Windows Phone 8.1 to introduce Cortana digital assistant

Microsoft's next version of it’s Windows Phone Operating system (Windows Phone 8.1) will come with an assistant much like what has been available on iPhone in the form of Siri or on Google Android handsets as Google Now. Microsoft have been working on Cortana the name for the new digital assistant for over a year now and are planning to reveal the feature at the company's upcoming ‘Build’ conference along with a developer preview of Windows 8.1.

Cortana will replace the current built-in Bing search functionality currently found on Windows Phone Operating systems. Whilst the name Cortana comes from a female fictional artificial intelligence character from Halo, it is thought that Cortana will be represented by a circle rather than adopting a female like appearance. Upon interacting with Cortana the circle icon will animate based on whether it’s thinking or speaking.

Although Microsoft have been using the name Cortana internally during the development it is unclear whether it plans to keep the name Cortana or use some other moniker upon launch. Much in the same way that Siri allows you to customize how you want to be addressed you will be able to set how you wish to be addressed by Cortana, and whether by name or a nickname. Cortana will use a notebook feature that allows it to save and store data and access such things as location, personal information, reminders and much more. It has also been announced that Cortana will have some Google Now like features including the ability to track flights.

The Cortana service will be backed by services such as Bing and Foursquare which will enable it to have some of the contextual power similar to that found in Google Now. How it performs in relation to Siri and Google Now remains to be seen but it’s definitely a step in the right direction for the struggling Windows Phone OS.

Tumblr for Windows Phone Now Available

Tumblr released an official Windows Phone application on Tuesday, which is great news for those of us who have been trying to find a decent alternative. The application allows you to “post anything from anywhere,” including quotes, links, photos, text, chats and videos. You can also use the app to browse other Tumblr sites that you follow.

The company said that you’ll be able to find new content, share your own, switch between dashboard mode and Explore mode with a swipe across the screen, view GIFs right in your news feed and more. New images from your dashboard will show up on a live tile and can be set to appear on your lockscreen as well.

Tumblr for Windows Phone is free and is available now.

[Source: TechnoBuffalo]

Windows Phone handsets outselling iPhone in 7 countries

Windows Phone may not be challenging the likes of Android or iOS in most places, but devices running Microsoft's mobile OS are actually outselling the iPhone in some countries.

That's according to IDC, a market research company. Frank Shaw, corporate vice president of corporate communications at Microsoft, quoted the research in a blog post, and now the New York Times has followed it up and found exactly which seven countries they are.

More Windows Phone handsets were shipped than iPhones in Argentina, India, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine, and a seventh area that's actually a group of smaller countries that the IDC lumps together. The numbers count handset shipments in the last quarter of 2012. 

But that's not to say Windows Phone is racking up huge sales. Three of the countries where it's outshining Apple are so small that fewer than 100,000 Windows Phone handsets sold in the quarter. Not that the numbers reflect sales -- they only show how many smart phones were imported into the countries too. IDC analyst Kevin Restivo notes that some countries have a huge grey market for smart phones, due to high government taxes, so it's tricky to pin down exact sales figures.

Windows Phone 8 is on the rise on these shores as well. According to analytics firm Kantar, WP8 grew from 6.2 per cent to 6.7 per cent market share in the UK in a month, eating into BlackBerry and Symbian.

The countries where WP8 does best tend to be strongholds for Nokia, due to the iPhone being too expensive, and the networks not offering much in the way of deals. The Lumia 620 is one of the best budget smart phones we've ever had our hands on, so it deserves to be a success. It's just a shame Windows Phone 8 is struggling against the might of Android and iOS in bigger markets.

[Source: CNET]

Temple Run Finally Available On Windows Phone

Temple Run, one of the most popular endless runners around, is finally arriving for Windows Phone—months after Microsoft promised the game would launch. Better late than never, even though Temple Run 2 is already available for iOS and Android.

It may not seem like a huge deal, but getting a big title like this will do well to push theWindows Phone platform forward. However, it certainly doesn’t do fans of devices running WP8 any favors when big name titles—Temple Run 2, for instance—don’t launch simultaneously, or shortly after, for Microsoft’s mobile OS. Temple Run will have to tide WP owners over for now.

Windows Phone is getting a handful of other titles as well, including Gravity Guy 2Chaos Rings6th PlanetPropel ManOrcs Must SurviveRuzzleFling Theory and Drift Mania Championship 2. Microsoft said the games will roll out during the week, so if any of them tickle your fancy, keep checking the marketplace to see if they’re live.

[Source: TechnoBuffalo]

BBC iPlayer comes to Windows Phone, not quite an app

Do you want the short version or the long version? Short version: iPlayer is coming to Windows Phone.

Still here? Then here's the long version. The BBC today announced that Windows Phone would join iOS, Android and BlackBerry as the latest mobile operating system to support iPlayer, via a dedicated live tile.

That means you'll soon be able to watch catch-up and on-demand TV shows and films from Auntie Beeb on your Windows Phone phone, whether it's running Windows Phone 7.5 software -- like the Nokia Lumia 800 -- or Windows Phone 8 -- like the Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC 8S.

It's not technically an app, but a shortcut that gets its own coloured square, or live tile, leading directly to the iPlayer online player. The launch date is yet to be confirmed. 

iPlayer is already available on iOS, Android and even Blackberry, but they've historically given Windows Phone the cold shoulder, with the Beeb repeatedly denying Microsoft's OS the privilege.  

It seems that the BBC has had a change of heart however, with iPlayer joining big names like Spotify, Twitter and WhatsApp in entering the Windows Phone world. Windows is still lagging a long way behind established app stores like Android's Google Play and Apple's App Store though.

Meanwhile Auntie's online player goes from strength to strength as it continues to expand to new platforms. Last year more than 2.5 million people per month watched or listened online by one device or another.

[Source: CNET]

Next version of Windows Phone on course for Christmas 2013

While Microsoft isn't ditching its users all over again -- like the Windows Phone 7 fiasco -- it is busy preparing the next major version of the Windows Phone operating system, with a new job posting confirming that it will be launching in time for Christmas.

"This is a great time to join, as we're completing our current release [and] are getting ready for our next release targeting the holiday of this year," the ad says. 

Other recent job postings have confirmed that Microsoft is working on the Windows Blue strategy for both the desktop and Windows Phone operating systems. If the next major release of Windows Phone is due to be released towards the end of the year, that could mean the phone version is on a different schedule to the desktop version, which has a mid-2013 rumoured release date.

Windows Phone 8 has already seen one update, dubbed 'Portico' -- known internally as General Distribution Release 1 (GDR1). Portico brought minor features such as always-on Wi-Fi and ability to reject calls with an SMS, but there are more of these sort of updates on the way before the next major version of the OS.

Mary Jo Foley, of our sister site ZDNet, reported last week that the rumoured HTC 'Tiara' Windows Phone was running on a later version of the Windows Phone OS, known as 'GDR2'. This is again only meant to be a minor improvement to Windows Phone 8, and will be delivered before Windows Phone Blue. Her sources have confirmed that there is also a GDR3 on the roadmap, which is due to arrive before the next major update.

Windows Phone 7.8 is also rumoured to be getting an update -- although much of this is not known, except from an alleged roadmap from Nokia.

The guy in charge of Windows Phone's development, Joe Belfiore, has said the team hasidentified a bug which was causing the live tiles to stop updating, which is presumably going to be fixed in an upcoming update -- because what's a Windows Phone without its live tiles?

Microsoft did not have a press conference at Mobile World Congress last week, unlike last year when it revealed more information about Windows 8. The company has also recently been very quiet on the future of any of its products -- with only the Surface Pro's availability announced by the firm in recent months.

Greg Sullivan, a senior marketing manager at Microsoft, explained to Pocket-Lint the reasoning behind the company's recent quietness about the future of the Windows Phone platform. "We are taking a different approach on announcements this year," he said.

Microsoft has learnt from its previous mistakes of announcing a product and then waiting six months to detail it more, before waiting a further five months to release the devices to consumers, Sullivan said.

It's understandable that Microsoft wants to keep the momentum going with Windows Phone, especially now given it is starting to gain some traction. At Mobile World Congress Nokia also announced that the Windows Phone Store had hit 130,000 apps and 1 billion downloads, which isn't too shabby for the underdog OS -- although it did reach those numbers significantly slower than its rivals.

[Source: CNET]

Huawei and O2 bring Windows Phone to the masses as Ascend W1 debuts

Huawei, a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider, is announcing today that its powerful entry-level Windows Phone smartphone, the Ascend W1, will be on sale exclusively with Telefónica O2 UK from March 7.

The Huawei Ascend W1 will be available in store and online for £119.99 on prepay and for free on contracts from £13.50 per month. It will be available in ‘Electric Blue’ from March 7 and in ‘Electric Pink’ also from March 18. The Ascend W1 will be supported by a significant ATL marketing campaign across UK media.

The Ascend W1 is designed for hectic modern lives; for users to make the most of their precious time by giving order and access simultaneously to their social and business worlds. It combines latest smartphone hardware and functionality with the innovative Windows Phone 8 operating system to enable quick and easy access to people, information and entertainment.

The Windows Phone 8 start-screen lets you customise and pin Live Tiles with topics of personal interest, providing real-time updates that are uniquely yours. Additionally, a dynamic lock screen allows you to select the photos or updates most important to you and have them ready at a glance, even when the phone is locked.

The Ascend W1 brings this powerful experience to a broader audience, and underpins it with great hardware. Its bright 4-inch IPS LCD 480 x 800 touchscreen has a low reflective IPS LCD display with full lamination technology, providing brilliant visibility under different lighting conditions. Its 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcommprocessor and Adreno 305 GPU combine as a powerful engine for immersive video streaming and game-play.

In addition, the Ascend W1’s 1950mAh battery provides the longest standby time of smartphones in its class. It also features a 5 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash, and includes 4GB on-board memory, expandable to 32GB with a micro SD card.

The Ascend W1 is a smart and stylish alternative for consumers looking for great technology at the right price.

ZOMG: Windows Phone design lead Joe Belfiore tweets from Android

Hey, I've got absolutely no problem with Joe Belfiore, the man in charge of "definition and design" for Windows Phone, apparently tweeting from an Android device. In fact, I've long raved about how much I like the way Windows Phone 8 looks, even if it lacks the functionality of Android. I've covered enough Windows Phone events to recognize that dude knows his stuff. And I dabble with Windows Phone (and soon, BlackBerry 10) on weekends, to help keep familiar with what else is out there. Using other platforms makes good sense.

But the official Twitter app? C'mon, Joe. You can do better than that. In fact, here's a a quick primer on some much better (and more functional) Android Twitter apps. Give 'em a shot.

[Source: AndroidCentral]

Google 'currently working' on Google Maps redirect fix on Windows Phone, explains former stance

As recently as yesterday, Google was explaining its auto-redirect of Google Maps on Windows Phone devices to as a question of incompatibility rather than one of choice. "The mobile web version of Google Maps is optimized for WebKit browsers such as Chrome and Safari. However, since Internet Explorer is not a WebKit browser, Windows Phone devices are not able to access Google Maps for the mobile web," Google told us yesterday. Case closed, right? Apparently not.

As The Next Web reports, Google's changing its tune today, and is working on a redirect as we speak. "We periodically test Google Maps compatibility with mobile browsers to make sure we deliver the best experience for those users," the statement reads. "In our last test, IE mobile still did not offer a good maps experience with no ability to pan or zoom and perform basic map functionality. As a result, we chose to continue to redirect IE mobile users to where they could at least make local searches. The Firefox mobile browser did offer a somewhat better user experience and that's why there is no redirect for those users," it continues. The kicker? "Recent improvements to IE mobile and Google Maps now deliver a better experience and we are currently working to remove the redirect. We will continue to test Google Maps compatibility with other mobile browsers to ensure the best possible experience for users." So! It looks like Windows Phone users employing Internet Explorer for Google Maps will soon be back in business. As of right now, we're still seeing the redirect in place, but feel free to let us know if you're already seeing the fix enabled!

[Source: Engadget]

Google has no plans to develop Windows 8 or WP apps, cites lack of users

If you're eager to load up a Windows Phone or Windows 8 PC with dedicated Gmail or Google Drive apps, it's time you ease up on the anticipation, as Mountain View isn't bent on bringing apps to the platforms thanks to a lack of interest. "We have no plans to build out Windows apps," Google Apps product management director Clay Bavor told V3. "We are very careful about where we invest and will go where the users are but they are not on Windows Phone or Windows 8." That might sound grim, but Bavor added that a change in user base would warrant applications brewed up by Page and Co. As it stands, however, Google's focused on polishing its iOS and Android efforts, so Redmond devotees should get mighty comfortable with the search giant's web-based offerings.

[Source: Engadget]

Windows Phone now home to 120k apps, downloads and dev revenue rising post-WP8

Windows Phone 8 is a roaring success! That is if you ask the platform's Senior Director, Todd Brix, who tweeted today that developer revenues and downloads have doubled since its launch in November. While this sounds all good, what does it really mean? Back in June, the former Windows Phone Marketplace surpassed 100,000 published apps. To further gauge the platform's progress, Nokia recently announced that the Windows Phone Store now has over 120,000 apps, with 46 of the top 50 iOS and Android applications being available for WP8.

While today's vague declaration of success didn't reveal any specific numbers, a 20 percent software increase in under six months is definitely something to smile about. As much as we'd like to slap Microsoft a high-five, we'll have to save our jubilation until we get a little something more concrete -- hopefully a set of official statistics will Surface sooner than later.

[Source: Engadget]

Nokia leak suggests there's something between Windows Phone 7.8 and 8

Owners of older Windows Phones who expect to run out of railroad after 7.8 could actually have some cause for hope -- meager though it may be. A leaked slide, said to originate from a 25-page Nokia roadmap sent to WParea by an anonymous tipster, points toward at least one more update after Windows Phone 7.8 lands. However, it's clear that whoever drew up the slide isn't fully in the know, since the mystery version is simply described as "7.x.". Meanwhile, the official Russian Windows Phone Twitter account has also kept the wheels rolling by promising 18 months of support for 7.8. We can't exactly vouch for this either, since the tweet appears to have been deleted, but it does suggest that those last-year Lumias will keep chugging on for a good while longer.

[Source: Engadget]