5 tips for sharing on your Windows Phone

So, my kids gave me a Cthulhu bobblehead for Mother’s Day (other love offerings have included a Gandalf lunch box, a Frodo action figure, and a talking Yoda doll—proving that nerdiness is indeed inherited). Every day when they get out of school, I pose the Great Old One in some kind of action scene, take a photo on my Lumia 925, and text it to them.

sharing-photo-text-screen

Now you know my shame. It’s dorky, but it’s a way to stay connected while I’m at the office. Of course, texting a photo is Sharing 101, and Windows Phone has lots of other ways to stay in touch, plus an ever-expanding list of social apps to help out. Here are my top tips for some less familiar routes to togetherness.*

1. Connect the dots

In the People Hub, go to your contacts list, tap someone, and then swipe over to Connect, a new addition to contact cards in Windows Phone 8.1. You’ll see apps you can use to connect with that person, like Facebook and Skype. Tap one, and you’ll go straight to the person’s page in the app—for example, if you tap Facebook, you’ll see their timeline.

people-contacts-connect-screen

2. Project yourself

Looking to torment a captive audience with glamour shots of your cat or a photo essay about your kitchen remodel? Then why limit yourself to a tiny phone screen? Use Project My Screen to display those beauties on a nice, big Windows PC via a USB cable or even wirelessly. Learn how.

project-my-screen

3. Share a place (with Cortana’s help)

Then:

Me: “Let’s meet at 6. Where should we eat?”

Friend: “I don’t know. We’ll need a reservation so we can be sure to make the show on time.”

Me: “How about that new Tibetan-Cuban fusion place?”

Friend: “Do they have gluten-free?”

Me: “I have no idea. What restaurants around there do?”

Friend: “No idea. I don’t go downtown a lot.”

Now:

Me: “Find gluten-free restaurants in downtown Seattle.”

Cortana: “Here are 8 restaurants matching ‘gluten-free’ around downtown Seattle. The closest one’s about 7 miles away.”

Me: “Which ones take reservations?”

Cortana: “Here are the ones that take reservations.”

I tap a restaurant to see reviews, menus, and so on, then I tap Share to text the info to my friend. Done and done.

cortana-restaurant-search-screen

You can also go straight to Cortana’s Notebook to share favorite places or spots you’ve been to recently.

(Note: Cortana is currently available in select markets. If it’s not available on your phone or you don’t use it, you can find and share places using Local Scout in the Maps app.)

4. Look who’s sharing (about you)

Curious to see who shared a link on your Facebook timeline or tagged you on Instagram? Action center is your go-to spot for social notifications. To control what you see there, go to Settings > Notifications + actions, tap an app, and tweak notification settings for it. If you’re still not seeing all the adulation you expect, you might need to go into the app itself and turn on some notification options. For instance, in the Facebook app, go to Settings > Notifications, and then select the notifications you want to get.

social-notifications-screen

5. Developers, developers, developers

Our trusty app developers are stepping up to make sharing on Windows Phone 8.1 even better. MultiShare allows you to share to more than one social network at once, via your Me Card or the Photos app. If you’re a Foursquare fan, check out Social extension for 4th & Mayor, which lets you check in with Foursquare using your Me Card (you’ll also need to install 4th Mayor, a Foursquare client). And Messenger gets you to your Facebook messages lickety-split. Keep an eye on the Social section of the Store for new sharing apps as developers get busy.

* This post refers to features in Windows Phone 8.1. If your phone is running Windows Phone 8, some of them won’t be available. Check to see which software version you have and find out if an update is available.

Join the Siege – Age of Empires: Castle Siege now available for Windows and Windows Phone!

A few weeks ago, Microsoft Studios and Smoking Gun Interactive announced a new Age of Empires game for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 – Age of Empires: Castle Siege. Join the Siege today by downloading the game from the Windows Store and from the Windows Phone Store.

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Age of Empires: Castle Siege brings all the strategy and combat Age of Empires is renowned for along with a fast-paced experience that’s great with both touch as well as mouse and keyboard. Choose from one of several civilizations, expand your castle into a massive city, defend your walls against marauding empires, and when your newly trained army is ready, lay siege to other castles built by online opponents. You can connect with your friends on Xbox Live and battle friends across devices running Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8. Your game program will also roam across your own Windows devices and is always saved to your Gamertag. For more on Age of Empires: Castle Siege – see their blog post here.

Messaging on Android Wear

By Timothy Jordan, Developer Advocate

Sending messages on Android Wear feels as easy as it was to pass notes back in school. Remember when your friends always felt nearby? That feeling is why I love staying in touch with friends and family using my wearable.

Your messaging app likely already works on Android Wear. With just a few more lines of code you can unlock simple but powerful features that let your users communicate even more effortlessly.

Message notifications for free

If your Android app uses notifications to let the user know about new messages, these will work automatically on their wearable. That is, when you build notifications with the NotificationCompat.Builder class, the system takes care of displaying them properly, whether they appear on a handheld or wearable. Also, an “Open on phone” action will be added so it’s easy for the user to reply via the app on their handheld.

Google+ Hangouts message.

Reply like a champ

Messages on Wear get really exciting when you can reply directly from the watch with your voice. In addition to being super convenient, this always gives me a Dick Tracy thrill… but maybe that’s just me. =]

To add this functionality, it’s as simple as adding an action to the notification via WearableExtender that includes a RemoteInput to your notification. After the user replies, you’ll just grab their voice input as a string from the RemoteInput included in the Intent. You can even include text responses the user can easily select from a list by passing an array of them to the setChoices method of the RemoteInput. More details and code can be found here.

WhatsApp message with the reply by voice action.

See who is texting

Messages are more meaningful when you are connected to the sender. That’s why we recommend you include the photo of the sender as the background of the notification. As soon as the user taps into the message, they also see who it’s from, which will make it matter more (or maybe that other thing, depending on who it is).

You should add a photo with a resolution of at least 400×400, but we recommend 640×400. With the larger size, the background will be given parallax scrolling. If the background is to be included in the apk, place it in the res/drawable-nodpi directory. Then call setBackground() on your WearableExtender and add it to your notification. More details and code can be found here.

Path Talk message with a clear picture of the sender.

Custom actions

Basic notifications with reply by voice and a good background image are the most important parts to get done right away. But why stop there? It’s easy to extend the unique parts of your service to the wearable. A simple first step is adding in a custom action the way Omlet does. These are just actions defined with the WearableExtender that raise an intent on the handheld.

Omlet includes two extra actions with every message: Like and Check-In. Check-In sends along the user’s current location.

Custom Layouts

Custom interaction on the wearable, like the following example from TextMe, is straightforward to implement. They have what appears to be a simple notification with an action that allows the user to select an emoticon. However, to show this emoticon picker, they are actually issuing a notification from the wearable. The round trip looks something like this:

  1. The handheld gets a new message, issues a notification setLocalOnly(True), and sends a message to the wearable using the Data Layer API
  2. The wearable receives that message using the WearableListenerService and issues a custom notification with a PendingIntent to launch an activity when the user views the notification
  3. That activity has a custom layout defined with the Wearable UI Library
  4. Once the user selects an emoticon, the wearable sends a message back to the handheld
  5. The handheld receives that message and sends it along to the server

Custom layouts are documented in more depth here.

TextMe allows users to reply with a quick emoticon.

Next steps

Make your messaging service awesome by providing rich functionality on the user’s wearable. It’s easy to get started and easy to go further. It all starts at developer.android.com/wear.

Google Play Services 6.1

gps

Today, we’re excited to introduce the latest version of Google Play services to help you easily build on the newest features from Google and optimize your apps.

Google Play services 6.1 adds Enhanced Ecommerce analytics support from Google Tag Manager and offers new improvements to the Google Drive Android API. With the latest release, we’re also including a refresh of the Google Fit developer preview, so that you can test your fitness apps on any Android device.

Analytics

Launched in Google Play services 5.0, Enhanced Ecommerce is an analytics extension designed to provide richer insights into pre-purchase shopping behavior and into product performance. It’s a great way to gain visibility into the full customer journey, helping you understand how different user acquisition campaigns are performing at a granular level. By including support for Enhanced Ecommerce in Google Tag Manager with the latest release of Google Play services, we are supercharging your ability to regularly update and manage tags on mobile apps more easily, so that you can consistently measure product impressions, shopping funnel events, and more.

Drive

To make it easier to use Drive, we added enhancements to the Google Drive Android API. With the new Completion Events feature, you can see when actions are committed to the server and improve the response time to conflicts. Material design elements have been incorporated into the File Picker UI, along with the addition of Recent and Starred views. A new setParents() method enables you to organize files and folders, while the previous Contents class has been replaced with a simpler DriveContents class.

Google Fit

Initially introduced in August, the Google Fit Developer Preview has been refreshed to enable you to test your new fitness apps on any Android device. We expect to make additional changes to the APIs, so please check back with us on new developments.

Stay tuned!

We will be rolling out Google Play services 6.1 over the next few days, after which we will publish the documentation and make the SDK available.

To learn more about Google Play services and the APIs available to you through it, visit the Google Services section on the Android Developers site.

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Android One: Bringing Your Apps to the Next Five Billion

Posted by Rich Hyndman, Developer Advocate

With the launch of Android One, more people across the world will have access to high-quality and affordable smartphones, packed with plenty of processing power and running the latest version of Android. These devices are available now in India and soon in Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Asia, so now is a good time to make sure your apps are ready for these new markets. This post highlights a few areas to consider.

These days, we often talk about smooth, 60fps transitions and keeping apps jank-free, and rightly so — performance is a critical metric for app quality. But in the user experience hierarchy of needs, an app should first and foremost do its job reliably and consistently.

If your app has search functionality, will user requests time out entirely? Do you think it is more important that a result is returned in a timely manner, or that the result is returned at all? If you’re trying to build a robust app to reach the next five billion, it might be less about returning a result immediately, and more about returning a result at all. To address this challenge, why not include an option to users to “notify me with the results” when a search query is running on a slow network? Your app can then take as long as it needs to successfully retrieve the data in the background and show a notification when complete. The difference in user experience between an app that times out on a slower network and one that caters to user-specific needs will be very impactful for driving mobile app adoption.

There are also ways to test app performance without flying around the globe. The Android Emulator has network speed and network delay emulation settings, which can become an integral part of your testing strategy. If you’re testing on physical hardware, try turning off WiFi and switching the network to 2G only; how well does your app perform? Do search pages load? Does data refresh? These issues can often be fixed with relatively minor changes to your app logic or by leveraging a SyncAdapter. Check out our blog post on sync in the Google I/O app for more ideas.


Another key area for you to be aware of is app memory utilization. As part of the KitKat launch, we added new tools to the SDK for analyzing memory use and new APIs like isLowRamDevice(). We also just added a Memory Monitor to Android Studio 0.8.10 (currently in Canary). Much of this is documented in our Best Practices for Performance guide.

Moving forward, the Android L release has a strong focus on battery usage and analysis. Project Volta introduces new tools, such as Battery Historian and new APIs like JobScheduler, that can really help optimize battery use of your app.

By ensuring your app works well on slower networks, uses minimal memory, minimizes battery usage and doesn’t have a larger-than-necessary APK, you will help the next five billion discover, use and love your app.

Great apps and games with impressive, new updates

One of the best things about apps for Windows and Windows Phone is that they’re always getting better with updates. Updates give you more features, faster action, more efficiency and more fun. Here are some favorite apps and the lowdown on their most recent updates – so you can download them today.

miCoach train & run (Free, Windows Phone)

1

This handy app turns your Windows Phone into your own personal trainer, with real-time voice coaching that puts you through your paces whether you’re exercising indoors or out. Now miCoach is updated for Adidas miCoach, has a new voice package with Andrea Petkovic, SensorCore SDK integration to track your stride rate as you run, and other fixes and improvements.

Fhotoroom (Free, Windows, Windows Phone)

2

Image editing and sharing come together in this clever, powerful photo app with a range of incredible tools and sharing capabilities. With this update, enjoy nine new frames, refreshed frames previews, an improved user interface and user experience, and other fixes and improvements.

Asphalt 8: Airborne (Free, Windows, Windows Phone)

3

Here’s the arcade racing game that’s become a favorite of a nation of gamers, with high-speed thrills and dynamic, aerial stunts. Now, you can discover the treasures of the Middle East on exotic test tracks in the amazing new Dubai location, get behind the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz Biome concept car or Nissan GT-R NISMO (five new cars in all), and test your driving skills with 74 high-octane events!

World at Arms (Free, Windows, Windows Phone)

4

The free world is at war against an evil attacker, and in this all-out, modern-combat strategy game you battle from countryside to the skies to the ocean’s depths on a deep solo campaign. This update lets you mechanize your army with the new Prometheus super robot, adds more power for the Atlas and Hyperion fleets, and includes multiple user interface and gameplay improvements.

Find all these great apps and games in their newly updated versions in the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store today!

For the next five billion: Android One

Knowledge is a game changer. I’ve long been inspired by the Internet and how it opens the doors to opportunity. It provides access to knowledge, no matter who you are or where you are. For instance, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Nobel Laureate at a world-class research center or a young student at a rural school in Indonesia, with Google Search, you have the same information at your fingertips as anyone else.

If we look at how people are getting online and accessing information today, increasingly it’s through a smartphone. While 1.75 billion people around the world already have a smartphone, the vast majority of the world’s population—over five billion more—do not. That means most people are only able to make simple voice calls, rather than connect with family through a live video chat, use mapping apps to find the closest hospital, or simply search the web. We want to bring these experiences to more people.

That’s where Android One comes in. At I/O, we first talked about this initiative to make high-quality smartphones accessible to as many people as possible. And today we’re introducing the first family of Android One phones in India.

Addressing key barriers—hardware, software and connectivity
There are three big reasons why it’s hard for people in countries such as India, Indonesia or the Philippines to get their hands on a high-quality smartphone. First, is the hardware itself. Even entry-level smartphones still remain out of reach for many (bear in mind that in some of these countries the average monthly income is around $250). Second, many people in these markets do not have access to the latest Android software and popular applications. Finally, even where 3G and 4G networks are available, not enough people have phones that can support data and the plans can be expensive.

Android One aims to help tackle these challenges. By working closely with phone and silicon chip makers to share reference designs and select components, we’re making it easier for our partners to build phones that are not just great to use, but also affordable. They have lots of processing power, so you can get information quickly. They have high-quality front- and rear-facing cameras. And for all those pictures, along with your apps and videos, Android One phones will have expandable storage. We also added features that people in India will find particularly useful, like dual SIM cards, a replaceable battery and built-in FM radio.

To help ensure a consistent experience, Android One devices will receive the latest versions of Android directly from Google. So you’ll get all the latest features, up-to-date security patches, and peace of mind knowing your stuff is always backed up. It also means Android One devices will be some of the first to be updated to the Android L release later this year. For our hardware partners, they’ll be able to create customized experiences and differentiate their devices without having to change the core software.

In an effort to reduce data costs, if you have an Airtel SIM card, you’ll get these software updates for free for the first six months. As part of this same Airtel offer, you’ll also be able to download up to 200MB per month worth of your favorite apps (that’s about 50 apps overall) from Google Play—all without counting toward your mobile data usage.

More to come
This is just the beginning of the Android One journey. The first phones, from our hardware partners Micromax, Karbonn, Spice and chipmaker MediaTek, are available starting today in India from leading retailers starting at Rs 6,399. We’re also excited to welcome more partners to the program, including phone manufacturers Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, ASUS, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic, Xolo, and chipmaker Qualcomm. We expect to see even more high-quality, affordable devices with different screen sizes, colors, hardware configurations and customized software experiences. Finally, we plan to expand the Android One program to Indonesia, the Philippines and South Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) by the end of the year, with more countries to follow in 2015.

Access for access’s sake is not enough. With Android One, we not only want to help people get online, we want to make sure that when they get there, they can tap into the wealth of information and knowledge the web holds for everyone.

Posted by Sundar Pichai, SVP, Android, Chrome & Apps

5 photo tips: Burst mode, secretive selfies, and more

I’ve recently started taking advantage of my Lumia 1020’s double-take inducing photo capabilities. This isn’t your typical camera phone—harnessing its power properly can be intimidating. Luckily, the 1020 (and most all other Windows Phones) comes with some useful camera settings that have helped me fool my Facebook friends into thinking I have some semblance of photography skills.

You don’t need to take a class to take some classy looking photos. Here are a few tips and tricks to get the most out of your photos—and how to show them off.*

Camera-options-callout

1. It was the best of modes, it was the Burst of modes…

At one time, I needed to take multiple photos to make sure I didn’t a) frame the shot as if taking pictures during an earthquake, and/or b) cover the lens with my finger. Now, Burst mode lets me take a bunch of shots in rapid succession with one tap, so I don’t need to worry about my photog deficiencies (or my friends’ severe blinking issues).

Switching to Burst mode is easy: open Camera and tap Burst mode (see the rad skateboard pic above for reference). Once you’re done shooting your Burst, find the photo in your Camera Roll, and then tap Burst to choose the best shot(s). The photos you don’t save will be automatically deleted after seven days, so no need to worry about them taking up precious storage space on your phone.

burst-mode-screen

2. Shutter the camera shutter

If you want to keep your shameful selfie habit a secret, turning off the camera shutter sound is a must. In your phone’s Settings, tap Ringtones + sounds, and then clear the Camera shutter check box to keep your phone silent during photo ops. Your secret is safe with me.

3. Get a hot Date view

After hanging out on the beach a few months ago, a friend of mine crafted a makeshift hat out of a towel. Naturally, I needed to remind him how ridiculous he looked. But scrolling through my long list of photos proved tedious and time consuming. The solution? Date view, which shows you every photo on your phone in chronological order. In Photos > All, tap the current month and year to open a full list of every month in which you’ve taken photos. From there, tap a month to find the photo you’re looking for. My hat-crafting friend is now painfully aware that I can pull up any embarrassing photo in a matter of seconds.

date-view-screen

4. Setting yourself up for success

Pick the quick settings you want to see on your Camera viewfinder for instant access while taking photos. To find and change your quick settings, go to Camera > More…, and then tap any of the icons under Show these settings in the viewfinder. The same tubular skateboard pic above shows off the five customizable viewfinder settings.

Among the settings are the usual suspects, like Flash (On, Off, or Automatic) and a front/rear camera switcher, plus more advanced options to control White Balance, Exposure Value, and ISO. You can also select Lenses for more pre- and post-photo editing options. Different phones, especially those not of the Nokia Lumia variety, may have different settings.

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5. See the world through rose-colored Lenses

When looking through your viewfinder, what you see doesn’t always have to be what you get. Open Camera and tap the Lenses quick setting icon for a list of camera-enhancing apps already on your phone. For example, the Bing Vision Lens turns your viewfinder into a scanner for QR Codes and barcodes. On Nokia phones, Lenses include Nokia Cinemagraph, which lets you blend photos and movie-like animation to create some impressive and trippy visuals, which you can then export as GIFs. It’s so engrossing I spent almost an hour “researching” what it can do.

There are plenty of other Lenses and photo editing apps available. To search for something new, tap Lenses > Find more lenses, and then choose between dozens of apps, like Vine, Office Lens, Fhotoroom, and more.

* This post refers to features in Windows Phone 8.1. If your phone is running Windows Phone 8, some of them won’t be available. Check to see which software version you have and find out if an update is available.