Building next generation apps for Windows platform.

All posts tagged wp7dev

So, a lot has happened over the last few weeks!

  • Starting with Windows Phone 7 “Mango” announcement on May 24th, followed by a peek into Windows future i.e. “Windows 8” and last but not least iOS5 announcement recently. Check out the video below if you missed it:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p92QfWOw88I]

Well, till today I hold the special feeling that WP7 is a different kind of phone and the “Mango” announcement has made me feel even more strong along with Nokia+Skype combination, Windows Phone will be a massive hit in the future. Looking at the iOS5 details, I too feel flattered and agree with @joebelfiore (design head of WP7), that Apple has taken lot of stuff from WP7 (Android as well), and baked into iOS5 smartly. But the thing that impresses me is, “Apple” responded greatly to the competition and finally iOS in it’s 5th incarnation packs a lot of desired features that Apple fans would have wished for years.

Seriously speaking, WP7 is still playing a catch-up game and Microsoft needs to catch up at a faster pace to win the smartphone battle but I’ve no doubts that they have the best foundation with WP7, and the complete focus on end-user experience.

Moving to tablets now, which is my favorite topic these days and is supposed to come up if you’re chatting with me. So, I’ve been waiting longtime for “Windows 8” announcement, because it’s a different approach to what Apple and Google have done, that is not building a phone OS first and turning into a tablet OS later. Till today I don’t feel, people buy tablets to replace their notebooks, simple reason is – it’s not productive or the other way around tablet is meant only for portable, comfortable and enjoyable experience.

Yes, they could replace the PC for few who just live on one side of the world i.e. consuming information like browsing, reading, music/video but otherwise it’s a – one more important addition to your gadget life (i.e. smartphone, tablet and a notebook).

However, fast forward few years from here and I could see tablets being part of massive convergence where you’ll have a hybrid device which can replace the trivia of tablet, netbook/notebook and PC. Yes, everything! Don’t agree, look at ASUS Eee Pad Transformer today, it is a tablet-come-netbook duo for some, but the overall experience is just not there yet. Lets take the standard tablet hardware today – it’s a dual core processor with 1 GB RAM and may be 64/128MB graphics. In around one to one and half-year from now, we’ll have quad-core processors with 2GB RAM and 256MB graphics in same price range , so it would match the speeds of what a decent netbook has today! So by the time, “Windows 8” comes out next year, the devices will be capable of running a full-fledged desktop OS.

But more important is the tablet side of Windows 8. I expected Metro UI to overtake this role, so it was no surprise as a windows phone developer & its a great joy to see that really happening on Windows 8. And we all know how good Metro interface is with live tiles for tablet computing. So, there you go, its “Microsoft” who can really build a powerful duo device that can turn into a tablet with it’s immersive Metro UI experience while you’re on the go and when you stop simply dock it to have the worlds most powerful desktop OS at your service.

Moreover, there is no more need for your tablet and notebook to be in sync if it becomes one hybrid device. I bet you’ll save lots of money by not having to sync and download data from cloud to different devices.

However, saying all this is easy, but there are good number of challenges that Microsoft needs to solve for everything to fall in place. And they are doing that by first supporting ARM architecture as well, which is huge in itself as we move to SOC world (System-on-a-chip). Nevertheless, it’s possible OF COURSE! I could maybe talk of some challenges in future… , but now I need to get back to NG Reader.

Catch you soon here to share details on NextGen Reader v1.11

Hello/Hola/Hallo to my English, Spanish and German friends and rest of the world.

First a huge thanks to everyone for the continuous feedback and helping us make NextGen Reader one of the best apps on WP7 platform. Personally I’m very excited about NGReader v1.10 as it brings a good deal of new functionality since we launched the application back in January. I know… I’ve taken a bit longer than usual update cycle since v1.9 but for future updates I’ll try to come up with a shorter three weeks cycle i.e. two weeks of development + one week for testing.

Okay, let’s get going and summarize the major changes/features in 10th update:

  • improved performance and battery life with up to 25% less memory utilization.
  • increased feed quota to 1000 articles.
  • new application theme with teal color.
  • new toast messages for various notifications e.g. sent to instapaper, read it later.
  • hold feed title to show quick toolbar in article view & single tap to resize images.
  • fixed multiple crashes seen during refresh or using back button to return to application.
  • many other changes and bug fixes.

12

105

You can also check the below post by Rahul Mathur (@weemundo) :-

http://www.wpsauce.com/2011/05/preview-of-upcoming-v11-update-of.html

As always you’re welcomed to send us more feedback on ngreader(at)live.com or @ngreader on twitter.

One last thing before I finish the post – “NextGen Reader is still a work in progress and long distance away from the experience I’ve in my mind for a perfect news reader client”. I hope … I’ll manage to solve this problem one day and create a wonderful seamless experience for everyone till then bye-bye…!

Cheers!

NG Reader

Hello there, it’s been long since I posted about v1.6 release and been busy developing and fixing NextGen Reader. Thanks to everyone for the response and continuous feedback which helps and motivate me to make @ngreader best RSS Reader for WP7.

Alright, so this week has been fantastic with details on Mango update revealed by Microsoft. I’m so excited and can’t wait for it to happen. With 1500 new API’s added I think WP7 has a great future ahead. Coming back to my app, now I’ll make sure that I blog more often at least whenever NextGen Reader gets updated. My last post was on version 1.6, since then NextGen Reader has been updated twice and today we have released v1.9. Let’s talk about this update first and the new features coming in future.

NextGen Reader v1.9 change log:
——————————————————–
– improved article view with published time and author name details.
– links within article now displayed in phone theme color.
– “read all” button to display checkboxes with all items selected.
– new mobilized view with toggle switch.
– fixed crashes and other bugs.

43

One of the important things about NextGen Reader is to be most productive client for Google reader. In version 1.9, I have made an important difference where “read all” action will show checkboxes just like official wp7 email app but with all items selected. This change brings many advantages for various scenarios mentioned below:

1. First of all, marking all as read requires only two taps as previously you would press “read all” appbar button and then select “yes” on message box confirmation. Now you have to press appbar button, it will select all items and display checkboxes. Tap again on first appbar button to mark them as read.

2. If you have marked all items as read by mistake then it’s easy to mark all as unread, since you can now easily select all items and then choose “keep unread” from the appbar menu.

3. Let’s say you’ve ten items in list and wanted to mark nine as read and keep one unread. First press appbar button to show all items selected with checkboxes, now tap on an item to de-select it and then simply press “mark read” appbar button to mark remaining items as read. Doing same thing earlier would have required twice the number of taps.

Another important change is new full screen reading view with toggle switch at top to enable/disable InstaPaper mobilizer. Also I’ve added smooth animations in article view when moving to next or previous article just like official wp7 email application.

Again thanks to those who have sent lots of feedback over the last month and it has helped us tremendously in improving the application.

Finally some sneak peak into NextGen Reader future: most important features coming to NextGen Reader in future updates are Live tile support, Youtube videos handling and increased article/feed quota limit. Apart from these, I’ve many other features in plan and will talk about them in future posts.

So please keep sending your feedback anyway you like – email, twitter or comments.

Cheers.

NextGen Reader v1.6 is now ready to roll in marketplace, actually it could have been available more sooner if I hadn’t come across the weird problem where “publish to marketplace” button doesn’t works from the “windows phone: my apps” list page. However a Google search later confirmed the problem: http://forums.create.msdn.com/forums/t/73198.aspx , and the simple workaround is to go to the application page first and then select the action to publish.

Now let’s quickly go through new features in this update:

  • Mobilizer: added instapaper mobilizer for quickly reading the complete article without having to leave the application.
  • Quick toolbar in article view – Increase or decrease font size and toggle image width to fit coloumn. (find out more in screenshot below)
  • New global setting to disable image width to fit coloumn.
  • Added support for Read It Later, in addition to existing InstaPaper support in app.
  • Improved download speeds while fetching articles.
  • and other bug fixes.

Toggle image width to fit column using quick toolbar is very useful if you happen to follow comic feeds, more important the setting remains effective in article view while you move to the next or previous item unless you go back to list view and select a new item, where it will restore your global preference.

Below are few screenshots showing some important features of NextGen Reader, and a video of NGReader v1.5 at the end.

1 2

4 5

6 7

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWfWwlgyvq8&w=448&h=336&hd=1]

I am really excited as the NextGen Reader update v1.5 is available in the marketplace.

Not-a-long-history, NG Reader was released on 22-Jan and since then it has been updated five times which means on average it’s been updated every six days. Not that I feel good about pushing updates so fast, but I was overwhelmed with so much positive feedback and number of feature requests; in addition to fixing some crash issues.

Okay let’s go through major changes for the update version 1.4 and 1.5:

  • The brand new tile and UI gives app a beautiful visual experience.
  • “Sync changes only” feature: Being an offline reader, NG Reader allows you to mark items as read, add stars or share articles at anytime. The important thing is NG Reader will smartly sync the changes in background at specified interval, but if you don’t have network available, it won’t complain or drain your battery. However, when you launch the application next time and do “sync/refresh”, it will update your changes to server and then download new items.
  • Fixed crashes, more stable and improved performance.

But many a time, I felt the need to just sync changes and not to download new items, since I was moving to Google web reader or another application on my PC or Tablet.

So with NG Reader, now you have the ability to sync only changes and not fetch any new items, before moving to your PC or Tablet. It’s very simple but again very useful feature.

See the NextGen Reader v1.5 highlights in below video:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBcVpilAlN8&w=448&h=336&hd=1]

On Frequent Updates: I don’t like to push frequent updates, unless until there is a critical bug. The fact that great user experience comes from thoughtful design & clear thinking and so do in our case, I desire of NG Reader to always provide a great experience with simplicity and performance.

Also I really appreciate the feedback in any possible way, so do tweet us or write an email about the features you want or discuss new ideas on our group. Find the contact points below:

Twitter: @ngreader

Email: ngreader at live.com

Forum: http://groups.google.com/group/ngreader

Thanks

-NG

Before I begin the Windows Phone 7 review, I would like to mention that my application – NextGen Reader (a google reader client engineered for performance) is available in the marketplace.

Now let’s dive into action:

The first thing Microsoft always said – “It’s a different phone”, well that’s true … really true I mean it! Here’s the reason why, you don’t ever feel of it as a phone (in fact I like to think of it as an entertainment device). The Metro UI is a wonderful experience and I have never seen anything of this sort before, it’s truly innovative.

As you start using, you will come to know that it’s designed for always in motion. The complete experience just flows from one thing to another e.g. switching through apps, swiping to different views in hubs and moreover the OS is buttery smooth. This can’t be felt in videos – you have to try it yourself in order to see the beauty.

On the whole, I will say after sometime with phone you will begin to feel like beneath your unlock screen there is someone actually living (a world in motion) and when I went back to my older phone after few days, it felt like a dead OS.

Let’s talk of some cool stuff on Windows Phone 7:

· First of all, the Facebook integration is fantastic.

Yes, if you are a Facebook user – even a casual user then WP7 is really a good choice. The integration is beautiful, comes in very handy e.g. you could check the status quickly before calling your social friend. On the whole “People’s hub” is a brilliant concept which is deep and yet simple enough for the first timer. Only thing I feel missing is no twitter integration.

· Xbox Live: It’s the one big thing that on it’s own can bring Microsoft back to top in smartphone world. As it seems the Microsoft Studios themselves have taken up the challenge, they release exciting Xbox Live games every week. You will find completely new games e.g. Harvest made only for WP7. If Microsoft can bring the complete Xbox live integration with future updates, then imagine the scenario where gaming will go beyond the current 42+ million Xbox gamer’s.
Reality: Gaming is very important for Microsoft to succeed in smartphone which comes from the fact that the most paid and successful software on iPhone are games.

· Zune: It’s a wonderful good looking sexy music experience. Zune started as the competition to iTunes, but couldn’t challenge despite being an amazing product. But let me warn you the WP7 + Zune combination is a killer feature and things are different here. With Zune Marketplace –  there are unbelievable options e.g. Zune Pass which is your entry to world of streaming music on Phone, Xbox or PC and of course normal options of buying albums or songs are also present.

· Office Hub: Microsoft did a really good job to bring Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote to WP7. You can add quick notes by using OneNote and they automatically sync up to cloud. Office hub does includes SharePoint Integration as well, to attract Enterprise customers.

· Wi-Fi sync is one of the cool small feature that I like very much. Since my PC is always on Wi-Fi (@home) and whenever I put my Samsung Focus on charge, it syncs up with PC automatically. Amazingly, it also resumes my podcasts from same point where I paused it on my PC.

· Internet Explorer on WP7 is really good if not better than what’s available on iPhone or Android. The kinetic scrolling is very smooth and zoom in/out is faster than chrome on android.

· Great Camera experience – being able to start camera without going through unlock is indeed very useful.

· Super fast boot time – beats iOS or Android by big margins.

· Great SIP (software input panel) a.k.a. virtual keyboard.

On the side note I would like to mention something important – Xbox Live, Zune, Office hub are differentiators that can really bring Microsoft into the smartphone game. I find Android struggling with not so good counterparts and also no 3rd party apps can match Zune/iTunes experience on Android.

 

Philosophy 

iPhone

The fact that iPhone/iOS has tough time in keeping Android down from rising is it’s worldwide availability or the high price. On top of it there is only one handset to choose when it comes to Apple’s iOS and that’s iPhone. What if you wanted:

– QWERTY keyboard

– really big screens for watching movies/episodes on the go

– 8 megapixel camera on the phone, etc.

Well there is no choice or options. Apple products are based on closed phenomenon which really brings the best end user experience but also has some limits.

Android

This is where Android fitted in exactly, people needed great hardware options with constant innovations like the last year’s 1Ghz snapdragon processors or super-amoled touchscreen or HTC’s great build quality. Now the Google’s phenomena is completely opposite i.e. completely OPEN – meaning less control over the end-user experience, with each subscribers or vendors trying to add something of their own.

Windows Phone 7 a.k.a. WP7

Welcome to Windows Phone 7, a top-notch end user experience with different hardware options in addition to minimum requirements. Well it seems Microsoft did got the recipe right and it means in future Google might see a big battle from Microsoft but not Apple. I still do believe that Apple’s iPhone is the single most popular phone on the planet.

 

WP7 software

Contact Management
is really powerful and has the right tools for the first time user if you don’t have sync’d up contacts i.e. different stuff on Google, Facebook and SIM. On WP7, it should not take a big effort to setup a perfect contact list.

Here’s a tip:

– Add all your accounts – Windows Live, Google, Facebook, & Copy from SIM as well.

– Go to live.com, go to contacts and then go to options:

– You will find an option “Cleanup Duplicates” and it really is a great features; it brings in menu with options to merge contacts smartly. You just have to select right checkboxes and within minutes I was able to bring my 650+ contacts to 300 Sync’d up clean list.

– Even further, if you have any duplicates with different names, like dad (1st no.) in Google and father (2nd no.) in SIM, there’s an option “link” in contact’s, which will again smartly merge these two, without having you to do anything.

Let’s talk about the situation on 3rd party Applications, we all know there isn’t any chance for a platform to succeed if it doesn’t have huge application catalog. Windows Phone 7 Marketplace is definitely on a good start especially on games side which is just great. As of today total count is closing on 7000 that is awesome and faster than anyone else I believe for a new platform.

WP7 UI design is really nice, if apps follow them properly you can potentially see the WP7 being most beautiful platform. One of the things, I am amazed with is how good the IMDB app looks on WP7 and many others.

 

Missing

So far I have been just rambling about positives for WP7, but let’s see some negatives:

1) No Copy and Paste – Can’t moan much about it; It’s already expected in next update which is coming shortly & most probably this month. (Remember iPhone took 3 years to get this one, let’s not compare though, because iPhone is still miles ahead overall.)

2) Multitasking for 3rd party Apps – Microsoft did indicated that they are looking for perfect solution, I like the Apple one – controlled multitasking rather than 100% multitasking on Android.

Here’s the fact – Take the top ten paid applications except games and then compare Android list to iPhone top ten, you will come to know that with Android, three or four would be task-killer or task-managers which means customer are wasting money plus time in doing something that they shouldn’t have to do in 1st place 😉 plus + an added advantage of poor battery if you end up downloading some poor apps from market.

3) Smart Dialing by default, I like it, but however it’s not there in Android or iPhone as well by default, correct me if I am wrong.??

4) If you happen to receive lot of calls, then WP7 History shows them in one list, your incoming, outgoing and missed call with different colors though. But I would like to see in different tabs.

5) If you install lot of applications, then the list on right hand side of homescreen gets very long, may be they can use Grid like concept of android or some sort of categories.

6) Inbuilt Outlook App is certainly pleasure to use, but they can bring in Full Exchange Server support with advanced features and clubbing multiple-accounts like in iPhone 4.

When I think of all above, there’s nothing which can’t be achieved if Microsoft remains committed and deliver continuous updates (one coming this month). What’s required is to have good solid platform to build upon, and which they certainly have achieved with few biggies like Xbox Live and Zune Integration.

 

Final Verdict

Wow, glad you are still reading 😉 we have reached the end, and more interestingly this is my first ever and longest review of anything.

Many people think that Microsoft is late to the smartphone party but I feel different.

Fact: Smartphone sales are supposed to keep rising and reach maximum till 2014/2015, which means a hell lot of time before someone could settle and dominate. So from where I see there is definitely a possibility of not only Microsoft, but any one of Nokia/HP (Palm)/RIM to do something great and as innovative as Microsoft did.

Microsoft clearly was way ahead of everyone in Smartphone world with Windows Mobile in 2000’s when nobody new, but perhaps it wasn’t the right time or too early or the touchscreen innovation didn’t happen that time, but with Microsoft’s current attempt to abandon Windows Mobile 6.x completely and start from scratch has worked, but it still needs to have consistent updates before it catches up with iPhone or Android.

Finally I would be least surprised if it does so or to put in another way, most surprised if it doesn’t catches up with Android or iPhone and becomes the 3rd equal holder in smartphone world considering Microsoft’s commitment to through up any money for doing it.

 

OS Ratings 

WP7 – 7/10 (if Microsoft delivers continuous updates then it will soon be a 9/10 experience)

iPhone – 9/10 (brilliant)

Android – 7/10 (may be for tech. enthusiast’s like me – 9/10)

I think I missed to describe few other good experiences with WP7 and rather than giving a thorough tour, I gave my philosophical review. But you could find those huge reviews on many tech sites but not the feelings of a developer :-) Finally one more important thing to mention – Microsoft made it really easy to develop applications and run across them on different WP7 devices by putting a common set of requirements on hardware whereas same on Android is really a challenge.

THANKS, that’s it for today.

-NGReader

I am happy to say that NextGen Reader v1.1 is now available in marketplace and it is a crucial update based upon the early feedback received. We managed to fix the issues reported within a single day. Overall it took four days to deliver update including the certification time and also I am very satisfied on application submission and certification from Microsoft side as well, they always responded quickly to my queries.

Three main changes done in v1.1 are:

– An important fix for login issue (multiple users reported that they were not able to login).

        – Improved scrolling (i.e. no scroll jump) when less no. of items in the list view e.g. 10-20 items.

      – Change of font in list view from “Cominc Sans MS” to standard “Segoe WP” for consistent design and easy reading.

    In future you can expect some good enhancements in updates which will also be delivered on shortly basis. I would really love to get tons of feedback from you guys, so please write to us.

Thanks

– NGReader

Mail: ngreader at live.com

Twitter: @ngreader

A Google Reader Client for WP7 engineered for performance.

Download fully functional Trial Version with all features except share via tweet at Zune Marketplace

Features :
# works in offline mode.
# completely secure – your login details are encrypted and stored on phone only.
# full metro UI support for dark and white theme.
# select multiple articles just like Official WP7 email client.
# breeze through feeds, folders or friends-shared items in most intuitive way.
# share articles on twitter and support for url shortner.
# send to Instapaper.
# visually differentiate between read/unread, starred or shared items in list view.
# recently starred and shared articles just a swipe away.
# tap and hold to see context menu for frequent actions.
# share, star or email articles.
# mark articles as read under feed, folder or all items in one step.
# sync articles as per choice – all or unread only.
# smart sync marks multiple changes in background at specified intervals.
# view feeds in landscape mode and change default font-size.
# open full page in embedded browser or go to internet explorer.
# can lock your device during refresh.

Some Screenshots of app running on my WP7 [Samsung Focus]:

altaltaltalt
altalt
altalt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also recorded a video, hope you like it*

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBcVpilAlN8&w=448&h=252&hd=1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact via @ngreader on twitter or e-mail ngreader at live.com for support or feature requests.

*More updates & hands on videos coming soon

Happy Sunday to all – NG