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Building Universal Apps for Windows Phone

This article was first posted on blog.dvlup.com

At Microsoft’s annual conference //build/ recently, a lot of really cool stuff was announced across the entire product suite for developers. As a recently knighted Microsoft Windows Phone Developer MVP I had a particular interest in the announcement of Windows Phone 8.1.

As many awesome features as there are coming in this massive update for the greatest smartphone platform (yes, I am a little biased ;)), I wanted to make mention of one in particular: Universal apps.

Universal Apps Logo Continue Reading


Review – Avantree NFC Bluetooth Stereo Headphones

Last time I did a review, it was of the Avantree Hive Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headphones, which I thought was great value for money.  So this time around I wanted to test how much better, if at all, the next model up would be. I chose the NFC Bluetooth Stereo headphones, also from Avantree, to get as much of accurate relative comparison as possible. So how did we go? Keep on reading.

Packaging

I know how everyone always starts with the unboxing, but I really believe it is important. The box is the first thing you see in the shop (if you still go to physical shops and buy stuff), and to some extent it is responsible for you picking up the item in the first place.

In this case, it is pretty ordinary. You get some info about the product and you can see part of the headphones through the clear plastic. Nothing unusual or extraordinary.

The box itself contains the headphones, a 3.5mm jack and the charger cable. Simples.

Box Continue Reading


Melbourne Windows Phone Meetup

I have for a while been looking to catch up with like minded Windows Phone and Windows developers in Melbourne. Apart from a few Microsoft and Nokia workshops, it has been a bit scarce for us WinPhans. So I thought, why not create my own event. At least I would have myself to talk to, if nothing else.

This Thursday at 6:30pm the inaugural Melbourne Windows Phone Meetup takes place. It is meant to be a social evening to get to know one another, with the aim to create a more structured event on a regular basis. I am open to ideas for how the meetup will be shaped, and I have not set out to create a particular style or direction. It will be organically shaped by the members of the group.

So, if you are interested in Windows, Windows Phone, Mobile Development or just want to meet some WinPhans, come along. We would love to have you.

Cheers,
Lars


Review – Avantree Hive Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headphones

Unboxing

At first look the box is very small. I expected a decent size bulk, as the picture in the ad somehow conveys a certain mass. However, unpacking the headphones reveals a smaller size, and I somehow got the feeling that the headphones wouldn’t fit over my ears. They do fit just fine, but just don’t have the girth of other headphones. They sit on top of the ears rather than over them.

The box contains the charging cable, which is yet another proprietary standard of a 3.5mm jack going in to a USB. I haven’t seen one of them before, which means I again can’t charge the headphones if I lose it. I had the same beef with the Pebble Smartwatch and the Fitbit fitness tracker, which both came with completely non-standard chargers and connections. Why can’t manufacturers just stick to using mini or micro USB? That would certainly make it a lot easier for consumers. There is also not a wall plug with the headphones, which means you have to have a USB port available to charge. It is not a huge deal, but it just makes it all a little bit more difficult.

Also in the box is of course the Avantree Hive Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headphones and another cable that allows the headphones to be used with devices that don’t have a Bluetooth connection. That is kind of handy and a nice thought.

Box

 

Box Content

 

Setting Up

I chose to test two scenarios for connecting the headphones. The first one being via Bluetooth to my Nokia Lumia 1020. Hold the Play/Pause button on the headphones for 7 seconds, which triggers detection mode, then tap the Avantree Hive connection and voila, you are set. You can now both take calls and listen to music.

Equally simple was it to switch to a laptop with Bluetooth connection. On Windows 8.1 you go to the Bluetooth settings, then again just tap “Pair” on the Avantree Hive connection, and you’re paired to your laptop.

The headphones will now connect automatically whenever either of the two connections are in range. One thing I noticed was that if I charged the headphones I had to switch them off and on again to pick up the connection.

Volume/Next-Previous Control

Hardware Quality

The Avantree Hive Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headphones are made in soft plastics that give a semi-luxury feel to them. The actual headphones on your ears sit tight, but comfortable. Your ears are cushioned, but at the same time noise is kept out. The headphones are light and you could easily wear them all day. You certainly don’t have the feel they were purchased in a two dollar shop.

Sound Quality

This is probably the biggest plus to the Avantree Hive Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headphones. The sound is genuinely really good. I don’t pretend to be an Audiophile, but I do listen to a lot of music. Unlike some headphones, having the volume turned to 11 on these, you don’t annoy everyone within 500 meters. They are genuinely quiet on the outside, but loud on the inside.

Bass is represented well and the mid-tones are exceptionally good for small speakers. There is no crackling and even high pitched songs sound great. I am really impressed with the sound.

Headphones Connected

Value

Great. If you are in the market for budget headphones with a great sound, these are it. For around $40, you can’t go wrong.

To get the Avantree Hive Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headphones and other Nokia Lumia 1020 accessories, our friends at Mobile Zap have a lot more:  http://www.mobilezap.com.au/33905/nokia/lumia-1020.htm

Disclaimer: The Avantree Hive Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headphones were provided by Mobile Zap for this review, however, they have had no influence on the content apart from the link to their site. 


What is new in Windows Phone 8.1 – The Best Bits

I wasn’t lucky enough to go to //Build/ this year, but that didn’t prevent me from keeping a keen eye on the new goodies that were revealed and presented. I have been waiting with great anticipation to hear all of the news, and especially my Twitter feed has been studied very closely on the past few days.

So what was revealed exactly? Obviously Windows Phone 8.1, which I will get back to, but also new handsets from Nokia (or is it Microsoft?), Xamarin news, Windows updates and much more. In fact there was so much that many details were missed initially. But let’s go through the best bits of Windows Phone 8.1. Continue Reading


5 Things You Didn’t Know Windows Phone Could Do

Tonight I shared my thoughts on 5 things I thought most people wouldn’t know about. The event was What Do You Know in Melbourne, and I was last to give my 5 minute talk out of 11 speakers. That just meant I could go a little over time…. woops.

The 5 things in the talk were:

  1. Nokia Mix Radio: The API and the integration points you can use inside your next Windows Phone app.
  2. The amazing cameras on Windows Phone and the Nokia Imaging SDK.
  3. Custom URI Schemes to integrate platform settings into your app.
  4. Magic powers: Name that Tune, QR code reader, Local Scout.
  5. Make You Rich!!: Microsoft pays out more money than Apple and Google.

The presentation can be downloaded from here.

Slides

 


Achievement Unlocked – Windows Phone Development MVP

This morning there was awesome in my Outlook inbox on my Windows Phone. Over the last 8 months I have genuinely shown my passion for the Windows Phone ecosystem through authoring Pluralsight courses, blog articles on several websites, public talks, mentoring other developers, building apps, organising a conference and generally educating and helping anyone willing to listen to my ramblings. I have even been invited by Nokia to Sweden to build prototyping software for the Lumia 1020 when that came out.

I have not done this to specifically target the community in a certain way, but rather I have organically helped out where I can and given back where possible.

I am really proud to announce that this morning Microsoft rewarded me with an MVP award for Windows Phone Development. This is a great doff of the hat from Microsoft, and I can’t wait to be even more involved in the Windows Phone community in the future.

MVP Award

Thanks to my best mate Alex Mackey for nominating me and providing guidance in who to bri… I mean influence.

 


Review: Intempo TableTop iTower Bluetooth Speaker

First impression is that you get a lot for your money. For just over $30, this is an impressive box and weight. It actually feel like you have bought something quality like and not just another Chinese mass produced product (even though it is).

Unpacking

The box really is all speaker. There is a small box of wires and a manual, but other than that the Intempo speaker takes up all the space. You also get a double jack lead, which I will get back to. And then most puzzling of the lot, you get a power cord with a UK main plug. No adaptor. I didn’t have a UK adaptor for an Australian plug. To me, that is just poor consumer maintenance. If I can’t use your new toy straight out of the box, I get frustrated and annoyed. I want to try it out right now.

I got in contact with Mobile Zap, and they assured me it was a warehouse mistake and sent out a converter plug quick smart. All good.

Speaker Box All parts in the box Continue Reading


Free Market – The Wrong Way to Develop Windows Phone Apps

[update]: I have been made aware that “Free Market” has been pulled from the store. As much as I would love to think this article had an influence, the important thing is that the topic of maintaining the Windows Phone eco-system as developers, is discussed.

Earlier today I was made aware of the Windows Phone app “Free Market”. Nothing unusual about that; I look at tons of apps all the time. However, this one made me half cringe, half sweat. Basically, it is an app that allows you to search the Store for an app, and then the app will check every single location to see if the app is free in any other market.

Free Market Continue Reading