Over the past two years, Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system has become the only logical choice for anyone dead-set on not picking up an Apple iPhone and anyone who needs something easier to use and more stable than the latest version of Google’s Android operating system. Some would say that Windows Phone has been a better iPhone alternative than Android for years now. They’d be mistaken though, because only in the last year or so has the app ecosystem for Windows Phone improved dramatically.
Some big names are still missing, but those that are there support the platform’s unique features. Even better, apps from small developers have more functionality and seem feature complete. If you have a Microsoft Lumia or other Windows Phone today, these are the apps you should have installed on your device now. If you’re considering switching to Windows Phone, here are some apps that’ll make the transition easier than it’s ever been.
Amazing Weather HD
The best Windows Phone apps offer two things in one package: style and information. Often, weather apps have one or the other, but Amazing Weather HD offers both. Opening the app gives you a very stylish, but comprehensive breakdown of your current weather. The developer didn’t stop there either, offering a full five-day forecast plus radar and satellite. You can pin different cities directly to the Start Screen.
Anyone who tells you that Windows Phone has every app you require is lying to you. There are odd gaps, and Starbucks is one of them. Thankfully, independent developers step in to fill those gaps. Buckstar is such a filler app.
Buckstar puts your digital Starbucks card at your fingertips, letting you quickly check your card’s balance, how many stars you have until your next reward, and get direction to the closest retail location. You can’t reload your card directly through the app, but there is a link to do so online that works just fine.
Nike+ remains as locked to the iPhone as its ever been, but Microsoft has its own solution for the those who like to stay active. It’s called MSN Health & Fitness, and it lets users track their workouts, steps, diet, cardio and more. MSN Health & Fitness talks to the sensors inside Lumia Windows Phones and that’s how it manages to snag running and step details.
Windows Phone’s included Podcast app is pretty bad. It’s uselessness is more apparent when you’ve come from the iPhone and Android’s stellar Pocket Casts app. There are a lot of junk podcasts apps in the Windows Store. Avoid them and purchase CastCenter.
CastCenter has a built-in catalog, but you can also import feeds from your favorite podcasts. There’s automatic downloading and streaming, plus automatic cleanup of podcasts you’ve already listened to. Also, it features variable playback and a built-in sleep timer.
Sometimes you’re watching so much television that you need a way to keep track of it all. Or sometimes, you’re looking for an easier way to keep track of what’s going on in the few shows you do watch. TV Blaze is the best TV show tracker available on Windows Phone.
It offers the basics, like a built-in guide and a catalog of shows for you to choose from. On top of that there’s built-in calendar options, a frequently updated list of new popular apps, and a nice breakdown of what’s airing this week. The best part of the app is its Trakt.tv integration, allowing you to sync what’s in TV Blaze to thousands of other apps and the Trakt.tv website.
Ten years ago we were still all hearing talk about the idyllic paperless office. In the future we’d be able to communicate without having to waste time with pen and paper, technology enthusiasts predicted. The paperless office still isn’t a real thing yet, but Office Lens helps Windows Phone users get closer.
Office Lens scans whiteboards and documents for text. Then it turns what it sees into a document that can be opened by Microsoft Word or dropped into a notebook Microsoft OneNote.
Latermark for Pocket
The bookmarking service Pocket is how some people keep track of all the interesting reading they come across through their day. Send an article to Pocket and it’s always there waiting for you to read. There’s no cluttering your Internet Explorer window with favorites or your Desktop with shortcuts. Windows Phone doesn’t have an official Pocket app, but it does have Latermark, a third-party app that communicates with the Pocket service.
Latermark syncs links to your stories and throws in automatic downloading for when you need something to read, but don’t have an internet connection. There’s a companion app for Windows too.
Start Screen Customizer
With Windows Phone 8.1 Microsoft added the ability for Windows Phone users to assign a background that appears inside their Live Tiles. The best way to see those backgrounds is to lump all of your apps with clear Live Tiles together — or to add blank tiles. One of the best ways to add blank tiles is Start Screen Customer.
Besides blank tiles, there are options for background editing and tiles with unique gradients.
Windows Phone still doesn’t have a dedicated YouTube app. That’s ok though, because the company does have a dedicated squadron of indie developers providing access to YouTube through third-party apps.
Tubecast is a third-party YouTube app that has a companion experience for Windows users. It has a clean layout, built-in support for video downloads and can stream content to other devices. That streaming feature works like the iPhone’s AirPlay technology.
Windows Phone is best when it’s not trying to be like the iPhone. A perfect example of that is Microsoft’s Lumia Storyteller app. Lumia Storyteller lets users take pictures and add captions effortlessly. The app then turns those pictures entire a sort of presentation. Stories can be uploaded to the LumiaStoryteller website.
If you’re thinking about picking up a Windows Phone, try searching the Windows Phone Store for your favorite apps before you make the switch. If some of your favorite apps aren’t there, look for alternatives that’ll solve your problem. Websites can be pinned to the Windows Phone Start Screen for quick and easy access too.