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!
While Android devices have quick and easy access to Google search, having alternatives on your phone is never a bad thing. The Bing search app from Microsoft has been available for Android for a while now and it, like many of the Microsoft apps for Android, continues to grow and mature nicely. The latest update to the search app brings a music discovery feature that allows you to find the song you hear in your local coffee shop or other location. Like other apps, you simply turn on the app, hit the Music button and have Bing listen to the song. Within a few seconds it will return the result, giving you the song title and artist. You can then tap on that information at the bottom of the screen and get more details about the song, artist and albums that are available from that artist. On most songs you will also get the lyrics for the song.
The latest update to Skype is rolling out in the Play Store and with it comes bots. The messaging, text and video call app now has a wide selection of automated services that can be accessed to play games, give you information and help you with tasks throughout your day. There are dozens of bots to use within Skype and they are accesses from the floating menu at the bottom of the display, the same you use every day for IMs, video calls and phone calls. Now when you open up the menu you will see the option to chat with a bot. This new feature is in build 22.214.171.1248 for those keeping score at home and if you have Skype installed, you should get the OTA update over the course of the next day or two.
Microsoft and Lenovo have entered into an agreement which will see the Redmond company’s apps appear on the Beijing based company’s future Android phones. The announcement by the companies will bring Microsoft Office apps, OneDrive and Skype to select Lenovo devices going forward. Which specific devices is not laid out in the press release.
“Microsoft’s thrilled that our productivity apps will be pre-installed on Lenovo’s premium devices,” said Nick Parker, corporate vice president OEM Division, Microsoft. “The marriage of Microsoft’s apps and Lenovo’s Android-based devices will enable customers around the world to be more productive, more connected and achieve even more.”
For Lenovo, they are gaining access to some of Microsoft’s patents and IP (Intellectual Property) to be cross-licensed in Motorola and Lenovo devices.
Microsoft continues to listen to their users when it comes to their apps and the latest update to Arrow Launcher is solid proof. The update to Redmond’s Android launcher app brings fully customizable home pages to the launcher, a feature that many users of the app have requested. Frankly, this was one of the key reasons I never stuck with Arrow long term as I couldn’t customize it the way I wanted like I can with the Google Now Launcher. Now you can easily and freely setup the home page on the launcher the way you want with the apps you want.
I’ll be honest: I have an on again/off again relationship with Fitbit. I’ve been using their trackers for 6 years now and while my first tracker (the Ultra) was rock solid, the two subsequent models (the One and the Flex) have been less than stellar. I found neither of these tracked exceptionally well and with the One in particular, I was constantly fighting to keep it connected to my Nexus 6 or 6P as the Bluetooth was just not reliable.
Initially, in an effort to find a tracking alternative, I started using Google Fit and my Moto 360 smartwatch to track my activities. It was, shall we say, painful. Syncing was not accurate nor were step and exercise tracking. While Fit has grown up a lot, it still has some growing up to do. That experiment lasted about three weeks and that was all I could really handle.
Finally I had enough and I decided to step way out of the bounds of what most people consider for a fitness tracker. I picked up an Microsoft Band 2 and I have to say, it is a solid performing device that is very accurate in tracking your fitness information. In fact, after two weeks of using it, my Fitbit One is now quietly sitting connected to its charging cable on my desk – untouched and likely not being touched for a while. I’ve deleted the app from my 6P and moved to Microsoft Health for my exercise and step tracking.
To be sure, the Microsoft Band 2 is not perfect. It has some things that need improvements, most notably how it tracks stairs and the overall weight of the device. That said, I’m comfortable in recommending it. It integrates nicely with Android thanks to the Microsoft Health app (and there is one for Windows 10 users too). It ties in with other services and apps like Lose It!, MFitnessPal, RunKeeper and Strava, and it has a battery life of a couple of days. That’s better than most smartwatches today which, in a limited way, the Band 2 can perform for you.
Here is my review of the Band 2 and the companion Microsoft Health app.
Last week I posted about an ongoing issue that Windows Phone users have had with adding a Gmail account to their devices. The issue was that when a user opened up Outlook Mail and attempted to add a Google account, it would give an error indicating that the browser of the device was not supported. This on again-off again problem has been going on for several weeks but it appears, finally, that it has been addressed. Google indicated in a forum post that the error was not intentional on the part of the company which I personally think is the case. To me, this feels like simple inattentiveness on the part of the Mountain View company.
Microsoft has released another update to the Arrow Launcher for Android as they continue to address issues and add new, user requested features to the launcher. The latest version, build 2.1 for those keeping score at home, has extended the notification badge for more apps. Support for the notification badge now includes Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, QQ, and Skype. This mans that if you get a message from one of these apps, you will get a visual notification within Arrow Launcher like you do with email and other apps.
The Microsoft Office suite of apps for Android – Excel, PowerPoint and Word – have all been updated today with several new features and improvements. Perhaps the biggest new feature across all three apps is the ability to store your files on an SD card on your device. To this point you could only save your files in your device’s main storage. That can be problematic for those who do a lot of file editing on their devices, especially those with low storage devices. This new feature, which is across all three apps, should help solve that problem. There is nothing special you as a user have to do other than tell the apps to store on your SD card. Your device, however, must be running Android Lollipop or later to take advantage of this feature. All three apps now also give you the ability to annotate files. You can use a stylus or your finger to write, draw or highlight. These new tools found in the Draw tab, a new tab in each app.
Microsoft has rolled out a sizable update to their launcher app, Arrow Launcher, that brings some much needed support and improvements. The update, version 2.0 for those keeping score at home, brings native Office 365 support. This means that users of the launcher will be able to view files from their Office 365 account without actually having to launch the Office app on their phone. Further, for documents on your phone, you can upload them from the phone to your Office 365 account (OneDrive). It is a really nice update and while the lack of Outlook support for the calendar in Arrow remains an issue, this is a huge step towards fully “Microsofting” your Android phone.
Microsoft has once again updated their Android launcher app, Arrow Launcher, with some nice improvements. The update, version 1.4 for those keeping score at home, brings several improvements in user controls. For example, you can now hide page headers, a feature that many users of the launcher had requested. Users can also hid SMS preview on the People and Recent page. This change is done in the Settings of the launcher. Both of these changes represent the fact that Microsoft is indeed listening to users of their apps as both were heavily requested changes.
This morning, Microsoft has announced that they will be acquiring the social-meets-professional network for $26.2 billion. The agreement will keep LinkedIn as a separate organization within the Microsoft umbrella and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner will remain on board as CEO of the company, now reporting directly to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
“The LinkedIn team has grown a fantastic business centered on connecting the world’s professionals,” Nadella said. “Together we can accelerate the growth of LinkedIn, as well as Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics as we seek to empower every person and organization on the planet.”
The news will certainly have a ripple effect through the tech sector today given the strategic nature of the move by Microsoft and the value of LinkedIn as outlined in this deal.