Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Few Days With The HTC 8x

Getting my hands on a new device is always amazing, well almost always. Once I was able to get my mitts on the uber-sleek new HTC 8x I realized what perfection in a handset feels like. The slender chassis of the 8x takes only a moment to settle into your hand and feel like a natural extension of yourself. The long, thin design feels perfect when typing emails or talking for hours. The curved glass face feels completely natural when swiping and navigating the live tiles of Windows Phone 8.

Enough of how amazing the phone feels, lets get down to the actual performance of the device. The speedy dual core processor performs flawlessly in every aspect. The 16GB of internal memory stores plenty of music and videos for the average user. Many claim the lack of an external SD slot is a major hardware drawback, but with SkyDrive WiFi sync built into Windows Phone 8, users can sync photo and video content to their PC's without cords and even without the PC being there. This is a great feature for those on vacations or that spend a decent amount of time away from their PC's.

Speaking of those amazing vacation photos, the HTC 8x features one of the fastest cameras on the market today. The images are colored beautifully, have a crisp look and are captured ultra fast with the f/2.0 lens. As amazing as the rear facing camera is, the 22 degree angle front facing camera is the truly sparkling gem of this device.

The, for lack of a better term, best feature of the 8x is this camera. If they had added a flash, it would be market dominance from the first click. The extreme angles that the wide angle lens is able to capture allows for complete self portraits, not just that close up head shot that everyone has a hundred of. This feature alone makes the 8x stand alone in the best of category in any smartphone circle.

As we start to use more than the camera, the phone begins to shine even more. The  music features include the monstrous sound of HTC's Beats Audio. Beats brings even the most lackluster MP3 files to life with increased depth, clearer highs and well defined mids. Regardless of the earphones you choose, Beats simply sounds better and the 8x is ready to handle your musical needs.

The 8x continues to shoot down the competition with its crystal clear 4.3" display and finger friendly curved glass. The device feels smaller than its size by HTC's brilliant use of the widescreen measurement rather than the normal WVGA sizes. By stretching the screen length wise, HTC designers have made the jumbo smartphone feel compact and easy to handle.

With the HTC 8x being available on every US carrier with the exception of Sprint, it is an easy upgrade choice for everyone looking for that blend of power and finesse. Its 4.3" gorgeous display, full day battery and Windows Phone 8 OS will make even the most frustrated smartphone user forget they ever had an issue. The HTC 8x is currently available from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Should Microsoft Give Up On Windows Phone?

Yes, I'm going there... It is no secret that adoption of Microsoft's new mobile platform has been anemic at best. The push that was Windows Phone 7 was killed in a few weeks. Again, the world was blasted with Windows Phone 8 a short time later. Still, Microsoft's mobile universe is too small to show up on most world wide usage meters.

As strange as it sounds, I feel that Microsoft will not succeed with Windows Phone until they either purchase Nokia to build Microsoft branded hardware, give away all the Apps or just make one version of Windows that works across their three screen concept. That's what we all hoped for with Windows Phone 8, and some areas it did get close, but it isn't there.

Instead of clinging to this hope of gaining control of the mobile market, how much stronger would Microsoft get if they created a full Office pack for Android and iOS? How many more users would go for Windows 8 for Android, rather than a Windows Phone or Surface?

Microsoft is and always has been a software company. They get compared to Apple, but Apple beat them to the punch. They try to break into the market that Android now owns, when there is no real advantage for anyone to come to their side. Overall, the Apps will determine what mobile OS that people will keep in their pockets.

This is where I think they should go from here: forget the past and think of how you can use the markets of the others against them.

1) Create an amazing Office website and mobile App for Android and iOS. Leverage the number of users that have a PC hooked to their smartphone and get them using your software. Utilize this in conjunction with services like SkyDrive for those two as well and you open an additional revenue stream for the future.

2) Create a new iTunes for Windows interface that looks as good as Zune did in Windows 7. Also, include Android users in this App as well. Sure Zune had its problems, but it was much better than the other options out there. By "welcoming" those iPhone and Android users with a native Windows 8 interface, you will expand your product base to include them, rather than asking them to leave what they already are comfortable with.

3) Make Windows 8 for Android, but charge for it. It is no secret that people love the "Live Tiles" of Windows and Windows Phone. Life at a quick glance is a great way to display information quickly.  When you compare the average Android widget, which is getting better and better by the moment, Live Tiles are easily superior. By creating a true "Windows" experience for Android, you once again welcome a user base that loves their devices but wants to run Windows. People will pay $4.99 for it as well. Most home themes will set users back a few bucks, and if you can make Android perform as well as Windows Phone does, you'll have plenty of users willing to spend the cash.

4) Expand the Xbox for "X" platform. There is zero reason that Microsoft couldn't bring the Xbox platform to iOS and Android. You will instantly gain 70% of the mobile market by making those titles available for those two mobile OS's.

Now, with that said, it isn't impossible for Windows Phone to succeed, but it won't be easy. If Microsoft is truly interested in making Windows Phone work, there is a major category that is missing. They need to take advantage of lower cost hardware worldwide.

It never fails to amaze me that a new smartphone is announced for a country like India that would be an amazing seller here. Take the Nokia Lumia 610 or the HTC 8s as examples. These two devices could be sold at the Microsoft Stores, unlocked for T-Mobile, AT&T and their bevy of MVNO carriers for under $300. This is still $100 more than a comparable Android device will set someone back, but without Windows for Android, it would be the next best option. Cheaper non-contract options would mean more available handsets for lower-end users and for use as a replacement device. If you look at the national prepaid wireless carriers, they all feature sub $100 Android powered smartphones. If something like a Lumia 610 were to drift on to a prepaid carrier like Simple Mobile's $40 a month plan, it would attract an entire new body of users.

What I'm trying to get to is that Microsoft is not going to win this battle without a major change in thought. They need to either become a hardware manufacturer or become a software company again. Doing both is only depleting both brands. If they embrace their software side, which I think they should, they will once again become the industry leader in productivity, creation and editing software. They will also have the ability to use their 'interface' in the majority of PC's and Mobile Devices on the planet. By simply embracing the market that has been carved out by their counterparts, Microsoft could easily gain a huge following with Xbox for iOS and Android, Office for Android and iOS, and even SkyDrive for them as well. Perhaps they need to stop worrying about the OS and spend a bit more time adapting some of their software instead.

Sent from my Nokia Lumia 810
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Saturday, January 19, 2013

App Review: Shutter Pro

Increasing the Windows Phone camera capabilities isn't always easy, but still, App makers continue to try. Today, we look at a filtering App called Shutter Pro. After a quick install, pressing the Shutter Pro icon brings forth a slightly augmented camera interface. A simple tap on the screen allows for a quick photo to be snapped.

After you capture your image, a quick touch of the magic wand reveals the editing options and available filters. Overall, the filters do a nice job of applying those "instagramish" effects to images. The other nice part about Shutter Pro is the ability to save your custom filters for later use.

Shutter Pro is a free download in the Market or Store on your Windows Phone device. While it isn't a must have for all, shutter bugs might enjoy it, but I'll stick to the more powerful editing features of Fhotoroom.

Sent from my Nokia Lumia 810
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Creating A Playlist In Windows Phone 8

Have you tried to create a playlist with your Windows Phone and XBox Music? I have to say, that finally, I was able to, despite the crazy instructions about pressing the volume down button, selecting the artist name from the drop down, etc..., that Microsoft has on their site. The way I worked up is even more simple than that.

In Album view, select the Album you want to start your playlist. Then long press the long title of the song you want to lead your playlist. You then add this track to your Now Playing list. Repeat this for the tracks you want to add to the list, then open the Now Playing window and save the Now Playing list as a new playlist.

The job is complete. If anyone has any other tips for making a playlist without a PC, I'd love to hear them!

Sent from my Nokia Lumia 810
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Game Review: Where's My Perry

Continuing our review of great entertainment, we look at the $.99 title, Where's My Perry from Disney. Taking their popular Where's My Water game and adding a semi-aquatic mammal to the mix makes for a very entertaining adventure. Phineas and Ferb fans will quickly tell anyone who Perry is, and what those awesome tubes are for.

The concept of the game is simple. Perry is stuck waiting for water to help pass through his pressurized tubes to his secret agent lair. Your mission in all this is to get the water to the tube launcher and make Perry move to the next level.

Instead of stars, you earn Gnomes for completing the level. Earning gnomes is easy as you draw your water path past them to earn them.

Where's My Perry is $.99 and available in the Store or Market from your device.

Sent from my Nokia Lumia 810
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Game Review: Tri Peaks Solitaire

Great card games are a wonderful time killer. If there is one on thing missing from Windows Phone that Android had, it is that wonderful "pack" of card games. Fortunately, one can find just about every card game available from Hearts to Solitaire in the Store.

Today, Tri Peaks Solitaire becomes the victim of hours of senseless play. The action immediately takes one back to that seat at the bar with those mega play machines. The fast paced game starts and ends quickly.

Tri Peaks doesn't offer the challenge of normal solitaire games, but it is an ideal play for those killing 5 minutes here and there. Tri Peaks is free via ad support and is available in the Market or Store now.

Sent from my Nokia Lumia 810
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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nokia Lumia 810 Firmware Update

A quick update to the Lumia 810 firmware today addressed a few issues that users have been having. Here is the update notice and change log from Nokia.

Latest software release for Nokia Lumia 810 is SW 1532.5951.1250.1004
•More efficient Messaging, allowing you to save draft messages, edit forwarded multimedia messages, select multiple recipients at once, and respond to a call with a text message
•Improved performance, audio quality, and connection stability for Bluetooth
•Improved compatibility, stability, and performance for micro-SD card
•Improved battery level metering
•Improved stability, speed, and functionality for the camera
•Can now better control data costs: you can prevent automatic fallback from a Wi-Fi network to a mobile data network and keep Wi-Fi always on to off-load network usage to Wi-Fi
•Performance and stability improvements

Sent from my Nokia Lumia 810
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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Game Review: Alpha Invasion

Classis strategy games are always a great way to kill time. Alpha Invasion is no exception to this. AI, as we will call it, is a very simple numbers games.

Your planets regenerate units and your goal is to capture the neighboring planets as quickly as possible, before your computer opponent does. Once you capture a few planets, your units will begin generating incrementally faster. Out  generate your opponents, conquer more planets and win the game.

The action is fast. The play is simple, yet challenging. Overall, Alpha Invasion is worth the free download. The ads blend well with the layout of the game and the action keeps the game from getting stale. Head on over to your respective Market or Store and start the download now.

Sent from my Nokia Lumia 810
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Monday, January 14, 2013

Game Review: Football Kicks

Once again, finding yourself with boredom setting in, you turn to the Market or Store to find that new App that you can't live without. Fortunately, there are plenty of entertainment options for under a buck. Today's venture in to the Store revealed a $.99 treasure, Football Kicks.

Football Kicks is a pretty simple game to master, but increasing level of difficulty as you kick further and further into the game will keep you entertained for quite some time.

The beauty of Football Kicks is the various modes to keep the game fresh and fun. Work on bending those shots around the defenders and into those skill shot zones.

Football Kicks is available for $.99 in the Market or Store on your device.

Sent from my Nokia Lumia 810
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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Game Review: AE Roulette


It’s time to bring the casino with you on your phone. No, we aren’t just talking about a silly slot machine or a card game or two, but some seriously awesome roulette action. AE Games has once again done a spectacular job of bringing an ‘almost real’ experience to your pocket. AE Roulette pretty well blew us away with this one, and it should be the same experience for you as well. Now, keep in mind both our devices are 800x480 screens, so if there are some rendering problems on the higher resolution screens, we aren’t able to let you know about them quite yet.

Overall, the graphics on the game are excellent and the sounds match the graphical presentation nicely. The action is fast enough to play and enjoy, without losing too much of the experience and anticipation of the actual experience of the tables. Placing bets is as easy as dragging your ‘chips’ from the stacks at the bottom of the screen to the top of the screen. Once your bets are down, simply swipe from left to right to watch the wheel spin.

After the wheel is done and you’ve won your $50,000, you might want to switch to a different game for a bit, but you’ll probably find what we did… No amount of cash is ever enough! Back to the wheel and making just a few more bucks, or worse yet, losing some…

Sent from my Nokia Lumia 810

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Nokia Apps Gone Missing On WP8

When my Lumia 810 for my Solavei was delivered, I was excited as a kid in a candy store. I began to install all my favorite Apps from my Lumia 900 and realized that many of them were no longer in the Store.At first I thought it would just be a matter of a few days until my Counters, Play To and a few others could be popped back on to my 810, but now that we are nearly a month into the change over, they are still nowhere to be found.

To make matters worse, the ecosystem that made the Lumia 710, 800 and 900 such incredible values, has deteriorated under the problems that have arisen since the launch of Windows Phone 8. Issues like DRM management causing Nokia Music to have an audio drop are frustrating some users while others have no idea that there is a problem.

As Nokia continues to release 7.5/7,8 device for emerging markets, it may be time for them to consider bringing some firepower to the WP8 lineup. Losing Apps like Counters and Play To may not be the end all of the Lumia experience, but for those that relied upon them for daily use, losing key Apps might be enough to take a look at one of those competitive devices, or worse yet, a different OS all together.

Sent from my Nokia Lumia 810

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Game Review: Bubble Gum Air

In an effort to get the word out on great time killers, not to mention great additions for Kid's Corner on your device, we've been looking at great entertainment for all ages on your Windows Phone. Today's conquest is Bubble Gum Air.

Bubble Gum Air is a rather simple game, at least in principle, where you fly your bubble gum blowing monkey through the field up upset birds that try and bring you down.

The controls of the game are all but too easy... You fly along at a set rate, only needing to press the screen to fly higher. Letting off the screen makes your bubble smaller causing you to float downward.

Overall, Bubble Gum Air is a hoot and a half and is simple enough for even a three year old to play. The game gets harder and harder as it goes on, so it will eventually challenge the toughest players, eventually.

Bubble Gum Air is temporarily free in the Market/Store for your Windows Phone devices. We recommend giving the 6MB download a shot. It is definitely fun, even short term.

Sent from my Nokia Lumia 810
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T-Mobile Launches $70 Prepaid Unlimited 4G Plan


In a day and age when carriers continue to cut services and increase costs, T-Mobile reminds us that maybe the world doesn’t need LTE speeds and $1000 phones. T-Mobile continues to build a better plan for the average user by increasing the data limits on their $70 Monthly 4G plan. The current Monthly 4G offerings start at $30 and top out at $70 a month. When purchasing RTR or PIN cards online from sites like GetSmartphones.Info, you won’t even pay sales taxes or other fees on these prices.

The basic Monthly 4G Plan starts at $30 for 100 minutes and 5GB of data. This plan also includes unlimited text and 2G data after the 5GB limit is eclipsed. The next step in the line of Monthly 4G plans is a $50, unlimited talk, text and data plan. The hitch to this one is that only the first 100MB of data is 4G data, while the unlimited that follows is limited to 2G speeds. Continuing up the cycle, for an extra $10, or $60 a month, you can land 2GB of 4G data, with unlimited everything else.

The latest addition of course, the unlimited 4G plan, replaces the previous 5GB plan that was also $70. T-Mobile probably figured out that there were so few people using the 5GB plan, that they could attract some of those unlocked AT&T iPhone users to their network by granting them a non-contract, unlimited data plan. The beauty of the plan is that T-Mobile users are not under any contract and can freely move from one plan to another on a monthly basis.

Overall, this move should be a great one for T-Mobile and we look forward to seeing how long this, “limited time” deal lasts. More information on the new $70 Monthly 4G plan is available at GetSmartphones.Info or at