Category Archives: Updates

Take a Sneak Peek at the Notification and Action Center in Windows Phone 8.1

The Windows Phone 8.1 announcement has become official but there’s still some time before the update rolls onto our devices. If you are keen to learn more about one of the update’s powerful features – the notification and action center and watch it in action read on.

The Notification Center in Windows Phone 8.1 is the hotspot where you’ll find text messages, email messages, social media updates and others congregating. The Live tiles are great, but they don’t list out all the latest updates in a convenient one-glance-to-know-it-all fashion. The Notification Center, which you can access by a simple swipe down action, does exactly that.

Notification and Action Center (2)

Apart from the live updates, you can access the common settings on your Windows Phone such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Internet sharing using the four action center buttons located in the Notification center. Again, everything is placed in such a handy spot, you’ll only have to ask yourself why this wasn’t available sooner.

Here’s a cool video that the team at WPCentral put out that shows off the Notification and Action Center in action.

Microsoft Unveils Cortana, Your Personal Digital Assistant for Windows Phone 8.1


Microsoft’s BUILD 2014 developer conference in San Francisco was the place to be Wednesday, as the company unveiled a slew of great features for Windows devices. The Windows 8.1 rollout was the center piece of the show, but all eyes were on the personal digital assistant for Windows Phone 8.1, Cortana.

If Apple has its Siri, and Android its Google Now, Windows is getting its very own sexy assistant, Cortana, who gets her name from the AI character in the Halo video game series. Jen Taylor the voice actress in Halo will be lending her talents to this digital assistant as well.

Spend a little time telling Cortana about your interests and she will soon be assisting you with a horde of information on the weather, the sports scores, the traffic situation, things that you need to discuss with your clients, stuff that you need to be reminded of and more. Cortana will observe your browsing patterns, your general phone usage and together with your personal input arrive at smart sensible suggestions that will be stored in a cloud based “notebook” that will be totally under your control.

Cortana is said to be inspired by real personal assistants, so she should work like one. For instance, silencing your calls and notifications when you are in a meeting, advising when to depart for a flight based on the traffic conditions, reminding you to wish or congratulate someone on a special occasion when you are talking to them, and even planning your day for you from start to finish is just some of the things she can assist you with.

Cortana is designed to speak to you as you would when you’re having a normal conversation. She is ever ready to chat to you about herself, her likes and dislikes, her life, what she does in her time off; you could even ask her a few good Halo 4 wining tips if you like. But she is also just as happy to stay quiet when you prefer to let your fingers do the talking.

Cortana will be powered by Bing and will be integrated into Skype and other Microsoft apps, but third party developers will also be able to integrate Cortana into their services.

The service will be rolling out with the Windows 8.1 update, which should happen sometime this summer (May or June) in the U.S. U.K and China should see the update happening in the second half of this year while the rest of the world is likely to say hello to Cortana only in 2015. If you are picking up a new Windows device, Cortana and Windows 8.1 will come pre-installed on them.

Are you looking forward to interacting with Cortana? And do you believe she will be the true personal assistant you’ve been searching for all your life?

What to expect in Windows Phone 8.1 update

On February 10th, Microsoft sent out invites to select Windows developers regarding the Beta release of their Windows Phone 8.1 software development kit (SDK), which is the tool used to make apps. This was promptly leaked out, which pointed to a handful of features that can be expected when the update happens. Let’s go ahead and take a look at some of the prominent features that emerged from the leak. Just remember though that this is just a beta build and there are no guarantees that this will pan out exactly in the final version.

Action Center

We will start off with the much needed Action Center, which should provide a solid management system when it comes to notifications, alerts, history of missed alerts and notifications as well as access to prominent features such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Airplane mode and so on.

Volume Settings

Windows Phone 8.1 is also expected to offer support for different volume settings such as for music, for notifications and so on.

Google Calendar

The update is expected to include multiple calendar support for Google Calendars. Users should also be able view weather info and also see the weekly view now.

Podcast App

A fully featured podcast app powered by Bing, is also likely to make an entry with the new update.

Enterprise Support

Windows business users can expect greater enterprise features with built-in VPN support, password protected Office document support, encrypted S/MIME e-mail, EAP-TLS Wi-Fi authentication, certificate management, enhanced MDM policies, access to corporate resources behind the firewall, rebranding of SkyDrive to OneDrive, password changing and remote lock capabilities, support for scanning and OCRing documents with the camera.

Internet Explorer 11

Internet Explorer should move to version 11 and offer WebGL and YouTube HTML5 support. IE 11 should be able to offer file uploads as well as the ability to save and remember your website passwords. Tabs are also expected to display individually in the multi-task window.


There is likely to be an app that monitors and identifies which apps draw more power with the battery saver offering an app exclusion list. Operators should be able control Data Sense limits remotely while Wi-Fi users should be able to share secured WI-Fi with contacts, auto re-enable WI-FI after a set time, and also use Wi-Fi Direct.


System support is likely for Bluetooth 4.0 LE, Stereoscopic 3D, Mouse and keyboard (HID), Virtual SmartCard, Geofence monitoring, and a trusted app list for NFC. The device will have to update to the latest version if you want to restore it to factory settings and Windows 8.1 apps will not run on devices running Windows 8. There is also likely to be a chkdsk for SD cards to ensure the health of the card. Miracast and PlayTo will beam via wireless display or USB-out. Wallet is also expected to support tickets and membership cards.


The camera is expected to get a new layout and a burst feature mode with options to auto delete it if necessary.


Xbox Music and Xbox Video should become standalone apps allowing for more updates to be pushed through. Media editing features should be available for both audio and video along with new audio and video effects and slow-mo videos.

Windows Store

Apps and games data can be stored on SD cards but apps on SD cards will be allowed only from one phone, so if it is stored on another phone, you may have to delete it there before installing on this one. Users will also be able to back up the data to OneDrive if it a feature of the app itself. Users will also have options to update apps automatically, update only if on Wi-Fi, or do manual update checks.

App suggestions based on location should become available along with options to filter installed apps based on usage or installation date. Facebook app should be available along with the OS and update independently. Finally, users should see a single sign on for apps using a Microsoft account.


Users should have the ability to change the default SMS app and also choose which app can show notifications. There are also options to mute threads and notifications and Live Tile updates.


Email is likely to get a few new features such as syncing based on usage, options to download email with pictures, and encrypted and signed email support.


Some keyboard enhancements are likely such as emoji displays when typing and swipe keyboard options.


Voice commands, contact sorting, call details menu, creation of an inner circle of contacts and installation of certain apps by operators (based on SIM detection) are some of the enhancements likely in the phone contacts section.

Other Changes

Users can also expect changes in the start screen backgrounds, live tiles ( 3 column support and marking as red), nav bar display, Kids corner bug fixes, double tap functionality to include unlocking the phone and powering off, favoriting photos, file picker, Back button functionality to suspend rather than close apps, quite hours, new screenshot shortcut with power and volume button, Search button to open Cortana, option to set a default voice nav app, voice narrator for accessibility, and swiping down to close apps in the multitask view.

It does appear that the latest update will not completely unify the Windows ecosystem, but at least its getting a lot closer.

New screenshot of Windows 8.1 shows separate volume controls

If you don’t know there is a no build of Windows, Windows 8.1, that is coming out in April and as the date approaches more and more details and leaks are getting released to the public. Today’s “leak” is a basic screenshot but one that is shaking things up.

This screenshot shows that there are now separate volume controls. Basically there are now two volume sliders. One that controls the ringer volume and another that controls media sound. There is also a silent mode toggle button and a cog button that goes directly to settings. This sounds extremely simple and it is, but Windows Phone has not had this yet and any step is a good step. Note that not all changes in Windows 8.1 are going to be this small as there are some big changes coming. Again, Windows 8.1 is set to be released in April and hardware utilizing it coming out in June.



Three Popular Apps Get Bug Fixing Updates

If you have downloaded the empire building game from Disney Mobile, Star Wars: Tiny Death Star, you can now rejoice the fact that the problem of the stores not producing coins when the game is minimized or closed has been addressed. The game’s latest update takes it to version


The next big update comes for the popular messenger app WhatsApp. The 2.11.356 version update to the app fixes issues related to the reception of broadcast messages.

Finally, we come to the Nokia Camera app which has been updated to version The update is adding support for DNG (Digital Negative Format) on the Lumia 1520 and Lumia 1020 running the Lumia Black software update.

If you have installed any of these apps on your Windows Phone, be sure to be updated. Links are provided below.

Windows 9 or threshold will be coming in April 2015

The Windows operating system has seen many iterations since its first launch. Its latest version, Windows 8.1 however has been performing less successfully than some of its previous counterparts and from what we can see from the statistics we can only say that they are so bad that we are already ready to talk about the next version, Windows 9.

Sources at Paul Thurrott’s WinSuperSite suggest that Microsoft is likely to discuss its future vision for the OS in the BUILD developer conference in April 2014 where it is expected to announce its upcoming version, Threshold or Windows 9.

Microsoft may be keen to get rid of the negative publicity that Windows 8 has registered and will be coining up a new name for the next version. Threshold is expected to meet the needs of billions of traditional PC users who should want to adopt it on other modern mobile computing devices they use as well. Paul expects Microsoft to address the Metro design language in Windows 9, meaning there will be a windowed version of Metro working on top of the desktop.

We will get a much clearer picture of the future of Windows in the April BUILD, and until then, we can only hope that Microsoft gets its act together, this time around.

Beats Music set to launch in the U.S on January 21; Promises to change the way you listen to music

Spotify, Rhapsody and Google Play Music have done it before. Now it’s the turn of Dr. Dre’s headphone brand Beats to fix us up with a new style of personalized music subscription service. Called Beats Music, this new platform is expected to shake up the existing marketplace with its unique delivery of music to customers.

Beats has long been associated in the music business and it appears to be pulling all the best talents in the industry to make Beats Music a reality. Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor (chief creative officer), digital music industry veteran Ian Rogers (chief executive) and veteran radio programmer Julie Pilat ( Global Head of Programming) are just some of the names that are working together on this project.

Beats Music will initially only launch in the U.S and the company’s special tie up with AT&T means that anyone with a AT&T Family Plan will be eligible for a special offer of a $50 account for $14.99. This will be applicable for up to 5 people and 10 devices. There will also be an extended 90-day free trial on offer.

Just like any other subscription service, Beats Music will offer on-demand subscription with options for uninterrupted streaming and download of songs from its database. But it will not just offer a computer generated song recommendation. Instead, its team of editorial staff will offer their “human” curation of music playlists as recommendations. The company is also partnering with music giants like Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, DJ Mag and Country Weekly to offer their own selection of music.

Beats Music will also deliver music tailored to your requirements. If you input your location, what you want to do, who you are with or what sort of music you want to hear, you will receive a special music playlist recommendation based on your mood and preferences.

Beats Music will be available to try for free, but it will cost you $9.99/month for unlimited streaming and downloading. If you’re ready to tune into a new kind of music experience, be sure to grab the service on your Windows Phone, Jan 21st.

Source: Beats Music

Windows Phone 8’s Weave now syncs with Windows 8 and more

If you don’t know Weave it is one of the best news reading apps available for Windows Phones. A beta for Weave has been out for two months but now the full version is out available for the public and has a lot of new features to talk about. The biggest is that now Weave can be enjoyed on Windows 8 which allows for syncing across platforms using Weave Cloud Services.


This new Weave Cloud API is a big change and is now powered by Windows Azure which is similar to Google Reader and Feedly. All your feeds and news are saved in the cloud and can be accessed through your Windows 8 phone or just on Windows 8. You can now login through Google, Twitter, Facebook or your Microsoft accounts. Everything is synced with all your devices, so if you star something on one device it will be starred on another.

In addition to the cloud changes there has been a whole host of visual changes and bug fixes. There is now a new streamlined Panoramic home screen layout. There is also a new news layout look, however all the old ones are still available. Bug fix wise they have fixed the speech function and some mobile issues.

All of this is good and well and great for Windows 8 users but there is some things you should know. The biggest is that with this update Weave does not work with Windows 7.X phones. There is also two versions of Weave; a free one and a paid one for $9.99. If you’re ready to get your Weave on download it now on the Windows Phone Store.

Windows Phone Marketplace reached 70,000 apps!

Windows Phone has been picking up steam lately,launching the platform in China just yesterday and making headway as one of Nokia’s primary partners.

But when it comes to buying Windows Phone, the big hesitation for just about everyone is apps. Both the Android Market and the App Store have surpassed half a million apps each, but today Microsoft has an exciting (albeit smaller) bit of good news to share.

The Windows Phone Marketplace has topped 70,000 apps. That’s up from 50,000 in December and 60,000 in January.

Microsoft knows that variety and quality of apps will be a huge competition point for the platform, and has acted accordingly. The company’s BizSpark program courts developers from all over the world, and the Mobile Acceleration Week specifically ensures that quality apps being built for Windows Phone 7 get as much publicity and attention as they should.

It also doesn’t hurt that Windows Phone is generally being seen as a more legitimate platform as great device makers like Nokia and HTC put their efforts behind it. Plus, Microsoft has said before that the company is more focused on quality than quantity when it comes to apps.

*story by Jordan Crook at Techcrunch

Metro style – New philosophy or just a design?

Long-time Microsoft watchers like me are marveling at the company’s transformation. Slowly but surely, the siloed behemoth that once couldn’t get its desktop and mobile operating system teams to talk to each other is now starting to glide forward as one vast entity. The most visible refection of this sea change: design.

It’s no secret that, across Microsoft’s products, especially in software, there is now a single design language defined by reductionism, typography and unadorned shapes and colors. The look is called Metro, but if you think it only explains the look and feel of Windows 8, Windows Phone, Zune Marketplace and Xbox Live, you’d be wrong. As Microsoft designers explained during a recent and rather intimate panel discussion in Soho, Metro is a design philosophy with five core tenants that they say help drive product design and delivery throughout the Redmond, Washington company.

This is not the Microsoft I know and I asked the group to explain the moment when Microsoft woke up and realized it was heading down the wrong path. Naturally, they all said there was no moment. Panelists variously described the changes as a “grass roots movement” among designers across different divisions and as a gradual realization that they “wanted to be better.”

Little Epiphanies

There were little epiphanies, though, that may have led to the big changes we see at work today in Microsoft. Rochelle Benavides, Sr. Experience Development Lead for Zune and Xbox, for instance, said that in the Zune design they realized “Typography is the new iconography.” The design impulse has now carried through to virtually all of Microsoft’s latest consumer interfaces.

Sam Moreau, Principal Director of User Experience for Windows, also pointed out a couple of key influences, which included subway sign symbols and the Swiss wayfinder symbols.

Stuart Ashmun, General Manager, Interactive Entertainment Business, who joined Microsoft back in 1984 as an industrial designer, told us that changes within Microsoft are a reflection of changes in the way consumers interact with technology. “We’re moving away from the need for us to learn a device and to the device needing to learn us.”

Microsoft’s Metro design philosophy is, the designers said, in evidence in hardware like the new Windows Phone. It reflects what Moreau called “affordance,” which is design speak for the innate qualities of an object allowing you to perform the implied action. You might also describe it as “form follows function.”

Not About Apple

The designers insisted that their big conversion was not influenced by Apple, a company that has had consistent ecosystem design language for more than a decade. On the other hand, they all made a number of veiled, somewhat negative, references to Apple’s design style. Jeff Fong, who has been with Microsoft for 15 years and works on the Windows Phone design team explained one of the Metro design principles: Authentically Digital. It might seem an odd one since everything Microsoft does is more or less digital.

“It’s all about honesty,” Fong told panel moderator and Next at Microsoft editor Steve Clayton. Fong said that with Windows Phone the goal was to get people to tasks quickly and to present content as plainly as possible. So they steered away from what he sees as a growing trend: “Taking your icons and taking things you have on screen and giving them glassy reflections, drop shadows, transparency… I think we can do a better job…in a more direct way.”

That authenticity also means Microsoft won’t use faux material, like wood grain. Microsoft is not about to start building products out of only titanium or gold, though. As Young Kim, Senior User Experience Designer, Microsoft Hardware Group, explained it, good design can come out of any material, “Using plastic and making it the most beautiful plastic possible.”


All of the designers talked about how intense collaboration, not just with other designers, but with engineers and developers, is leading to a new pride in craftsmanship. “What’s different now,” said Benavides, who apparently obsessed over the speed with which the Xbox dashboard moved when you waved your hand at the Kinect interface, is that “these aren’t the details that fall off and reach the customers. We care about it so much.”

While none of the designers could tell me the moment Microsoft changed, they did admit that it was not an entirely bottom-up conversion. Moreau told me they did have buy-in from management.

As for where the original design for Metro on the Windows Phone came from — likely the design that started all this — Fong came closest to taking credit “Yes, I was there to help kind of guide the direction for how the UI was gonna get implemented… but those things that guide and direct came from lots of other people and designers.” The designers all laughed when I insisted that there’s a whiteboard somewhere with the original Metro design.

If you want to know all of Microsoft’s new Metro Design Principals, check out the slideshow and then let us know what you think about Metro design and the philosophy in the comments.


*story by Lance Ulanoff from Mashable

Windows Phone 7.5 Mango update starts

Yesterday morning, at roughly 10 a.m. Pacific time, Microsoft began rolling out the Mango update to phones around the world. This news makes Windows Phone users pretty excited. Windows Phone 7.5 (aka Mango) is the largest and most feature-packed software refresh to date.

Also have in mind that that today is just the start. Their plan is to ramp up delivery gradually—but make the update available to most existing customers within 4 weeks.

Here’s their plan on the update process.

Who’s first?

Today Windows Phone 7.5 is starting to roll out to more than 98 percent of existing Windows Phone customers. This is a simultaneous, coordinated, global update that cuts across carriers, phone models, and countries. This time, almost everybody is going first.

Check Where’s My Phone Update? for the latest global status info.

When will I get it?

While today’s rollout includes most of our carriers and handsets, Microsoft is not making Mango available to everyone at once. So it could be a few weeks before an update message for Windows Phone 7.5 appears on your phone.

Why don’t they just blast it out?

It’s a fair question. Delivering Windows Phone 7.5 simultaneously to so many phone models and carriers requires the right engineering balance. Speed is a priority—but so is quality. Microsoft say that they’re not just delivering new operating system but also new software supplied by individual handset makers. This “firmware” is necessary so your phone—and apps—work with all the features of Windows Phone 7.5. But it essentially means that they’re supplying not just one update, but many different ones, given the variety of Windows Phones and carriers out there to choose from.

If a problem comes to light, it’s critical that Microsoft can isolate and fix it quickly. So we’re deliberately starting out slow. This week, they’ll be making the update available to 10 percent of customers. If everything looks good, they’ll open up the spigot a bit more—to around 25 percent. Microsoft will hold there for one or two weeks, then quickly ramp up to 100 percent—monitoring quality the entire way. That’s how they ensure Mango arrives both quickly and in tip-top shape.

If they Microsoft unexpected snags, they might have to temporarily slow or halt the update rollout.

How do I install it?

One day a message pops up on your phone saying an update is available. Great! But now what?

Depending on what kind of computer you have, you’ll need to install either the latest version of the Zune Software for PC or Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac. Then visit Update Central, our one-stop how-to resource for Windows Phone updates.

Once you’re done, you might want to poke around the Windows Phone website, which was refreshed today with new how-to articlesvideos, and tips for getting the most from Windows Phone 7.5 (including a big list of new feature highlights). Finally, don’t forget to check out new online Marketplace for apps and games!



WP7 Marketplace hits 5,000 while Android passes 200,000

Apps, apps, apps! Everywhere you look, more apps. Both Android and Windows Phone 7 have reportedly crossed a couple of round number milestones recently, giving us a decent idea of the maturity gap between the two. Microsoft’s brand new OS with an old OS’ name has rounded the 5,000 available apps corner — that’s according to two sources keeping track of what’s on offer in the Marketplace — while AndroLib’s latest data indicates Android’s crossed the 200,000 threshold when it comes to apps and games taken together. We’re cautious on taking either of these numbers as hard truth, particularly since AndroLib was reporting 100,000 Android apps when there were only 70,000 — but they do provide rough estimates as to where each platform is in terms of quantity, if not quality. Now, where do you think each will be this time in 2011?