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We have known for a while now that Microsoft has been working on a Windows Phone 8.1 refresh, and today we have been given one of our first looks at the freshened UI thanks to leaked screenshots. The leaks were first spotted by WPCentral, and show that Microsoft has put a lot of work into redesigning the Windows Phone Store.
A new "Featured" tab will display apps that have been custom recommended for you based on your previous app downloads, while a new "Quick Links" section will serve up a list of categories that neatly organizes apps in an easily navigable list such as featured apps, games, and top paid and free apps. App pages have also been redesigned to better display the apps features, comments, and updates. Finally, the Windows Phone Store will now have dedicated sections that will allow users to check for updates, view active downloads, and more.
Why did the Redmond-based software giant make it free? The company wanted to better align Office Mobile for Windows Phone with its iOS and Android versions. Office Mobile is now capable of allowing users to view, and edit content while on the go, all for free. Previously, an Office 365 subscription was required.
But, Microsoft considers tablets a premium device, which means tablet users who use Office have to pay for the mobile goods that Office offers - which is locked to iOS for now. The company has confirmed it is working on bringing Office for Android tablets, as well as a Metro-based version for touch-capable Windows slates.
During yesterday's HTC One M8 launch event, we got our first look at HTC's newly redesigned BlinkFeed news feed application, and I must admit that I was quite impressed. The new BlinkFeed solves all of the issues I have with the one currently installed on my HTC One, and even opens up access to developers to create custom feeds from their apps to the service. There are other apps out there that do this, but in my experience, BlinkFeed does it the best, and now it looks like non HTC owners will soon be able to download it to their Android device as well.
This morning, BlinkFeed appeared in the Google Play Store for the first time, and after some digging, Android Central, found information in a press release that states that HTC will be releasing the app to other Android devices via Google Play very soon. Moving HTC's services such as BlinkFeed, Zoe Camera, and Sense TV to Google Play makes a lot of sense and will allow the company to more easily update these apps without having to provide an entire Android Software update that requires carrier approval before it is released to owners.
A tax loophole that allowed buyers to purchase digital copies of books, music and apps at a cheaper cost has now been closed. The loophole allowed sales of digital content as low as 99p, since consumers paid very low VAT.
Earlier it was pointed out that UK could have financed Olympics Games if it raised VAT of digital downloads between 2008 and 2014. It was also reported in 2012 that UK was losing more than £1.6billion in VAT.
Spotify seems quite unstoppable right now, with the music streaming outfit will now not accept anymore submissions for its App Finder program. The App Finder program allowed developers to publish apps inside of its desktop client, but not anymore.
Looking into the future, Spotify will rel ease multiple new mobile SDKs, as well as expanding its web API with more features in the coming months. The apps that have already been published will continue to be available as they're made on Spotify's latest API 1.x framework. From here on out, those apps will only receive critical updates.
Google has added a handy new feature to its Search App for Android. Users can now tap the microphone or say "OK Google" and then say "Play some music", and the Search App will create an "I'm Feeling Lucky" radio station based on your previous music searches. Android users who have the latest updated version of the Search App can use the feature immediately, everyone else simply needs to update the app from the Google Play Store.
The whole process is pretty seamless, but in my experience, it needs a little refinement. 99-percent of my music searches revolve around 90s alternative bands, and when I use the service, I get a Google Play Music station that consist of Kelly Clarkson, Mandy Moore, Miley Cyrus, and Prince. I tried this a few times, and similar playlist were generated. I did happen to get a single Nirvana song on the first try, but it was followed up by a Katy Perry track.
If you frequent Starbucks, the purveyor of high price coffee and snacks, you might be a user of the company's mobile app. Starbucks has issued an update to that app for iPhone users that adds in digital tipping options. That means that users can now give a tip to their server without having to dig in a wallet.
The only catch is that the user has to be based in the US. Along with the update adding in digital tipping also comes a makeover with a new look. The app also now has a shake feature that lets the user shake their phone to get the barcode to scan for mobile payment.
Other new features include access to a history of purchases, earned Starbucks Stars, and rewards that you have used. That will come in handy if you thought you had a reward and can't remember using it. The app is a big deal for Starbucks, 14% of all purchases made in the store are completed using the mobile app. the last time the coffee firm offered stats was in July of last year, digital sales via the app accounted for 10% of its sales at the time.
Google's Play Store got an update today that improves both security and functionally when installing and using apps. Version 4.6.16 of the Google Play Store brings forth better in-app purchase protection, as well a password protecting purchases from within the Google Play Store itself. Users now have the option to set password requirements for every purchase made, or unlock purchasing for 30 minutes at a time, or you can never require a password at all.
The update also brings in a new batch install feature that allows users to quickly install multiple apps on a new device without the need for a 3rd party app. This will let users who have upgraded, or changed devices quickly install their most used apps at once, which greatly speeds up the process of setting up a new device. Google has also tweaked the UI a bit as well as fixed several minor bugs.
Almost everyone with a smartphone has taken a selfie at some point and Apple is looking to make the process even easier with the creation of a new section in the iTunes App Store geared specifically towards selfie apps. The section will be filled with apps such as Snapchat, Justin Bieber's Shots, and much more.
I had no idea that there were even apps in existance that were geared toward selfie image generation except for Snapchat, and I consider that more of a photo messaging app than anything else. This past year, the word Selfie gained notoriety when it was officially added to the Oxford Dictionary which had the following to say on the words addition. "If it is good enough for the Obamas or the pope, then it is good enough for Word of the Year."
One of the biggest events in college sports is the NCAA March Madness tournament that is played each year. This tournament has 67 games and a total of about 150 hours of live TV coverage before the winner is announced. If you are a fan of March Madness that has a Kindle Fire tablet, you will have a new way to enjoy the games this year.
The NCAA March Madness Live app has been around for platforms like Android and iOS for a while. The app lets the users watch live games wherever they are via a web connection. This year the app will be offered on another platform, the Amazon Kindle Fire. That means Kindle Fire owners with a cable subscription to a participating provider can watch games on the go.
Users do have to log into the app using the username and password from their cable or satellite provider. If you are wondering, the selection for the teams that will play in the tournament will start on March 16. The games start on March 18 and will continue until the winner is announced on April 5-7.