Windows Phone 7 A2DP

Last night, I was feeling a little frustrated with the Scala Rider not performing as I would have expected. With the lack of audio control via speech for Windows Phone 7 as per my post Windows Phone 7 Speech I was trying out the music playback on the Scala Rider by starting the music prior to putting on all my biker clobber. Unfortunatly, the VOX voice activation of the Scal Rider was detecting me grumbling and coughing under the helmet as speech and promplty pausing the music playback. The Scala Rider then waits for 30 seconds of silence before resuming the playback (this is in case there is a gap in conversation).

This isn’t a problem in theory, however when the Scala Rider is activated by VOX, it actually temporarily drops the Bluetooth connection to the phone. Be it the fault of the Scala or Windows Phone 7, I’m yet to determine, but it seems that if the VOX feature stays active for a short while, plus the 30 second wait timer, that the Bluetooth connection to the phone is actually lost.

Option 1 was to disable the VOX feature of the Scala whilst I’m riding solo and then remember to turn it back of when I have the wife with me pillion, but that kind of defeats the purpose of having an all singing all dancing product like this.

Option 2 was RTFM in case that turned up something useful on the topic.

I went with Option 2 for now and read the manual for the Scala Rider and discovered that it supports A2DP remote commands which means that through button presses on the Scala Rider, I can start and stop playback and also skip and replay tracks on the phone. I tried these out and it appears that Windows Phone 7 fully supports all of these operations.

I’m still to get to the bottom of my disconnect issue, but in the mean time, knowing that Windows Phone 7 supports these remote commands means that I can force the Scala Rider to reconnect to the phone and then start playback whilst riding.

Windows Phone 7 Speech

Windows Phone 7 has some really nice voice control and speech recognition features such as the ability to transcribe text messages and even reply to or write new messages to people in your contacts but to name one of the features. I’ve used the text messaging speech control on a couple of occasions in the car, but only really by fluke due to the fact that I had my phone connected to the car for playing music at the time.

You can read the official Microsoft page on speech control at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsphone/en-us/howto/wp7/get-started-speech.aspx.

I’ve never really been a big speech or voice control user, let alone a fan. I don’t spend a lot of time travelling in the car and typically, my phone is with me, on my person, so I use my hands as after all, that big touch screen on the HTC HD7 is made for them.

As a Christmas gift, I bought my wife and me a Scala Rider Q2 Multiset Pro (http://www.cardosystems.com/scala-rider/scala-rider-q2-multiset), which is a helmet mounted voice activated rider to pillion (and bike to bike) communication system, but it also triples as an FM Radio and a Bluetooth headset, allowing me to connect my phone and satnav device to it so that I can get handsfree Bluetooth calls or music whilst riding and get satnav directions through the helmet.

I fitted my Scala Rider unit to my helmet yesterday and thought I would have a play with some of the speech controls of my Windows Phone as I would be using some of them now via the helmet.

The call commands are pretty intuitive and what you would expect: Call is the opening command  followed by the name of the person and optionally which number to call them on. For example, call Richard Green Work would dial my work number. If you omit the work, home or mobile command, then the phone will prompt you for which number to dial if you have multiple numbers for a given contact.

The text command is pretty simple too: Text is the opening command followed by the name of the person. You will then be prompted to start speaking your message. Once you’re done, the phone will read back the transcript and if you’re happy with it, you can say Send, or you can say Try Again to start over if it misheard you. On the receiving side, when you receive an incoming text, the phone will announce that you have a new message and the name of the contact whom it is from and you are given the option to have it read out loud and then reply if you wish.

The application commands, again are simple and intuitive, and herein lies the problem. Saying Open followed by the name of an application of feature on the phone and it will do so, for example Open Zune will open the Music and Videos Hub (renamed from the Zune Hub pre-Mango update). You can say Open Music and Videos too, but why would you when you can just say Zune? This works for any application, including third-party ones, so I can say Open Sky News or Open Endomondo and the app will promptly open, however this is where it ends.

Once the Music and Videos Hub is open, there is no way to start playing music, play a particular artist, a playlist or anything.

I love my Windows Phone as anyone remotely close to me will tell you. The style of it, the ease of use and the way it gives me the data I want quickly and easy to read with those big blocks of bold colour, but most of all, my passion for all things Microsoft, but this is one area that flops.

What is the purpose of being able to open an application on the phone via speech if you then can’t control the application beyond that? I know that Microsoft can’t be expected or even be able to implement deep level interoperability for speech control for third party applications because Microsoft have no understanding of the function and purpose of the applications or code used to make those applications function (beyond the actual language used), but a deep rooted part of the operating system such as music, messaging and phone should be there out of the box.

Ignoring the new Siri functionality on the iPhone 4S which is different to what I’m covering here – Just the core platform controls, and an iPhone user can dictate to the phone to shuffle all music, play a particular album, artist or playlist which is what you need. Going back to my original statement, I’ve never been a big speech user, this one-up-manship for the iPhone didn’t phase me, however with my shift in needs, it does.

Now, in my circumstances, the phone is safely inside my backpack while I’m riding, so touching the phone to operate it isn’t even remotely viable. If I wanted to listen to music on the road, I would have to start the music playing before I get all my gloves and other gear on so that it’s already rolling before I’m rolling. If I want to stop the music for any reason, I need to take off, at a minimum, my gloves and backpack so that I can get into the bag to stop it. If I’m on the subject of music on Windows Phone, why is the music volume linked to the system volume? There should be separate control for the music and system volumes, as well as a separate control for the ringtone volume, however that’s a separate rant.

I still prefer my Windows Phone to any iPhone offering, because it does what I want, how I want it (except for this one occasion), however on this occasion, I do envy those owners. I’ve read multiple rumours about speech operation in Windows Phone 7 Tango update rumoured to be coming in 2012 which will bring the speech more inline with that seen in Siri, however for me, now, this can’t come soon enough.

Whats Missing in the Lync Client for Windows Phone 7

Microsoft Lync is one of those fantastic products that I yearn for. It cross cuts the entire communication eco-system and gives you fantastic integration across the Microsoft stack including SharePoint and the Office application suite, however much to my dismay we don’t use Lync in my place of work and instead use the mediocre Cisco CUCM. To this end, my only experiences with Lync in a real-world ‘anger’ situations are when participating in calls hosted by other companies using Lync, Microsoft themselves being the main player for me.

For a long time now, there has been speculation of a Lync Client for Windows Phone 7 being released and this week it finally hit the marketplace not only for Windows Phone 7, but also for Apple iOS devices, Android and Symbian.

The app looks great in the screenshots, showing the features on offer well, however one huge feature is missing for me. The ability to use the app as a Lync Attendee Client: See Lync offers two different clients. The full blown corporate use client and the Lync Attendee Client. If you use Lync in a corporate scenario you will have the full client, however if you are like me and only use Lync to participate in sessions hosted by others, you use the lighter Lync Attendee Client which doesn’t require credentials and is designed around guest access.

Sadly, the Lync Client app for the mobile handsets released this week is only suitable for full client use scenarios as told by the app guidance notes in the Windows Phone Marketplace:

IMPORTANT: Microsoft Lync 2010 for Windows Phone requires a Lync Server or Office365/Lync Online account and will not work without it. If you are unsure about your account status, please contact your IT department.

He being me, I decided to install the app and try it anyway, but sadly the prescribed guidance was correct. This was a sucker-punch to me, and I think it will limit somewhat the ability for people to use the Lync Client. My only hope is that a separate client is released which does give you the ability to participate in Lync sessions as a guest.

If you are lucky enough to use Lync in a full deployment, you can get the app for Windows Phone 7 from http://www.windowsphone.com/en-US/apps/9ce93e51-5b35-e011-854c-00237de2db9e.

The Blog is Back

For anyone who frequents my blog, you may have noticed it’s been offline for a couple of weeks.

I recently moved to a new server with my current hosting provider, and I took this opportunity to seperate a forum I run and the blog into their own seperate MySQL databases. Unfortunatly the blog had some issues, which today turned out to br a typo’d database username. We live and learn 🙂

Now that the blog is back, I’ve taken the liberty of upgrading to the latest version of WordPress. I’ve also decided that my old theme was looking tired as I do about every six months or so. As you will see, I’ve switched to the new TwentyTen theme that’s included in the new version of WordPress. This is only temporary while I make my new theme, which is going to be one I saw by Touchality based on a Windows Phone 7 Metro UI.
For the record, this is also my first ever post from the Windows Phone 7 WordPress application.

Comparing the Cost of Windows Phones in the UK

In an angry come jealous state, my wife Nicky today upgraded her O2 contract and got herself a HTC HD7. My contract is due for upgrade at the end of October, so I have another week and a bit to wait before I had upgrade.

In my current agreement with O2, I have a very tidy deal going on thanks to my employment from Xerox which grants me 30% discount on the monthly line rental, however my sources on the O2 Customer Forums tell me that this deal doesn’t exist any longer, so I’ve set out to compare my current plan with some plans on O2, Vodafone and Orange which are of interest – Interest being defined in this case by price and value for money, which is in turn determined by the inclusive allowance of each contract.

As you will see from the above PowerPoint WebApp slide, my current package weighs in at an 18 month overall cost of £585, while if I upgrade to what O2 will recommend me in it’s place, the Smartphone 45, I will be spending a whopping £810 instead, meanwhile Vodafone come out on-top with the Vodafone tariff at £35 per month weighing in at a somewhat mild £630 over 18 months.

Sure, I could save £5 per month on all of these networks by switching to 24 months, but having to wait 18 months for the next iteration of phone is dire enough.

If Tesco Mobile started to sell Windows Phone 7 devices, I would probably jump over there to get a 12 month contract – Something of a rarity these days.

Hotmail Adds Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) Support

It’s been on the cards for a long time, however Microsoft on Friday last week, US time enable the global rollout of Exchange ActiveSync for Hotmail accounts on mobile devices.

For users of Outlook you will still need to use the Outlook Connector as Exchange via Outlook will not connect.
EAS for Hotmail allows Hotmail users to have over the air syncing of emails, calendar and contacts from your Hotmail account to your phone.

This is great because this gives you all the features of a corporate Exchange server with your own personal email.

When using the Outlook Connector for Hotmail in Outlook which does real-time syncing and updating of the inbox, calendar and contacts and the EAS features on Windows Mobile you can now fully live the two screens and the cloud mantra of Microsoft, with your notebook or desktop, your mobile device such as a Windows Mobile or iPhone device and the Hotmail web experience all fully synced with none of this IMAP or POP3 rubbish.

Android is not being officially supported by Microsoft due to on-going testing, although some users are reporting successes with it.

If there is a flaw to this momentous occasion for Hotmail users it is that as a Windows Mobile 6.5 user, I can still only sync one Exchange account which means I’m stuck using the existing Windows Live application until Windows Phone 7 is out allowing multiple Exchange accounts as I need to sync my corporate email via EAS already – For me its ok though because I find the email syncing of the Windows Live application acceptable.

Connecting to Hotmail EAS is simple:

Server Address: m.hotmail.com
Username: Your Windows Live ID (Email Address)
Password: Your Windows Live Password
Domain: Blank

For more detailed instructions and the gotchas on some devices follow the link to the Windows Live page for configuring Exchange ActiveSync for Hotmail: http://windowslivehelp.com/solution.aspx?solutionid=46bd910c-ed99-497d-80d7-ab8b11237ed0