Windows Phone’s market share is admittedly small, but the OS is beginning to pick up momentum. Microsoft elected to pull out of the International CES this year, but that didn’t stop CEO Steve Ballmer from rushing out onto the stage during the Qualcomm keynote to talk about the two companies’ partnership, particularly when it comes to Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.
According to Ballmer, Windows Phone sales quintupled during the last few weeks of 2012.
“In November we reported that sales of Windows Phones were four times greater than during the same time last year. And during the week of Christmas, we were running at five times the number of phones from the Christmas week last year.”
This is huge, despite the fact that the OS is coming from a relatively small starting point. A 500% increase in sales is fantastic. If Microsoft can keep up this pace, we should start to see Windows Phone’s market share grow at a much more rapid pace.
Microsoft has released a new preview of its Skype app for Windows Phone 8, bringing with it a number of performance enhancements and bug fixes. The biggest change, however, is the temporary removal of one of the app’s most exciting – if buggy – features: People Hub integration.
The app’s integration with the People Hub and its ability to run in the background and surface incoming chats and calls as if they were part of the OS are both cool and useful, making them banner features for Skype. Unfortunately, the former was known to cause stability issues with the People Hub, resulting in crashes and many other frustrating things. As a result, the feature has been temporarily disabled in Skype for Windows Phone 8 Preview 2.1. Hopefully, the Windows Phone and Skype teams will be able to quickly resolve the issue.
Thankfully, incoming chat and call notifications are now much more reliable and messages are also guaranteed to be displayed in the correct order. Other improvements include an updated keyboard with autocorrect, a new option to toggle toast notifications for Windows Live Messenger contacts (this is very helpful if you don’t want to have duplicate notifications from Skype and the Messaging Hub), and labels for friends who are on Windows Live Messenger rather than Skype.
According to a report in a Japanese newspaper, Samsung plans to release the first smartphone running the new Tizen operating system on Japan’s DoCoMo network in 2013.
Backed by the Linux Foundation, Samsung, DoCoMo, Vodafone, and a few other companies, Tizen is a HTML-based operating system designed to operate on smartphones, tablets, and many other types of devices. Its biggest selling point is the fact that it is more open than Android, which is based on Linux and partially controlled by Google. The project’s backers had originally hoped to release the OS in mid-2012, but Samsung had to temporarily put things on hold earlier this year.
The big question is whether the market can support yet another smartphone OS. Android and iOS seem to have cornered most of the market. Windows Phone is a great platform, but it has struggled to gain market share. And BlackBerry continues to spiral downward, despite RIM’s best attempts to get the latest version of the OS out the door. It’ll be interesting to see if the Tizen “experiment” works, be it worldwide or just in Japan.
Over the weekend, some Nokia Lumia 800 owners started noticing notifications for a new OS update. Specifically, the long-awaited Windows Phone 7.8 update, which brings the new Windows Phone 8 Start screen to older devices. Unfortunately, it’s not quite ready for everyone. While the update is nearly done, a Nokia representative has stated that the update is first rolling out to pre-production devices to ensure that the update process proceeds smoothly. Everyone else will have to wait until the first part of next year. Of course, with the update seemingly ready to go, we probably won’t have to wait too long into the new year.
In other Windows Phone update news, T-Mobile has announced that the first Windows Phone 8 update, codenamed “Portico,” will be delivered to the Windows Phone 8X by HTC on its network tomorrow. According to T-Mobile’s forums, the update will ”help address a few bugs, including issues with Bluetooth, devices rebooting, and being incorrectly routed to tethering upsell pages when browsing.” But while they aren’t specifically listed, we know that a few new messaging enhancements are bundled in the update as well. Not to be left out, an update for AT&T’s Nokia Lumia 920 has shown up on Nokia’s servers, meaning that the release of “Portico” on AT&T shouldn’t be too far away either.
Windows Phone users have long been able to download apps directly from the phone or queue them up for download from the Windows Phone website, but Microsoft has added yet another way to install apps. Believe it or not, it is now possible to manually download the .xap files from the Windows Phone Store on your PC and install the apps via a microSD card on Windows Phone 8 devices.
The process is just as simple as it sounds. All apps on the Windows Phone Store now have a “Download and install manually” link in the details column. From there, simply copy the .xap file to a microSD card and insert it into any microSD-equipped Windows Phone 8 device. While the Nokia Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8X by HTC do not have microSD card slots, most other new devices do. To finish installing the apps, open up the Windows Phone Store on your device, tap SD card, and then hit Install. It’s that easy. The full details on the process can be found here.
Frankly, it’s surprising that Microsoft is allowing people to install apps manually, as some people might be worried about increased piracy. But it sounds like the Redmond-based company is getting around this issue by having the phone authenticate the app and ensure that it is the latest version before the installation process can be completed. Apps this fail this test will be listed under “Incompatible apps.”
While I can’t see myself using this feature a lot, it’ll probably be useful for many people.
Todd Brix, Microsoft’s Senior Director of the Windows Phone Apps Team, has announced that Windows Phone has seen more than a 100% increase in “developer revenue and app downloads since Windows Phone 8 launched in November.” This is exciting, and it appears to signify a marked increase in the amount of Windows Phone devices being sold. Of course, Brix made sure to clarify that this statistic is not an announcement of actual hardware sales. Rather, it is a “nice trend.”
Regardless of the actual hardware sales figures – which, by all accounts, appear to be quite good, based on the Lumia 920′s extremely limited availability – an increase in app downloads and revenue is a big deal for developers, especially if it’s twice what it was before. The Windows Phone Store currently has more than 120,000 apps, but by attracting even more developers, Microsoft will be able to increase this figure exponentially and hopefully close the gap between Windows Phone and 600,000-700,000 apps found on Android and iOS.
Over the last four months, Outlook.com has increased in popularity and risen to more than 25 million active users. The eventual replacement for Hotmail, Outlook.com is clean, fast, and easy to use. Now, it’s available on Android too.
Developed by SEVEN, a Microsoft development partner, the Outlook.com app on Android allows everyone to take advantage of Exchange ActiveSync, regardless of whether their Android device actually supports the feature. The app is nearly identical to the one released for Hotmail, supporting push notifications, calendar and contact sync and device integration, multiple account support, and more. Unfortunately, the app is not nearly as clean and simple as the website. Hopefully, Microsoft’s team of engineers will develop a more Outlook.com-inspired version of the app in the near future.
In the meantime, you can download the Outlook.com app for free from Google Play, provided your device is running Android 2.1 or above.
Microsoft has discounted six hot Windows Phone games for Black Friday, and most of them are must-haves. All six of the titles have been dropped to $1.99 for the next week, which has resulted in savings of between 33% and 60%.
Personally, I’d highly recommend Mush, and Carcassonne is a very addicting board game which has since been turned into a video game. Carcassonne is particularly notable because it was released just a few short weeks ago, right before the launch of Windows Phone 8. The rest of the games on sale are just as great.
While the sale pricing doesn’t appear to be live just yet in the United States, you shouldn’t have to wait too long. The Black Friday sale is expected to run up through November 26.
With Windows Phone 8 devices now available in stores, Microsoft’s Ben Rudolph has once again taken to the streets to challenge people and their smartphones. This new campaign, dubbed “Meet Your Match,” takes the hugely popular “Smoked by Windows Phone” challenge to a more personal level, rather than one based purely on speed.
“The soul of Smoked – a side-by-side comparison of us vs. the other guys – hasn’t changed,” Rudolph wrote in a post on the Windows Phone Blog, ”but now it’s about why our phones and features are a better match for you, no matter who you are or what you’re into.” This, of course, is the main focus of Windows Phone 8, which Microsoft claims is the “most personal smartphone around.”
As with “Smoked by Windows Phone” before it, you’ll be able to ”Meet your Match” at Microsoft Stores around the US, as well as in the UK, France, and Germany. Anyone who participates in the challenge at a Microsoft Store will also receive $25 toward any order of $75 or more.
I really like the direction that Microsoft is taking with “Meet your Match.” And, since the results are based on personal preference rather than seconds or milliseconds, it’ll be less likely to generate the type of controversy that Smoked experienced at one point.
If I had to create a list of apps that I couldn’t live without, Nokia Drive would be pretty close to the top. It is the killer app for Nokia. So much so, in fact, that it makes it difficult to use a Windows Phone from any other manufacturer like HTC or Samsung. Earlier this year, Microsoft revealed that Nokia’s mapping technology would be built into Windows Phone 8. And while that is certainly the case, the actual mapping experience isn’t all that different at this point.
Thankfully, while Nokia’s voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, speed limit alerts, and other great Nokia Drive features aren’t built into the core Windows Phone 8 OS at this point, Nokia has provided the app to the rest of Microsoft’s hardware manufacturing partners. This means that – believe it or not – Nokia Drive will be available on other devices, should the manufacturers choose to release it. Personally, I can’t wait. Although I do wonder if, by giving this killer app to its competitors, Nokia is almost shooting itself in the foot.
The beautiful Nokia Lumia 900 is manufactured from a single-piece injection-molded polycarbonate shell and features a 4.3-inch AMOLED ClearBlack Display (CBD), 1.4GHz processor, 16GB of internal memory, 512MB of RAM, and a 1830mAh battery. Performance-wise, it can best nearly every device on the market. The 8MP Carl Zeiss camera takes fantastic photos, and the quality of the 1MP front-facing camera is astounding. The intuitive Windows Phone OS, support for AT&T’s 4G LTE network, and $99 price tag are just icing on the cake.
Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX
The Motorola DROID RAZR was easily one of the best Android phones of 2011. It was one of the first seriously thin phones and it had the best specifications, durability, and styling to come out of Motorola in a long time. Now, with the introduction of the MAXX variant, it's almost irresistible, even to those currently locked into a contract. With Verizon’s 4G LTE, a 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, and a 3300mAh battery pumping out over 21 hours of talk time, the Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX is ecstasy wrapped in Kevlar.