Windows Phone 8.1 for developers is here and ready for download!

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Just as promised, Windows Phone 8.1 is now available for download to developers. Joe Belfiore, the chief of the Windows Phone Program Management at Microsoft has tweeted a screenshot of the WP 8.1 update prompt.

Mind you, before being able to install the Windows Phone 8.1 update, you’ll have to download a minor update that prepares your phone for the essential one. Regular consumers can expect their phone to receive the update in a few months, while the first devices to run it out of box will come at the end of this or the start of next month.

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If you are in a hurry, registering as a Windows Phone developer isn’t really that hard. You can either pay $19 to Microsoft and get access to publishing apps in the Windows Phone Store or register as a developer through App Studio. The latter option is free and is aimed at enthusiasts but it also grant you the Developer status, which in turn lets you install the update.

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The Windows Phone 8.1 update brings a lot of new features to Microsoft’s phone OS. Most notably, those are the digital personal assistant Cortana, Action center, updated UI with custom lockscreen and tile backgrounds, IE 11 as well as updated security and Sense apps.

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Microsoft finally unveils its Siri competitor ‘Cortana’

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It’s been nearly three years since Apple unveiled Siri on its iPhone 4s, and Microsoft finally has its answer to the digital assistant: Cortana. Named after a virtual character in the company’s popular Halo gaming franchise, the feature is powered by Bing and offers a mix of Google Now-ish and Siri-like characteristics.

We first got a glimpse of Cortana earlier this year courtesy of a developer leak, but Microsoft officially unveiled her this morning at its Build Developer Conference in San Francisco. The assistant will ship alongside several other new features in the Windows Phone 8.1 update, expected to launch in the next few months…

How does it work? Cortana can be triggered either by an assigned Live Tile on your Windows Phone home screen, or via your device’s built-in search button. From there, it works pretty much like any other digital assistant, capable of setting alarms, searching the web, finding nearby restaurants and other standard affair.

Cortana also has a few unique traits as well, such as contextual reminders that will remind you of something when you’re talking to a designated person, and the ability to add shows to your queue on Hulu Plus. Microsoft has provided an API for third-party apps to interface with—but to what degree, we don’t know yet.

Here’s a video overview of Windows Phone 8.1 (Cortana comes in at 1:50 mark):

Other 8.1 improvements include a new Action Center, similar to iOS 7′s Control and Notification Centers, a refreshed start screen and an updated Windows Phone Store. Skype has also been integrated in new ways this time around, and the WP keyboard has been revamped with support for ‘wordflow’ gesture-based typing.

Microsoft says the update will be rolling out to Windows Phone users in the “next few months” and will start shipping on new devices later this month. On that front, 3 new Nokia Lumia phones were also unveiled today, including the Lumia 930 which features a 1080p display, a 2.2Ghz CPU, 2GB of RAM and a 20MP camera.

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Overall, Windows Phone 8.1 seems like a solid update and early reviews of Cortana have been glowing. It would seem that Apple and Google have their work cut out for them. Apple is up first, with its World Wide Developer Conference to likely take place in early June, and Google will follow with its I/O Conference later that month.

iPhone 5c outsold all Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone devices in winter quarter

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While the iPhone 5c has failed to live up to internal expectations set by Apple, the smartphone certainly hasn’t been moving off the shelves as badly as some people might think. According to an AppleInsider report by Daniel Eran Dilger, the mid-tier handset actually outsold every BlackBerry, Windows Phone and flagship Android device in the United States during the winter quarter. Take a look…

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The report cites multiple sources in claiming that iPhone 5c sales were roughly 12.8 million during the three-month period, more than double the sales of some key smartphone competitors:

That means iPhone 5c sold twice as many units as all Blackberry smartphone sales combined (6 million), more than all of Nokia’s Windows Phone smartphone sales in the winter quarter (8.2 million), and in fact, all of Microsoft’s Windows Phones sold globally in the winter quarter (slightly more than 8.2 million, as Nokia makes 90 percent of the world’s Windows Phones). Even Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S4 reportedly sold just 9 million units in the winter quarter. If you do the math, that’s less than 12.8 million.

It is worth noting that the iPhone 5c was the second most popular smartphone on only half of the top four carriers — AT&T and Sprint — in the United States. The high-end Samsung Galaxy S4 nabbed second place on Verizon and T-Mobile during the same time period. But the sales numbers outlined above prove that the iPhone 5c — a so-called “flop” — is a legitimate candidate on the list of best-selling smartphones.

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A major reason why critics have been pouncing on the iPhone 5c is because it is overshadowed by the more successful iPhone 5s in sales. But as Dilger notes, it is hard to believe that Apple is upset that consumers are opting to purchase a smartphone that retails for double the price with a two-year contract. He goes as far to blame Android as part of the problem.

Note that Apple isn’t just asking for more money; consumers are readily paying twice as much to buy iPhones. That’s indicative of a failure on the part of Android. Either the entire world has been fooled, or Android is simply not as desirable as its proponents claim.

Kantar reported in December that almost half of iPhone 5c buyers were switching from competitors, namely Android-based smartphone makers like Samsung and LG. That contrasts sharply with iPhone 5s buyers, 80 percent of which upgraded from a previous iPhone model. The highest demand for the iPhone 5c comes from lower income households, with 42% of owners earning less than $49,000 per year.

Apple most recently launched an 8GB version of the iPhone 5c in Australia, China, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, perhaps further propagating myths that sales of the budget handset have been less than desirable. But as we now know it, the iPhone 5c has actually been one of Apple’s most successful products in the last year and quietly positioned itself as the world’s second most popular smartphone.

The Top Apps And Games To Get You Started With Your New Smartphone This Christmas!

The wrapping paper is strewn across the floor, the shrink-wrap is but a memory, the packaging has been burst open, and your new Christmas smartphone is finally in your hand. Once the SIM card is in, you’ve logged onto the internet, and tested all the built-in apps, what happens next? It’s time to get your smartphone really flying, and head off to the App Store for some applications! But which ones?

There’s a huge amount of choice in the various stores, no matter the smartphone platform you’ve picked up. If you need a little bit of advice, here are some App Store picks for iOS, Windows Phone, and Android, to get you started on your merry way. Even though each platforms has a different focus, the third-party app scene has many common releases over the ecosystems, and there are some titles that are almost ‘must-haves’.

Consider these recommendations a starter pack before you set out to explore the stores on your own.

First up, lets check that you’ve got your social media tools either installed or up to date. While some of the built-in apps on your smartphone integrate with the social networks (and in the case of Windows Phone, integrate especially well), to make the most of your online activity you’ll want to grab the official clients for Facebook (iOS, Android, Windows Phone), Twitter (iOSAndroidWindows Phone), Instagram (iOSAndroidWindows Phone), and Tumblr (iOSAndroidWindows Phone). That should cover the majority of your online interactions on Christmas Day. Other social networks are available, and a quick search in the App Stores for Linked In, 500px, Flickr, WordPress, and Foursquare should round out your online world.

Gaming is a major part of the modern smartphone, and it’s here that Windows phone has the daddy of them all. Halo: Spartan Assault is a Windows Phone exclusive that take the sprawling and expansive world of Halo from the first person perspective on the home consoles into an isometric-like top down twin stick shooter for Windows Phone. It’s graphically impressive, fast, challenging, and shows Microsoft’s mobile platform at its best.

Nokia 12-inch Windows Phone tablet has futuristic specs!

We recently saw the arrival of Nokia’s first Windows Phone tablet, the Lumia 2520. Now we have news about a Nokia 12-inch Windows Phone tablet that has futuristic specs. Sadly, though this Nokia tablet is a concept design, but read on to see some ideas that will blow your mind and a video.

From time to time we like to show readers concept designs as they can offer an intriguing look at upcoming devices or what the future might hold. Sometimes specs are realistic and in other cases simply not credible, but nevertheless they remain interesting renders.

This Nokia 12-inch tablet comes from designer Ashraf Amer and it has advanced specs such as a 12.4-inch OLED flexible display, 6GB of RAM and 500 GB of internal storage! It gets better (read more unrealistic) with an 82-megapixel Pureview rear camera with dual-LED flash, and a 20-megapixel front-facing Pureview camera.

Design-wise you’re looking at a tablet that measures just 0.3 cm thick and comes in several color options. If you check out the brief YouTube video below this story you’ll see a render of this Nokia tablet created with 3D Max 2014 software.