It has taken quite a bit of time, but Rovio finally brings its popular Angry Birds game to the Windows Phone platform. The original game — the version that launched the craze — lands in the store today. “Good news for all of our fans who play Angry Birds on Windows Phone, we have a brand new version of the original Angry Birds for you to play” the Finnish game studio announces.
The best news for customers on the Microsoft mobile platform is that the new game is free from now through May 15th. The game will have over 400 levels from the start. The Windows Phone 8 version will also have Xbox Live integration with new achievements and leaderboards.
“This will be a completely separate download from the original Angry Birds title that some of you may already own. The reason why we’re re-releasing the game is that it will be technically easier for us to support in the future” Rovio claims. If you are worried that you will lose your current progress, then rest easy. Rovio points out that downloading this new, improved version will not wipe your old game, including your stars and level progress. Both versions are completely separate.
For a week now rumors have been rampant that Microsoft would release a “Switch to Windows Phone” app to Android users. The day has arrived and the app has landed in the Google Play store.
The free app is available today and attempts to make a switch from the Google mobile platform to that of Microsoft an easier transition. “Use Switch to Windows Phone to see how many of your Android apps are available on Windows Phone. Just run Switch to Windows Phone on your Android, and this app will check to see if your installed apps are available in the Windows Phone Store” the app tells us.
Switch to Windows Phone will then proceed to save to the cloud the app list it puts together and keep it ready for you when you pick up that Nokia Lumia or HTC 8X handset.
Needless to say, Microsoft is being attacked by Android phone fans — the app already has a two star rating, with only 22 users giving it five stars, while 213 customers handed it a one star review. Still, you have to hand it to Microsoft for trying. Perhaps the company may even land a few new customers who may have already been on the fence about switching.
Microsoft is now seeking beta testers for a new and updated version of the Facebook app for Windows Phone. Version 4.2.1 is still the current iteration on the mobile platform, but a new one is on the way. “Today we’re launching a new program designed to help speed up delivery of new features in the official Facebook app for Windows Phone and need sharp-eyed, energetic volunteers to download a beta version of our next release and tell us how to make it better” announces Microsoft’s Michael Stroh.
Users will find that the app is undergoing a major redesign and now includes several much-requested features, including new support for high-res photos, post sharing, and Facebook Timeline.
Before you get too excited, Stroh cautions that if you “don’t like it when apps crash? This probably isn’t the program for you”. The good news is that you do not lose the current Facebook app if you decide to take the plunge then the beta will not replace the existing Facebook app, but instead run side-by-side with it.
Getting into mobile app development often seems like a path paved with gold, but the reality is very different with many apps failing to succeed. Good apps do not simply “get lucky” but rather their developers work hard at planning a successful app. Smashing Magazine’s article “How To Succeed With a Mobile App” shows the elements needed to plan for app success.
Smashing Magazine identifies six areas to consider for a great app.
1) The Idea. Find a vaccuum or empty niche for your app.
2) Money. Plan the business model for your app.
3) Define. Write down what your app will do in one sentence and stick to it.
4) Design. If the user has to think how to use the app, you’ve failed.
5) Coding. Native, high-quality, robust code is essential.
6) Marketing. Make friends, build buzz, launch big, love your fans.
But don’t simply read the above and move on. Check out the original article by Jeremy Olson at Smashing Magazine as it has plenty of further information for would-be app coders.
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Wireless expert WDS is reporting that high failure rates in Android handsets are costing mobile network operators as much as $2 billion per year in dealing with repairs and returns. Reviewing the four leading mobile operating systems, its study found that Android-based devices seemed more prone to failure as 14% of technical support calls on Android were for hardware, versus 11% for Windows Phone, 7% for iOS and just 6% for BlackBerry OS.
Simplistically, Android handsets were twice as likely to suffer a hardware fault that an Apple or RIM device. The study suggests that cheaper hardware, software customisations and OS updates all contribute to the failure rate and in turn, the increased impact on the network operators to provide technical support and customer service. WDS analysed over 600,000 technical support calls from July 2010 to August 2011.
“One thing we must be absolutely clear on,” says Tim Deluca-Smith, Vice President of Marketing at WDS, “is that our analysis does not find any inherent fault with the Android platform. Its openness has enabled the ecosystem to grow to a phenomenal size, at a phenomenal rate, and it’s this success that is proving challenging.”
He added, “The Android customer experience differs enormously between devices and this means that the way in which Android devices are retailed and supported must consider factors such as the hardware build and quality of components.”
If you are thinking about buying or upgrading your smartphone, you might want to bear this research in mind before you purchase.
The full WDS whitepaper can be downloaded from this page.
A few days ago we received the sad news that HP was discontinuing webOS devices. The only good news out of that was for gadget lovers – HP has slashed prices on the recently released TouchPad (it’s already out-of-stock at Walmart online). The bad news for HP, beyond the bad press and bad stock prices, was that Microsoft leaped on the news and immediately began recruiting webOS developers for their Windows Phone platform.
Microsoft’s Brandon Walsh reached out to webOS developers on Twitter, and began the process of bringing them over to Windows Phone. He even went so far as to offer free phones and other tools. At last check, he had received more than 200 replies.
While HP has killed off the hardware-making side of their webOS business, they are hoping to keep the software alive by licensing it to third-party hardware makers, as Google does with Android. That means HP needs to keep these developers on board. That will be difficult with no agreements in place yet to ensure the OS’s future. Still, they are trying their best to maintain ties – see their blog post The Next Chapter for webOS.
Given the current state, it will be hard for HP to hold onto these developers, and given what they have already done, it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t pull the plug on the software side of webOS at any moment. This has been a short ride for HP and webOS, and I can’t help but think that they didn’t give it it’s deserved time and effort. Consider it a premature death.
For a while now I have been controlling my Windows Media Center HTPC with a remote control app on my Android phone. Recently I have been playing with…er reviewing…a DirecTV remote control on the same phone. I control my FreeNAS home server from that phone. I could also control Windows Home Server, a TiVo, a Comcast DVR, and probably many other set-top boxes as well. All of this got me to thinking….will smartphones make things like the Harmony remote control a thing of the past?
For years now, Harmony has reined supreme as THE device to have for home theater geeks, and has even edged it’s way into the mainstream. Sure, there are other “universal” remotes, some of them are even higher-end than Harmony, like Crestron. Yes, Crestron can do a LOT more than the average universal remote, like control home security and lighting. But now there are smartphone apps for those things too.
What can Harmony do that my Android can’t? Well, there are a few things. Some are due to the limitations of my hardware and some are due to the limitation of the apps. For one, my A/V receiver isn’t networked and neither is my LCD TV, so they can’t be controlled from my phone. For another, the “one-app-to-rule-them-all” isn’t there yet. By that, I mean that Harmony can turn on my receiver, TV, and DirecTV HD DVR with a push of one button, even setting the receiver to the proper output and the set-top box to a particular channel. By contrast, my phone requires me to open each app separately to do these things.
So, can Android, iOS, and the others replace these universal remotes? Yes, but not quite yet. The hardware exits already. Virtually every home theater device available today can be found with network capability. If a device can be networked then you can be sure that an app will exist for it. What is stalling things right now is the “one-app-to-rule-them-all” part. Nobody, as far as I know, has come close to creating an app that can control multiple devices, like my HTPC and DVR. Until that happens, and I am positive it will, then Harmony and the others will continue to be survivors.
Microsoft made some big announcements today at the E3 gaming show, most surrounding the Xbox, but a few involved Xbox Live in Windows Phone. However the bigger, or at least more interesting, Windows Phone news came from Microsoft Vice President of Windows Phone Joe Belfiore, via his Twitter account.
Today an Apple fan got excited about the fact the volume up button can be used to take a picture. Mr. Belfiore responded, good-naturedly, that Windows Phone can do a good bit more. It was a rare bit of humor from Redmond, which tends to stick to the policy of ignoring Apple completely (while sometimes borrowing an idea).
Perhaps the Windows Phone team has some reasons to be happy. After all, they are definitely on the rise, while Apple may be running a bit low on new ideas as they have slipped behind Android and are looking over their shoulder at Windows Phone. Today’s announcements didn’t break any new ground, but seemed more like playing catch-up.
Make no mistake though, Apple can never be counted out and may have something huge brewing that hasn’t yet made it into the rumor mill. But, at least for one day, it seems Microsoft may have a leg up.