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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Windows Phone 8 launching October 29th

Nothing is official yet but according to Mary Joe Foley’s own sources Microsoft is set to commercially launch Windows Phone 8 on October 29th just three days after Windows 8. Technically we may have to wait a few more days after the launch event until we start to see the first Windows Phone 8 devices hit retail and carrier stores around the world. Remember that MJ’s sources are often right so October 29th may very well be the real deal.

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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 8 Application platform detailed

The relatively big news today is the sudden appearance of the soon to be released Windows Phone 8 Developer Preview SDK which has leaked a few hours ago via Microsoft’s own password protected servers. Instead of making tons of posts detailing every single feature of the OS simply to generate hits I’m going to provide you with the detailed overview of the Windows Phone 8 application platform which I’m going to copy and paste (from the SDK) below after the break for those of you who aren’t able to get their hands of the Docs or the full SDK package. I’m also currently installing the full 1.3Gb Binaries on by Windows 8 desktop (important note: The WP8 Preview SDK is only compatible with the Windows 8 X64 Release Preview) and will make another post later on detailing the emulator. UPDATE: My WP8 Emulator overview is here.

The following document will go into details comparing Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT (hint: there are some important differences), The Direct3D feature set supported by the OS, the built-in Native Nokia Maps implementation, Camera features, NFC features Native code and XAML support. So just head over to the break to check it all out:

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Nokia Drive 3.0 for Windows Phone released

Nokia Drive 3.0 for the Lumia Windows Phone handsets has just been released to the marketplace a few hours ago. Those of you who took the time to read the user manual a little while ago should already what’s included in this newest release:

• Find your way with turn-by-turn directions and voice guidance
• Track your location, speed, and the distance driven, even if not navigating
• Preload maps before traveling and use Nokia Drive offline to save data costs
• Save your most-used destinations to your phone
• Get a warning when you exceed the speed limit
• Get real-time info on traffic incidents and conditions on your daily routes using
my commute

Unfortunately the My Commute feature doesn’t work in some countries yet (only works in the US right now..lame) which is really disappointing given that real time traffic data is now supported nearly worldwide in Bing Maps and Nokia Maps. You can grab it directly from the Nokia Collection in the marketplace or by hitting this link with your Lumia phone or scan the QRCode after the break:

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Nokia Drive 3.0 user manual released

If you can’t wait to get you hands on the soon to be released Nokia Drive navigation app for your Lumia Windows Phone you can at least take a look at its user manual which was recently uploaded to Nokia’s servers. The PDF covers all the new features which are going to be introduced in this newest version: Commute, live traffic info, save & view places and automatic switching between day and night mode:

• Find your way with turn-by-turn directions and voice guidance
• Track your location, speed, and the distance driven, even if not navigating
• Preload maps before travelling and use Nokia Drive offline to save data costs
• Save your most-used destinations to your phone
• Get a warning when you exceed the speed limit
• Get real-time info on traffic incidents and conditions on your daily routes using
my commute

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Nokia Drive to be available on all Windows Phone 8 phones. No longer exclusive to Nokia’s

Here’s a surprising piece of news that flew under my radar yesterday: Nokia Drive will no longer be exclusive to Nokia Lumia handsets on Windows Phone 8 and be made available to all other platform partners (OEMs) which means that HTC, Samsung and Huawei handsets will feature it too. Some may see this news as one less reason to get a Nokia Lumia handset but if you look at the big picture here the point of this move is to push the whole ecosystem further as it was announced back when the Microsoft Nokia deal was signed. Remember that every Android smartphone has turn-by-turn driving navigation for free and with WP8 Microsoft will have a similar offering. Windows Phone 8 will also integrate Nokia Maps as the native mapping service in Windows Phone 8.

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Windows Phone 8 unveiled: Features and specifications

Microsoft just took the wraps off Windows Phone 8 today during the Windows Phone Summit in San Fransisco. As you probably be know by now current Windows Phone 7.X handset won’t be upgradable to WP8 but will instead receive Windows Phone 7.8 and you will understand why in a shot while after getting a small glimpse at what Apollo will bring to the table later this fall.

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Windows Phone 8 to launch this fall with only four OEMs: Nokia, HTC, Samsung and Huawei all powered by Qualcomm

What I have been predicting for more than a year has finally been confirmed today when Microsoft announced that all the future Windows Phone 8 handsets launching this fall will be powered by Qualcomm‘s SnapDragon S4 Plus / MSM8930 or MSM8960 SoC with the Adreno 225 or Adreno 305 GPU, which seems to once again be the only certified chipset partner for the platform. What is more surprising though is that only four OEMs are on board this time around: Nokia, HTC, Samsung and Huawei. The rest are ..well..nowhere to been seen and frankly we shouldn’t care given the total lack of creativity and effort that was demonstrated in the past. For more Windows Phone features info hit the link after the break.

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No Windows Phone 8 upgrade to current Windows Phone 7 handsets: Windows Phone 7.8 unveiled

Microsoft has unfortunately just announced that none of the Windows Phone 7.X handset currently available will be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8. Nope, never, nada, zip… Instead Microsoft is announcing Windows Phone 7.8 which will be a free update that will be pushed ALL Windows Phone handsets bypassing carriers (and downloadable via WiFi) that will will simply add the new Windows Phone 8 start screen to all “legacy” WP7 handsets. Other WP8 features which are not hardware dependent may or may not be part of WP7.8 (Nothing has been officially announced yet). That’s it folks there’s nothing else to say here. That shiny Nokia Lumia 900 you got last week will be stuck forever with the Windows CE based WP7.X platform. Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts (or anger..).

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Windows Phone 8 screenshots leaked

They are indeed really small and blurry but do look like the real deal. A handful of Windows Phone 8 screenshots have apparently leaked earlier today ahead of the June 20th unveiling. So let’s take a closer look at what we’ve got here.

The first screenshot you see above is the DataSmart functionality which was discuss by Joe Belfiore in an internal Nokia video a few months ago that Pocketnow had in its possession. This will allow user to track their cellular/Wifi data usage per app and per service.

This screenshot shows the video call integration in the Windows Phone 8 without the need of any thrid party application like Tango for example. Skype and the soon to be launched RCS-e standard:
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Photosynth for Windows Phone finally released

After more than a year of silence Microsoft has finally released Photosynth for Windows Phone 7. As you probably already know the iOS version came out in April of last year with a Windows Phone version set to be released soon after alongside the Mango update which finally gave access to the handset’s sensors to software developers. Things didn’t seem to be on schedule though given that there was no WP7 version of the app on sight several months after Mango’s roll out. Today’s the day though so if you have a WP7 handset nearby (that has at least 512MBof RAM) just hit the link here or scan the QRcode after the break to download the app.

Don’t worry about the message that alerts you that the app requires a Gyroscope if your device doesn’t feature one because the compass + Accelerometer should be enough to shoot nice panoramas (the gyro will help you be more precise and also enable you to shoot upwards towards the sky to make a spherical panorama).

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Microsoft and Nokia add traffic and better geocoding to Bing Maps worldwide

Another milestone has been reached in the Microsoft / Nokia partnership today with the inclusion of Nokia’s Traffic and Geocoding backend to Bing Maps in 24 countries worldwide. It wasn’t long ago when Nokia and Microsoft had also decided to use a similar color them and layout for their Mapping data and starting today Windows Phone users you should finally be able to get the show traffic feature working if they are located in the following countries:

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Official LinkedIn app for Windows Phone finally released

LinkedIn alongside Facebook and Twitter were all neatly integrated into Windows Phone 7.5 with the Mango update late last year. Unfortunately contrary to the last two social platforms, LinkedIn still wasn’t present in the Windows Phone Marketplace with an official application. This is now a thing of the past thanks to the release of the official LinkedIn application today. The app features most of the features you can expect to find in a AAA piece of software and is described as follows:

Get on-the-go access to your professional network with LinkedIn for Windows Phone. Find and connect with more than 150M members worldwide, read the latest industry news, keep up-to-date with your groups, explore jobs you might be interested in, and share content with your network from anywhere.

You can download directly from here.

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LG temporarily abandons Windows Phone

Quick! Everybody abandon ship! The Windows Phone ship is sinking…or maybe not. LG (Windows Phone’s premiere OEM partner..)has simply announced during its latest earnings conferences call that it has no immediate plans to manufacture or ship a new Windows Phone based smartphone. Nothing really shocking here given that the south Korean manufacturer was totally absent from the Windows Phone 7.5 Mango launch last year and hasn’t done anything meaningful to the Windows Phone ecosystem since the initial platform launch in 2010.

LG isn’t totally abandoning Windows Phone and will continue research and development efforts in hopes of a brighter future. The company’s mobile division has been in the crapper for a little while now even with the launch of several high-end Android smartphones plagued by atrocious firmware issues (everything isn’t to blame on Windows Phone..). The LG Fantasy E740 with it’s NFC chipset will remain a prototype for ever.

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Nokia Lumia 800 1600.2487.8107.12072 Firmware released, fixes volume bug: Install it now

The latest major Firmware update for the Nokia Lumia 800 may have fixed the most important issue; namely the buggy power management, but it unfortunately also introduced an annoying audio volume bug than made playing games in particular a real pain alongside other oddities like a super loud ringer volume the first second when a call arrives. Anyway, Nokia has finally put an end to all of this via a new Firmware update: 1600.2487.8107.12072 which has already started to roll out in some regions and that you can manually apply to your handset by following the instructions below (at your own risk):

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Skype for Windows Phone is out of beta and publicly available now

Skype for Windows Phone 7 is finally out of beta and publicly available in the Marketplace for everybody to download. This new V1.0 version now includes the ability to search and add contacts, call landlines, ,video calling in portrait mode, friend management capabilities including invite, accept invitations, block, unblock contacts and several other improvements on top of what was already possible in the beta. Only major downside is the fact that application still doesn’t support background notifications so user simply can’t receive a call unless the application is open (unlike all the other Skype version on other platforms or even Tango on Windows Phone) but Skype as already announced that “This is the first of many releases to come for Windows Phone, so stay tuned for even more capabilities in the future“. You can download the Skype app directly from the marketplace here or by simply scanning the tags after the break:

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Windows Phone 8 may or may not come to current handsets. Won’t stop them from working if it doesn’t

Windows Phone 8 will be available as an update to current Windows Phone 7 handsets….or not. Nobody, I repeat, nobody really knows the answer for certain. So everything you have been reading in the past few days, hours should be filed under the rumor tag. At the day of the day the question is: Does it really matter? Well, in terms of PR, Marketing and overall user trust, not releasing a Windows Phone 8 update (or a subset of it) for, at the very least, the second generation of Windows Phone 7 handsets (especially Nokia’s) would be one of the dumbest move Microsoft will have ever done. Remember, we are talking about the same company that launched the horrendous Kin handsets. Sadly, anything is possible with the boys and girls in Redmond so don’t get your hopes up.

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