The Best Apps, Although a Thinner Selection, for Windows 7

21 Jul

Some people make it a big deal that Apple has 425,000 apps and Android has, by some counts, 250,000.

But would you want a television with 400,000 channels or just 100 great ones?

The Windows Phone 7 platform has “only” 25,000 apps, and that number will quickly grow once Nokia, one of the most popular handset makers, starts producing devices for the platform later this year. Already, though, the phones are good, if you mix in the right apps.

Before I get to my own list, a note or two is in order. The devices come loaded with a mobile version of Microsoft Office, which lets you open and, in some cases, edit Office files. That saves you one big app-related shopping task.

Also, while you can easily browse for apps on a PC, there is no dedicated shopping software for the Mac, so those users must instead browse online and buy on the phone, which can be buggy and frustrating.

On the Web, it can be hard to find information about specific Windows 7 apps, and on the phone the search engine mixes results from other genres. So if you search, say, for a word like “Slacker,” you get albums, artists and songs associated with that word, as well as apps.

The list of games is great, if you love Xbox games and the biggest hits from other mobile platforms, like Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies and the like. Otherwise, it’s hit or miss, with games like N.O.V.A. and Grand Theft Auto conspicuously absent.

Meanwhile, developers of many popular iPhone or Android apps haven’t built versions for Windows Phone 7. There’s no Urbanspoon, Hipstamatic, SoundHound, MyWeather, Instapaper or Google Maps. And some that work great on other platforms, like Shazam, are painfully slow on Windows.

With those caveats, then, here’s a list of the 10 best apps for Windows Phone 7 along with some contenders.

¶ Facebook for Windows Phone 7 (free): Built by Microsoft, the software is nicely designed, making good use of the big screens that are common on many Windows phones. The result is far less clutter than you’d find on a mobile Web page.

¶ Movies by Flixster, with Rotten Tomatoes (free): A recurring theme among the better Windows apps is the seamless navigation. Flixster, the excellent movie-information service, is a good example. Pages yield easily, and logically, to others, while large-font type at the top of the screen lets you know where you are and where you’ve been.

¶ Yelp (free): Information on nearly any local business you might need, rendered in a user-friendly manner. Pages load quickly, and reviews and photos for restaurants, in particular, are good.

¶ Epicurious (free): The mobile standard for recipe information. Its recipes have been created by chefs, cookbook authors and the editorial staffs of Bon Appétit and Gourmet, among others. Recipes are rated by users, and the app helps you build and share shopping lists.

¶ The Weather Channel (free): When judging the company’s other mobile offerings, the word “lovely” doesn’t come to mind. It does here. Most of the vital weather information breezes by with a flick of the finger. The app would be almost flawless if it didn’t force you to click a link and wait for the hourly forecast details.

¶ Google Search (free): In many ways, it’s the opposite of the Weather Channel. While Google’s search app excels on other platforms, it’s merely passable on Windows, mainly because it lacks a voice-search function. Still, it’s the best available shortcut to good, and quick, mobile search results.

¶ ESPN ScoreCenter (free): Sports fans can customize the app to show results and news for their favorite teams, across many professional and college leagues. The team selection process is simple, the interface is free of clutter, and the app includes a news ticker at the bottom of each screen.

¶ Evernote (free): In my experience, Evernote offers the best mobile note-tracking software because it’s easy to use and fast. Enter a note, audio or text, and it is immediately synchronized with your Evernote account, so you could log onto the online version and it would be waiting for you there. The free version is enough for most purposes, with added storage available for an annual fee.

¶ Thumba Photo Editor ($1): Fast and fun. It lets you test different photo effects with minimal processing delays, and you can also crop and rotate images. You can share to Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, but there is no e-mail sharing.

¶ Ilomilo ($5) helps demonstrate the Windows Phone gaming excellence. This puzzle game is challenging but not arduous, and the graphics are first rate.

Like many other games on the Windows Phone platform, Ilomilo includes a trial version.

That trial feature is important, because for whatever reason, developers generally charge more than on other mobile platforms for their games when they sell them on the Windows mobile platform. Ilomilo was free on Apple last week, for instance.

Maybe developers believe users will pay for the added benefit of synchronizing their mobile gameplay across the spectrum of Xbox Live.

Either way, brace for sticker shock.

Also, brace for some confusion. You won’t find games in the apps section, only in the games section of the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Honorable Mention

CNN Newsreader (free): Fast-loading, with a layout that lends itself nicely to at-a-glance browsing and reporting that will satisfy most people; Endomondo Sports Tracker (free): Great way to track your running, hiking or other outdoor activities; At Bat 11 ($10): Pricey, but for baseball fans, worth every penny; (free): Offers personalized radio along the lines of Slacker or Pandora, but you can fast-forward unlimited times; Glympse (free): Allows users to signal their precise whereabouts to other people for a limited amount of time; Kindle (free): Nimble e-reader software with useful features familiar to users of the Kindle device; moTweets (free): Great Twitter reader, with an option to stream updates directly to the phone’s home screen.


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Posted by on July 21, 2011 in Windows Phone 7 App


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