This week and last I find myself once more in Austin for the SXSW conference, and once more I'm reminded of just how awesome Microsoft's OneNote is. Shipping as part of the core app experience on every Windows Phone, it's an app that I suspect many have ignored. Well, it's time to look at it again, because it really does show you just how well your smartphone can work in a cloud-based connected environment.
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.
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?
The rule of thumb is that it takes three versions of a Microsoft operating system to reach a solid foundation for growth. With Windows Phone it might not take three versions, it might take a free version instead. What impact would a switch away from a paid licencing model mean to Windows Phone and the ecosystem?
Adverts promoting mobile apps in traditional media have become increasingly common over the last five years, but they are usually generic, or focused on the iOS or Android platforms. However, in today's edition of the London Times it is noteworthy that there's a Windows Phone specific app advert promoting the recently published Barclays Mobile Banking app.
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.
San Francisco based Swrve has looked at the in-app purchasing data across their own network for January, and the numbers they reveal are interesting. I can see two major points from the data that have already had an effect on the mobile app ecosystem, and the rise of freemium has not diminished the opportunity for developers.
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!
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.
One of the more interesting announcements from Microsoft at MWC was the declaration of 'Windows Phone as the third ecosystem'. It's a position they have laid claim to before, both as an aspiration and as an achieved goal. This time around though, I think they were not only fair to call it out at a European conference, but they were one hundred percent right. Windows Phone is the third ecosystem in Europe, it's the rest of the world that needs to catch up.