The lock screen app, Next Lock Screen from Microsoft, has been updated today with several big improvements. The biggest change in the new build, version 3.9 for those keeping score at home, has to do with improved notifications and weather on the lock screen of your Android phone. In this new build, these two features have been significantly improved and are, well, reliable. In the previous build the weather updates in particular were haphazard at best. This new 3.9 build is much better at updating both notifications and weather updates in a timely fashion.
Microsoft has released an update to their digital notebook app, OneNote, that adds a lot of new features. The update is build is version 16.0.7369.1775 for those keeping score at home and like version number Bingo. While it has the usual smattering of bug fixes and performance improvements, there are also some big feature changes to this update. First, the app now supports multi-window use in Android Nougat. To this point, if you tried to use OneNote in multi-window, it simply would not open. That’s a thing of the past now and you can have the app and another app open at the same time on the screen on your phone or tablet.
Another big improvement in this update is the ability to open password-protected sections. On the desktop version of OneNote, you can password protect those sections with sensitive information. Previously the Android app (and iOS app for that matter) wouldn’t open up those sections. That’s fixed and now you can open them although you still cannot create a password protected section within the app. Support for inserting and viewing embedded files in your notes has also been added in this update.
Microsoft has rolled out yet another update to their Android launcher, Arrow Launcher. The update, version 2.4.0 for those keeping score at home, brings a handful of changes and improvements including a much improved search function. Now within the launcher you can search not just the web but also apps and contacts on your phone. This brings Arrow on par with other launchers that have similar functionality built into them.
This update also brings some needed performance improvements. This has been an area that Microsoft has been working on the launcher for some time and every update it gets a little bit better. This 2.4 update really made big strides. Performance is noticeably faster, particularly when swiping from one page to another. It also opens apps much faster than the previous build.
The Microsoft Garage team (think of it as a developer incubator) has released another new app that is designed to give you news and information based on your unique interests. The new News Pro app leverages your social network interests to give you more personalized news and information based on your likes on those social networks. You can sign in with LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and the information provided to you will be based on your profile on that particular network. It is a great concept and in playing with the app, it works pretty well.
Microsoft is rolling out a big update to OneDrive for Android that brings some much need user requested features to the cloud storage app. The first big feature is the ability to create Office documents within the app. If you need to create an Excel, PowerPoint or Word document, you can now do that within OneDrive itself and not necessarily have to open up the particular Office app on your phone or tablet. This is a great time saving feature but also allows the app to be the center touch point for all of your Microsoft file activities. This feature has been requested for a long period of time and mirrors the functionality that Google Drive has had for a long time.
Microsoft has announced that users of the new Outlook.com experience will soon have improved support for handling files from Google Drive and photos from Facebook. The updates are going to be rolling out over the course of the next few weeks and it is a back end change so there is nothing you need to do. Once you have the update, Google Drive files will be available to you from the Attach menu when creating an email. Today when you want to do this you have to open a wholly separate tab. That will no longer be the case and it will make attaching files out of Google Drive quicker and simpler.
Microsoft has published a report comparing their newly updated Microsoft Edge browser against the competition and the results indicate that it is far more battery friendly than other browsers out there. The report is similar to one that the company ran in June and this new report is based on the updated version of Edge in what is commonly referred to as the Anniversary Update of Windows 10 (Build 1607 for those keeping score). The results indicate that Edge has seen some dramatic improvements since the release of the update.
At the risk of giving away the ending, the results may look familiar! With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Microsoft Edge is more efficient than ever, and still the best choice for extending your battery life on Windows 10 – up to 24%-43% more efficient than the competition for general purpose browsing, and lasting up to 23%-69% longer when streaming video.
Microsoft and their mobile devices, Microsoft Lumia, were in the news again this week and not in a good way. The company has all-but confirmed that they will be killing off the devices and brand by the end of 2016. As a long time H/PC, PocketPC, Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone users (I started this site back in 2004 writing about Handheld PCs and PocketPCs), it is a shame to see a company with the resources of Microsoft so utterly screw up their mobile strategy around devices. There are a lot of reasons for this of course and I could spend a lot of digital ink on it. But the bottom line is, from a device perspective, Microsoft made a long series of major missteps that has led to where we are today: Virtually no Windows powered phones. Sure there is the new HP Elite X3 but at the price point it has ($799), it will see very few and really, it’s aimed at the enterprise anyway.
But to suggest that Microsoft’s mobile strategy is dead because their phones are dead is a bit of a stretch and dare I say, false. Their strategy is very much alive and well across both Android and iOS and proves that you don’t necessarily have to have phones in the mix. Microsoft’s focus has been pretty clear for the last two years. First, they want you using Microsoft services on whatever devices you want to use. Second, they want you to have the apps to make you productive and give you near the same level of functionality as you have on the desktop. These two things not only make up a mobile strategy but it makes a pretty solid one.
Microsoft has rolled out yet another update to their Android launcher, Arrow Launcher. The update marks the third significant update to the launcher over the course of the past three weeks as the company continues to improve the performance and information in the app. This latest update, version 126.96.36.199056 for those keeping score at home, brings a handful of changes with the most notable being IM support on the Recent tab. Now that tab will show you recent Instant Messages that you have received from Facebook Messenger, Skype and other messaging apps. Now you don’t necessarily have to open each app to see your latest interactions on those apps.
Microsoft has rolled out a nice update to their Android lock screen app, Next Lock Screen. The update brings full integration of the company’s Bing search engine (which has had a big resurgence as of late) into the app so you can do search while your phone is still locked. The updated build is version 3.7.1 for those keeping score at home and if you have the app installed, the OTA update for you should be coming over the next day or two. Once you have it, you will be able to tap on the Bing logo on the lock screen and do a search without having to unlock your phone. It is a handy feature if you are searching while on-the-go.
Microsoft has rolled out a nice update to the Microsoft Office suite of apps for Android. Excel, PowerPoint and Word for Android have all been updated to build 16.0.7301.1013 for those keeping score at home and bring with it some improvements around file sharing and collaboration. In fact, in the release notes for each of the apps, Microsoft points out that collaboration is now “front and center” for each of the apps. So what does that mean? It means that you can now easily and quickly find documents that have been shared with you in the new “Shared with me” section of the menu. Here you can see files others have shared with you from their PC, Mac, iOS device or Office online when they used the “invite people” option on a document. It is a faster way of finding those files without having to search through the app to find that document. This collaboration also means that you can quickly share a document and have the ability to see who is working on it in the Android apps.
If you are willing to do a little work and link some accounts, Disney has a great deal for you. Right now if you download the Disney Movies Anywhere app for Android, sign up and then link an account, you will get a free copy of Monsters, Inc. added to your account. If you aren’t familiar with the app, it serves as a central repository for all movies from Disney, from animated classics to the modern remake of The Jungle Book. You buy movies through the app and they are purchased through whatever app store you have linked to the app. Then the movie appears in the Disney Movies Anywhere app and in the linked accounts movies. So for example, I linked my Google account to the Disney app and my Microsoft account. When I make a purchase of a movie through the app, that movie appears in both my Google and my Microsoft accounts. I don’t have to repurchase!