Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Game Review: Mini Golf Club Makes An Ace

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Being a golfer and and a Windows Phone user is tough. In fact, it downright stinks having Let’s Golf 2 as the only real golfing option. Sure, there are games like Stickman Golf and a few others in the Store, but honestly, none of them deliver much in the way of a golfing experience. When I was messaged by Zolt├ín Gubics to give his game Mini Golf Club a test drive, I jumped at the chance to do it.

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After just a few minutes of figuring out how hard to strike the ball, Mini Golf Club had me. The graphics are simple, yet very refined. The play was ultra smooth on my HTC One M8 for Windows. Overall, except for figuring out how hard to hit the ball, the controls were very intuitive as well. With aiming being done by panning around the hole with your finger and the “hit” button being located in the lower right corner of the screen, there isn’t much to figure out otherwise. I give the graphics an excellent rating and the controls a bit better than that. Challenging play that is simple to learn – it’s a definite winner.

Now down to the nitty gritty here… Mini Golf Club has only a 32MB install size. I didn’t get a chance to run it on my lowly Lumia 521, but I can only say it was smooth as butter on my M8 for Windows. It offers up a great challenge for puzzle game lovers and for golf enthusaists alike. If you have a spare 5 minutes, you should give it a quick look and decide if you can master the 27 holes of frustration. This one was definitely a nice surprise for me and it’s earned that permanent home on my M8 just for the sheer fact that I can watch the reaction on people’s faces when they miss a putt.

Mini Golf Club is free from the Windows Store.

Download Link: http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store/app/mini-golf-club/649347b1-bfde-4d53-a79e-c25a54b66833?signin=true

Get A Crazy Deal On SanDisk Memory

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Did you snag that new phone or tablet for Christmas but are a bit concerned about the storage capacity? Don’t fret. Amazon has you covered with a complete selection of SanDisk memory cards and drives for up to 73% off.

From the 16GB USB 2.0 flash drive for $7.99 to the $89.99 SanDisk Ultra 128GB MicroSD card, there is something for everyone.

Amazon Link

Cyber Dust Makes Its Way To Windows Phone

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With all the news lately about the demise of third party access to SnapChat and the lack of an official Windows Phone App leaving people stranded, it is easy to forget that there are other players in the game. Cyber Dust is one such player that apparently values Windows users a bit more than those other guys. Cyber Dust is a messaging app that offers so many different reasons to use it, that it is hard to justify not having it installed on your Windows device.

First off, it is a full featured messaging client. Pictures, videos, voice memos, and just plain texts are all delivered in the manner you choose for free. PIN locked, encrypted messages can be delivered to a single user or blasted to one of your groups instantly for no charge at all. Cyber Dust will even notify you if someone decides to ‘capture’ your message with a screenshot. It’s everything that people wanted in those other guys, but smoothed out and ready for primetime.

Cyber Dust doesn’t stop there either. It is also available to a world wide market, making it a very cost effective messaging platform for overseas users. It also is a great solution for business users that require a bit more security than the typical SMS or messaging program offers. Overall, if word spreads about Cyber Dust, it could easily become one of the best messaging platforms on the market today. Performance wise it is already there, but the user base is still rather small since it just launched.

Cyber Dust gets a huge thumbs up from me, even though I am not the prototypical user of Apps like this. I’m not one that usually hides my Windows Phone much, so sneaky messages aren’t really a concern for me, but I do understand the market and why people would want them. Fortunately, Cyber Dust answers the call for users that need exactly this service and it does so beautifully!

Cyber Dust is available in the Windows Store and is free.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Back From Christmas Break…

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One of the downsides to having so many people wanting to you test things is that sometimes you have to take a step away from what you love in order to realize why you love it. For the last few weeks, I’ve been test driving a few devices including the monstrously amazing HTC Desire Eye for AT&T. Over the last few weeks, seeing the Apps and power of the new “Android” devices, made me realize that Windows Phone is still my home OS. While it may have quite a few new short comings, especially in the world of Apps, overall, it seems to offer the most comfortable interface around.

So, even though I have to give up picture messaging, which honestly, my wife is the only one that sends me images anyways, I am back on my gorgeous HTC One M8 for Windows, but not using the device on Verizon as their monthly rates are just too darn high for me. Even their $45 a month prepaid plan is $10-20 a month more than I pay for GSM prepaid offerings. Currently, I am enjoying a nice plan from PTEL Mobile, which sets me back $35 a month, with the second month free when I ported my number in to their service.

So far, PTEL Mobile has delivered on the network speeds, which appear to be T-Mobile’s native LTE speeds, and with a 2 month run for $35, how can one not want to give it a shot. The 500MB of data is easily enough for my M8 to run well while out and about (and believe me, after seeing some of the Android data usage, I LOVE Data Sense so much more!) and away from Wi-Fi. Of course, if you need a bit more, you can visit PTEL Mobile and see the other options as well.

For me, the $35 plan is the only one that I will touch as the cost goes up pretty quickly without getting much more thrown in. If you need more data than the $35 plan hands out, both Net10 and Straight Talk offer about 3GB of high speed data for around $50 a month. If you can get by with a little less, the $39.99 GSMT plan from Red Pocket Mobile gives you 2GB of data before being throttled down to 2G speeds.

Overall though, the T-Mobile MVNO’s offer quite a bang for the buck. More data, faster data and unlimited talk with text is quite the deal to be had for such a small monthly cost.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Grab The HP Stream 7 32GB Tablet For $99.99

If you are a Microsoft user through and through, you owe it to yourself to check out the deal that Amazon.com has on the HP Stream 7 Tablet right now. For $99.99, you not only snag a pretty nifty little Intel Atom powered tablet, but you also get a load of benefits for your Windows Phone that come with it.

For starters, you get the 7” HP Stream 7 Tablet. It has 32GB of internal storage, 1GB of RAM and is equipped with bgn WI-FI. Then you add in the value of the included Office 365 subscription (shareable to 5 devices) and the 1TB of OneDrive storage. No matter how you look at it, the HP Stream 7 Tablet has something of value in it for anyone that doesn’t have a good gaming/productivity device within reach at any moment.

You can grab your HP Stream 7 Tablet for $99.99 at Amazon today or maybe you want the full 4G portability of the HP Stream 8 with T-Mobile 4G built in for $199.99.

Source: Amazon.com

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

App Review: VinVid Saving Life 6 Seconds At A Time

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Even though I’ve never been a huge Vine user, mostly due to the fact that watching 6 second videos of others can be downright boring, I have to admit that VinVid – Vine Downloader by D3staz caught my eye right off the bat. The fact that I could go on to Vine, grab the URL for my favorite clip, then download it, that just made sense.

VinVid has one of the most simple interfaces on the planet. Simply open the App, paste in the URL of the post you want and poof, you own it. There’s no super duper thrills or gimmicks here, just a well coded App that does exactly what you want it to. VinVid is one of those Apps that could have been ruined by trying to do too much with it. Fortunately, D3staz kept things simple and VinVid is a total winner. The 2MB install size is a bonus as well.

If you are a Vine users, go grab VinVid for free right now in the Windows Phone Store. If not, grab it and check out the official Vine or 6sec. You might just find a new way to share yourself online.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Grab The Lumia 520 For AT&T For $29.99 No Contract!

I have to admit to loving a good Amazon.com sale. Sure, the new Lumia 635 for AT&T has been clocking in around the $40 mark this holiday season, but if/when you find one might be a bit tough to determine. Instead, a slightly older Nokia Lumia 520 could be a solid answer for that holiday replacement phone. The 520 still features a solid 4” display and Windows Phone 8.1. It also has a decent 5MP shooter on the back and an SD card slot for adding all the music and videos you could want to it.

The Lumia 520 also features the Nokia Software Suite that includes MixRadio, Here Maps, Here Drive+, Access Point and Call Block, something that isn’t standard with most other handsets costing ten times as much. With all of that said, a $29.99 price point with FREE PRIME shipping is just a bit too good of deal to pass on. Act quickly though, deals like this won’t be around for long as stock is extremely limited.

Direct Link: Amazon.com

App Review: Add A Splash Of Color To Your Notes With ColorNotes

 
As many of you know, I am a pretty diehard OneNote user. That said, anytime a new note taking App sneaks on to my HTC One M8 for Windows, I tend to put it through its paces. ColorNotes by eFutureSoft Tech Solutions was one such App that sneakily appeared on my radar, so without further ado, let’s take a quick look around this slick note taking App.




First off, the build is very simple. You can color code your notes by subject or timing or whatever you want by simply opening a new note by pressing the (+) icon at the bottom of the main screen. The sort button is next to that and the delete button is the trash can icon located next to that. On the far right is the menu button.


Once you start to add a new note, you can “change the color” of the header by pressing the paint can in the center of the menu bar. The “x” button will close the note without saving changes and the checkmark will save the note for later use.



Changing the colors of the notes in ColorNotes couldn’t be easier. Simply select the paint bucket from the menu bar, then select your color from the color wheel. My test note was quickly changed from a bright blue to a subtle pink. A quick tap of the checkmark at the bottom had my note saved for later use in just seconds.

As we get down to the nitty gritty of the App, ColorNotes is very flexible in appearance and function. You can set it to auto-backup to your OneDrive account very easily – and also restore from the same account just as quickly. You also have the font size setting as well as a few other “nice” things you can do for the developer – such as liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter.
Overall, the $.99 price tag for ColorNotes is a pretty decent price for a customizable note taking program, but I’ll be sticking with my standard OneNote due to the cross device compatibility that it offers. ColorNotes is definitely worth a look if you want something with a bit more color though, so visit the link below and give it a test drive if you want.
Download Link: ColorNotes

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Sale: Grab A Lumia 635 For $39.99

If you’ve been looking at the Nokia Lumia 635, today may be the day to snag yours. Right now, Amazon.com is running the Lumia 635 for AT&T for an unbelievable $39.99. There’s no fancy pants deal to this, just a flat $40 for a great mid-range Windows Phone. This device is locked to the AT&T network, but it will work with plans from AT&T (GoPhone included), Red Pocket Mobile (GSMA), Straight Talk (AT&T SIM), or Net10 Wireless.

The Lumia 635 for AT&T features a 4.5” display, 8GB internal storage with an SD card slot, a 5MP camera and a 1.2GHz quad-core processor. Normally, Amazon.com runs this device at $99.99 so this deal is a savings of 60%. This great deals won’t last long, so grab your new Lumia 635 for AT&T today and enjoy a great new smartphone for an unbeatable price. Even if you just use it with MixRadio and Here Maps+ for your GPS, this is still a fantastic price on an excellent phone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Game Review: Master Archer 3D – Some Bow And Arrow Action For Your Windows Phone


 
On rare occasions, a developer will take a great concept and screw things up with wonky controls or epically terrible ad placements. Worse yet, they build something brilliant, give it away, then ask for $10 a day to get the proper amount of this or that to complete the game. Fortunately for every Windows fan out there, Kajak Games Osk did not. What they did do, is create one of the most fun archery simulators that I have played on any platform to date, Master Archer 3D.


Master Archer 3D starts out simply enough. You have two modes available to you off the bat. The call them boosters, I call them ‘shooting and scoring modes.’ That said, you have a few options, all of which you unlock by moving up in level, not purchasing them. I’m liking where this is going right away. The first option is no booster. This gives you 100% of your target score. The second is ‘Show Arrow Trajectory’ which will show you where your arrow is headed before you shoot it. It’s great for learning but, really hurts the score long term.
The next two boosters, once you unlock them, include being able to steer your arrows and a double your score multiplier. The latter of which is obviously the way to play the game long term as it allows for racking up the most points possible in the 5 arrows you get to shoot.


Controls on Master Archer 3D are about a simple as can be, while be about as challenging as you would want them to. Placing your first finger or thumb on the screen brings up the bow. The second finger/thumb is used to draw the arrow back for shooting. You aim at one of the 5 targets by moving your finger around the screen before letting the second one go to shoot. Simplistic, yet completely realistic. Just like any fun simulator should be.


The graphics on Master Archer 3D might appear a bit cartoony for some. That said, I thought that they lent themselves quite nicely to the feel of the game. I almost felt like I was dropped in an old Warner Bros cartoon or became part of a story book for this game. While it’s not a realistic deer hunter game, the smooth action and beautiful rendering makes Master Archer 3D play more like a $5 game than a free one.

Overall, it will take you some time to master this game. Master Archer 3D isn’t a 5 minute play and remove game. It will drive you a bit batty and getting all the achievements isn’t all that simple. What is simple is the decision to download Master Archer 3D and get playing. Once you do, be prepared to find a charger, you’ll need it. Download Master Archer 3D now from the store and give it a good look. It’s a challenging little two thumbed shooter.
Download Link: Master Archer 3D

Friday, November 14, 2014

According To @Lumia, All Windows Phone 8 Devices Will Get Windows 10

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Truth be told, I’m taking this with a grain of salt, especially after the T-Mobile Lumia 810 was left out in the cold back on Windows 8, but according to the official Lumia Twitter Page, “All Lumia Windows Phone 8 devices” will be upgraded to Windows 10 when it is released. Again, this is the same song and dance that Microsoft spouted about the move from Windows 7.5 to 7.8, then again on the move from 8.0 to 8.1, so I’m not going to put much into a passing tweet.

That said, we are almost a year away from seeing that magical update, so anything is possible. Of course, since this is the Lumia page and not the official “Windows Phone” or Microsoft accounts, there is no mention of other hardware manufacturers. HTC will give their standard, “We won’t comment on any rumors or speculation about future updates or devices” answer and Samsung doesn’t even respond to requests about Windows Phone device any longer.

As soon as there is official confirmation one way or another regarding any upgrade plans to Windows 10 for existing devices I will let you know what I hear, but until then, take posts and rumors like a grain of salt and realize that your contract will probably be up before Win 10 comes out anyways and you will probably want to get a new device either way.

Source: https://twitter.com/lumia/status/532128314467823616

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Microsoft Launches The Perfect Window Phone Companion

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For those that have been wondering what on earth Microsoft has been doing by ‘perfecting’ their Skype, Office and Xbox Apps for other operating systems before getting Windows Phone versions finished first, you now have your answer. Microsoft isn’t going to ride their mobile operating system to future glories, but rather sell the services that they have spent so long developing to anyone and everyone that will have them.

When you look at the $3 a month price for Skype Premium US, $10 for Office 365, $100 for Xbox Music and another $10 a month for Xbox Live, it starts to get a bit expensive for folks out there. So, why not make it a bit easier to make that commitment. For $199 a year, you get everything, which even includes an unlimited data allotment for your OneDrive account. Not only does this deal offer a serious value, but it’s one of the most powerful offers out there for how all-inclusive this service pack becomes.

For that $16 a month charge, you get access to Office 365 on up to 5 PC’s, tablets and phones. You get unlimited OneDrive storage – though you need to email them to receive more than 10TB that comes as a standard ‘cap’. Further more, you get unlimited downloads from Xbox Music – and streaming music via Xbox “radio” stations. Then you add in the Xbox Live Gold membership for your Windows Phone and Xbox gaming system for good measure.

Wait just a minute though, the savings don’t end there. Also included with this monstrous deal is a Skype Unlimited World + Wi-Fi membership. The Unlimited World plan usually costs $13.99 a month on it’s own. Add on the Skype Wi-Fi package, which allows you to connect to Skype locations all over the world for no additional charge, and you have a seriously amazing communication tool.

Overall, there isn’t a better deal than the Work and Play Bundle from Microsoft. There is something in it for everyone and as long as you can be the primary log-in to the family devices, you can use the features on almost anything. Before you ask, yes, it also works with iOS and Android Apps as well. The hitch, you have to hit a Microsoft Store to snag this deal. Also, this deal is region locked to the US and Canada, so no luck for you overseas users, for now.

Source: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/workandplay/Overview

Monday, November 10, 2014

HTC One (M8) For Windows Available Soon On T-Mobile

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I’ll admit to being very excited for this one. The darling of my pocket, the HTC One M8 For Windows is going to be available soon for T-Mobile customers, according to their website. Pricing shows as zero down on the home page, but nothing officially has been posted at this point regarding payment sizes or full retail pricing. Stay up to date by following the link below.

Link: http://www.t-mobile.com/cell-phones/htc-one-m8-for-windows.html

Microsoft’s Black Friday Deals Leave Windows Phone Users Wanting A Little Bit More

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There’s nothing like getting up at, well actually, staying up until 10 AM the day after Thanksgiving to go out into the world and grab those “once in a lifetime” deals that retailers put out on Black Friday. Usually the best of those deals involve some crazy pricing on some great tech. Fortunately, thanks to the magic of the internet, most of the Black Friday advertisements are already on the web and the most dedicated shoppers are already laying out their plans for which stores to get to and what time they need to be there. Unfortunately for those shoppers, it doesn’t look like Microsoft is going to give any Windows Phone users a reason to skip out on that 75% off sale at Kohl’s, at least not yet.

Yesterday, the Microsoft Stores began their push to Black Friday with a mass email campaign. While the deals themselves weren’t highlighted, the items were. The only Windows Phone product to make the list this holiday season is the Lumia 635. Currently the offer page takes you to the standard AT&T Lumia 635 page, reflecting a price of $.01 with new 2 year agreement. This will probably translate into a $50 deal for the Lumia 635 sans the 2 year commitment, but still isn’t appealing enough to get me out of bed on Thanksgiving night. One has to consider that Amazon has that same AT&T compatible Lumia 635 for $79.99 right now.

While it looks like there will be some amazing deals on Xboxes, games and a few other items, there’s not much love for the Windows Phone crowd at the MS Store’s this Turkey Day. Hopefully that magical – more items to come section will have something that Windows Phone fans can really get excited about. If not, there’s always Amazon to save me from the madness.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wanted: Kids Apps – What Do Your Kids Play?

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Some of us have them, others don’t. If you do, having those few Apps loaded into Kid’s Corner on your Windows Phone is a lifesaver. This week, I want to start collecting some great Kids Apps to review. These will not be full write-up style reviews, but a quick reference of what is out there and what is fun. I’ll be breaking them down to a few different segments, which will depend slightly on what comes in.

So, fire away in the comments below or send an email to smartphonedeals@gmail.com if you don’t want to publically say that the Barbie Hair Salon is a ton of fun and you can’t imagine your Windows Phone without it,

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Nokia Camera Renamed To Lumia Camera As Rebranding Continues

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In a not so shocking move, Microsoft pulled the Nokia Camera App from the store yesterday to ready it for a name change, and apparently 2 different versions for future use. The first is Nokia Camera Classic, which appears to be only compatible with devices that will see the Lumia Denim update. These include the later generation Lumia devices and the Icon. The description and version numbers are exactly the same between the Classic version and the stock Lumia Camera that everyone else will be getting, so it appears that releasing Classic is just a way to segment the App for future updates. You can be assured that the 830 will end up with more powerful camera software then the 520 will in the future.

The biggest question I have is why the lack of support for the 1020 with your premiere camera software?

Friday, October 31, 2014

When Trading In Your Phone Makes Little Sense

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There is the great rumor going around that the carrier stores are giving you top dollar for your phone trade in. Yes, that new iPhone 5s that you bought last year will net you $350 a T-Mobile right now. Don’t pay any attention to the fact that that same phone is selling for $500 in your local Craigslist pages. That Lumia 925 you bought last year for $550, yep, they’ll give you $75 for that puppy. It’s a sham.

Here’s the honest truth to upgrading your device, and it’s not a pretty one. Don’t do it. I mean it. You will get ripped off every single time you do it. Unless you own an iPhone. For example, if you bought a new Lumia 1020 when it was released at $500 or $550, then you decided it was time for a 1520, you might have gotten $300 for it. Right now, T-Mobile will give you $89 for it, and as they say, that’s the best trade-in value in right now!

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Now, not being dumb, I took a quick look at Craigslist for the item in my area and found the cheapest one to be $200. It was one that an update was forced on and the camera started acting up. A simple roll back with the Nokia Software Utility and this would be back to being a mint phone with some minor cosmetic wear. So, my option if I have a 1020 is to let T-Mobile give me less than $100, or sell it online for $200-400 depending on condition.

The bottom line on this one is never ‘sell’ your device back to your carrier. Unless there is a termination fee of $300 or more being paid, you will come out on the bottom side of that deal. The other part to remember is that if you bring your device to a carrier that pays your term fee, you usually have to sign up for monthly payments on a new device, which takes your bill eerily close to where it was when you left your old plan.

Be careful and do the math before you jump in and buy something new. Check the going rate for your device prior to trading it in and most of all, make sure you have a spare phone. When disaster strikes, it’s always nice to have an old friend to fall back on.

Trade In Pricing effective: 10/30/14 per T-Mobile.com trade in page.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I’m With The Band, But Not Quite Yet

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Yesterday evening, the news broke about the new Microsoft Band, the new life/fitness/health wearable from Microsoft. I don’t want to go heavily into the features on the Band yet as I haven’t had hands on experience with one yet, but, the idea is brilliant. That said, I won’t be one of the first to sport one of the Microsoft Bands for one reason – they priced it too high.

With great options out there, and better compatibility with more platforms, companies like FitBit, Jawbone and the various “watch” wareable makers are really head of the curve here. While the Microsoft Band does more, and honestly, probably does it better, the $200 street price for a product aimed at a target audience of 3% is pretty ballsy. Yes, I just said ballsy on that one.

So, what exactly does that $200 investment get you? It’s a health tracking, workout notifying, email reading monster that fits on your wrist and talks to your phone. It’s a Cortana activating, heart rate tracking, calendar displaying beast that can almost eliminate the need to remove your phone from your pocket. It seems that good. That said, how well does it really do everything that it is supposed to, and how long until the clones hit?

I’ll be honest here, the Microsoft Band is exactly what I have been looking for as I begin to start my weight loss plan. It is perfect for what I want as a Windows Phone user. Overall, I think I am their ideal client for the Microsoft Band. Unfortunately, the $200 price tag is just too aggressive for me, and my bet is many others. If this was a tested technology, a generation 4 item, that was proven, the $200 premium price might be an easier justification. For me, it just puts it about $100 more than a FitBit or something like that.

That said, the Microsoft Band is an amazing piece of technology. It really does do it all, and chances are, I’ll end up eventually getting one for my wrist. It just makes sense to me and if it works as well as it looks like it does, it will be the perfect add on to my Windows family.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

T-Mobile USA Rolls Out Update For Lumia 925

One of my favorite Lumia phones is getting some new software from T-Mobile today. Their Lumia 925 software is being bumped to version 3051.50009.1439.0017. The better news is that this update does not require moving off of the developer preview to install. The 529MB install file includes the update to Windows Phone 8.1 and Inflight Texting Support.

Other than that, I’m still waiting to see what other goodies are under the hood here, so I will post more on it tomorrow after the update finishes.

OneDrive For Windows Phone Gets An Update

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Probably one of the best features of Windows Phone is OneDrive. Unfortunately, for months now, Android and iOS have had better interfaces for OneDrive than Windows Phone has. The good news, Microsoft has realized the error of their ways and is trying hard to fix it. The not so good news, there’s still a long way to go even after this latest update to the OneDrive App for Windows Phone.

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While the interfaces are quickly catching up to each other, it is far too apparent from the reviews in the Store that the OneDrive App for Windows Phone is just too far back. This compares to a 4.3 rating in the Google Play store in an ecosystem that isn’t even native to the feature. In fact, there are nearly 100,000 5 star reviews of the OneDrive App in the Play Store.

Overall, Microsoft is on the right track with the improvements made in version 4.4. A slightly improved design. Support for OneDrive business accounts is now there as well. There were also various bug fixes and performance improvements as well. As far as catching up to the user experiences on other platforms, there is still a ways to go, but they should get there soon enough.

Download or Manual Update Link: OneDrive

Friday, October 24, 2014

Windows Phone Is Dead…

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Ok, did the headline get you? I sure hope it did, because that’s what I was going for. But yes, it is actually true. As Microsoft continues the take over of the the Lumia brand, they will be changing the old Windows Phone Facebook page over to the Microsoft Lumia page. Don’t think for a minute that means that other manufacturers are done with Windows though, because it is anything but the case.

In recent weeks, Blu Mobile has thrown out the Blu Win HD and the Blu Win JR. HTC of course ran their new HTC One (M8) for Windows about 2 months back and apparently there are more goodies in store for the fans of Windows. I hate the rumor mill more than I can express in these words, but it has been hinted at that HP may jump back in the phone game with a “small, tablet style” device that would have a cellular radio for making calls.

With the excitement of Windows 10 bringing the actual “Windows 7 Concept” to the forefront, anything is possible.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What Is The Best Windows Phone Deal?


There are a ton of them out there and all of them are pretty amazing, especially when you consider the price. In the end, there has to be one that is the best deal you can get, or at least close to it. Here’s my rundown on the best deals in Windows Phone’s for October 2014.
Sprint HTC 8XT – $169.99

Oh man, let the flaming begin… Now let me explain how this out-did the phones in front of it… First off, the Sprint HTC 8XT is a great device. It has a stellar 8MP camera, beautiful 4.3” display and the 8XT, unlike its counterparts found in the 8X, has an expandable memory slot. So, why does the Sprint HTC 8XT deserve a place in the list when it’s basically a walking dead device that won’t be updated?
Well, Microsoft has patched the developer update for it, so you can now access Windows Phone 8.1 via that route. Once that is in place, you can now continue to receive updates directly, not having to worry about Sprint. Now, here’s the kicker with the Sprint HTC 8XT, I wouldn’t activate it on Sprint.
For $34.99 a month, you can run the Sprint HTC 8XT on Red Pocket Mobile and get way more bang for you buck. That $35 will get you 300 minutes of talk, unlimited text and 2GB of LTE data. II f you need more talk time and less data, you can drop your bill down to the $29.99 plan and get unlimited talk and text with 500MB of 2G data.
AT&T Nokia Lumia 635 – $79.99
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Coming in at #4 on the list is the AT&T version of the Lumia 635 for use on their GoPhone service. This $79.99 device rocks out with features like Nokia Music, Here Maps and Drive+ and Windows Phone 8.1 out of the box. The 4.5” display is clean and clear, while the 5MP rear shooter takes a decent snap shot. Overall, it’s the monthly plan price that keeps the AT&T Nokia Lumia 635 from ranking higher on the list.
Of course, you can always take your AT&T Nokia Lumia 635 over to a third party AT&T MVNO like Red Pocket Mobile (GSMA), Straight Talk or Net10 to save a bit on that monthly rate. Still, the $20 difference between the T-Mobile and the AT&T Nokia Lumia 635 leaves me feeling a bit left out.
T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 635 – $99.87
AT&T Nokia Lumia 635 - No Contract GoPhone
With a Quad-core 1.2GHz processor, 512MB of RAM and a decent enough 5MP shooter, the T-Mobile version of the Nokia Lumia 635 takes the number 3 spot in my rankings. The reason behind the ranking in-front of its AT&T counterpart is that the device can be unlocked by T-Mobile in just 40 days. This means the unlocked cost of the Lumia 635 is just $180, which frankly makes it a great deal. Once unlocked, you can pair this with any MVNO out there, or take it to AT&T.
Additionally, T-Mobile’s contract free pricing will give you an unlimited talk and text plan plus 2GB of data for $45 plus taxes. This works out to be about $55 a month worse case scenario. If you have a family, the savings can be even greater. Grabbing up four of the T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 635 at $99 a piece will net you a $120 a month bill after taxes. That with four lines of unlimited talk, text and data. Not too shabby.
Blu Win HD – $179.00
 
Flying in at #2 on the list is the first of the “non-Nokia” handsets. The Blu Win HD features a gorgeous 5” display, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. It also accommodates Micro SD cards of 32GB, and possibly larger, but I couldn’t verify that. The Blu Win HD ships unlocked and ready to roll on most North American carriers (sorry Sprint and Verizon users) that operate on GSM frequencies.
The Blu Win HD does not have an LTE radio in it, but it does feature the full speed HSPA+42 radio for T-Mobile and AT&T. The 8MP camera does a great job of taking good snapshots and video. Overall, you could do much worse for an unlocked Windows Phone, which is why I ranked the Blu Win HD 2nd on my list.

Cricket Wireless Nokia Lumia 630 – FREE
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So, we’ve been through a few of the cheaper options, but nothing beats the deal you get with the Nokia Lumia 630 from Cricket Wireless. First off, the $100 phone becomes $50 as soon as you activate your service. Then you get a $50 rebate on top of that, which makes this puppy free! That gives you all the specs that were previously covered by the twin 635’s, except the LTE radio, which for the most part won’t be a major issue for many people.
When you combine the free device with the fact that a family of 4 can get coverage for $90 (unlimited talk, text and 1GB high speed data + unlimited 2G data) this becomes a stellar deal. This makes a 2 year cost of the Lumia 630 on Cricket an incredible $2160! That’s 33% off T-Mobile’s “best deal” and unmatched in the industry right now. My advice, grab it while the grabbing is good – especially if you have a family that needs new phones!
Honorable Mentions:
T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 530 – $69.99
AT&T Nokia Lumia 520 – GoPhone – $48.88
T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 521 – $64.50

Taking A Peek At The Garage

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A somewhat well kept secret in the Microsoft community has been The Garage. This close knit bunch of interns, developers, employees and fan-boys have been hanging out together for quite a while and making some pretty amazing stuff. Whether it’s hacking, creating or just having fun, The Garage crew has some amazing stuff up their sleeves.

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First and foremost, you have the featured projects. These range from some amazing Android Apps to some new things for your Windows 8 powered PCs. As you flip through them, pay attention to the downloadable links located at the bottom of the “learn more” popup from the App screen. If you are an Android-Wear user, and you have an Android device in your pocket as well, check out Torque. This brand new App will have you never uttering the words, “OK Google” again…

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For us Windows Phone users, probably the highlight of The Garage is the Tetra Lockscreen App. This ‘Live’ style lock screen replacement lets you customize your lock screen with a few different options, including the new “Nokia SensorCore” technology. Swing in to the Workbench and check out the cool content for your devices by hitting the link below.

While there isn’t a ton of content yet, the fact that this has stayed under wraps as well as it has is somewhat amazing. So, go take a stroll around The Garage and see what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Visit The Garage: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/garage/

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

App Review: Hot Tiles! Makes Easy Work Of Custom Home Screens

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If there is something that we all wish we had on our Windows Phones, it would be the ability to pin something to it and control the way it looks. For example, there is no Ello App yet, but I pin a link to that webpage to my start screen for easy access. Unfortunately, Windows Phone only saves an image of the webpage for that live tile and it leaves no room for customization.

The great news is that SYM has addressed said shortcomings and has come up with Hot Tiles! for our customizing enjoyment. Whether you want to create a custom App tile or one for a webpage, it only takes a few clicks to get the look and color you want on your tile.

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I took a few seconds to create a WP Focus tile for my home screen and can tell you it is remarkably easy to use this powerful App. Sizes, styles, text location, just about anything you may want to do to your tile is available. Even better, the transparent option is there as well.

The 5MB size is minimal, so that shouldn’t be an issue for most users. Overall, if you like to pin things to your start screen, the $.99 asking price for Hot Tiles! is well worth it. If Hot Tiles! continues to be updated with the newest Apps, this should be Microsoft’s next purchase and be added to the next release of Windows Phone.

Download Link: Hot Tiles!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Getting To Know Your HTC Duo Cam For Windows

 

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When the HTC One (M8) for Windows was released, one of the biggest compromises that users were willing to make was the loss of a PureView camera in order to get the aluminum body of the One. I was lucky enough to get to do a test of the original UltraPixel camera found in the HTC One M7 against the PureView Nokia Lumia 925 and tell you all about it. The two part series featured a look at the interfaces, then a look at the actual performance of the cameras. Overall, there were pluses and minuses to both camera, but overall, the image quality of the HTC One M7 held its own. In fact, in color reproduction and dynamic range, it actually out performed the Lumia 925. So, how much more does the M8 bring to the table, and can it replace your PureView powered Lumia?

First off, you have to understand how the Duo Cam on the M8 works. The sensor of the primary 4UP (that’s short for UltraPixel) camera contains larger pixels than a typical “megapixel” sized sensor. This allows the sensor to capture more light per pixel, thus resulting in better – smaller images. The f/2.0 aperture and 28mm focal length really bring out the ultimate in macro and close up portrait photography. Unfortunately, the smaller image size does make zooming nearly impossible. The secondary lens is reportedly a 1MP depth sensor. Basically, the secondary camera records how far away things are, how much light there is and what angle the image is shot at.

Once you understand that the image is still coming from the primary UltraPixel camera, you can start to see why the secondary camera comes in handy. By having all the ‘image data’ stored with the second camera, you can physically alter the image data by changing it based on the information that the second camera captures. This includes changing focus, the background, adding effects or even using the camera for different augmented reality purposes. Here’s the built in software package effects and what they can do right now for your M8 for Windows.

The original image:

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The first image uses the UFocus Duo Effect. As you can see, the first image has the front chair, pillow and fireplace completely in focus. With UFocus, I was able to blur the background of the image easily. Now the fireplace and the chair in the background of the image are completely lost and the chair becomes the focal point.

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I then reversed the effect and used UFocus is used to blur the chair and pillow, making the fireplace more of a focal point. This also reestablished the background of the image using the secondary camera’s depth information, which drastically changed the other Duo Cam effects to come.

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The next image we take the same start and use the Foregrounder effect to black out the chair and take the focus again, back to the fireplace. This can be very useful when shooting portraits of people in colorful outfits. It really adds a color pop to them.

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Next, I used the Dimension Plus effect to actually change the view of the image. You can see the pillow and chair are much closer now and the image looks like it was shot from slightly higher up.

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Overall, the Duo Cam features are quite handy and are very powerful – if you play with them enough to use them. If you just point and shoot a ton, the HTC One (M8) for Windows is still a great choice for you as well. It is a super-fast shooting camera, which makes capturing things like the kiddos, pets or even racecars a pretty neat thing.

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The HTC One (M8) for Windows is available on Verizon Wireless and ships unlocked for use on other carriers if purchased at full retail. Unfortunately, there is no way to edit the MMS APN at the moment so you will give up that feature if you pack your M8 to another carrier, but it’s a small price to pay for such a great device. For more information on the HTC One (M8) for Windows you can visit the link below.

More information: HTC One (M8) for Windows