Quite a few weeks it has been, and I am not referring to the holidays or New Years. So in my search for my next smartphone, I was pretty darn satisfied with my Note 2. Then, on a very sad day, as I returned to my office from a meeting, it was gone.
Someone took it from my desk. Yes, I tried all the tracking solutions out there including Plan B, Where’s My Droid, and even Samsung’s own Dive site, which is intended to help track lost Samsung devices. None of them were successful and so, with great sadness, I parted with my beloved Note 2 forever and continued my search.
Well, lucky for me, pretty much the next day, my package arrived from Microsoft and it had two shiny and beautiful new phones in it. The HTC 8X and the Nokia Lumia 920, both running Windows Phone 8.
I will of course compare the two devices in a future post but for now, both are fantastic, both have their upsides as well as their downsides and I have enjoyed using both for the past few weeks.
Well, let’s just get right to it, since we all know about the skeleton in the Windows Phone closet. Apps. Yes, there are many apps missing. Many apps I use regularly on iOS and Android are nowhere to be found in the Windows Phone Marketplace. The Marketplace, besides the lack of many apps, is also a mess. The experience of paying or even downloading free apps needs much improvement.
Having said all that, the vast majority of apps I use on a regular basis are there, in one form or another. I am not fooling myself into thinking that the Windows Phone ecosystem is not lacking. It is, but it is far from the disastrous state many bloggers would lead you to believe it is in.
So before we get into what is there, let’s talk about what is missing. The only apps I personally need (well, not need but very much want) for Windows Phone and that are absent are Instagram, Waze, Google+, Flipboard, Path (Yes, Path. Big fan), and that is pretty much it.
I have hundreds of apps on my iPhone and Android devices, but only use 10-15 of them regularly. Out of those ten, the above five apps are the only ones missing.
So what apps do I use regularly on Windows Phone? Here we go:
- 4th and Mayor (FREE): This is, hands down, the nicest Foursqure app on Windows Phone, and quite possibly the nicest Foursquare app on any platform. With all the features of the original Foursquare app, 4th and Mayor (yes, that is the name. I know.) is fully optimized for the famous Metro UI and it looks and works beautifully.
- CloudMagic (FREE): Out of all my apps on all platforms, this is one of the only ones that I have on my home screen on my iPhone, my iPad, my Android phones and tablets, as well as my Windows Phone devices. It is that good. Cloudmagic enables you to connect to pretty much all your web services including Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, and much more in order to easily search through old posts/messages. I cannot tell you how many times I had to find an old DM and Twitter did not have it saved. Cloudmagic saved me every single time in a matter of seconds. A fantastic app. One of my favorites.
- Facebook Viewer (FREE): I recently discovered this Facebook replacement after experiencing the slowness in the official app. This app is designed beautifully and is very snappy. The down side is that it is ad supported, but the ads are placed in a way that their annoyance is kept to a minimal level. The developer made it very clear that a pro version with no ads is something he is considering seriously.
- Linkedin (FREE): Well, I have to hand it to Linkedin, these guys know how to make apps. Their iOS app, since its major redesign is one of the nicest and the iPad app is off the charts in terms of its design. Same goes for the Windows Phone app. It is solid and pretty. In fact, the app, in my experience is more stable and visually appealing than the actual site but then again, that is not saying much.
- Rowi (FREE or $1.49): OK, people, listen up. Rowi is quite possibly the best Twitter app on any mobile platform. Yes, including Tweetbot on iOS. Tweetbot is Rowi’s only competition and while it beats Rowi on some aspects like looks, Rowi is much more customizable and efficient, at least for me. You can completely change the layout of the app and have your Twitter lists as the main timeline, something almost no other apps allow. The full version has push notifications, but unfortunately, some notifications like native retweets are not yet supported. The free version does not have notifications but other than that, it is also fantastic.
- Skype (FREE): Well, being as Microsoft owns Skype, it was quite ironic that Skype for Windows Phone 7 was limited and laughable. Skype for Windows Phone 8 is as solid as it gets on any mobile OS and unlike Skype on Mac or even Windows, the UI on Windows Phone 8 just works. The app is fantastic.
- Zite (FREE): This app is as close to Flipboard as it gets in terms of consuming content on the go in a visually appealing and responsive user interface. All in all, the layout makes sense but I would like some extra bells and whistles like page turning transitions.
- Ask Ziggy (FREE): I was on the fence whether to include this app or not, but at the end of the day, despite it not being as responsive as Siri or Google Voice search, Ask Ziggy is the best voice-activated personal assistant Windows Phone users have. It is not bad at all. There are hundreds of questions you can ask this app including mathematical equations, the weather, and much more, all will be met with an accurate (yet somewhat delayed) response. It is far from perfect, but definitely deserves to be on this list.
- Battery Sense (FREE): There is nothing exciting to say about this app besides the fact that it is the best battery monitoring app out there for Windows Phone. You get a live tile with the percentage of battery left and you can see some in-depth information about your battery usage. Useful but far from sexy.
- Metrotube ($0.99): Finally, one of the biggest disappointments about Windows Phone is the total lack of love from Google. No search app, no Gmail app, no Calendar app, and of course, no YouTube app. The YouTube app that is at the top of the Marketplace is a simple shortcut to the mobile YouTube site. How it got to the top of the free apps section is beyond me but we already talked about that. The best replacement out there for YouTube on Windows Phone is Metrotube and it is not bad at all. It is no native YouTube app but it is pretty darn close and I enjoy using it.
That’s all folks. While there are many great games available for Windows Phone as well, that is less my focus. If you are using Windows Phone and have some more app suggestions, by all means, share them in the comments.
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