Microsoft finally releases its Bing Apps for Windows Phone 8: Bing Weather, News, Finance and Sports

Microsoft’s Bing apps for Windows 8 have been highly praised since their release over a year ago and are favorites of mine especially the Bing Weather and Bing Finance app which are packed with useful information and features. The most logical thing would have  been for Microsoft to port them to Windows Phone 8 as soon as possible so user of Windows 8 and WP8 can have a consistent user experience at home and on the go. Unfortunately Microsoft isn’t known for doing things in a logical way but this time common sense prevailed (although nearly 12months too late) and those amazing apps have now finally landed on your beloved smartphone platform.

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Windows Phone 8 launches with new features, Skype and new apps

Most of you have probably already seen the full Windows Phone 8 event that was live streamed earlier today so I won’t write an essay about everything that was shown. Instead let’s do a quick recap on what was new or simply not yet officially unveiled since Windows Phone 8′s initial announcement a few months ago.

First of all Microsoft announced the newest version of Skype for Windows Phone 8. This new version of the app will fully integrate into the OS and allow seamless VOIP calling through the phone dialer and more features like background notifications and lock-screen integration. What’s new here (for Windows Phone) is that the Skype service will constantly be running in the background even if the app wasn’t triggered by the user. this means that calls or other notifications like messages will arrive as if they were regular phone calls or SMS. Most of the functionality of the UI and People/contact integration of the WP8 app are similar to the windows 8 version that was released just 2 days ago. Checkout the video below for a quick demo:

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Windows Phone 8 finally hits RTM

After a slight delay Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 has finally hit RTM status yesterday has you can see in the picture posted above showing Microsoft VP Terry Myerson signing on the big WP8 RTM billboard alongside other developers. Windows Phone 7 originally passed RTM on September 1st 2010 with devices hitting retail in November, while Mango hit RTM on July 27th 2011 with device shipping in October. If past history is any indication it’s obviously going to be a little be tricky for the OEMs and carriers to get the first batch of devices on the market before November at the earliest. The latest whisper on the streets are still pointing to an early November launch for the Nokia Lumia 920 though…

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New Windows Phone 8 Features detailed

I just took a quick tour of the Windows Phone 8 emulator bundled in the Windows Phone 8 Developer Preview SDK that leaked just a few hours ago and decided to take some screenshot to show you some of the new UI tweaks and Features implemented in Apollo. Beware that there’s a lot of images after the break and not a whole lot of text (just a few lines to describe what’s on the screen). So just hit the break to see what Microsoft has been cooking for this fall release and some nice features that have been long overdue.

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Windows Phone Translator receives major update: Real-time augmented reality and voice translation

Microsoft’s Windows Phone Translator application has just received a MAJOR update today with the introduction of the following new features:

- Point, Scan and Translate: This is a beefed up augmented reality version of the Bing vision translate feature already found in Windows Phone 7.5. Users can now use the device’s camera to translate text in real-time on the go. Works fairly good from what I have seen so far.

- Offline Translation: Users can download languages packs to use the app in offline mode.

- Type and Translate: Instant translation using keyboard input

- Speak and translate: Speak in any of the supported languages and the device will then speak back what you just said in the desired language.

There are also several other UI changes and tweaks (the ability to pin the aforementioned methods of translation directly on the start screen for speedy access). All in all this is a really amazing update so make sure to get it right now from here and check out the announcement video after the break:

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Bing Vision going worldwide with news Newspaper match feature in March

In case you missed this little piece of news from late last week, the Bing team has announced that Bing Vision in Windows Phone 7 Mango is now available outside of the US (this has been the case since early February in some European countries like France) and also announced a new feature called Image Matching for Newspapers:

Enabling people to quickly find the digital version of a print magazine or newspaper article, Bing Image Matching for Newspapers allows users to take a photo of an article using their Windows Phone camera and link directly to a digital version of the article online.

Offering global access, consumers will have access to content from over 3,000 publications worldwide.

Image matching fro Newspaper ill only launch in March so don’t go around trying to scan every newspaper in sight yet (also note that Bing vision won’t be available everywhere either so just set your search region to US to try it out). Now where’s my local traffic data in Bing Maps please?

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Skype for Windows Phone 7 is still coming soon

You got to love delays. Unfortunately there’s nothing we can do about them especially when the company decides to stay silent about a product. As you all already know, Skype for Windows Phone was announced back in April of last year and was supposedly set to launch alongside Mango last fall. Nothing happened, Nokia’s then flagship product, the Lumia 800 didn’t even feature a front facing camera so Microsoft may have decided to act as nothing was missing. That’s until this week CES where Skype’s VP of Products Rick Osterloh just let a “coming soon” slip in a interview with….Microsoft. Video after the break:

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Spotify for Windows Phone 7 coming today

According to the folks who are attending the Mango launch event in today, the long awaited Spotify application for Windows Phone 7 application is ready to hit the marketplace today. They’ve also shot a short hands-on video of it in action:

UPDATE: Spotify is now available here!
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New Bing Maps road Map Style now in Windows Phone 7.5 Mango

I’ve just noticed that the new Bing Maps Road Map Style layout that was introduced on the desktop version back in July is now showing up on Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. I don’t know if this is related to the newest Samsung Omnia 7 firmware or not but I definitely didn’t have it prior to that. So what’s the difference ? Well the new layout is a lot more easier on the eyes and includes several new improvements:

- Primary roadways are denoted in a more distinct color
- One way streets are more clearly marked
- Road shields are more visible
- Text labels are easier to read
- Traffic overlays are clearer and more defined
- Lots of other details to improve map readability

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Microsoft releases location based meeting application for Windows Phone 7

Microsoft has recently released a new location based application for Windows Phone 7 called We’re In. This app allows users to simply invite people to a meeting or an event with the use of Bing Maps. I unfortunately can’t test it out because the current version only works in the US and Israel but here’s the official description anyway:

Update: We’re In seems to be the first official Mango application available on the Marketplace as it support contacs integration and fast application switching.

We’re In makes organizing get-togethers, carpooling or trying to find people in a crowd a breeze. Any time you want to see where your friends are – We’re In can help you. It’s simple, invite your friends, and when they join, they’ll see your location and you’ll see theirs. When the invite expires, so does the shared location – no complicated process to worry about.

We’re In allows you to:

•Create a get-together invite for a group of friends

•See where your friends are

•Share your location with your friends in real time

•Control your privacy – your location is only shared with the group of invitees, only for a short time slot

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Turn By Turn voice guided navigation won’t require taping in Windows Phone Mango ?

As you probably already know by now Turn-By-turn voice guided navigation in the current Mango Beta 2 build is crippled by a silly “tap-to read directions aloud” feature. It was speculated a few days ago, based on the Bing Maps API Terms Of Use (last updated in April 2011), that this was probably because of some kind of licensing restriction with the maps provided.

Restrictions on your use: We do have some restrictions on your use of the service. You may not:

present or alert an end user to individual maneuvers of a route in any way that is synchronized with the end-user’s sensor-based position along the route, (e.g. “real-time” navigation);

I didn’t put much thought into this until I finally experienced this feature today which made me realize how stupid / dangerous it currently is and decided to take a closer look at what’s really going on here.

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Microsoft licenses augmented reality patents

Microsoft has just licensed several augmented reality patents from a company named GeoVector. From the looks of it the technology in question seems to be similar to what other companies like Google are doing with their services (and it’s quite possible that the big G also licensed the same patents awhile ago). This obviously means that we can expect AR features using the compass and Gyro in an upcoming update to Bing Maps on Windows Phone (WP7, Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8). Just keep in mind that today’s licensing agreement doesn’t mean that Microsoft has just started to work on this stuff. This is essentially done to protect the company from being sued in the future as the press releases clearly says that “The non-exclusive multi-year agreement gives Microsoft rights to use concepts covered by GeoVector’s patents” . Full PR after the break:

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Bing Maps Indoor Map in Windows Phone 7 Mango Video demo

I finally stumbled upon an indoor maps while on Windows Phone Mango while playing around with Bing Maps and shot a short video to show you how it works. Indoor Maps are exactly this: Maps of indoor locations, mainly malls and other shopping locations (only in the US). As you will see in the video below the indoor map is overlaid on top of the base map and shows all the businesses and shops located in the mall. You can choose to tap on a particular shop or just hit the directory view which is essentially a list of all the businesses/shops sorted alphabetically.

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Nokia Ovi Maps API already works in Windows Phone 7

A post on Nokia’s developer forum dated from the beginning of the month notes that the OVI Maps API will be officially supported in Windows Phone 7 Mango:

This would be good to know for the future use cases; the current Ovi Maps API will be supported in
the oncoming devices. Some changes for code may be needed, also some dedicated features may
be implmented – we will get more information and details on this during the coming months.

But there isn’t anything really new here other than the claim that it will probably be “officially” supported by Nokia because it is already working in Windows Phone 7 pre-Mango right now as seen in the Outdoor Navigation application currently available on the Marketplace and which can use Nokia’s OVI Maps (or Google Maps, OpenMaps etc..) instead of Bing maps. It’s safe to assume that everything isn’t working now and that Mango will most probably improve things. Just click here to check it out.

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Turn-by-Turn voice guided Navigation and Outdoor Navigation for Windows Phone 7

Some of you may already be familiar with the super nice Outdoor Navigation application for Windows Phone 7 developed by GPSTuner but what you may not know is that the same developers have also recently released a Voice-Guided Turn-by-Turn navigation application for Windows Phone 7. To put it simply: Both applications are just awesome and are some of the best mobile apps I have used.

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Bing Audio music search explained on video

Microsoft just posted a video of Brandon Watson interviewing Steve Cosman one of the developer of the Bing Audio music search service to be introduced in Windows Phone 7 Mango this fall. Both discuss how the service actually works (nothing really amazing here…it’s essentially the same thing as Shazam and SoundHound) and we learn that it can currently recognize around 10 Million tracks (the whole Zune catalog plus a few other tracks). Hit the break to watch the video:

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Windows Phone 7 Mango voice activated search and other services to expand outside of the US and UK

Joe Belfiore confirmed the obvious yesterday on Twitter when asked about the expansion of some of the US/ UK only services in Windows Phone 7 Mango. As I showed you a little while ago, services like Local Scout can already work in many countries as long as search language is set to US but Microsoft will undoubtedly make it official in the months to come. Voice activated search will also finally be available in languages other than English now that it is supported on the Xbox 360 (WP7 uses the same Tellme cloud service so the launch new languages support on WP7 is tide to the Xbox). This was first rumored to be available this spring but things seem to have taken longer than planned.

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Windows Phone 7 Mango Bing Local Scout can work outside of the US and UK

There’s still some confusion surrounding some of the newly announced Windows Phone 7 Mango features, especially the Bing related ones like Local Scout, Bing Vision and the Quick Cards. As stated on Microsoft’s official Windows Phone website the Bing Local Scout “around me” feature is supposedly only supported in the US and the UK similar to the current Local search results in Windows Phone 7 pre-Mango. Interestingly Microsoft demonstrated this functionality alongside Bing Vision in nearly all of the VIP Mango events worldwide so it was safe to assume that it would be available to all consumers this fall.

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Windows Phone 7 Mango: Bing Vision OCR Text translation and Outlook tasks shown on video

Here’s a neat little feature that I didn’t have the chance to check out during my Mango hands-on but that Microsoft Germany demoed during their event: Bing Vision Text Translation using optical character recognition (OCR). This feature is similar to the one found in the Android Google Docs application that was released not long ago but this time it is natively integrated into the OS. Hit the break to check it out (it starts at 1:24):

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