05 March, 2014

My favorite apps for Windows Phone 8

So I've gotten my hands on yet another smartphone (going on 21 smartphones, spanning Windows Mobiles, Windows Phones, iPhones and Androids) over the past 7-ish years, unless my quick headcount is wrong). This time it's a Nokia Lumia 925, and I think it's pretty nice and stylish.

My fallback devices have always been (and still is) an Android smartphone (currently a Samsung Galaxy S IV LTE), and as such the app selection is pretty extensive, and it's hard to find the same apps for Windows Phone, as I use on Android or iPhone. Although there's still a few apps that I haven't found a proper replacement for, I've managed to get the approximate functionality (except for a few business line apps, that are there, but haven't been updated and as such doesn't work with our systems).

Anyway, I digress. To the AppMobile...

For the sake of completeness, I'm going to reference both the Android app I come from as well as the Windows Phone app I've replaced it with, and in a few cases, why I chose one Windows Phone app over another. Here they are, in no particular order.
LastPass is a tool for generating and storing passwords securely. The app doesn't cost any money, but in order to use the service on mobile devices, you'll need a subscription ($12/year).
Google AuthenticatorMicrosoft Authenticator
Used for 2-factor authentication. Multiple services support this standard (Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Dropbox, LastPass, Amazon, Synology, Github and more). The apps are virtually the same, as they both use the same open standards.
I've been using Feedly since before Google Reader shut down. It's great for scanning news, quickly saving some for later reading (Pocket) and automatically marking the news as read, when I swipe to next page.
I chose Flux because I liked the design better, and because of some of it's quick-Pocket functions (double-tap an item).
Alternatives that are also great are Nextgen Reader and Phonly.
As I rarely get time to actually read the news during the day, I skim them and save the interesting ones for later, using Pocket. Poki was one I found through a recommendation on The Verge.
Lync 2013Lync 2013
Not really much to say about this one. Tragicomic thing about Lync is that Microsoft in the beginning had more and better features for their iOS version of Lync than their Windows Phone version.
Again, nothing to say about this one, as it's almost the same app on all three major platforms. Also I only really use this for people to contact me.
Keeping track of those calories is much easier when using an app like this. This one is great because it's free, it has a very nice interface on Windows Phone, and it's on all three major platforms.
Pocket CastsPodcaster
I don't really bother with music. Instead I subscribe to a bunch of trance podcasts that are then automatically updated and ready for listening. For a long time I used BeyondPod for Android, as I had a much better control with how much, how long, how many etc. Ended up choosing Pocket Casts due to simplicity.
Anyway, that really had nothing to do with Podcaster. Podcaster is nice because it's simple. What it really does, is just adding automatic download and cleanup of podcasts, which is then playable straight from the Music app (or from the Podcaster app itself).
Smart AudioBook PlayerBard
This one is a toughie. There doesn't really seem to be audiobook functionality for Windows Phone (ability to remember location in book, bookmarks, speed etc.). The location part, it seems they work around by constantly checking if the playback is stopped in the built-in player, and then storing a bookmark of sorts.
The most annoying part (or best part, depending on your view) is how you get your books to the device. It is done either through the media library or through OneDrive. Using the media library requires me to connect to the Windows Phone 8 app on my desktop computer, ie. locking me to a computer, rather than being able to just connect to a network share over wi-fi and copying. Using OneDrive forces me to ensure there's enough space for the audiobooks I listen to, not to mention that Bard seems to require some excessive permissions for your OneDrive.
Alternatives: Digital Audio Book.
I have a few Audible books, but several or bought cheaper places, and as such can't be played in Audible.
FacebookFacebook (by Microsoft)
Only thing to say about this, is that the Facebook app for Windows Phone is not developed by Facebook, but rather by Microsoft.
Facebook MessengerFacebook Messenger
Facebook relesed their Facebook Messenger app for Windows Phone today (March, 5th. 2014). I haven't even had time to play around with it yet. You can read more about it on the Windows Phone Blog.
IMDb were quick to have an app available for Windows Phone. It lacks a bit of functionality compared with it's counterparts on Android and iOS. But the design is great. They've managed to both keep their own design, as well as follow the Windows Phone design guidelines.
I rarely watch Netflix on my phone. The screen is just not big enough. But it works and is nicely designed. I even like the design better on Windows Phone than on Android.
GoodreadsSocial Reads
Another of those apps that I don't use that much. But it is nice to have, for scanning new books to GoodReads.
Reading forums on a phone really requres an app like Tapatalk. Fortunately it exists for all three major platforms.
Timer (native) ► Timer
This is one of those things that are missing from Windows Phone. A proper timer. It's one of those things that should be so simple to add, and which exists natively in all Android and iOS phones. Timer is the app I found to work best for me. Remember to read the description, because there's limitations from Microsoft.
TuneIn RadioTuneIn Radio
More or less all available Internet radio stations that you could ever want, from all over the world. Again one of those apps that are available for all platforms.
Haven't really tested the functionality in this app. Primarly use it when attending a conference or similar, to follow what's happening.
I'm actually surprised how few I know that uses Viber. I find it's great, because they, like Skype, exists on all platforms. I can send messages to other Viber users directly from my desktop or tablet, rather than being restricted to my phone, like WhatsApp.
Friends using this, is the only reason I use it. But it does exist for Windows Phone and I can't see any issue with it when compared to Android.
YouTubeYouTube (by Microsoft)
So this is not actually an app. It's merely a link to the mobile YouTube website. One of those times where I think Google is in the wrong. Microsoft created a great YouTube app about a year ago, but Google were unwilling to work with Microsoft to give access to the right APIs. It ended with Google blocking the Microsoft YouTube app. Maybe Google should take a look at their own motto "do no evil".
Alternative: MetroTube. As I don't use YouTube that much, except for watching embedded videos, I could settle for a mobile link. The MetroTube app is, however, a very nice app that covers most peoples needs.