Windows Phone still may be trailing iOS and Android, but Microsoft’s mobile-app library is growing every day, and currently includes more than 500,000 apps. What were once limited beta versions of popular apps are now fully featured and look beautiful on Windows Phone’s unique user interface. Windows Phone Live Tiles allow certain apps to show important information directly on the home screen, extending an app’s usefulness. The Windows Phone store gained some big app names recently, and is sure to capture even more in the coming years.
Whether you just bought a Windows Phone or are thinking of getting one, these are the top 25 apps to get.
Weave is the RSS newsreader for Windows Phone you've always wanted. This Windows Phone-only app lets users easily follow any website or blog, or choose from a variety of curated content organized by category. Choose from a variety of fonts and sizes for easy reading, or choose to have articles spoken aloud if you want to give your eyes a rest. The voice is eerily human and oddly comforting.
"Subway Surfers" is an infinite runner game that's dangerously addicting. The premise is simple: You're a young graffiti artist with a predilection for decorating the sides of subway cars, and you've just been caught. You must swipe your way through a never-ending series of oncoming subway cars and barriers, collecting coins and bonus items. It's the perfect way to kill a few minutes on a bus or subway commute or while waiting in lines, although you may not even realize it when those minutes turn into hours.
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The mother of all organization apps, Evernote tracks your ideas and reminders in the form of notes, snapshots, audio recordings and Web searches. The app then takes all these personal clips and combines them into a comprehensive notebook so you can easily access them later on. Evernote also syncs all of your info across your smartphone, PC and the Web. Windows Phone users get the full Evernote experience, including social media integration, advanced note editing, and the ability to pin notes, notebooks and other app shortcuts to the home screen.
Hulu Plus lets subscribers watch some of their favorite cable television shows directly on their Windows Phone. Watch full episodes of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" or "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," or peruse episode highlights when you only have a few minutes to spare. Since the app is tied to your Hulu Plus account, you'll have access to your queue and can save your favorite episodes to view them later on a bigger screen. The app is free but requires a $7.99 per month subscription.
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An absolute necessity for a modern smartphone user, the Facebook app lets you send status updates to the popular networking site, plus read your news feed, view messages and check your calendar for upcoming events. Windows Phone gives the app a sleek, sliding interface for viewing the most-recent updates, photos, events and notifications, all from the app's main screen. The app also supports Toast notifications for instant system-wide updates, and can put your favorite pictures on the lock screen.
If you're craving a daily fix of the "front page of the Internet," the Baconit Reddit client is ready to serve you seemingly countless pet pictures, memes and interesting AMAs. Baconit blends the traditional Reddit layout with Windows Phone's beautiful flowing interface, allowing you to view, comment and post content with a distinctly Windows Phone feel.
App Folder lets you group apps into one folder, similar to the native feature found on the iPhone, where you drag one app onto another and a folder is created. App Folder nicely lets you check off a bunch of similar or related apps at once so you can rapidly group them together, instead of dragging them one at a time. WP is rumored to eventually get this feature natively, but until then, this is a nice alternative.
There are many local weather radar apps but this one is national (though some knock it for not going outside the U.S. borders). It beautifully shows a moving gradient of the weather radar, so you can see which direction the storm is moving and it color codes the intensity, so you can see if the worst is yet to come. The paid version gets rid of banner ads at the bottom, and gives weather alerts and hurricane tracking.
Skype for Windows Phone is an impressive, feature-packed app — and not just for video calls. If you're short on cellular minutes, use Skype to make voice calls over Wi-Fi or 3G, or simply send a text message through the Skype instant message interface. Users log in to Skype using their Microsoft Live account, which can be linked to an existing Skype account, so you'll only need to remember one login.
If Microsoft's official YouTube app — which is nothing more than YouTube's mobile site — leaves you wanting more, you should check out Metrotube. Designed for Windows Phone from the beginning, Metrotube will help you watch all your favorite cat videos and newsroom bloopers with ease. Videos will continue playing even when your phone is locked, so load up your favorite song and rock out without wasting your battery lighting the screen.
You are smart enough to know that "password" and "123456" are not good passwords. But who has time or mental acuity to keep 10 to 20 different passwords straight? You might want to try Password Padlock. It lets you create unique passwords for all of your accounts and manage them from the app. All passwords are encrypted with AES-256 from a master password, which is not stored.
Encouraging you to "check in" wherever you are, Foursquare is a mix between a social network, a game and a coupon app. Prospective locations run the gamut from restaurants and bars to parks, offices and sports stadiums. Checking in can sometimes unlock special offers on merchandise, as well as virtual badges for bragging rights. Plus, the Recommendations feature can show you cool new places to visit. Other features include a home-screen Live Tile that displays friends' updates and a slick side-scrolling interface.
Waze is the traffic and navigation app that makes you feel like you have a friend inside every other car on the road. By crowdsourcing traffic information, Waze is able to deliver the current conditions on the roads and highways. You can easily report traffic jams, accidents, police stakeouts and other things that can affect the flow of traffic. Earn points for in-app activity, and join in the community that's making rush hour just a little more tolerable.
The original version of this software, released in Nov. 2013, was something of a joke. For starters, the app wouldn't allow you to take pictures, you had to do that outside the app. Since then, Instagram has improved the app, although it's been in beta more than a year. It's stable and has pretty much the features found on other platforms, like Facebook integration.
With ESPN ScoreCenter, you'll never miss a beat in sports. The app follows hundreds of leagues across many sports, providing the most comprehensive global coverage. Users can get personalized scoreboards and live look-ins into gamecast for play-by-plays, in-game stats and box scores. You can read up on breaking news, get analysis and watch just-cut video clips. Plus, you can pin your favorite team to the Start screen to get live in-game updates.
WhatsApp is a cross-platform messaging app that lets you send unlimited messages, photos and audio notes to your friends and family over a 3G or Wi-Fi connection. The best part? Messages you send won't count against your carrier's text limit. Even better, service on Windows Phone is free for the first 12 months (though you'll have to pony up $1 for each subsequent year thereafter). Other robust features include group chat, GPS location data, and automatic switching between SMS and WhatsApp.
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If there was an app I cannot live without, it's this. Tap to identify songs or TV shows or commercials and after a few seconds of listening, you get the artist and title, as well as the option to buy the music. Shazam came late to Windows Phone but it's now here, allowing you to recognize songs and tracks even offline, buy tracks from Xbox Music and get more info on the song, like lyrics, music videos and performances on YouTube.
Amazon is the leader in e-book sales, with more than 750,000 books to choose from, so having access to Amazon's Kindle app is key for Windows Phone users who enjoy a good read. The Kindle app puts purchased e-books, along with the entire Kindle store library, at your fingertips. To tempt users to check out new titles, the app also suggests titles to buy, plus free classics to download. E-books typically cost $10 a pop, including new releases and bestsellers.
If you're a Netflix subscriber, this app puts thousands of movies and TV shows within easy reach. You can stream video within your instant queue from any location, provided your phone has access to Wi-Fi or a cellular connection. This app also makes it simple to find and add more content by sifting through genres or searching by keyword. The interface is clean, and swiping sideways flips through various views for Genres, Home, Instant Queue and Search.
Sometimes, snagging a reservation is a must. Or maybe you're just looking for a new restaurant to try out. OpenTable can tackle both tasks, scanning local listings for tables for two, complete with profiles and descriptions provided by Zagat. Diners have the option to search specific locations for open seats. The app offers maps to help you find your way to restaurants, and displays Live Tiles of upcoming reservations.
Streaming-music service Spotify certainly took a while to make a version of its app for Windows Phone fans, but it has finally arrived and is exactly the stylish app you'd expect to see on the slick Windows Phone. The app makes use of the typical swiping gesture to laterally navigate music releases, playlists, friend feeds and more. A nice little touch within the app even lets you peek at your playlist information via a live tile pinned to your Start Screen.
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If you want to customize your Windows Phone screen or just want to have your reminders front and center, MyTileMaker Pro lets you further personalize your device. You can create and pin unlimited memos, lists and image tiles to your home screen, adjusting text size, tile color and backflip behavior. If you're not sure if you're going to like the way a tile looks, you can preview it before pinning. A supercool feature is the ability to split an image into multiple tiles for an artistic touch.
Microsoft SmartGlass turns your Windows Phone into your Xbox's best friend. There's a separate app for the Xbox One and the Xbox 360, but both allow you to control your console and deliver interactive information to your smartphone during select games. The Xbox One SmartGlass has a few more features than its 360 companion, including the ability to search, browse and pin content to your One's console, and watch DVR game clips.
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Yelp gained a following by letting people shower praise or air complaints about local restaurants, bars and retail stores. The service's Windows Phone app merges this deep review library with real-time location data. Perform targeted searches for keywords such as "ramen," or drill down and browse by restaurants, bars, cafes and drugstores. Or, just see what's hot nearby. A few features are missing, like the ability to submit a review directly, but the app provides plenty of useful information in a friendly interface.
The most popular of Twitter clients for Windows Phone, Tweetium is a full-featured app with grouping, a customizable look, a very nice interface and layout, searching, full configuration of your Twitter account from within the app and more. The one knock on it is you need the Pro edition for multiple accounts. Pro has support for up to seven accounts, but costs $7.99, and that's on top of the initial $2.99 for Tweetium.