Recent Features - How To

How to: The Art of Xenon

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Having a 'proper' Xenon flash in your smartphone (we're talking Nokia 808 and Lumia 1020 here) doesn't necessarily give you better low light shots of people - you have to know how to use the technology to best effect too. After criticism from some quarters about 'missed shots', I thought a 'how to' guide to Xenon might be in order, whichever of Nokia's flagship camera phones you own.

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Background task management under the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1

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One question we were keen to see answered with Windows Phone 8.1 (now out in preview form for developers and enthusiasts) was whether the update interval for 'background tasks', the bits of applications which run every so often in the background to do useful stuff like update live tiles, would change from the current 30 minutes in Windows Phone 8.0 to something more frequent. It does seem from our tests that the interval hasn't changed, but fear not for there's more to updating in the background in 8.1 than simple scheduling...

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How to: Tell people where you are

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The latest in a series of 'how to' articles for Windows Phone beginners, a common task that many will want to do is send a family member or friend their location. Sounds simple for a smartphone, right? And it is, but it's worth noting the right way to do it rather than falling for one of the dozens of 'Here I am' style utilities in the Windows Phone Store.

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How to: Archive (and massively expand) the Bing Image of the Day

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One of the most popular options for Windows Phone lockscreens is to have it set to 'Bing', producing some wonderful images, day after day, surprising you each morning with something dramatic or pretty. But did you know that a) you can get details of where it was taken on your phone, b) you're only seeing a small fraction of the original photo, and c) it's easy to archive the full original at higher resolution, to perhaps use a laptop or desktop wallpaper?

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Less swiping altogether - Windows Phone's Start screen 'For The Win'

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This is both horribly controversial and also horribly subjective - and I know it's a popular meme to hate Microsoft's new 'tiles', especially on the desktop. But, regardless of their shape, the Windows Phone Start screen elements make me more efficient - I'm comparing it all to trying to live with Android, iOS, Symbian and Blackberry OS 10 - and Windows Phone is the one I keep coming back to with a sigh of satisfaction. And yes, that surprised me too...

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Your smartphone - the perfect pocket scanner and archiver that's always with you

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As the resolution and quality of cameras in smartphones has risen dramatically in the last five years, it's easy to forget that these devices aren't just for snapping people and things around us right now. With the technology now included - here demoed on the especially capable Nokia Lumia 1020, but this also applies to any other decent camera phone, of course - it's perfectly practical to archive and transfer printed images from older times. In this feature, I explain a use case that made a lot of sense to me and I pass on a few tips.

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Never mind Cortana, this summer. What can I say on Windows Phone right NOW?

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It's fair to say that voice control of Windows Phone has been somewhat underplayed by everyone over the last couple of years. Partly that's because it's been some way behind the state of the art in terms of Google Now and Apple's Siri, but that era is hopefully about to end when Cortana arrives in Windows Phone 8.1. But, with that still months away from our devices, it might be worth getting yourself into the habit of talking to your smartphone in the meantime. What exactly can you say/do on Windows Phone right now?

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Camera gimmicks help - but for best quality you need a (much) bigger sensor

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It's all very well seeing phone manufacturer after phone manufacturer adding faster image processors and (ever so) slightly larger sensors in their smartphone cameras. It's all very well them proclaiming in their marketing "the best phone camera ever". And, in extreme cases, even adding two lenses and two sensors. But, ultimately, physics wins. It always wins. Never mind the tiny sensors used in even the likes of the brand new Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2, use a large sensor like that in the Nokia Lumia 1020 and photos are immediately better, especially when allied to Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) and (when needed) also to a proper Xenon flash. 

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How to: use PureView zoom to produce stunning macros on the Nokia 808 and Lumia 1020

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Due to the large sensors, wide angle optics and relatively long focal lengths, Nokia's 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 haven't traditionally been thought of as great for 'macro' photography, i.e. this is seen one of the only weaknesses of these two 'PureView' cameras. However, it's worth noting one top tip for achieving great results anyway - and, thanks to our friend Olivier Noirhomme, we have some stunning examples of the technique in action, as proof!

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Waiting for Windows Phone 8.1 - the showstopping 'volume' bug

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In all my time with Windows Phone, I've rarely found bugs that caused me to want to throw me phone against the nearest wall in frustration. Things that couldn't be done, full stop, yes. But not bugs that caused functionality to come and go. Below, confirmed by others and acknowledged by Nokia, is a short story of one such bug that is crippling to the user experience in day to day life.

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