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Our 20 Favorite Apps For Your Windows Phone 8 Device

Our 20 Favorite Apps For Your Windows Phone 8 Device
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Time To Give Windows Phone 8 A Chance

I'm a loyal PC guy, so I really tried to love Microsoft's early efforts to build a phone-oriented operating system. I bought HTC's Touch (also known as the P3450). And although I was disappointed by the ecosystem, I believed it would get better. I kept the faith and followed up with HTC's Touch Diamond as friends with iPhones were enjoying their far smoother smartphone experience.

When it was time to retire my Windows Mobile phone, I grudgingly gave Apple my money. And to be honest, the Cupertino company deserves a lot of credit. Where Windows Mobile was complicated and convoluted, iOS is simple and effective. And the apps. Wonderful, low-priced (and often free) apps as far as the eye can see.

Apple's tight ecosystem kept me hanging on when Windows Phone 7 arrived. But Microsoft's previous-gen environment didn't escape my eye. The company obviously learned a lot since the Windows Mobile days. And now, with the introduction of Windows Phone 8, there's a complete phone, tablet, console, and PC ecosystem in place to compete with Apple. And that mobile operating system looks pretty good. Live Tiles are a great way to display information from a number of sources. So, it was time to give Windows another chance on my smartphone.

I had to change carriers to get access to Nokia's beautiful Lumia 920, but quickly realized that I cherish slim and light more than I knew. I exchanged the 920 for a svelte HTC Windows 8X. Since making that decision, the biggest holes in the platform's application portfolio have been filled. My Windows Phone 8 experience only gets better, and I'm not looking back.

With this in mind, I'd like to share some of my must-have apps with our readers. Picking favorites always comes down to personal taste, but if you're a Windows Phone user, you might learn about something new and useful to try out.

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  • -1 Hide
    ojas , May 10, 2013 12:13 AM
    Hmmm. You found some nice apps that were needed badly.
    But there's still too much left...and a lot of things that only MS can add.
    You know, if you want to "share" a picture, video, file or song via bluetooth, you need to turn bluetooth on first, otherwise you won't even see the option in the share menu.
    And the PDF reader sucks.
    Post PC era my butt. And Android is Windows for the mobile world. Ironical since it's reversed the Windows-Linux equation that existed in the PC space.
  • -8 Hide
    Aoyagi , May 10, 2013 1:14 AM
    As a Lumia 920 user, I hate to say (yet again) that WP8 is a terribly closed OS that can hardly be considered "smart", very much like iOS. It's a step backwards even from Windows Mobile 5. I know that, because I use a WM5 device quite often.
    But yes, it looks pretty, shiny and smoother! Oh how smart.
  • 0 Hide
    Aoyagi , May 10, 2013 1:49 AM
    **Edit: Sorry for the doublepost, I would think that a tech site would allow readers to refresh without fear of doubleposting. I hate script-bloated sites...
  • 8 Hide
    grantwar , May 10, 2013 1:50 AM
    Pity you swapped out the Lumia 920 for the HTC as the Nokia Music app blows Aupeo (and if your in the US, Pandora) out of the water. In fact its the app I use the most on my windows phone as the mix radio is ad free and allows offline downloads.
    Pity...
  • 1 Hide
    fnh , May 10, 2013 2:02 AM
    As a Samsung Focus owner ... we pretty much feel being left to rot in 7.5 ...
  • 4 Hide
    ojas , May 10, 2013 2:29 AM
    Might as well tell you folks about a few good apps:
    1. Weather (by MS or Nokia, can't remember) is simple.
    2. Calculator Toolbox.
    3. Flashlight XT. No non-sense, no ads, no requiring access to privacy settings.
    4. Academic Search
    5. Wikipedia...is okay
    6. Foreca Weather
    7. Dev Center (you have to have Win 8 to develop for WP8, despite the fact that VS 2012 uses an emulator for the purpose. MS is mad, i tell you. They're tying the development of a minority OS to a minority OS).
    8. Minesweeper!
    9. HERE City Lens. Slightly off a few degrees in my experience.
    10. Panaroma is a bit difficult, but only one i know off
    11. Creative Studio, Camera360, Cinemagraph
    12. OneNote, anyone?
    13. Photosynth and Ztitch
    14. TouchMouse for Logitech TouchMouse. Unofficial.
    15. TouchDevelop. Still raw, imo, not very obvious how to use it, but there's a ton of documentation.
    16. SOUND HOUND. This should have been #1 on this list, actually.
    17. WhatsApp: not very good on WP8. Can't share files, music, videos. Only pics.
    18. PhotoBeamer
    19. Ringtone Maker.
    20. Smart Shoot
    21. Shopping list, anyone?
    That's it. Would have tried to make a file explorer on my own, if i could dev on Win 7.
  • -6 Hide
    ojas , May 10, 2013 2:33 AM
    You know, the file system they use, Isolated File Storage...i think that's what they'll do to Windows eventually. WP is Microsoft's vision for Windows...and since all the major tech sites have said "accept it with start8" instead of outright slamming it...the depreciation of the explorer shell will continue.

    The Unix file structure makes little sense to me, so this sort of sucks.
  • 5 Hide
    scrumworks , May 10, 2013 3:16 AM
    Good to see WP ecosystem being notified here too.
  • -5 Hide
    Aoyagi , May 10, 2013 3:24 AM
    Quote:
    I have a very long list of complaints about WP8. Most of includes the damned fast app switching and back button, music app, lack of a task manager, inability to control app network access like you can in android, LACK OF VISIBLE FILE SYSTEM, inability to specify static IPs for wifi, and more.
    This is despite using a lumia, with all of Nokia's apps there too.
    Oh and, can't eject apps from memory without opening them and pressing "back" all the way to the first screen.
    I have a longer list.


    Ah, sounds like we've met before. I adjusted my list a little after reading your post:

    Uses cellular data when on WiFi (?),
    Limited settings (can't even control the annoying search button),
    No application data access management,
    No task manager
    Trying to force me to use clouds which is (for me) unacceptable (there is a workaround for this),
    Cannot install anything outside of the store,
    No file explorer (with sending files over BT) or access to the system and application files,
    No direct Outlook sync,
    No music player that can sort by folders,
    Only global volume control (plus on phone),
    Lack of any kind of patch notes,
    Can't see the amount of transfered data for the last 30 days,
    Can't uninstall things like "games" or "calculator"
    Can't download whatever I want,
    Can't get rid of the message preview,
    Can't set static IP for WiFi

    Plus I have no idea what is the phone sending back to M$ and I'm sure like hell it does send way more than necessary even though I opted out from any and all data-harvesting programs they put in the phone (and there is like 20 of them). But nobody seems to care about privacy nowadays (except Germany). All of those mentioned "apps" are asking impossibly irrelevant data about the user.
  • -1 Hide
    ojas , May 10, 2013 7:50 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    I have a very long list of complaints about WP8. Most of includes the damned fast app switching and back button, music app, lack of a task manager, inability to control app network access like you can in android, LACK OF VISIBLE FILE SYSTEM, inability to specify static IPs for wifi, and more.
    This is despite using a lumia, with all of Nokia's apps there too.
    Oh and, can't eject apps from memory without opening them and pressing "back" all the way to the first screen.
    I have a longer list.


    Ah, sounds like we've met before. I adjusted my list a little after reading your post:

    Uses cellular data when on WiFi (?),
    Limited settings (can't even control the annoying search button),
    No application data access management,
    No task manager
    Trying to force me to use clouds which is (for me) unacceptable (there is a workaround for this),
    Cannot install anything outside of the store,
    No file explorer (with sending files over BT) or access to the system and application files,
    No direct Outlook sync,
    No music player that can sort by folders,
    Only global volume control (plus on phone),
    Lack of any kind of patch notes,
    Can't see the amount of transfered data for the last 30 days,
    Can't uninstall things like "games" or "calculator"
    Can't download whatever I want,
    Can't get rid of the message preview,
    Can't set static IP for WiFi

    Plus I have no idea what is the phone sending back to M$ and I'm sure like hell it does send way more than necessary even though I opted out from any and all data-harvesting programs they put in the phone (and there is like 20 of them). But nobody seems to care about privacy nowadays (except Germany). All of those mentioned "apps" are asking impossibly irrelevant data about the user.

    True, true.

    I'm unsure about how wi-fi behaves too. You can set it to turn off when the screen times out, though i'm unsure what happens in that period. Android (because it shows detailed graphs of how stuff's being used) i know uses Wifi in bursts of a few seconds while in sleep to check for stuff. I'm very unsure about what happens on WP.

    Yeah the search button. I don't even use it. Global volume control! yes another PITA. Doesn't even turn down ringtone volume when you've got headphones on.

    WP8 is also very bad with memory, though. My Lumia 620 has 512 MB, apps crash back to the home screen frequently if you don't eject them.

    Biggest joke is audio codec support. Windows 98 and/or XP could probably play a larger variety of formats.

    And the keyboard? Doesn't it occupy too much space? I have like 60% of my screen hidden by it. Pressing enter/return to get a new line ends up making the text-input box bigger, till it covers the entire remaining 40%. So in WhatsApp, you don't even know what you're replying to.

    Needs a notification center too. The live tile method is okay, but at times is massively inconvenient.

    I really hope WP 8.1 fixes at least some of this.

    Nokia Music's caused a system lockup too, twice.
  • 5 Hide
    CaedenV , May 10, 2013 7:56 AM
    Thanks for the article, I have a Lumia 920 (don't mind the size/weight one bit, and I make good use of the camera with my kiddos), and while I troll wpcentral for word on good app recommendations, they tend to just mention the new big names without actually using them and giving much of an opinion.
    In addition to your list I would add PC Remote, which is something I would LOVE to see get baked into the OS as it is super useful for checking on your PC, or controlling a HTPC.
    It's good to see WP getting some real attention finally. It still needs to grow in a lot of ways (and honestly, what platform doesn't), but overall I find it to be a great device for both work and play, and I really hope that it continues to gain traction.
  • 1 Hide
    the great randini , May 10, 2013 9:01 AM
    I recently got an upgrade at work to the nokia lumina 920, I like that office is native, but I miss the (very) old Microsoft mary voice controls. It has froze up twice in the month I have had it, but the overall speed is amazing. I use it on the att network.
  • 0 Hide
    ojas , May 10, 2013 9:11 AM
    Quote:
    Thanks for the article, I have a Lumia 920 (don't mind the size/weight one bit, and I make good use of the camera with my kiddos), and while I troll wpcentral for word on good app recommendations, they tend to just mention the new big names without actually using them and giving much of an opinion.
    In addition to your list I would add PC Remote, which is something I would LOVE to see get baked into the OS as it is super useful for checking on your PC, or controlling a HTPC.
    It's good to see WP getting some real attention finally. It still needs to grow in a lot of ways (and honestly, what platform doesn't), but overall I find it to be a great device for both work and play, and I really hope that it continues to gain traction.


    Who's PC remote by? I prefer TouchMouse since it supports iOS too...

    But yeah, it should be a part of the OS. You would think that a Windows phone would be able to interface more completely out of the box with a windows PC.

    Anyone else notice the absence of the ability to join a Homegroup?
  • -2 Hide
    stevejnb , May 10, 2013 11:36 AM
    You know, I got a Windows phone 7, which I am still using, because I wanted to keep all my devices in one family - PC, tablet, phone. From a work perspective, and from a connectivity with MS products perspective, this plan has worked wonderfully. If there is a weak link in this chain though, it is the Windows phone, and that is for reasons I've seen listed.
    No file system. Come on MS - you have a nice open desktop platform, but you pull an iOS with your phone OS, making it so we can't actually get to the nitty gritty of the file system? Huge problems with this. No easy ability to get an app out of memory when it has started? No static IPs?
    I will be going Android next round unless some of these things improve. Havng great Skydrive and office support on a phone is very important to me but, over all, the Windows Phone is a ways behind Android at this point.
  • 0 Hide
    universal remonster , May 10, 2013 1:02 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Thanks for the article, I have a Lumia 920 (don't mind the size/weight one bit, and I make good use of the camera with my kiddos), and while I troll wpcentral for word on good app recommendations, they tend to just mention the new big names without actually using them and giving much of an opinion.
    In addition to your list I would add PC Remote, which is something I would LOVE to see get baked into the OS as it is super useful for checking on your PC, or controlling a HTPC.
    It's good to see WP getting some real attention finally. It still needs to grow in a lot of ways (and honestly, what platform doesn't), but overall I find it to be a great device for both work and play, and I really hope that it continues to gain traction.


    Who's PC remote by? I prefer TouchMouse since it supports iOS too...

    But yeah, it should be a part of the OS. You would think that a Windows phone would be able to interface more completely out of the box with a windows PC.

    Anyone else notice the absence of the ability to join a Homegroup?


    I agree Ojas. I have had the 920 since last November. And while I happen to like it a lot for my use case, I feel that MS didn't really live up to the integration across all screens talk before 8 came out. They talked of how Win8 tablets, phone, desktop, and (upcoming) Xbox would all seamlessly work together. I don't feel that the Win8 phone integrates any better/worse/differently than what my WP7 Focus did. Xbox Glass is the only 1st party app that tries to do this, and it's nothing great.

  • -1 Hide
    falchard , May 10, 2013 3:35 PM
    I like the HTC Windows Phones. Right now there are only two Windows Phone vendors which kind of sucks, but the now only the strong ones remain. From what I have heard about the Nokia windows phone, they are definitely the not so great one. I wish I could do more with Windows Phone in a few areas, but it still excels in a lot of ways. Its execution speed is a lot faster, and it can be extended to be more than a toy.
  • 0 Hide
    ojas , May 10, 2013 9:42 PM
    I'm completely confused, everyone in the comments seems to agree that the OS needs fixing, yet almost all the people who've listed problem areas have been downvoted.
    MS fanboys out in droves, i must say.
    Another thing i remembered: Lack of contextual search.
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