will turn the tides around once again – and more, by giving AT&T a hero device and simultaneously raising awareness for the whole Windows Phone platform.

Microsoft apologizes, hands out laptop and phone to #smokedbywindowsphone winner

After yesterday’s outcry about Microsoft not admitting defeat in a ‘Smoked by Windows Phone’ challenge that Sahas Katta claims to have won, Ben (“The PC Guy”) Rudolp has now taken to Twitter to issue a public apology to the winner, further offering him a free laptop and phone to make up for his original prize.

Unlike some people claimed, Katta, who was able to pull up weather info on his Galaxy Nexus faster than the Microsoft Store employee, did not root his phone or do anything else out of the ordinary, as he clarified in a comment yesterday. Instead, he just disabled the lockscreen, a native feature of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and one he uses regularly when jogging or hiking, thus beating the Windows Phone ever so slightly.

While we commend Ben and the team at Microsoft for the quick and fair solution, it’s pretty clear by now that the whole PR backlash and negative reactions from the press have cost their Windows Phone efforts slightly more than the original $1,000 over which all this fuss was made.

Source: Ben Rudolp (Twitter)