Tag Archives: Microsoft

Microsoft Lumia 550 Review

Now that the excitement over the launch of Microsoft’s flagship devices, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL is over, it’s time to pay attention to the Lumia 550, the first low-end device launched by Microsoft running Windows 10. Microsoft has always delivered compelling budget smartphones at the entry level position and the Lumia 550 is the latest device in the lineup that aims to deliver. Let’s check out what the Lumia 550 has to offer users.

Microsoft Lumia 550 Review

Let’s start with the hardware. Typical to past Lumias, the exterior comes with a polycarbonate case that is simple and sturdy, which looks just about ideal for a device of this class. The trouble with the black matte though is that it is prone to collecting fingerprints and smudges.

The Lumia 550 has a 4.7″ screen with 1280×720p resolution and PPI of 315, making images and text crisp and clear looking. The bright colors and good viewing angles make it a good screen to have on a low end device as this one. It measures 136.1 x 67.8 x 9.9mm and weighs 142g, which is quite heavy for a 4.7 inch device.

Since the screen is small, the on-screen navigation controls may feel a little pesky, but you can swipe away the controls if you plan on playing a game or watching a movie. Plus, it is super easy to use in one hand. Windows 10 Mobile even offers a one-hand mode that you can switch to if you want to bring down content from the top of the screen without having to reach that far.

The right side of the device holds the volume up, volume down, and power buttons. At the top is a 3.5mm audio jack and at the bottom is the standard MicroUSB cable for charging. The back panel is removable and holds the slots for the expandable MicroSD card (up to 128GB) and Nano-SIM. Since the device comes with just 8GB of internal memory, you’ll have to get yourself a MicroSD card to store your photos, movies and music.

Microsoft-Lumia-550-Preview

Microsoft has optimized the Windows 10 Mobile platform very well and that is probably why you find the device working well with a Snapdragon 210 processor with 1GB of RAM. Whether you are browsing or doing light-weight tasks, things run quite smoothly. However, if you attempt to run too many apps you’ll feel the performance taking a hit. Since you won’t be doing heavy duty tasks with the Lumia 550, you can expect the 2100 mAh battery to last a while. If you use the device for normal activities, you can get through the entire day without having to search for your charger and that’s a big plus.

As with all Microsoft devices, the biggest problem that Microsoft is still having is the lack of good quality apps in the App Store. Although Microsoft is pushing hard with its Universal Apps program, top notch apps are only trickling in and that’s a serious problem that Microsoft needs to tackle with greater urgency, especially if it wants consumers around the world to take its smartphones seriously.

As far as the operating system goes, Windows 10 Mobile is great at bridging the gap between devices, but there are many software bugs that Microsoft still needs to iron out. Issues reported include the Start screen disappearing, apps not launching and tiles disappearing as well. The issues appear only temporarily but they do spoil the overall user experience – something no consumer will like to see after having spent their hard earned money on a big brand such as Microsoft.

Microsoft-Lumia-640-Review

Otherwise, you get a great Windows 10 experience, with Live tiles, pinning and resizing options, live tile notifications, the swipe down Action Center, Cortana integration and so on. The Messaging app is integrated with Skype, so you can simply send and receive Skype messages via the Messaging Hub. Call quality is good although the speakers offer only average volume levels. Using the headphones is the best way to get the most out of your music.

Coming to the camera, the Lumia 550 is fitted with a 5-MP autofocus lens with an LED flash at the rear and a 2-MP front-facing camera. The shots from the rear camera are not amazing, but good for day time shots. Don’t expect to be taking professional photographs with this one and forget about taking shots in dark environments. The front facing camera is okay to take selfies and if you want to take videos, the quality is about 720p for the rear camera and 480p for the front camera, both at 30fps.

Unlike the high end models, you don’t get Continuum support with the Lumia 550. Continuum is a new Windows 10 feature that lets you get a Windows PC like user experience by plugging in your phone to some peripherals.

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The Lumia 550 is a great device if you are just starting out on your Windows 10 smartphone journey. Remember that this is a low end device and the features it offers are precisely the kind of features you can expect from a low end device. Despite the fact that it costs about $140, it is a device that looks good, is sturdy, and offers you a good experience for a device of its class. No great feat to be achieved with this one, but it is a perfect choice if you’re starting out or looking for a secondary device to have on you.

Microsoft Lumia 950 Review

Microsoft may be riding a high wave on the strength of its Windows operating system, Office suite, and Xbox gaming consoles, but when it comes to smartphone devices, they are not just lagging behind, but getting an astonishing amount of ridicule for their efforts thus far. Is all that about to change now that Microsoft is directly involved in the production of Windows Phones? The launch of Microsoft’s flagship device, the Lumia 950 could just hold the answer to that question and to the survival of Microsoft phones in the future as well.

Lumia-950-Review

The question is whether Microsoft has just intended the Lumia 950 to be a flagship device that users will upgrade to (since there hasn’t been a Windows Phone launch in quite a long time!) or is this one that will break through the barriers of mediocrity that has plagued the smartphone arm of the company and emerge as the go-to- phone for the future generation? Let’s find out.

We’ll start with the hardware. The first thing you’ll notice about the Lumia 950 is the polycarbonate shell and unimaginative design. The shell is only available in 2 colors, black or white and lacks the premium look that you’d expect in an expensive device such as the 950. On the bright side, you’ll probably end up having fewer scratches in the long run. Another plus is the advantage of having a firm grip on the phone if you’re using it single handed for taking photos in a crowded subway.

Under the shell lies the SIM and expandable storage slot sections and the removable battery. The right edge of the phone is lined up with the standard Volume Up and Down buttons followed by the Power and Camera button while the phone’s USB-C port sits at the bottom.

The Lumia 950 has a 5.2-inch, 2,560 x 1,440 AMOLED display, which sits beneath a sheet of Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The display resolution at 564 pixels per inch (ppi) matches the Galaxy S6 while bettering the iPhone 6. Although not as slim as the iPhone 6S and the Samsung Galaxy S6, the Lumia is still lightweight, measuring about 8.25mm thin and weighing 150g.

Lumia-950-Camera

It has a 20 MP, Zeis Lens, PureView and OIS enabled rear camera that lets you capture great photos, while the 5MP front camera features a wide-angle lens, which is decent enough for taking selfies with your buddies. The camera is also capable of 4k video recordings with the ability to record up to 120 fps slow motion in 720p. Overall, there’s nothing new or groundbreaking about the phone’s camera, but it does a good enough job that an iPhone or Samsung would do.

The Lumia’s spec sheet lists the latest Qualcomm processor, the 64-bit, hexa-core Snapdragon 808; 3GB of RAM, 32GB of onboard storage, which can be expanded to as much as 200GB via a microSD card, and an Iris scanner. Powering this device is a 3000 mAh battery that can last up to 9 hours and 30 minutes if your usage involves web browsing via Wi-Fi, 10 hours of 1080p video playback and 18 hours of talk over 3G. So at least on paper, the phone should take you through the day.

So while the hardware isn’t the most exciting thing about the Lumia 950, the software is what’s worth noting. Microsoft has finally managed to bridge the gap between its smartphones, tablets, and PCs with Windows 10 operating system. That said, if you’re expecting a complete UI overhaul from Windows 8, you won’t see that on the Lumia 950. However, there are plenty of desktop features you’ll enjoy using such as Microsoft’s fun virtual personal assistant Cortana, the new Edge browser, and the mobile versions of the Mail and Calendar desktop apps. These features should definitely appeal to users who want the Windows desktop experience on the phone.

Microsoft-Lumia-950

The new Windows 10 Hello feature is also available on the Lumia 950, making it super easy to log in to the phone by just looking at it; no PIN or password is required. Again, the lack of a fingerprint scanner may be disappointing to some. The most interesting feature of Windows 10 on mobile is Continuum, the feature that turns the tiny phone into a full-fledged PC. You’ll however need to pick up some additional components for this to work such as the $99 Display Dock, a mouse and keyboard and an external display, such as a TV or a monitor. Once you plug the phone to the dock and to the rest of the peripherals, your phone content will get displayed on the big screen, giving you a wholesome Windows 10 user experience. I’m not talking stretched out images to fill up the big space but appropriate resizing of tiles and content that’s on your phone.

Continuum still has some way to go though, because it supports only a handful of apps, most of it being Microsoft’s own contribution. It may not also be convenient or practical for users to carry around the different peripherals to get the Continuum experience on the go. Also, the Microsoft Store still lags behind badly when it comes to Universal apps with even big names like Twitter and Instagram still not being as good as the ones on Android or iOS.

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Overall, the Lumia 950 is a pretty decent phone. It has a nice looking screen, a great camera and feels solid. When it comes to smartphones, Microsoft is still way behind leaders like Apple and Google. What would have made a powerful impact in the space would have been a smartphone that wasn’t just visually appealing, but also highly innovative and app rich. If you expected the Microsoft Lumia 950 to offer you one such experience, you should know by now that it is not the case. If on the other hand, you are a big Windows Phone fan, (and probably hate the iOS and Android ecosystem) you might be eager to upgrade to the newest flagship device. In such a case, the $550 Microsoft Lumia 950 is probably one that might catch your eye.

Microsoft Lumia 640 Review

There’s a great deal of competition as far as high end flagship phones go, but the entry level segments are rather mundane with Android phones dominating the market with their boring black or grey versions carrying outdated software. Microsoft is certainly hoping to draw in consumers who are tired of those jaded models and are looking for a little more variety – with their Lumia 640. In this review, we take a look at how the phone stacks up against the competition.

Microsoft Lumia 640 Review

The Lumia 640 is designed in the tradition of its predecessors, with a colorful plastic body that somehow doesn’t feel cheap. In fact, the design looks very much like the Lumia 635, with the soft rectangular shape, rounded corners and glossy finish making it visually appealing. The back is removable and you can choose from a variety of colors including the glossy cyan and orange if you don’t like the usual white or matte black. Below the back panel lie the microSIM and microSD slots, the microSD slot making up for the lack of basic internal storage 8GB.

The Lumia 640 is quite a big phone, measuring 141mm long, 72mm wide and is 8.8mm thick (5.5x 2.75×0.34 inches). The 3.5mm headphone jack sits at the top, the sides carry the volume and power buttons, and the microUSB port sits at the bottom. There is no dedicated shutter key for the camera, which was a regular Lumia feature in the past. Plus, the absence of the camera hump at the back makes it more convenient to lay it down on the desk.

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As far as the display goes, the Lumia 640 comes with a 5 inch 720 x 1280 ClearBlack IPS-LCD display resulting in a density of 294 pixels per inch. This does not produce the greatest sharpness and detail that you expect from other higher resolution screens, but it’s perfectly acceptable for a device in this price range. It gives the Windows tiles a crisp look and even small text on the browser looks perfectly readable. The colors are vivid and there’s a decent level of contrast that makes for good movie viewing although it wouldn’t fare well in the bright outdoors.

Under the hood is a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM. While this is great for casual browsing, taking it through some intensive 3D gaming is not recommended. Other features of the device include a 2500 mAh battery, GPS with Glonass, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and also NFC. The 2500 mAh battery can last all day long, even with extensive use. One striking feature of the Lumia 640 is that it’s a dual SIM phone that supports 2 LTE SIM cards and that’s not something you see in a phone that’s as affordable as this one.

Lumia devices have always packed great cameras and one of the first things people look for in any smartphone is its camera capabilities. Despite not being a high end product, the 640 is fitted with an 8MP camera with a single LED flash in the rear and a 0.9 MP front camera. The image quality from the rear camera may not be spectacular under low light conditions, but its pretty good. The Lumia Camera 5 app brings the popular Rich Capture feature to make photos look more vibrant and alive.

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While most shots are perfect, at times the white balance does seem off and requires manual adjustments. The front facing camera is nothing great to talk about. It lets you take selfies and do video chats via the pre-installed Skype. If you enjoy taking shots in the landscape mode, you may not find the positioning of the front facing camera (at the far left) convenient. Finally, the video recording capabilities of the Lumia 640 are fairly decent. The rear camera is capable of shooting at 1080p at a continuous 30fps with auto-focus.

Overall, the hardware is predictable, but entirely dependable.

Onto the software section where you’ll find that despite the rollout of Windows 10 Preview for phones, the Lumia 640 comes with Windows 8.1 codenamed Lumia Denim. This means you can expect to see the entire collection of Lumia branded apps including the Lumia Camera 5 app on board. Fans of Cortana can enjoy interacting with the virtual assistant while Office users should know that Microsoft is giving away a years’ worth subscription of Office 365 for free so you can do basic editing and creation of documents and spreadsheets while on the go. The biggest perk with the Lumia software is that it is Windows 10 Ready so you know you’ll be using the latest software as soon as it launches.

Microsoft-Lumia-640-Camera

The Lumia 640 is not the big bang Lumia we expected to come out of the Microsoft Magic hat, heavy on the specs sheet and feature rich. Rather it’s a low cost entry level phone that is a fantastic option for anyone who is jaded by the inept low-end Androids that are hogging the market today. With a vibrant screen, colorful body, good camera and dependable hardware and software, the Lumia 640 is everything you can hope for in a phone of this class. If you are willing to compromise on the app market, don’t want an Android or are just looking for a phone to introduce you into the smartphone world, the Lumia 640 is a pretty good choice to get you started.

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

Microsoft-Unveils-Cortana

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?

Internet Explorer 11 Comes to Windows Phone 8.1 With Some Exciting New Features

Internet Explorer 11

Microsoft unveiled plenty of Windows Phone 8.1 goodness in its BUILD conference in San Francisco yesterday. The company added a bunch of new features such as a customizable Start screen, new themes, Cortana, and others intended to make the Windows phone experience more personal. Apart from that, Windows phone 8.1 will also ship with the latest version of its browser, Internet Explorer 11.

IE 11 comes with some much needed features including InPrivate browsing, password caching and a Reading mode. InPrivate browsing will allow users to browse incognito as browsing data including history, temporary files and cookies will not stored by IE. Other improvements include the ability to view all open tabs you have on all your Windows devices including all your Favorites settings.

Windows 8.1 will start rolling out to existing Windows Phone 8 users by summer (May/June), while it will come pre-installed on new launches such as the Lumia 630 and Lumia 635. What do you think about the new improvements to IE 11? Will you start using the browser now that InPrivate browsing has been included?

Waning iPhone Market Share Could Provide Opportunities for a Windows Phone Surge

When you’re contemplating buying a new smartphone, Windows Phone is not an option that immediately springs to mind. However, going by a statement from Microsoft as early as this Jan, it seems the device has been steadily making its way into more and more hands in as many as 24 different markets worldwide with over 14 markets claiming it to be the #2 smartphone operating system used. With flagship devices like the Nokia Lumia 928, 1020, and 1520, as well as affordable ones such as the Lumia 520, 625, and 1320, the prospects for Windows Phone to provide a stiff challenge to the superior iPhone certainly seems brighter.

A recent report from Statista, The Statistical Portal indicates that nearly 70% of iPhone sales this fiscal are replacement buys. In fact, Apple saw its own market share in smartphones fall 3.5 percent to 15.2 percent. Statistica reports that the newer iPhone models of late only come with incremental feature updates rather than fundamental ones and Apple is struggling to convince iPhone users the need for updating their phones at least once a year.

In its latest forecast, market research firm IDC opines that phones shipped with Microsoft’s software will comprise 7 percent of the total market in 2018, which is 3.3 percent more from last year’s figures. The firm also expects total shipments of Windows Phone devices to increase from 33.4 million in 2013 to 121.1 million in 2018. According to IDC, Windows positive growth has been fueled by two significant factors; leading vendor Nokia’s offering of a diverse portfolio of Windows devices with a focus on the cheaper end of the market and Apple’s insistence on refusing to deliver a truly low-cost device, not to mention the company’s strategy of refreshing the iPhone only once a year.

There are of course plenty of obstacles along the way for the Windows Phone; a not-so-robust app store and Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia are just two reasons that may work against its rising growth. However, with Microsoft expanding its Windows Phone partners to nine, most of who are in emerging markets, there is a very good chance that Windows Phone will emerge a strong contender to the leading smartphones, even if only in such markets. And that should be good enough news for Microsoft.

Microsoft OneDrive now live!

A week ago or so we did a post about how Microsoft‘s current (at the time) cloud server, SkyDrive, was getting a re-branding effort to be called OneDrive. Well, it is official! Microsoft OneDrive is now live for all users to use.

OneDrive 2

Of course, OneDrive again is basically SkyDrive just with a new name. A name that is supposed to mean that you’ll use this drive for all your things and have it all in one place. However, there are a few new features that we welcome. There is automatic camera backup for Android and real time co-editing for one. Video sharing and viewing is easier now and there are new ways to buy and earn storage. For instance you can earn an extra 3 GB by activating your camera roll backup to save photos automatically. This is exciting news and we look forward to seeing what else OneDrive will bring in the future.

Windows Phone grows 104% in 2013

There is no real surprise that Windows Phone is basically in third place behind Android and iOS but that doesn’t mean it is doing bad itself. In fact based on recent reports from ABI Research we have now seen some great insight to how the Windows Phone is doing exactly.

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Based on these results it should come to no surprise that Android dominates market share with 70% and Windows Phone coming in at 4%. A better figure is that Windows Phone in general grew 104% in 2013. Meaning that a year ago they shipped 5.3 million devices and now they have shipped 10.9 million in the same time frame. Research has shown that the total number of Windows Phones in the public is around 50 million. Again, these are not nearly as big of numbers as you’d see for Android or iOS but growth of any rate is great and we look forward to seeing this trend continue with the Windows Phone.

Source: ABI Research

SkyDrive dead; Bring on OneDrive

Assuming you all have Windows Phones as you’re reading this site then you know that Microsoft has been using a cloud-based storage system called SkyDrive. That is no more…at least the name. Yep, Microsoft is dropping all branding associations with SkyDrive and re-branding it OneDrive.

OneDrive

Why the change? Microsoft’s reasoning behind it all is that with the name OneDrive it insinuates that while you have many different devices you now can store and view it all on one drive aka OneDrive. The whole re-branding aspect may sound dumb to some but marketing things is a huge industry and very important and OneDrive certainly does make sense. So far no date has been given to when the OneDrive will actually be happening but we’ll let you know when something does.

Three classic Microsoft games now available on Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8

If you’ve used a PC with an older version of Windows, you most likely would have spent many enjoyable hours playing the card game Solitaire, the card matching game Mahjong, or the explosive puzzle game Minesweeper.

Microsoft Solitaire Collection

There’s good news now for Windows 8 PC users as well as Windows Phone 8 users as Microsoft has just announced that these popular games are now available on the Windows Store. They have obviously been redesigned for the new crop of gamers who love to compete with friends.

Apart from challenging your friends, you will now be able to submit your scores to leaderboards, earn achievements and keep track of your game statistics. Another big bonus is that you can play, pause and resume the game on any of your Windows devices: phone, PC, and even your tablet. If you’re a big fan of these classic Microsoft games, check them out now at the Windows Store or just click the links below.

Microsoft spreads holiday cheer for Windows Phone users; Gifts 20GB extra SkyDrive storage

Got a Windows phone? Then get ready to enjoy this holiday gift from Microsoft. The company has announced that it will be giving Windows phone users the chance to activate a bonus of 20GB free SkyDrive storage for a year.

20GB extra SkyDrive storage

Ever since Microsoft streamlined its SkyDrive services in April 2012 giving users just 7GB of SkyDrive storage instead of its 25GB offer from earlier, Microsoft has been trying to entice customers to use its cloud storage services by throwing in some interesting offers. You may remember a similar offer made by the company on purchase of a Surface 2 or Surface Pro 2 tablet, where customers could get of 200GB extra storage for two years.

If you’re a Windows user, SkyDrive of course is an ideal tool to connect and sync all your photos and files to access from just about anywhere. The free extra storage will come in handy to back up videos and photos you capture on your Windows phone because if something should happen to your phone, your data will remain perfectly safe and accessible on SkyDrive.

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With the Windows ecosystem still playing catch up to the major players, Microsoft is probably hoping that these bonus teasers could draw in more customer loyalty.

If you’re interested in picking up an extra 20GB storage for free for a year, check your Windows Phone Inboxes and redeem that code. You have until 31st January 2014 to claim your gift.