Windows Phone 8.1 Screenshot Leaked with custom Background

A new leak image has surfaced for Windows Phone 8.1, a highly confidential release. It shows custom background on home screen and separate volume controls.

Also, what seem like a consistent status bar at top to accommodate notification center.

 

ScreenShot

Stay tuned for more

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Reason for slow Windows Phone 8 growth

Recent big banner apps will make you question the title, and even it is definitely positive to see Windows Phone get some decent titles…and now that the smoke has cleared lets focus on it’s slow uptake in markets-developing and matured.

I had a conversation with a good friend whom I convinced to get a Lumia 620 in India, when he asked me about Windows Phone. When I showed him my device, I had a Samsung Focus running Windows Phone 7, at the time Microsoft had recently announced Windows Phone 8. So didn’t have the Lumia 920 I have now. Long story short, he got the Lumia 620 when it was available in India at a price tag of 16000 INR. He opted for Windows Phone 8, when he could have got far more powerful Android devices at cheaper price plans- likes of Xolo, Karbonn, Micromax, etc.

So, I followed up with him to check how he liked his purchase 8 months later. This guy is not tech endowed by any stretch of imagination, at the same time he isn’t tech illiterate. He knew about Amber update and upcoming Update 3 and Nokia Black update. Some of his gripes were absolutely legitimate and I took some time to reflect and rephrase. His conclusion was Nokia did excellent, Microsoft needs to do better. Windows need work to be more popular. He said more popular, he is obviously referring to Android being the more popular one, which his friends are making him green with envy with their elaborate app illustration, OS features etc.

Also, he came from Symbian. OS that was the first home of Nokia and Nokia had a firm hold in India in that era. He missed some Symbian specific features which goes to show how advanced the OS really was, even if it wasn’t touch-friendly.

This is the list:-

  • Absence of Truecaller. This is an app request. Telemarketing is crazy in India, as you can imagine, and a way to see who is calling helps cut down on junk calls and there is no such service as donotcall.gov. There is an app in Windows Phone Store, but it sucks at best as it doesn’t scan for calls in real-time. API limitations.
  • Proper file-manager. My kind people for some reason like to micro-manage with folders and directories. I can see cases where this could be useful to have.
  • Same key for volume and music- This is listed as the top complain for the platform. Separate controls are needed.
  • Whatsapp isn’t as advanced as Android counterpart.  Whatsapp is the de-facto messaging standard in India. It sucks apparently on Windows Phone. I can’t relate, since I haven’t used Whatsapp on android.
  • Put phone in sleep but still keep alarm active. Symbian was perfect at this. Current Windows phone behavior is stupid. If you are low on juice and still wanna wake up, it is dead meat.
  • OTG support. On-the-Go USB support which turns a USB device into host so other device can connect to it. I don’t know if Android does this.

Below is the gripe that was fixed with Update 3, that he forced on my advice using the developer program:-

  • Orientation lock. Seriously, Microsoft It takes you three years to add this basic feature in a supposedly advanced mobile Operating System? Shame on you and your world’s bigger software make status quo. Seriously, like you should drown your employees.
  • Other storage occupied 2 GB of storage on his 8 GB phone. Baffling and probably sad if your investment fills up with crap over time.’
  • Quitting apps via close button. Enough Said.

I haven’t added my gripes to the above list:-

  • Notification center. Something Android has had for years. Windows Phone will probably get it in Spring 2014.
  • Quick Toggle for controlling settings. Like it should be there.
  • Google Now like feature. Again, Cortana or likes is coming in Spring 2014. Again, waiting game
  • Better API.

Microsoft thinks Windows Phone is gaining popularity, but if it doesn’t address the problems listed above…these may be its brightest days as people who have these phones will opt for something else, Android. iOS is elite crowd only, so iPhones are out of discussion for 90% of people.

So If anyone is reading this from Redmond, If you think you have won the battle of smartphone in markets by beating Apple. Think twice before you decide to slack off for another two years. You are shooting at a moving target- Android. and by the time you get the above mentioned features, the world would have moved to the next awesome feature Android will get before Windows Phone and Windows Phone will be caught with it’s pants down, chasing to get that feature….again.

Journey with Windows Phone is that of a perpetual wait, for developers, for consumers, for manufacturers. And this is a deeper problem that Microsoft has than just getting those apps.

New Windows Phone 8 apps I can’t live without- December 2013

I won’t be too lengthy, just right to the meat. Here it goes:

6Tag– 3rd party Instagram client and possibly the most feature rich client on any platform. Better than Instagram Beta, official app. Must have.

6Sec– 3rd party Snapchat client. Again, there is no official snapchat client yet. This is too good. It replaces my previous post of “Swapchat” installation.

9gag–  My 9gag client. Awesome for killing time and some light mood enhancement.

App Folder– A Samsung app for organizing apps in folders. I had to use a “fiddler proxy” to install this. Not straightforward.

Auctionapp– Yes, This app is better than the official ebay app. It has real-time notification. Perfect

Baconit– Best reddit client. period. WPcentral claims otherwise, but I am starting to think writers there get compensated to promote.

Battery, by arthur semenov–  Best battery app in the store. It has quick shortcuts for orientation and other settings along with awesome battery stats.

Day Counter– This app is one of those productivity gem. It is a simple counter app to keep track of days but beautfully executed.

Dhingana– Best Hindi Music/radio app. This is better than Hungama; This has better audio quality imo.

Facebook beta– I like this app as it gets frequently updated and is the first one to get features. Flipside, it can be buggy sometimes cuz of beta tag.

Gimmalpoint– This was a shocker app. Best Sharepoint app on any platform. period.

Global TV– Streams live TV channels from around the world. A data intensive app but well worth it. Well executed.

Here Drive+, Here Maps, Here Transit– My go-to mapping solution for directions of all kind.

Learn on the Go– A third party coursera.com app for taking online classes for free. Also really good.

Metrotube– Best third party youtube client. Who needs official youtube app. pssh!

Mint.com– My new favorite finance tracking app. This app coupled with Mint for Windows 8, I hardly go to the website anymore.

Nimbuzz– An app for voip calls, although it is a ghost town there. Thanks to Whatsapp.

Nokia Camera– Best Camera app for tweaking intricate camera settings. Period

Nokia Refocus– This one is a surprise. Didn’t think I’d like it but it is a gem to use.

OneNote– Ultimate note taking app. Nothing else comes close. I mean nothing.

Skydrive– To manage files on skydrive, not a must-have but good to have app.

SysApp Pusher– This app is good for finding the hidden Nokia gems from the store.

Total Fuel– To keep track of my fuel and mileage. Highly recommended.

TouchTimer– This app has awesome voice integration to activate the times using Windows button. well done.

T-translator– Best translator app. It has real-time translation and voice. well executed.

Weave– Best news Aggregator. Better than Phonely, again recommended by biased WPcentral reviews.

Whatsapp– Really the only messaging app I use. It is not the best of any platform but video attachments and other features are coming sooon.

Xbmc remote free– Without this app, controlling my raspberry pi would be a royal pain the arse. This is the only remote I need.

 

I hope you like the list. I will be working on Windows 8.1 app list too sooo.

Please check back in future

Using “Groups” in People hub on Windows Phone

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Windows Phone was designed on the paradigm of hubs. When I think of hub, I think of channels or stations (junction) where everything “plugs” into. A surge protector, a network/switch hub would be an example. Windows Phone has many of these hubs- People, Music+Video, Games. etc. For Camera features, there is something called “Lenses” which-in a nutshell-is the same thing as a hub but functions a bit differently. For this post, I’ll focus mainly on the People hub and how I use it and what advantages it offers over using individual apps for each task on other platforms. People hub has Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn integration to keep tabs of friend’s activities from all your social network in one convenient place. People Hub on Windows Phone is the best example of how “friends” from different networks should be looked at. They are just friends. Not, friends from facebook, friends from twitter, friends from linkedIn—just friends. I mean that’s how we refer to them in real life. This in itself is an amazingly unique and incredibly useful characteristic  The one feature I absolutely love in People hub is the Groups feature.

The key to my Groups experience with People hub lies with Twitter.  Twitter is where I follow people with different interests, likes, needs, humor, expertise etc. I follow a vast variety of people on it ranging from actors to news to tech to travel etc. For the most efficient use of this feature, You HAVE to follow the right kind of people to get the desired results. I mean really. In the screenshot below, I have grouped a handful of people that provide me with funny updates all throughout the day. I called them “Tweeps”.   And then I have a group called “Best Friends” which keep me up-to-date on what my friends are doing from all social networks- regardless of them being on FB, twitter. To setup a new on, I click on the + icon in the bottom menu bar.

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I pinned the group called Tweeps onto my start screen  by long pressing and “pin to start”. So now, they show live updates on my start screen without having to open the group. In the picture below, you can see how I get updated information from my “selected and trusted” group of friends to keep me posted on worldly matters or just plain humor, in my case.

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Insight:  This method can eliminate the need of any news app update(potentially google reader), sports app update, world matter, politics etc. This method updates the tile in intervals of 30 mins and is the most basic form of update but it gets the work done in the most easy and efficient way. It is also, in my testing, light on resources and battery and eliminates the need for third party apps in doing so.

 

Suggestion for other Groups:

  • News group- Get information on world, US news, breaking news by following the respective twitter handle.
  • Stocks group- Get information on stocks breaking out or doing well or not so well, again by following the handle that does the best job.
  • Family group- To keep tabs of people that you care about the most. Things they do on various social network.
  • Sports group- To see how a certain team is doing in NBA, NFL, hockey, cricket etc.
  • Celebrity group- To keep track of what your favorite role-models are doing or who recently joined rehab.
  • Technology group- To get recent information on what is happening in tech world. follow handles like techmeme, gizmodo, engadget etc.

Hope you enjoyed this post and put  Groups to its full use.