Recent Features - Software

Time for Microsoft Store staff to stop playing lazy whack-a-mole and start paying attention

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Something of a storm breaks out on Twitter (etc.) every few weeks when someone notices that there's a new crop of 'clone'/'copy'/rip-off' applications in the Store, all trying to deceive casual users. We let the usual suspects know and, in time, at glacial pace, most of these get knocked on the head. But by then a new crop has appeared - a couple of blatant examples are shown below. Microsoft's Store staff, rather than simply publishing everything and waiting for people to complain about some infraction, need to actually look at what they're putting in the Store in the first place. If I can spot a ripped off app (usually a game) in seconds, then why can't Microsoft's staff, who are paid to do this for a living? 

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Cortana vs Siri vs Google Now vs Blackberry Assistant - fight!

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Each of the major smartphone platforms has its own voice assistant, but which is better for real world use? They're all getting smarter each year, of course, as their back-ends get upgraded, but as we move towards Autumn 2015 and new versions of the various platforms, I wanted to conduct an updated 'blind' test and get a data point or two. Or twenty. Reversing the result of a smaller sample of queries back in May, we now have an almost dead heat between Cortana and Google Now, with Siri not far behind. Things are hotting up in the voice assistant world!

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The quirky, powerful, two-way units converter that you didn't know you had...

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Yet another example of Windows 10 Mobile being rather more 'grown up' than Windows Phone 8.1, did you know that 'Calculator' on Windows 10 Mobile (most of you have probably joined the Insiders Programme by now, let's face it) is something of a powerhouse, not only providing three different calculators but also a veritable host of unit conversion functions. Heck, that's another few third party applications that you won't need to look out now...

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The Lumia 830, still the 'budget flagship' on Windows 10 Mobile on a Snapdragon 400?

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Having been looking so far in detail at Windows 10 Mobile performance and issues on the fastest Snapdragon 800-powered devices, the Lumia 930 and 1520, I thought it time to check out how the OS was faring on something with a Snapdragon 400, in this case the otherwise pretty decent Lumia 830, with 720p screen and 1GB of RAM. In fact, the 830 isn't being made anymore, with a new breed of similarly specced budget devices coming up on its heels, but it's still a good test case for how Windows 10 Mobile will fare with less horsepower under the hood.

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Windows 10 Mobile's Camera: testing Digital Stabilisation and OIS together...

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It's becoming increasingly clear that the Windows 10 Mobile Camera application is being groomed for taking over all photo and video duties on all compatible smartphones. I reported on the addition of RAW capture here, and in this video-centric feature I answer a question that many of us have had when looking through Camera's settings: why is there an option for 'Digital Video Stabilisation' when run on all the various Lumias with OIS-equipped cameras? Isn't OIS enough? Actually, it turns out that it isn't, see the video below for proof.

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Windows 10 Mobile a step-change, but ultimately needed on many levels

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It's not just the name which is changing - from Windows Phone 8 to Windows 10 Mobile - there's something of a step change in terms of the core applications coming up, as many of us who have been on the Insiders Programme will know. In some cases, familiar features have been lost, in others there's a definite maturity which has arrived. Most of all though, given the way Silicon Valley hasn't been taking Windows Phone seriously in the past, there's a feeling that sharing core code, applications and a Store with the Windows 10 juggernaut on the desktop is a potentially huge bump up in significance. One that was sorely needed.

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Windows 10 and the big 'Apps' disconnect, with knock-on for Mobile?

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The Windows 8/10 Store is filling up nicely with third party applications and games - go have a look on your nearest laptop or desktop and you'll see what I mean. The usual suspects are there, from Facebook to Twitter to Amazon to Netflix. And on the gaming side, there's Minion Rush, Modern Combat 5, Crossy Road, and so on. Everything seems rosy, yet I've been talking to everyday users and I'm starting to have my doubts about how much this ecosystem will be used. And if it falls short of expectations, then it will may take the future of Windows Phone (Windows 10 Mobile) with it...

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Meanwhile, back on the phone... Living with Windows 10 Mobile as July ends

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It has been a month since my last 'living with Windows 10 Mobile' feature - and since then we've seen a new build (10166) and are on the verge of another by by reckoning, plus there have been numerous core application updates via the Store. And with Windows 10 for the desktop now shipping to the great unwashed across the world, it's time for another snapshot of how the Mobile version is faring - I've been living with it for the last 48 hours and here's what's currently working and not working.

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Working with Maps on Windows 10 Mobile: a FAQ

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One of the cornerstones of Windows Phone for years was the Nokia/HERE Maps and Drive applications inherited from Nokia's Symbian days. And with Windows 10, all of this is changing, though perhaps not to quite the same degree as you might think. You won't see the HERE brand in Windows 10, but see below for some common questions and answers about Windows Maps.

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When the going gets tough: Windows Phone off-road mapping

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It's all very well having world-leading HERE Maps data covering every street in the known universe (well, almost), but what about when you abandon your car and start hiking, cycling or even geocaching, out in the country? For this, you need extra software and data help. Viewranger, on other platforms, is very well known, but it's not available on Windows Phone - begging the question, what to use instead? In this updated feature, I run through over half a dozen very viable alternatives.

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