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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Windows Phone Tango roll out has started. Update your phone manually to build 7.10.8773.98

As promised last week by Nokia the Windows Phone 7 Tango (7.10.8773.98) worldwide update has started for the Nokia Lumia 800 and 710. What’s even better is that you owners of any other Windows Phone 7 device can also manually update their handset to the latest OS version thanks to the OS bits made available by Microsoft on Windows Phone update servers. So let me recap what is going on:

- If you are a Nokia Lumia 800 or 710 owner you can either wait for the update to show up in Zune or manually push the OS update to your phone followed by the OEM Firmware update (1750.0805.8773.12220).
- If you own a Nokia Lumia 900, HTC, Samsung, LG, ZTE handset your only option right now is to manually push the OS update to your handset and wait for the subsequent OEM Firmware to be pushed to your device via Zune later on.
Hit the break to get all the goodies.

–Updated with all Language Packs–

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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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Nokia branded Windows Phone Marketplace has always been in the works

In case you have missed it; Most of the latest Nokia Tango ROMs for the Nokia Lumia 610, Lumia 710, Nokia Lumia 800 and Lumia 900 have traded the regular Makretplace Tile with a new Nokia branded one. This may come as a surprise to most people but those of you who have been following me know that Nokia and Microsoft have been working on a Nokia Branded Marketplace ever since the partnership was put in place more than a year ago. I actually made a post about it when I found out some interesting words in the partnership press release and several job offerings which described the existence to two unified application stores.

The Icon change is probably only the begging so it remains to be seen if others items or section of the Marketplace will offer Nokia specific features exclusive to the Lumia handset. It should also be noted that the Nokia Collection section has strangely vanished from by Nokia Lumia 800 (running Mango) just yesterday so there must be something going on in the background right about now.

Nokia Lumia 800 1750.805.8773.12140 Tango update coming soon

Photo courtesy of MJ Foley

Quick word of advise to all the Nokia Lumia 800 users out there who are eagerly waiting for the Tango update to reach their handset and finally bring Internet Sharing and improved camera settings: please be patient. The Chinese variant 1750.805.8773.12140 firmware has finally reached Nokia Care’s servers a few ours ago but shouldn’t be of any use to most users outside of China given that it lacks Facebook and Twitter integration in the People Hub and includes several features and customization specifically aimed at the Asian market. This update does indeed enabled internet sharing and also include the new camera settings that have been missing from the previous updates (panorama, smart group shot etc video quality settings and improved still shot quality..) and a Nokia Branded Marketplace Icon/tile.

The international / European variant of the 1750.805.8773.12140 update shouldn’t be to far off so don’t rush waste our time flashing you perfectly functional handset right now ans simply wait a little for the real deal. If you are really bothered by the Audio Volume bug simply flash the 12072 FW for now.

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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AT&T Nokia Lumia 900 launching on April 8 for $100

The much anticipated Nokia Lumia 900 will finally be hit the US streets on April 8th for $99.99 with a 2 year contract on AT&T (was initially supposed to launch on March 18). The super_low price tag will surely help the Finnish company get a foothold in the US mobile market and also boost Microsoft’s Windows Phone marketshare and visibility. Quick reminder for those of you who haven’t been following all along; the Lumia 900 sport the same 8Mp camera with Carl Zeiss optics as the Lumia 800, the same polycarbonate uni-body but features a Super AMOLED + 4.3″ WVGA display and a Gyroscope (which isn’t present on the Lumia 800 and Lumia 710) and an Qualcomm MDM9200 LTE multi-modem chip associated with APQ8055 Snapdragon S2. So, Who’s getting one ?

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Windows Phone Tango platform announced alongside new SDK for minimal fragmentation

Photo courtesy of MJ Foley

Microsoft has just made Tango official today with the launch of an update to the current Windows Phone 7.1.1 SDK to add support to this new platform. Don’t expect anything ground breaking though as Tango is simply here to enable support for lower-end device packing only 256MB of ram like the recently announced Nokia Lumia 610. Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore was also keen to point out that most of the 65000 apps available on the marketplace are compatible with such handsets but that approximately 5% are still not functional. The Redmond software giant is now trying to contact those application developers to get them to update/cod the software so it can run on the new mass market device. The Marketplace has now also open in 23 more countries including; Bahrain, Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Estonia, Iceland, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam.

In addition to the engineering work we’ve done in the OS to optimize for lower cost devices and the release of a new SDK with emulator, we have identified a small number (around 5%) of current applications that will not run properly on the new lower cost devices. We’re contacting the developers of these apps directly to advise them of steps they can take to make their app compatible with lower cost phones. In most cases the guidance is simply to use less memory.

Ultimately, whether your app should be available to these phones or not is your call. We’ve enabled you to update the app manifest file in order to state whether your app does or does not work on lower memory devices. We’ll honor whatever value you choose. If you say no, your app will not be installable on these phones. Those we’ve automatically opted out already have this value set appropriately. If you disagree with us or alter your app to perform adequately on these devices, you can change the value in your application’s manifest file and resubmit your app. Details on this process will be available on App Hub.

The goal here is to have the less amount of fragmentation as possible so Microsoft is currently doing everything possible to get the platform to scale down to cheaper hardware while maintaining compatibility with the ecosystem. This is obviously in stark contrast with what is happening on the Android side of the market where some really super high speced devices are being unveiled for Ice Cream Sandwich. Fear not though, if you are a hardware nut you can expect such Dual-Core Krait or more (Quad-Core) monsters with HD displays to come alongside Windows Phone 8 Apollo later this year.

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Global Nokia Lumia 900 announced launching in Q2 2012

As we where all expecting Nokia has just announced the Global non-US version of the Nokia Lumia 900 handset earlier today. So what does it really mean ? Well nothing earth shattering. Simply put: everybody’s getting the handset with Dual HSPA support if your country doesn’t have LTE coverage yet or an LTE version for Canada which will be similar to the US variant. From the looks of it all variant are essentially the same powered by the same SoC (APQ8055 + MDM9200) so you will by an LTE handset anywhere but only be able to use it in HSPA mode for now until your region gets LTE coverage.

- Networks: WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100, GSM/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900
- Speed: HSDPA+ Dual Carrier cat 24 (42 Mbps), HSUPA cat 6: 5.8 Mbps
- Display: 4.3” WVGA (800×480) AMOLED capacitive touch ClearBlack display
- Memory: 512MB RAM, 16GB storage
- Camera: 8Mpix auto-focus with f2.2, LED flash
- Size/Weight: 127.8mm x 68.5mm x 11.5mm / 160g
- Processor: 1.4 GHz Single Core/Snapdragon APQ8055 + MDM9200
- Battery: 1830mAh
- Operating times – Talk time: (GSM/WCDMA) up to 7 hours. Standby time: (GSM/WCDMA) up to 300 hours.

It will be available in Q2 2012.

Nokia Lumia 610 low cost Windows Phone announced

The first truly low-cost Windows Phone 7 (Tango) handset has just been announced by Nokia today in the form of the Lumia 610. This new handset is the first Windows Phone device to be powered by a Qualcomm MSM7X30 SoC clocked at 800Mhz (with an Adreno 205 GPU) and only 256MB ram. The specification are in line with the Chassis specification announced last year at MIX11 and what we came to expect after hearing about the Tango leaks. The specs are the following:

- Networks: WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100, GSM/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900
- Speed: HSDPA cat 7: 7.2Mbps,
- Display: 3.7” WVGA (800×480) TFT capacitive touch LCD display with pinch zoom
- Memory: 256MB RAM, 8GB storage
- Camera: 5 megapixels, auto-focus, LED flash.
- Size/Weight: 119.24mm x 62.18mm x 11.95mm / 131.5g
- Processor: 800 Mhz Single Core/Qualcomm Snapdragon S1
- Battery: 1300 mAh
- Talk time: GSM : 10.5 h, WCDMA : 9.5h. Standby time: GSM : 670 h, WCDMA :720 h

The Nokia Lumia 610 will launch in Q2 2012 with the price of 189€

Source: Nokia