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.
Now we've had a chance to look over the changes in Windows Phone 8.1, and consider them alongside some of the other announcements, there are many areas of business to discuss. One area of interest is the Android vs Windows Phone battle. While Windows Phone is the weaker and smaller partner, the last three months have shown the agility that the "new" Microsoft will have, and that could be enough to destabilise Android and bring some new partners to Microsoft's mobile table.
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...
Coming along for the ride with Windows Phone 8.1 (out now in 'preview' mode) is a whole new application from Microsoft - Podcasts. Yes, you've guessed it, yet another podcatching application, except that this time it's from the people who make the OS and it's pretty darned slick. Unfortunately, it's also pretty darned limited, so podcast fans shouldn't uninstall their favourite third party podcatcher just yet. Part review, part feature, here's my assessment of this application that's arriving very soon.
Over the years, I've looked at countless games on Windows Phone. The majority of them are deleted shortly after the review is posted, but many of them stay a week or two longer. Some of them are still on the handset after a few months, and in some cases years. Which games have been able to stay on my handset through deletions, save-finding missions, and hard resets?
In a month where there is a lot of attention on the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S5, the HTC One, and the Nokia Lumia 930, it's natural that there are going to be comparison articles, camera shoot-outs, and discussions around the specifications of the new flagships for the summer. It all makes for great content, and exciting reading, but it also takes away from another story, and one that perhaps is more indicative of the long-term path of smartphones in general. What about the budget handsets?
Microsoft's strategy is changing. The recent shift of policy to allow MS Office to appear on the iPad is the biggest flag, but you also have the availability of OneNote across Android and iOS (as well as Windows Phone), clients for Hotmail and Outlook across the platforms, and the reduction of the Windows licence fee for devices with a '9 inches or less' screen. Another upcoming step is going to be being less enterprise and more consumer focused. Media consumption as a service could be one of the key consumer selling points in 2014.
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.
I know it's probably terrible SEO tactics to link to a competitor, but in this case a) Windows Phone Central is a fine site (and hopefully they respect us too), and b) they're utterly wrong - in my humble opinion, on this particular issue. Yes, it's the thorny chestnut of phone form factors and, in particular a contention that 'it's time to redefine the smartphone: phablets are the future of mobile'. While I realise that this WPC article is probably just one voice among many writers, the concept itself is as interesting as it's possibly misplaced - and definitely worth exploring here, with quotes from past articles of mine on the subject and some new thoughts.
As widely expected, Microsoft took the wraps off Cortana, its next generation 'Personal Assistant', delivered on both Windows Phone 8.1 and Bing online. If you've seen Apple's Siri and Google's Now then you'll already know what to expect, but it's fair to say that Microsoft's later entrance into this market has given it time to play, learn and adapt, and Cortana could be more effective than its competitors. Moreover, Microsoft's philosophy behind Cortana harkens back to terminology from the 1990s... which in my eyes is long overdue.