Several months ago, during Windows Phone 7 days we all knew Microsoft was caught in a chicken-and-egg situation where developers wouldn’t make apps for Windows Phone since there was no volume & the phones wouldn’t sell because there were no apps. Despite having good development tools and a new design language Microsoft just couldn’t get traction. The solution was to pay developers and in some cases build the apps themselves. When Nokia joined the mix, there was enthusiasm because Nokia could address Microsoft issues with scale since both Samsung and HTC (flagship device OEMs) were focused more on Android. Nokia’s dependence on Windows Phone meant they had to do something about the apps issue and they continue to bring several exclusive apps to the platform.
While Nokia’s initiative is great for the users, independent developers have to be interested in the platform too, and it looks like they are. Since the launch of Windows Phone 8 and Lumia 920, I’ve come across some really useful apps that have been designed with thought and make use of exclusive Windows Phone 8 features. Here are some of my favorites:
I watch a lot of TV shows and it is quite difficult to keep track of them. I was introduced to Fav.tv, an iOS and episodes I web app that let me track I’ve watched. I loved the simplicity of the service but I quickly ran into two issues:
- There was no Windows Phone app (only iPhone)
- The service was bought and shut down
After several months without a intuitive service, I came across TVShow (thanks to WPCentral). The app is gorgeous. It has beautiful images, social integration, information about episodes and new developments. The app makes use of Windows Phone 8 specific features like:
- Scalable live tiles
- SkyDrive backup (it’s a very amusing implementation, the backup is saved in an image)
It’s the design, ease of use and thought put into the app that makes it a great app on the platform. The free version works well for most. It will take you a while to add all your shows but once done, it’s a pleasure to use the app.
Ever since I’ve moved to Syracuse, I’ve made it a habit to frequently check the weather, it’s like a girl’s mood up here. WeatherFlow is an app that been popular due to its design even on Windows Phone 7, and the app developers adopted Windows Phone 8′s new features quite well. The standout features of this WP8 weather app are the lock screen and live tile options.
My personal favorite is the ability to have a 5-day weather forecast on my lockscreen with daily Bing images for backgrounds. All this in addition to my other lockscreen customizations. Regarding the live tiles, WeatherFlow has an update-type that compares the weather to yesterday, and it’s such human information that makes using smart devices fun.
Microsoft has a YouTube app for Windows Phone but the purpose of the app is to allow IE to play YouTube videos. The app isn’t a native YouTube client, MetroTube on the other hand, is exactly that. Designed around Metro principles, the app does everything you’d expect a YouTube client to do, except uploading to YouTube. (And that’s something I’ve not a found a single app that does well.)
Some Windows Phone 8 devices come powered with NFC. While many pundits believe NFC isn’t useful in phones, I beg to differ. Being able to tap and launch an app or transfer content seems like a great use-case to me. Anyhow, NFC LaunchIt is an app that lets you quickly program NFC tags to launch apps from a pre-defined list. I’ve ordered some NFC tags at Ebay to use similar apps. It’s the ease-of-use and relevancy of the app that makes it useful.
(There are several alternatives to LaunchIt but the concept of quickly making your own tags is what I am getting at.)
It syncs between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. And has a good UI on both platforms. If you ship a lot of stuff, the $2.50 price tag is well worth it.
The Metro interface is about removing unnecessary UI elements and MyTrips does a good job at it, like Package Tracker, the app focuses on information about your trips. It’s a third-party client for TripIt which has a free Windows Phone app but is better at UI and has several more features like social integration, live tiles etc. Another paid app though.
A cross-platform expense tracking app that’s really simple. I’ve been using it since Windows Phone 7 and love it. Since Windows Phone does not have an app for Mint.com, this serves a good solution to track expenses along with Mint.com. The free version is works well.
Other than these several popular apps have been updated to Windows Phone 8; while they don’t bring a lot of new & exciting features, being updated within weeks of a major platform refresh is a good sign. It should be noted that these apps have slowly and steadily appeared in the marketplace.
PS #1: I’ve previously written about Rowi & 4th & Mayor, the two apps continue to be among the best apps for Windows Phone.
PS #2: The Bing Translator app’s camera lens is a great example as well but since it’s a Microsoft app I did not list it.
PS #3: I’ve written about Nokia’s exclusive apps and in an earlier post.