Microsoft’s Desperate Need for a Flagship Windows Phone

As we come into Mobile World Congress 2015 in earnest this week, I’m reminded of a stark reality as a Windows Phone enthusiast.  That reality is that beyond two devices that are both over a year old, Windows Phone has no flagship device.  That, in itself, should not be news.  If you are reading my site then you are likely a Windows Phone user or at the very least have a morbid curiosity on how the other 3.5% live (that’s the rough market share of Windows Phone) and know that there hasn’t been a flagship worthy Windows Phone in a long while.  The last three devices of what many would consider “Flagship” were the Lumia 930 (Icon), the Lumia 1520 and you may be able to stretch and say the HTC M8 Windows Phone.  The last of those was launched mid-year last year but the Lumia 1520 came out at the end of 2013 and the 930 early last year.  In terms of half-life for mobile devices, that is an eternity.  One could argue that the Lumia 830, the “affordable flagship” is a reasonable stop-gap but let’s be honest with ourselves here, it’s not a flagship device not matter what the marketing materials says.

Microsoft has been very busy on the low end of the market and you often hear the term “the next billion” when referring to the segment of the market that is moving from mobile phones to smartphones.  There is, in many parts of the world, an untapped customer base, thus the next billion.  But equally the argument could be made that Microsoft needs – indeed must – cater to the upper end of the market at the same time.  They don’t have to look any further than their own competitors in the market to see this need yet seemingly are willing to ignore it.  It is disappointing, frustrating and not helping win mind share around Windows Phone as a platform.

Acer Liquid M220 Windows Phone Launched with Dismal Specs

At Mobile World Congress today Acer announced their all new Windows Phone 8.1 device, the Acer Liquid M220.  It represents Acer’s first Windows Phone 8.1 device and their first Windows Phone in four years but frankly, this is a huge disappointment.  The specs of the Acer Liquid M220 are dismal and in fact do not even meet the minimum design guidelines for Windows Phone these days.  In fact about the only positive I can see on this device is that it is Dual SIM.  I would go as far as to say that if you are looking for a budget friendly Windows Phone, look at the Lumia 635.  But hey, we have another vendor in the Windows Phone game, right?


Have A Question? Head To The Microsoft Community Pages

There are a lot of places that Windows Phone and Windows users can get help but one of the best is the free Microsoft Community site.  If you haven’t visited them before or forgot about them, now is a good time to go and check them out.  You will find everything from problem solving tips to information and insights on how to do something better in the Windows world.  Once more, there are a huge number of experts that are in the Microsoft Community sites.  Those experts can be MVPs nominated by the community and Microsoft, and fellow users.

For my part, you will usually find me in the Windows Phone section of the site but I also drop into the Windows 8.1 section from time-to-time.

As with any self-help or user-centric help site, not every question will be answered and it may take time to get your answers.  Be patient.  Remember that everyone in the Microsoft Community pages are doing it on their own time so it may be a few days to get an answer to you.  If your matter is urgent then contact Microsoft support or visit your local Microsoft Store.

You can find the Microsoft Community at  From there you can search for any Microsoft product to get the extra help you need.

The One Sided Relationship of Microsoft with Google

Before Twitter was taken over by llamas and dresses of different colors, there was a flutter of a different type.  It started with Google’s purchase of SoftCard, a mobile payment solution, and the subsequent dropping of Windows Phone support just two days after the acquisition.  The result means that Microsoft and Windows Phone have no mobile payment app or system available in the short term (rumor has it that Microsoft is coming out with something with Windows 10 for Phones) so we loyal users will need to continue to whip out the plastic to make a purchase and not our shiny Lumia’s.

The undertone of the move however was far more ominous than just Google pulling support for one Windows Phone solution.  Google has never supported Windows Phone and scarcely Windows on the desktop.  In fact if you search the Windows Store you will find exactly one app from Google for Windows 8.1.  That one app is Google Search.  There is no Gmail app.  No Google+ app. Not even YouTube. Nothing.  Meanwhile, in the Google Play store, if you do a search for Microsoft you will find 64 apps they have developed for Android.  Sixty Four!  To make it more challenging, many of these apps are better on Android than they are on Windows Phone.  I expect that to change in Windows 10 for Phones but today, it is what it is.

If you look in the Windows Phone Store for Google apps you will find exactly one app as well, Google Search.  So really, the comparisons are not even a comparison.  It’s one sided.  But it gets worse and it is quite clear that Google wants nothing to do with Microsoft.  Need proof?  Go look at iTunes.

Review of ESPNF1 – A Must Have for Formula One Fans

If you have read this blog or followed me on Twitter for any amount of time, you know that I’m a huge Formula One fan.  I started watching F1 in the mid-80s and my passion for the sport is as strong as ever.  My team is Williams-Martini Racing and I have a particular fondness for Finnish drivers (they have insane car control) of which one of the two in F1 these days, Valtteri Bottas, is a Williams pilot.  The season is less than two weeks away and I cannot wait (and to be fair, I can’t wait for baseball to start either. Go Rockies!)

While there is no official F1 app for Windows Phone, there are several good ones in the Windows Phone Store.  I have found though that one of the best for news, information and features about the sport, ESPNF1 is the must-have app.  ESPNF1 is, as the name suggests, developed by ESPN who have a some great sports apps in the Store, and it provides you will the latest news about the goings-on in F1, video features, track information and current Driver and Constructor standings.  It is one of the most comprehensive F1 apps available with only a few areas of improvement that would complete it.

ESPNF1 for Windows Phone – Free – Download Now

How To Take a Screenshot in Windows 8.1 on Your PC

In December of last year I posted a How To on taking screenshots of your Windows 8.1 tablet and it turned out it was one of the most popular How To’s on the site.  Apparently a lot of you like taking screenshots on your tablets, which is done in a similar way to Windows Phone.  However a few of you have written asking how this can be done on Windows PCs.  From your emails, it looks like most of are using Control+PrintScreen to take a screenshot which saves it to the Clipboard then editing that photo (or creating it more-or-less) in Paint.  There is an easier and quicker way.

NOAA Hi-Def Radar for Windows Updated With Live Tile Support

The NOAA Hi-Def Radar app for Windows has received a nice update today, bringing amongst other improvements Live Tile support to your Windows 8.1 Start screen.  The update, version for those keeping score at home, has a lot of fixes and improvement throughout including a nagging issue with the Bing map authentication.  It seems that Weathersphere, the developer of the app, got that sorted out along with other general bug fixes and improvements.

NOAA Hi-Def Radar for Windows (Universal App) – $1.99 – Download Now

NOAA Hi-Def Radar for Windows Phone (Universal App) – $1.99 – Download Now

Microsoft Update OneDrive for Windows Phone with PIN Locking and A New Photo Album View

OneDrive for Windows Phone has received a significant update today, bringing several new features to the cloud storage app.  The new update, version 4.7 for those keeping score at home, is available now in the Windows Phone Store and brings four key updates that continue to level the playing field between the Windows Phone version and iOS or Android versions of OneDrive.

The first new feature is PIN lock support.  Now in OneDrive for Windows Phone you can setup a 4-digit PIN which will be required to access your files.  It is an added layer of security so if your device is lost or stolen, you have one more barrier for thieves to get through to get to your OneDrive files.  Obviously you should make sure the 4-digit PIN for OneDrive is different than the one you use to unlock your phone outright.

OneDrive for Windows Phone – Free – Download Now

FCC Reclassifies Broadband As A Utility

Today the FCC made a historic vote, classifying Broadband as a utility and effectively put into place net neutrality.  The vote was 3-2 down party lines and in the ruling, the FCC now regulates broadband providers as they do telephone and cable companies.  This is all under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934.  The new rules would allow the FCC to ban broadband providers from slowing down or blocking access to website and online services so long as those services are legal.  The implications are huge and you can fully expect broadband providers to sue the FCC over it.

Xbox Live Gold On Sale at Microsoft Store for $39.99

Here is a good deal for anyone looking to renew their Xbox Live Gold subscription or start a new one.  Right now at the Microsoft Store you can get a year of the service for only $39.99, $20 off the regular price.  Xbox Live Gold works with either the Xbox 360 or Xbox One and brings you a deeper level of functionality to your Xbox.  For Xbox 360 customers you get:

  • Online Multiplayer
  • Free Games with Gold (Like Bioshock Infinite in March)
  • Exclusive Gold discounts on games (like Assassins Creed Black Flag for 50% off this month)
  • Parties and Party Chat

For those of you with an Xbox One, you get all of these features plus these additional features:

  • Smart Match (better online opponent matching)
  • Home Gold (everyone in your house has Gold accounts)
  • Game DVR Cloud Storage
  • Upload Studio
  • Xbox Fitness

Microsoft has not indicated when this promotion has ended but you should go grab it while you can.

Xbox Live Gold – SALE $39.99 – Microsoft Store

Spotify for Windows Phone Update Brings Ability to Rename Playlists

After getting a massive update last month, Spotify has released a minor update today to the Spotify for Windows Phone app.  The update, version 5.1 for those keeping score at home, has general performance improvements along with a new but important feature for users.  Now you can rename your playlists from the Spotify from Windows Phone app, bringing this version on par with those on iOS and Android.

Spotify for Windows Phone – Free – Download Now

Lumia Denim Finally Hits The AT&T Lumia 1520

It took 70 days but Lumia Denim is finally here for Lumia 1520 owners on AT&T.  The update, which is being pushed out to owners now from Microsoft, brings all of the benefits of the latest Windows Phone 8.1 firmware along with feature specific changes in the Lumia Denim package.

As a reminder, you can read my Guide to Lumia Denim and my Lumia Denim Rollout Guide for more detailed information on the release and the rollout process.

Review of Tetra Lockscreen – Great Lockscreen Alternative

Like many elements of Windows Phone, the Lockscreen is one of the areas of personal expression on the platform.  Whether you decide to display your favorite photo, Facebook or Twitter photos or the Bing wallpaper of the day, it gives you this individual touch along with updates and information on your email, Facebook and other apps that you can choose.  Tetra Lockscreen takes those and pushes the Lockscreen up a level in functionality.  This app allows you to have that photo background of your choice or Bing but also brings a whole new level of content beyond just your messages, email and Facebook updates.  It makes the Lockscreen interactive and allows you to see details of your calendar for the day, your location, local weather and even can provide you a stopwatch.  It is a great example of the flexibility and power of Windows Phone.

The app comes from the Microsoft Garage (which was literally a garage on the Microsoft campus at one point) and is one of several apps that developers have released for Windows Phone and Android.  While the app isn’t officially supported by Microsoft, the Garage apps have all performed well and Tetra Lockscreen is no exception.  If you are looking to spruce up your Lockscreen with a bit more content, look no further than Tetra Lockscreen.

Tetra Lockscreen – Free – Download Now

6Tag for Windows Phone Sees New Filters In The Latest Update

The Instagram app 6Tag for Windows Phone has received a nice update today, bringing new filters and editing functionality.  The update, version 4.0 for those keeping score at home, is available now in the Windows Phone Store.  The update comes after developer Rudy Huyn Tweeted yesterday that the update was in the hands of Microsoft waiting for approval.

#6tag 4.0 update submitted: edit posts, edit post location, 5 new filters, change filter strength, etc… soon on the #wpstore #windowsphone

— Rudy Huyn (@RudyHuyn) February 25, 2015

The update is a nice one and should be one every users of the app goes and gets.

6Tag for Windows Phone – Free (In-App Purchase) – Download Now

Gameloft Releases Age of Sparta for Windows Phone

It has been anticipated for a while now but Gameloft has finally release Age of Sparta for Windows Phone and Windows.  The new game puts you in charge of the Greek army as you wage war against Xerxes and the Persians.  Using the powers at your disposal and with the help of the Greek Gods, you rebuild your city to get resources and an army to mount your campaign.  You can of course also align yourself with other players to form a bigger army and battle rivals.

While the game concept is not unique, Age of Sparta does have some outstanding characters and graphics as you play.  As most readers will know, I’m a big fan of Age of Empires Castle Siege and I like these top down, world building type of games.  This one fits the bill and brings a unique, historical twist to what could be a tired format for some.  Given that Age of Sparta is free, it is worth a try.

Age of Sparta for Windows Phone – Free (In-App Purchases) – Download Now

Age of Sparta for Windows – Free (In-App Purchases) – Download Now