Sunday, February 28, 2016

Insiders On Lumia 550, 950 And 950XLTreated To Mobile Build 14267


This is when reality stinks for Windows 10 Mobile bloggers. When something new comes out and it will be a $600 investment to see it in action. Alas, I must come back to reality and just report that some folks out there in the fast rings have been reporting that their magical Lumia’s have found the first of the Redstone builds, complete with some polish for Edge and Cortana. Overall, Redstone build 14267 appears to be a bunch more polish and a way to include a few new features.

First off, Microsoft Edge moves along nicely in this build. With the ability to use the WordFlow keyboard in the address bar and initiate a private browsing section without 4 taps to get there. There is also the new tabs key next to the address bar for faster switching between tabs. Overall, Edge is coming together quite nicely for the first major release.

Next up, a few changes for Cortana. She now can listen to music and tell you what she is hearing from a simple one button tap on her home screen. This build brings her current to functionality found on the desktop App, which should help ease people back into the Cortana experience after a bumpy launch so far on Windows 10 and Android.

The final feature that received a bit of polishing for this build is the Save to SD feature on the video camera. Some Insiders had reported that they were suffering from stuttering video play back when videos were recorded to the SD card. What this ended up being was a recording issue, not a playback issue. Build 14267 fixes the write buffer which now allows for HD video to be recorded to the SD care without any additional issues.

So, good news overall, but please, someone send me a new Lumia so I can report on these first hand – or maybe even just buy a few items from my links on the right so I can afford to purchase one for myself. I would love to see these new builds in action, but my trust HTC One M8 for Windows just isn’t getting the updates as fast. For now, enjoy the updates if you get them and if not, with everything going ok on them, they should roll out to general release soon.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Most Confusing Windows 10 Device Ever: The Lumia 650


I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea what the mission of the Windows 10 for Mobile team is any more. I had some ideas, or maybe even dreams, but the towel is going in on this one because I no longer have any idea what is happening. Apparently the newly announced Lumia 650 is in the same boat also. It’s part Lumia 950 series and part Lumia 640 series and part Lumia 530 series and adding it all together, makes it 100% confusing.

Let’s start with the positives. Microsoft released a new Windows 10 piece of hardware! Yea! It retails for $199! Yea! It has a solid 16GB of internal storage with additional space available via MicroSD card slot. It’s got a pretty nice 5” display to stare at all day long, which makes it a great portable size for a mobile device. The 8MP rear camera and 5MP front cameras aren’t all that bad for an entry level device, in fact their quite decent to say the least. And most of all, it’s just $199 retail.

So far so good, right? Well, not so much… Windows 10 Mobile isn’t exactly what you’re getting with the Lumia 650. The Qualcomm 212 processor will not support Windows Continuum, which for me is a deal breaker right off the bat. I have plenty of devices that will give me a great Windows 10 experience without that amazing feature. I don’t need another. The 1GB of RAM that the 650 ships with is barely adequate for today’s standards. It’s the starting point, not something that should mark your mid-range devices. In fact, the 1GB of RAM is what is shipped with the Lumia 535 at a much lower price tag. The final straw though, is that it is just $199. This price point is just too high for a wanna be second tier device.

What I mean by this is that the $100 price point where the 535 should be sitting is filled with crap-tastic Android devices and the Moto E. Most of the phones in this range are under powered and really just lacking features that make them a good choice for most. Then, you have the $200 range, with devices like the Moto G falling into it. As nice as the 650 looks on paper, the Moto G has so much more going for it that it’s scary to think that these two devices are in the same price range. Of course, this won’t matter to most consumers since they go in and finance the phone and leave with a $650 device that they are paying $30 a month for, so forget how much it costs and worry about what it does.

Here’s the real breakdown of how well the 650 will do. It won’t sell, at least not a lick in the US. The carriers won’t stock it and Microsoft doesn’t have enough stores to push them out to end users. It’s another “Smoked By Windows Phone” candidate right there. Of course, if Microsoft cut a deal with say Wal-Mart, Target or even a regional chain like Fred Meyer’s, to put up an endcap of “unlocked carrier phones that work with the carrier you already use” and will cut your bill $20-150 a month, I bet some people would drop in for a look. Unfortunately, most people don’t think about unlocked at this point, nor do they even know what it means. They go to the store, buy a phone and move along until it breaks.

The Lumia 650 is a nice step up from the 535 in may ways, but honestly, the lack of additional RAM and most of all, Continuum makes is a non-starter for me. Unfortunately, the lack of exposure is going to make it a no-go for just about everyone else. Hey Microsoft, if you’re listening, make sure you think about getting than end cap and maybe labeling some devices with a sticker that says “AT&T Ready” or “Save $25 a month on your bill without a device payment!” You’ll be shocked how well these things start to move. Think about how well the 520/521 did when those hit retail shelves! You could do it again, just that easily.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Microsoft Pushes New Update To Mobile Users

Happy Valentine’s Day Win Phans! Microsoft apparently wanted to start off the weekend of love in the right way with a push to bring 10.0.10586.107 to our mobile devices before we run away with our sweets this weekend. Unfortunately, once again, there’s no hint of a change log being published with this update. It appears on the surface to be another bug squashing update along with some additional new configurations for the Insiders program. It appears that we may be getting closer to a release date as there is now an RTM style path available.
I’ll do some additional playing today with the update and see if there is anything uber amazing contained in it, but for now, it looks like another getting closer style update for the fast ring.


Looks like there is some information about the change log being posted online:

  • Fixed an issue where in some cases a device could be missing tiles on the Start screen after going through the device out of box experience.
  • Improved support in Narrator to speak in multiple languages.
  • Improvements to the device reset experience when BitLocker\Device Encryption is enabled by enterprise policy or by the use

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Does Apple’s New Philosophy Clear The Way For Windows To Gain Market Share?


The iPhone… I’ll say it right here, right now, “It’s always been just about perfect.” See, there it is in black and white. For the newbie and the feature phone user, there is nothing that works better than iOS. It’s simple to use, easy to navigate and everyone has one so if you need help, you can ask a friend how to do something. Most importantly, they just work. Steve Jobs always made sure of this. Before anything was released, software or hardware, it went through more testing than nuclear missles before going into operation. Something has changed since Mr. Jobs passed away, and I’m thinking it just might be what Microsoft needed to see before giving up on their mobile hopes.

In the last few months, iPhone’s in particular have been plagued with something that Android, BlackBerry and past generation Windows Mobile users are all too familiar with – bugs. Whether it was the phone bricking, non startable reboot screen or the latest slew of craptastic errors from the fingerprint sensor being ‘modified by a third party’ and having your phone lock up. While that might be enough to sway many to leave their beloved iOS platform, and may infact encourage some just to update to a newer device, there’s more going on behind the curtain than just some buggy software.

Apple has done something that may help ‘core integration’ of certain features, but what it really does is begin to eliminate choice and alienate developers. They have begun pushing their services, perhaps seeing that Microsoft has the right ideas for mobile going foward, by foricing iCloud Mail, iCloud Drive and iOS Notes on to users devices without them even asking for them. Of course, many iOS users are already using the Gmail, Dropbox and Evernote Apps exactly for the purposes that the Apple alternatives go, but how long will it last before those companies cry foul and leave for greenter pastures?

Sure, Apple has about 1/2 of the US smartphone market right now, but that’s where Microsoft was just before the iPhone came out. Android has the other 1/2 of the US market and would gladly welcome those disgruntled iOS people into their ranks. While it won’t happen over night, it’s moves like this that begin to sway the tide from one OS to another. Just like when Windows Mobile began losing to the BlackBerry from RIM. Or when the BlackBerry OS bled out to the iPhone. An even stronger case could be made for when Symbian, an OS that had the backing of almost every major manufactuerer in the world and controlled 80% of the world market died in a matter of months when everyone left the program behind.

So, where is Microsoft’s play in this? There is only one answer and it needs to happen as quickly as they can get it right – the Surface Phone. It’s a rumor device at this point an we’ve heard some doozies about it, but to be honest, the super-premium Surface Phone is the only way that Microsoft will win back any of those Apple users before they switch to Android. My play looks something like this: Take the old Smoked By Windows Phone campaign and bring it back from the dead. Stock up on Lumia 535s and 950s, unlocked and ready to go. Perhaps a 535 variant for Verizon and Sprint could be done up quickly as well. Then bring in the Surface Phone as the top tier.

The new trade in program would feature an App Challenge, where iOS users bring in their devices to stump the Windows crowd into not being able to do something from their Windows devices. The chances of finding basics that you can’t do with Windows 10 is pretty slim, but if they aren’t sold on the OS and do find something that Windows can’t do, a little bonus prize is all theirs. Maybe a 90 day subscription to Office 365, or a 50GB bonus to their New OneDrive account with auto-photo backup? If they do get stumped and decide that Windows is the right choice for them, a bigger prize awaits – a new Windows Phone.

The Windows Phone giveaway would not be like the last one where you get the top tier hardware from your choice of vendors regardless of the hardware you turn in, but rather a system where depending on the phone your trade in, you get a similar level Windows device. For example, if you have an iPhone 5/5s, you get the Lumia 535. For the 6 you get the Lumia 950 and for the 6+ you get the Lumia 950XL. For the 6s or 6s+, you get the coveted Surface Phone. There would also be a bank of PC’s set up to transfer data from your iPhone to your new Windows account to upload to your phone in-store, just to make switching over even easier. If they wanted to extend this to Android, you could do that also, but don’t expect that Surface Phone for anything less than a 128GB Galaxy S6 or S7 at this point.

The Smoked By Windows Phone giveaway was hugely successful and helped millions of dead Windows devices find their way into people’s hands. I say dead, because by the time the program happened, Windows Phone 7 was all but ready to move to 8 in the development cycle and they knew that the older devices would not be upgraded. Same story today. The current run of Windows Phone’s will be out-dated by the end of the year. It’s time to get them out of the warehouses and into the hands of users.

If you’re friends with the Microsoft marketing team or maybe even buddies with Ben Rudolph, pass along that it’s time to start smoking again. Perhaps it should be ‘Stumping’ this time instead. Either way, it’s time to get those phones moving and back into the hands of the people that will use them.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Not Another Windows Phone Post, But This Time, It’s Windows 10…

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I hear quite a bit of complaining about Windows 10. Everything from, “Where did they move this to?” to “It’s just different, I don’t get those tile things.” I even get the, “Why did they ever get rid of Windows XP?” pretty often. It’s a whole ton of craziness rolled up into a few masterfully written complaints about the newest version of the OS, but how much of it is founded on real claims, and how much of it is just dealing with people that are never happy? Here’s my 5 minute take on where Windows 10 is at and where it needs to be.

Number one on the list has to be the fact that Windows 10 really does work well, for the msot part. There are very few glitches that made it through the Insiders program before it was released. It’s not like the phone side of things, which before anyone starts complaining – if you don’t have a Lumia 550/950/950XL, you are still running beta software, there’s no full version of Windows 10 for Mobiles avaialble as an upgrade yet, so don’t complain too much if you are testing it via the Insiders App. On my Acer Netbook, Windows 10 works like a charm. I do have to engage the wireless adapter occasionally, and sometimes the touch pad, but other than that, unless I am clean booting the system, I haven’t had any glaring issues at all. My Venue Pro isn’t quite so lucky as it is still plagued by the ‘wireless adapter going missing’ issue that has been there since with Windows 8 update. I’m pretty sure it was there in Windows 7 as well, but I probably forgot about it since it was so long ago. My other two home PC’s work just fine on the new OS as well. Of course, my work PC is probably the biggest problem child of the bunch as I continuously get a wireless adatper error and also the display driver error. Microsoft’s stance on that is that the driver needs to be uninstalled and it will find the correct one to replace it, but when I force that change, I lose the touch feature of my HP desktop. I think I’ll put up with the failing driver a bit longer, rather than lose touch.

Moving forward, the quality of the indvidual pieces of Windows is moving forward nicely as well. The Mail App has moved from something I couldn’t stand – and couldn’t wait NOT to use – to something that I enjoy using again. I still wish they had taken more of a Windows 8 mail look, well honestly, a Windows Phone 8 mail look, but I understand the changes they made and how they work, so I’m good with it. The 800 hundred pound gorilla in the room is still the Edge browser for me. Most of the time, it works fine, but there are quite a few times that it just stops working. Clearing this or that or resetting the App seems to do the trick, but what a pain. Spartan was supposed to kill IE in performance and all I’ve seen is just a mediocre experience at best. When it works correctly though, Edge is pretty snappy, again, that’s when it works correctly though.

Moving on to Groove Music, it’s a decent music player. I still find myself using the 1995 based Windows Media Player for most of my musical enjoyment due to the fact that it seems to cast easier to my Sony speaker system and that I can create playlists that will sync to my Android or Windows Phone devices. If you are all in, Groove will sync to your Windows Phone, but going to another mobile OS stinks with Groove – and no, I do not want ‘another’ music App on my phone. The social media Apps like Twitter and Facebook are also getting on board with Windows 10. Both of the major social media platforms work very well and no longer require me to open them in a browser for simple tasks. I also still love the OneDrive App. The full integration that the App offers is amazing and the fact that you can select which folders to sync – though it’s not as easy as it should be Microsoft! – is brilliant. I also like the ‘save screen shot to OneDrive’ option. That’s a lifesaver for bloggers.

Finally, the last piece of the Windows 10 puzzle, and my favorite, is Cortana. She’s still pretty darn buggy in her Android form, but what do you expect from a beta project? I know she’s not technically still in beta, but they are learning daily from what users are suffering through and fixing it pretty quickly. To me, that means she’s in beta – still. That said, I’ve tried using Google Now, and it’s OK at best. Cortana knows me, knows my computer and works very well. This is one area that makes me miss Windows Phone on a daily basis – how well the synergy worked between my desktop and mobile. Unfortunately, it seems that the Windows 10 App is making huge strides to become more powerful while the Android counterpart continues to roll features out to make it more reliable. News flash here, features sell, stability doesn’t. It’s a backwards way of thinking, but Android has NEVER worked correctly. Don’t destroy the feature set of your App because one stinking beta tester with a 3 year old Droid is saying that something didn’t work right. Get the features back in there and work on the integration between platforms. It will be all good at that point.

From all of this, where does Windows 10 sit with me? Honestly, I moved to Verizon Wireless over the Black Friday weekend and did three things that were completely uncharacteristic for me. First, I purchased a Samsung Note 5 – which violates two of my rules: it’s not an HTC device and I placed the camera as the number one feature I was looking for in my new phone. Now before I get flamed for this one, I got my Note for $176 without a contract – NEW. Yeah, that’s a tough one to beat isn’t it? The second is I went back to a bigger carrier after being on MVNO’s for the last 4 years. We’ve saved $1000’s over that perioud of time, even buying a few phones here and there. Honestly though, Verizon’s price is only a slight bit higher than what we were paying and we just don’t use enough mobile data to worry about overages and such. It was the right deal to get some really great new hardware and better coverage. Now the issue – Verizon currently has the Lumia 735 in their lineup… That’s it.

This is why Windows Phone is losing that market share. When it was at it’s best, WP had the 920/925/1020 on AT&T, the 925 on T-Mobile and the 928/Icon on Verizon. They also had a bevy of 520 verisons out on just about every GSM network in the world. They had devices available everywhere. Now, AT&T has the 950 and 640. T-Mobile has the lower end models as well. Verizon has a mid-range step child in the 735 and Sprint is still rocking that aged lower end stuff as well. World wide, people are so confused by what is new and old, it’s impossible to sell anything. This is where Windows 10 loses me… As much as I want to love it, I miss how easy and smooth Windows 7 was on my PC’s. Windows 7 was a finished product though, it was sold in a box in the store and it worked. This new, put it out and fix it later thing, isn’t my thing. I want, and expect, my PC to fire up and work – not give me continuous errors. Someone in marketing needs to be shot if they actually proposed the ‘Windows as a service” idea as something that was a good thing. For me, Windows is NOT a service and never should be. Windows is a lifeline to everything else we do. Windows runs PROGRAMS not Apps. Windows is what we use when that other stuff fails us. Windows isn’t a send it out and fix it later deal. While Windows 10 is making huge strides with every patch, correction and fix, it’s my opinion that they shouldn’t have been there to start with. I’m sure by year 3 they will have most of the kinks worked out, but until then, Windows 10 is only a mediocre success in my book.

This post was sent from my Windows 10 powered, Dell Venue 8 Pro using Open Live Writer. Yes, I used about 3/4 of the features I listed above to write this – and no, the drivers didn’t crash once while doing it.