Wednesday, January 29, 2014

App Review: Tube Download


With all the fanfare that Microsoft’s amazing YouTube App received last year, many newbies to the scene haven’t been given proper notice. While I doubt that anything out there will match the power and look of the official Microsoft App, there are a few that function quite well.

Tube Download is one of those perfectly functional Apps, with a few twists thrown in for fun. First off, there’s not much in the way of frills for this media streamer. The screen opens to a search bar with a few videos listed. A swipe to the right takes you to your videos and another takes you to playlists. One last swipe takes you over to the downloads list, where you can see the videos you have downloaded.


Simple and clean, and did I mention that it is a data mongers dream? When you tap on the videos in the search bar, you get a screen that gives you the option to download, play or share the video. One click of the Play Video button and we are off and running.


If the video was encoded with playback options, you can select the stream level at this point. Fortunately, our test video was, and this is where those with limited high speed data will appreciate this App – you can select the bandwidth of the playback stream before it starts playing. This means over Wi-Fi at Starbucks you can watch the HD video and when you are on that precious cellular plan, you can choose to watch a lower quality stream.


Overall, the playback quality is great, navigation is easy and the App does exactly what it says. You can jump online and save content with a few simple clicks, then play it back later for friends, even when you don’t have data.

Tube Download is available in the Store for $2.99 and for those with one of those limited data plans can really rack up the savings for you. Don’t let the simple layout and the ease of use take away from the power that Tube Download brings.

Monday, January 27, 2014

App Review: 4Blend HDR Camera

Many smartphones are boasting their HDR or High Dynamic Range capabilities. What isn’t always explained, is that this has much more to do with software than hardware. Of course, having a great camera, like the Lumia PureView cameras or the amazing shooter on the HTC 8x is a great start, but you won’t have those amazing HDR images without some software to enhance things for you.
The first thing about shooting HDR images is understanding what they are and how they are made. Dynamic Range is the unit of measurement that many people use to define the amount of tones between black and white in an image. The larger the range, the more detail you will see in the image. The lower the range, the more detail will be lost. HDR will take multiple images ranging from under exposed to overexposed and stitch them together in to one High Dynamic Range image. This HDR image will combine the detail of the images that are captured into one perfect image.
HDR filters are applied to each level of the image, or each individual image in order to capture the detail. Different filters will have a different effect on each image. Fortunately, in this case, 4Blend HDR does a great job of applying these as needed.
The interface itself reminds users of Apps like Nokia Camera or even Camera360. The shutter button is on the right of the screen. The individual controls are located at the top of the screen. To the left is a selection filters that can be applied to the image before you shoot.
The top controls simply open the popular “ring style” controls that are easy to move and quick to set up. The controls set up in threes on the stock settings. This will control the under exposed, auto exposed and the over exposed images. The menu includes settings for the exposure, exposure time, ISO, focus, gamma and flash. It also has a button to engage the voice command.
Finally, in the settings menu for 4Blend HDR, there are controls for saving all shots, capturing an image after manual focus and showing the shooting grid. You also have some controls to help the voice command shooting as well. Overall, it’s a perfect little package for shooting HDR images on any Windows Phone.
For anyone with a PureView camera or a higher quality shooter on a Windows Phone device, you should take a peak at 4Blend HDR. You probably won’t replace your everyday camera with it, but for those sunset shots, or when you need a bit of an effect on a great portrait, it can certainly rise to the occasion.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Domino’s Delivers A Good App


One of the things about living in a semi-small town is that your food takeout choices are somewhat limited. In Monroe, there happens to be 3 pizza places that deliver and Domino’s just offers a better price that then other two. Until recently, all our orders were placed online, which involved tying up the computer long enough to get through all the crazy menus, ordering process and payment screens. It was easier than calling, but not as easy as the Apps for Android and iPhone made it.

Fast forward to 2014 and the new Domino’s App in the Windows Phone Store. The small size made it a quick 2 second download over Wi-Fi. Within 5 more seconds, I had entered my email address and password for my existing Domino’s website account. With just those two little steps, my account was current and I was ready to order.

I swiped over to the coupon section, found the 2 medium pizzas for $5.99 each deal and selected it. It then let me touch the first item, create my first pizza and moved me along to the second. The order screens were quick and easy to use and the touch navigation was remarkably good. Within a few minutes, the order was placed and the order tracker screen popped up.

A short time later, the pizza arrived and dinner was served. I do recommend checking all the addresses that are imported though, as it did miss our unit number when the order was placed. Just make sure that all your information is up to date and current before placing an order.

The App is definitely worth the download if you are a fan of Domino’s Pizza. It makes ordering quick, easy and honestly, a bit more fun. Having the order tracker pinned to your home screen is nice for getting that update on timing as well. If you are ordering for dinner, you can have the table set right when the order arrives if you are watching. That said, the small size and limited data usage makes this a great App for anyone that orders Domino’s Pizza. Plus if you let your favorite pizza shop know that you like Domino’s App, maybe they will jump on the Windows Phone bandwagon as well.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Getting To Know Nokia Cam Beta


If there is something that Nokia has been killing the competition on in the last year, it’s the quality of their camera hardware and the software that makes it shoot. I want to give you a quick walk through of the Nokia Cam software on my Lumia 925, and show you just how powerful this camera can be.


We will start out looking at the home screen of the camera. To the top, you have buttons for gallery view and review the last image taken. Then you have your settings bar that has controls for the flash, white balance, focus, ISO, shutter speed and exposure. To the right hand side of the screen, you will see the menu button and controls to switch to video mode, photo mode or smart sequence.


A drag of the camera button to the left reveals the setting menu that will give you about as much control over your camera as you would find on most DSLR cameras. The simple sliders slide along the arcs and can be set to any values you need to achieve your optimal exposure. If you want to go fully manual, you can do that by moving each slider into a preset position and not leaving any in the auto setting.


Once you set your sliders, you simply swipe back to the right to get out of the camera settings.


The camera menu that is found by pressing the three dot in the corner of the screen will reveal a lenses menu, access to the front facing camera, a shutter timer, a bracketing setting, the camera settings menu and a tutorial of how everything works.


Using features like the timer setting will allow you to take photos of yourself with the front camera and not have to worry about pressing the shutter button while you do it. Simply set the timer to 2 seconds, press the ok button, and snap your photo. It will give you plenty of time to get your finger away from the camera button before it snaps the image.


Going a bit deeper into the settings, bracketing is very useful for taking images when you are having trouble with exposure settings. It will take 3 images with steps in between them. This will give you hopefully an underexposed image, an over exposed image and one in the middle that is perfect. If not, perhaps the lighter or darker image will be right and the others can be discarded.


The camera settings menu will reveal the options for setting up images, videos and even smart sequence. You can adjust the focus assist light, framing grids and even the aspect ratio of the images with this simple drop down menu setup.


Finally, if you are one that just doesn’t want to play with you camera at all, you might just want to enter auto mode. This is done by selecting the arrow in the camera settings bar at the top of the screen. By selecting this arrow, all the camera settings are returned to auto and the camera is ready to shoot just about anything. Note to self though, this does not re-engage the flash setting, so make sure you turn that on if you want it back on.

In the next camera post, I’ll take a more in-depth look at how you can take better images with the tricks I have learned with my Nokia Lumia 810 and Nokia Lumia 925.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Game Review: Asphalt 8: Airborne


If there is something better than driving games, I’m not entirely sure what it is. The Asphalt series from Gameloft is one of the longest lasting mobile racing series around and the 8th installment doesn’t disappoint. Of course, giving away a game isn’t a way to make money, so if you jump on this download, be prepared for some IAP to get all the way through it.


The game starts out simple enough with a menu that makes most video games themselves seem boring. Multiplayer, Facebook play, exclusive cars and more greet you on the opening menu. Once you figure out how to scroll down the right side of the screen to start, you can get rolling pretty quickly.

2 of 5

Game play itself is tremendously fun and well worth the 1.5GB install size. Unfortunately, you need almost double this to download and install it. Rumors pin the needed storage at 3.2GB to get the install package down and install it before it deletes the temporary files and clears the excess space. Loosely translated – don’t do it on a device with less than 16GB of storage.

Overall, Asphalt 8: Airborne is a thrill to play and should be snagged even if you don’t have a device worthy of using it right now. The $.99 savings over the regular price is worth the purchase right now, if only to future proof your gaming on you next device.

Download it here:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Switching Plans To Save Cash…


Everyone loves to save money. Unfortunately, sometimes these money savers can be a pain and ultimately cost us more cash in the long run. Cell service is one of those areas where we can save a ton, but lose service often if we don’t do our homework first. For starters, look at your current plan and your needs. If your plan costs less than $25 a line and meets your needs, stop reading and enjoy your great deal. If not, read on.

The next step in saving some cash on your cell bill is determining what network will work best where you need it to. Sure, plans like T-Mobile’s Simple Choice are great and with their ETF payoff promo going right now, it’s a tempting deal. Of course, if you need more than a few hundred MB of data a month and a don’t have $600 for that new iPhone, these plans may not be the best choice for you. On the flip side, for someone that grabs a new Nokia Lumia 521 for under $100 and uses the data sense feature, these plans can be an amazing value for your family. That said, if coverage isn’t decent where you need it, you probably don’t want to switch.

Coverage maps are very sneaky. You look at the big picture and your city is completely covered in 4G LTE speeds. Here is a look at the zoomed out T-Mobile coverage map for western Washington. We are looking at the Monroe area in particular.


There’s a ton of magenta on this map and all of it appears to be well covered around the area. As we zoom in though, a different picture begins to be painted…


Some of that dark magenta turns into a lighter pink. This means you still have a solid 2G signal, but no high speed data and a lower quality voice signal.


Coming in even further, you can see that the area east of Monroe has poor coverage overall. Once you leave the city, even the highway has minimal coverage going towards a popular ski area. In other words, if you planned on Instagramming that shot of you on the slopes with LTE speeds, you can forget about it.

Now that said, if you are a lighter data user and do most of your communication via texting, there’s no reason to pay AT&T, Sprint or Verizon double or triple what another carrier charges. Here’s the fiscal breakdown of a single plan between the carriers.

AT&T – Single Line: Unlimited Talk, Text and 3GB Data – $131.97
Verizon Wireless - Single Line: Unlimited Talk Text and 2GB Data – $131.62 
Sprint – Single Line: Unlimited Talk, Text and Data – $127.84
T-Mobile – Single Line: Unlimited Talk, Text and Data – $60.50 to $84.27

The range on T-Mobile’s plan depends on how much 4G/LTE data you want. If you can get by with 500MB of high speed, the $60.50 plan is your price. If you need 2.5GB of 4G/LTE data speeds, you are looking at $72.60. For fully unlimited LTE data, the price would be $84.27 after taxes.

Single users also have the option of taking their line to an MVNO and saving even more. The unlimited Spot Mobile plan with 1GB of 4G data is only $39.99 a month. If you want those LTE data speeds, you can head over to Simple Mobile and grab a 3GB LTE plan for $50 or a 5GB LTE plan for $60. Both exceptional values to the single line user.

Families, on the other hand, will save so much going with the T-Mobile setup, that it even the cheapest MVNO’s can’t beat the price. T-Mobile’s family plan for 5 lines will run you about $1200 a year less than the other major carriers – even after paying $20 extra per line for each of those new phones. If you opt for something like the Nokia Lumia 521, your family will save about $2500 a year. Here’s the breakdown by carrier in the family rates.

AT&T – 5 Lines: Unlimited Talk, Text and 6GB shared data – $335
Verizon Wireless – 5 Lines: Unlimited Talk, Text and 6GB shared data – $340
Sprint – 5 Lines: Unlimited Talk, Text and 1GB data per line – $310
T-Mobile – 5 Lines: Unlimited Talk, Text and 500MB 4G/Un 2G data – $130

Now, keep in mind that this includes a subsidized device from the big three, so you would have to factor that in to the total cost of the plan. Much of T-Mobile’s plan relies on the user financing a phone through them for $20-25 a month. At this rate, your T-Mobile bill comes in about $230-250 a month – or a 25-30% savings over the others. Factoring in the device costs, the family plan cost over 24 months is as follows.

AT&T – $995 devices + $8040 service = $9035
Verizon Wireless – $750 devices + $8160 service = $8910
Sprint – $995 devices + $7440 service = $8435
T-Mobile – $2500 devices + $3120 service = $5620
T-Mobile (with Lumia 521) – $500 devices + $3120 service = $3620

If you are willing to take that great Nokia Lumia 521 and 2 years of T-Mobile service for a run, you will save almost 60% over AT&T’s rates. There really isn’t another way to look at it. If you feel that your phone service is worth more than a car or even a down payment on a house, then keep your carrier and carry on. If not, you owe it to yourself to stop in to a T-Mobile store for a test drive today.

Make sure to do some homework at and check out the areas where you use your phone the most. If you have better than Pepto Bismol coloring, you’ll be a happy camper. If it’s looking a bit purple, you might want to think twice, but still consider it. The $200 a month you save can be quite nice come vacation time.

Nokia Lumia 521 For $29 With Metro PCS


If there is one thing I like more than cheap cell service, it is a cheap phone to use on that plan. Right now, MetroPCS has the deal of the week on the Nokia Lumia 521. Currently going for $89.95 in my Amazon Store, the 521 is a paltry $29 after mail-in rebate. Of course, if you didn’t want to use it on Metro’s service, you can always just pay the discounted price of $49 and do with it as you like, but to get the additional $20 off, you need to do a few things.

First, purchase the device and activate it on a Metro plan. Metro PCS plans start at $40 for unlimited talk, text and data with the first 500MB being 4G speeds. So, for $29 plus 2 months of Metro service, you can snag a brand new Lumia 521 and a Visa rebate card loaded with $20. Oh, did I forget the $50 port in credit as well?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Black Comes To AT&T Lumia 925

Courtesy of Nokia Conversations

It appears that some AT&T users are reporting that the Nokia Black Update and GDR3 is downloading to their devices. The key features included with this update are the following:

App Folder – yes, you can finally add groups of Apps to your home screen!

Nokia Glance Screen 2.0 – better notifications and more options for them.

Bluetooth LE – a new standard Bluetooth communication system that works with more products.

Nokia Refocus – allowing you to blend and blur images like never before.

Nokia Beamer – instantly view your Lumia’s images on any computer with a web browser.

Nokia Storyteller (beta) – arranges photos by date and place making it easy to tell stories.


Nokia Camera – has been available for some time, but the new software is coming to the entire Lumia range now.

Overall, Black is a great upgrade for the Lumia line. It brings some needed fixes for some and general improvements for all. GDR3 will also bring some stabilization from the Microsoft side. If you managed to snag it already, let me know what you think of it in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Game Review: Avengers Assemble


I have to admit to being a pretty big Avengers movie fan. When I saw that there was an official Marvel Avengers game for Windows Phone, I was ecstatic. Of course, it came with a $4.99 price tag, which is a bit more than I like to drop on a game, so I bypassed it out of the gate. Recently, it took a price drop to $1.99, but I had completely forgotten about it until it became the MyAppFree AOTD. I popped on and downloaded it. The 750MB download is much larger than anything I like to cram on my phone, but hey, it’s the Avengers and it is free today.

I hit the download button and after a few minutes on my WiFi, the game had downloaded and popped up in my Games menu. Ready to get my Avenger’s action on, I pressed it to open and was greeted with the “This game needs additional resources that need to be downloaded – Approximately 4GB.” Ouch! So, after another longer term WiFi session, I had my 5GB game downloaded and ready to run!

After a quick loading cycle, the game opened with the familiar Marvel film stream. Then the gaming action begins. Fighting through the tutorial was a bit boring, but soon after that the game picked up and ran pretty smooth on my Lumia 925. Game play is stellar and the movements are everything I expected when Microsoft first said Xbox games on my phone.


The gaming experience was exceptional and it is well worth the $1.99 for the game. If you can snag it in the next 12 hours, you can get an even better deal than that. Hit the Store now and grab it before the deal disappears.

Nokia Camera Beta Gets An Update


File this under the notes of awesome for this week. The Nokia Camera Beta software got an update with a fix today. The issue of the images disappearing from the camera roll after the device locks up and reboots has been fixed in version Other than that, most of the issues that people are having with the Nokia Camera software have been fixed. Now, will they bring some DNG support to the 900 series soon?

New in beta version (January 15, 2013):

  • Fix for issue where pictures disappear from camera roll / photos hub after forced reboot

I haven’t experienced the issue at all with my new Lumia 925, but my 810 was plagued with this issue – even losing some of the images I took occasionally. I’ll run some testing with it later this week and see if the issue has been eliminated.

A New Year, A New Phone…

Lumia 925 b

2013 was a pretty good tech year for me. I was able to hit the EngdgtSEA show and the HTC Elevate meetup. I didn’t spend too much time in tech stores, but there really wasn’t much I was looking for. My little Acer Aspire Netbook and my Nokia Lumia 810 did the job for me for the whole year, without much need to look for something else – well maybe except a Microsoft Surface (or the Dell Venue 8 tablet.)

Yesterday though, I had a tech delivery that makes me so happy… A shiny new Nokia Lumia 925. While my 810 was a trusty soldier, it had a few glitches that might drive the average user a bit nutty. The 925 eliminates the possibilities of these by not including the external Micro SD Slot. The other feature on my 810 that seemed to have issues was the audio out. Many times, music would crackle and pop – and Nokia Mix Music didn’t even work about 90% of the time. Let’s take this 925 for a spin and see what we get.

Lumia 925 c

Overall the devices are physically about the same size. The 925 feels thinner though, mainly due to the fact that it is thinner, but also because of its curved design. The display on the 925 is larger by .2”, but it honesty seems more like a half an inch. Just the wasted space on the 810’s bezel vs. the 925’s makes the actual display seem larger. Also, the resolution is increased to 1280x768 over the 810’s 800x480 resolution.

From there the 16GB of internal memory seems to be enough for me. With Apps loaded, I have about 11GB left open. This equates out to about 5000 photos or more accurately, about 2 months of use before the ‘other’ memory takes up 2GB, the system takes up 2GB, the Apps take up 1.2GB and then 2500 photos and a few long videos of the kiddo. Overall, the 16GB should prove to be plenty for me – and more importantly, be a better option that the 8GB internal that the 810 offered.

Lumia 925 a

The camera on the 810 was fantastic. With the addition of the Nokia Camera Beta from Nokia Labs, the camera performed better than any cellular camera I had ever used. While the 925 is no 1020 (that is the 41MP monster camera/phone from Nokia,) the addition of a PureView camera and the optical image stabilization just makes the 925 shoot a bit better. Also, the f/2.,0 lens seems to shoot with much less noise in darker areas than the f/2.2 lens on the 810.

Other than the significant upgrades in the display, the internal memory and the camera, the Nokia Lumia 925 is every bit as wonderful as my Lumia 810 was. I will have to give it some time before I judge the battery life too heavily as I never let the device gain a full charge yesterday, but the 15% drain per hour when in use was a bit extreme. I’m hoping it was just a breaking in time or maybe a rogue App that was draining it. If not, I will probably have to keep a few more chargers laying around and grab an extra for the car. As of right now, the phone as settled in to a 2.53% discharge per hour and is running quite nicely. Hopefully that keeps up and I don’t have to worry too much.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The 5 Apps I Can’t Do Without

There has been so much made of the Windows Phone App gap, but not many people talk about the ones that are there that they can’t live without. So, without further ado, once you buy that new Windows Phone, give my top 5 a test drive. Of course, these are listed in no particular order, so don’t think it’s a one through five list, they are all great Apps.

Amazon Kindle

The Amazon Kindle App brings your e-books to your Windows Phone. Sure, it is much more useful on the larger screen devices, but even on the smaller 4” 500 series screens, books are very readable. Some have experienced some glitches in syncing, content and function, but I can say I haven’t had the issues that they have. Hopefully when you give it a test run, you won’t either. (FREE)


SkyDrive is a must have for every new Windows Phone user. Although the individual components of Windows Phone allow you to download images or documents from your drive, the SkyDrive app gives you almost total control over it. For those that are totally new to Windows Phone and SkyDrive, it is a cloud storage system that works with your PC, your Xbox and your Windows Phone. The free account includes 7GB of storage with more options being available for paid users. (FREE)

PDF Reader

PDF Reader should really be a part of the Office bundle for Windows Phone. There are just too many users that use PDF attachments constantly to not include it. That said, there isn’t a PDF reader built in to the Office suite, so Microsoft had to build one that needed to be installed separately. That said, the Microsoft PDF Reader is nothing amazing, but it does a great job filling my needs and doesn’t take up much storage space. (FREE)


MyAppFree is one of those must have Apps so you can test drive one of their free Apps of the day. Everyday there is something new for you to try and they are all free. The important thing to remember is to download the new App everyday and delete it if you don’t want to use it. Once you purchase the App, even if it is free, it stays in your account so you can grab it again later without paying for it. MyAppFree is a must have just to play with all the goodies they offer. (FREE)

Hulu Plus

This one comes down to personal preference, but I love the content on Hulu+. During the fall, there are plenty of ‘new’ shows to watch and during the summer there are reruns and original series to stream. Now, some would say Netflix is a better choice and I would agree for movies that it is, but I don’t want to watch a 2-3 hour movie on my phone. I’ll save that for my netbook, tablet or home PC. On my  phone, I like to catch the clips, or maybe even a 25 minute show while I am killing time. Hulu+ is the perfect solution for that. (FREE – Some content requires a subscription)

Honorable Mentions


MetroTalk or MetroTalk Free only get an honorable mention due to the fact that Google is killing all 3rd party API Apps in May. For those that are buying in now, MetroTalk will give you the ability to use your Google Voice account for texting and voice calls. It’s not WiFi calling, but it does give you the option to call from your voice line using your Google number instead of your standard cell number. MetroTalk also gives you the ability to view your messages before you listen to them – and some of the time, they are even close to the actual text translation. (Free or $1.99)


I have to say that if I had a Lumia 1520, Crackle would be much higher on the list. The original content is funny and the free movies are a great addition to any device. The limited selection of good movies and the fact that I just don’t like to watch full length films on my phone anymore just push this out of the top rankings and down to an honorable mention. (FREE)

Nokia MixRadio

I LOVE this App… When it works right… There I said it. I have a love/hate relationship with this App. I love that it reads my mind and puts together some brilliant mixes for me to listen to, but I hate the fact that about 50% of the time, the songs don’t actually play and I have to waste a skip to blow past the 4 minutes of silence that would be. Overall, if the folks at Nokia Mix Radio ever figure out why my 810 hates their App, or if Nokia just sends me a new 1520 to replace it (yes, call me greedy, I’m fine with that) then I will bring this into my top 5 immediately. The drawbacks – Lumia devices only… The positives – Free streaming, download up to 4 mixes for offline use and you can set up your own mixes using artists you like as guides. (FREE or $3.99 a month for additional content)

Friday, January 3, 2014

T-Mobile Users: AT&T Offering You Up To $450 To Switch


If you are a T-Mobile Windows Phone user, you might want to take a glance at that higher priced competitor, AT&T. Right now, Ma Bell is offering T-Mobile users up to $450 in credits for porting their number over to their network. The credits come in a two part system – $200 for porting your number in and up to $250 for your current device.

I advise you to do the math well before considering this move as most devices are well under the $100 mark in trade-in value and your bill will probably skyrocket over what it was. For example, a fully loaded T-Mobile Simple Choice bill would be $70 for unlimited talk, text and LTE data, plus $25 for a premium handset with nothing down, plus $10 a month for their JUMP upgrade program. This works out to about $130 a month after taxes and fees. AT&T will run you the same for just the service itself. If you have a T-Mobile device you like already, you can simply run the $60 a month 2.5GB data plan and save about 50% over AT&T’s prices.

Overall, I still recommend going to one of the prepaid MVNO’s that will offer you tax free savings of 30-70% depending on your area and carrier. If you must have the AT&T LTE network for coverage reasons, both the AT&T GoPhone plan ($60 a month for 2GB data) and the Net10 - AT&T plans ($45 a month for 2.5GB LTE data) are great options. If you do not have an LTE capable device, Red Pocket Mobile is a great option as well.

Look for something special from T-Mobile next week to combat this move, which is an apparent preemptive strike from AT&T. T-Mobile has been rumored to have a deal to pay off your termination fee with the trade in of your old phone – up to a $350 value per line. We will see what happens at CES next week though.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

Another year is in the books and it was a good one for Windows Phone in my book. While the market share is still pretty low on my favorite OS, there were some very important things that began to happen in 2013. The low-cost Lumia’s began to sway some users to the platform. The App gap continued to close. Some top end devices, including and phablet were released. Most of all though, the Microsoft buyout of the Nokia Devices division will give an already brilliant relationship even more leverage going forward.

The lower cost Lumia series phones have really started moving like hotcakes all over the world. As the Lumia 520 and Lumia 521 have shown in the US, a sub $100 handset will sell extremely well – especially without a contract. These two phones can be purchased outright from any number of retailers and activated on their original carrier or any number of cost saving MVNO offerings. That makes the Lumia 520 (AT&T) and the Lumia 521 (T-Mobile) a great addition to anyone;s retail lineup.

Apps like Instagram, Vine, Pandora and Kik Messenger finally found a home with Windows Phone this year. This means that the App gap that is so well known is finally starting to close. Sure, there will be some that haven’t ported in yet, but Microsoft really delivered on their promise of getting the top 10 Apps brought to Windows Phone this year. Hopefully, 2014 will bring a few more to that total.

Nokia took advantage of the new GDR3 update’s ability to run larger format screens about as quickly as one could. The Lumia 1320 and 1520 broke late in 2013. These sister phones offer users a 6” display, a 5MP or 20MP camera and one of the best Windows Phone experiences available today. Even the ‘low cost’ Lumia 1320 is a smoking fast device. The $350 street price on the 1320 just makes me dream they would bring it to the Windows Phone store in the US, but for now you need to pick up the overseas version to get this steal. For those that want it all though, the 1520 has the full 20MP PureView camera, 16GB of internal memory and SD slot that will hold another 64GB should be enough to satisfy just about anyone on the planet. The 1520 can be had for about $650 without contract and $199 with 2 year agreement from AT&T.

Probably the most exciting news of the year was the agreement in principle for Microsoft to acquire Nokia’s devices division. This move should allow Microsoft to develop hardware that is more to ‘their desires’ than to Nokia’s. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, but either way, it will be very exciting to see what the first line of devices looks like for 2014. Hopefully they launch that Zune Phone that every has dreamed of for the last few years. If not, maybe the Xbox Phone or the Microsoft Windows Phone One will join the mix later this year. Until then, I will just sit back and enjoy the ride!