The folks over at Microsoft were kind enough to let Platform Nation in on some Windows Phone 7 action for the last couple of months, and while I was initially hoping to give you all the details on Mango (Windows Phone’s latest OS release), I decided to give you an overview of some of the apps I’ve been using instead. If you’re looking for an OS review, stay tuned, as we’ll be getting more coverage on Windows Phone 7, which will include a full overview of the (in my opinion) incredible features that are packed into this OS. I even picked up an HTC Trophy from Verizon for myself and my wife, we liked what we saw that much.
But I’m getting ahead of myself; in this recap, I thought I’d highlight some of the quality Free apps in the marketplace that I’ve come across so far. This is far from an inclusive or exhaustive list, but what you’re about to see is what I have used and loved so far. The links for the apps will take you to the Marketplace for the app, where you can download and add it to your phone from the website – no syncing to your computer is necessary!
Weave – News Reader: Weave is an app that “gets” what being a Windows Phone 7 app is all about. It utilizes the Metro theme well, bringing you news based on topics you select when you first load it up. Think the default options suck (they don’t)? Then use the in-app Google Feed search service to add more, or even punch in the RSS feed address directly (Like, say, http://feeds.feedburner.com/platformnation). Going through the news in the list will show you twenty articles on a page, with a click taking you to whatever the article has before the More tag. You can easily view the article from within the app to see the entire article, share the article with Twitter, Facebook, instapaper, or even email the link to yourself. There is also a section of the app for featured articles, which takes the top news from what you like and puts them in a list of about 8 tiles horizontally. Personally, I didn’t find it to be particularly useful, and usually just opted to go into the list of news for the particular topics I was interested in. There’s some lag time initially while it loads up all the news, and if you have a lot of categories, this could take a little time (30 seconds at most), but you can read what you had downloaded before while you wait. Overall, a solid news reader, and at 1MB, a lightweight one as well. Would be nice to see some Live Tile support (A top story headline perhaps).
AppFlow and WP7applist – App Discovery: I list these two different apps together because they both do the same thing, and do it well. Even with just 30,000 apps so far, finding what you want (or what you SHOULD want) can be a little tricky. Surfing through the default marketplace on the phone is hit or miss for app discovery, so using AppFlow or WP7applist will help wade through the crap to get to what you should have. Both feature search functions such as New & Impressive (new apps with high ratings), Apps Gone Free, and Highest Rated. AppFlow has a few more search functions, such as Hidden Gems (low download but high rating) or David vs. Goliath (Official and unofficial apps for the same function, compared together). WP7applist does have a nice live tile that shows the number of new marketplace releases in the last 24 hours. Pick up either one, and start finding more things to download.
Sudoku, Minesweeper and Flowerz – Games: Free games are always good. Free Xbox Live games are better. And free Xbox Live games with achievement points? Sign me up. Sudoku and Minesweeper should need no introduction. Both have a similar looking layout, with clean and crisp graphics that are both intuitive and responsive. As a nice added bonus, you gain experience for completing (or partial credit for failing) each game, and this experience will allow you to level up and unlock powerups. Examples of these powerups would be things like adding in all possible answers in pencil mode, or providing one correct answer (in Sudoku), or revealing a section of squares (which mark all the mines) or getting a shield that protects you from one mistake (in Minesweeper). These powerups use energy that is accumulated over time, so it doesn’t imbalance the games too much, it just adds a nice perk to playing. Both of these games offer 50 achievement points each. Flowerz, which is a match-3 game, offers 200 points. While well put together, the limited game modes in Flowerz will make it tough to plow through beyond the first couple of playthroughs. That being said, there is some decent challenge to the game, and I liked the leaderboard integration, that keeps you going by showing your score against what your friends have done in the game. I just wish it wasn’t so.. blah.
TouchDevelop – App Development: My final app for this first review is a great example of what I really hope is the new Microsoft when it comes to developing software that really makes your excited about them. TouchDevelop is a development tool for Windows Phone 7 that allows you to create apps from within the phone itself. Well, “Apps” is a strong word – scripts might be better, as you run them from within this app, but there is a social aspect in that you can publish your scripts for others to use. The tool is very robust, while still being accessible, and there are great tutorials to help you along. If you ever wanted to channel your inner developer, or if you want to see some of the stuff that other people are creating with this tool, check this app out. It stands out as being something truly unique and, well, awesome. I have a feeling that as more people get on board with this tool, you will begin to see some truly creative programs being shared, and this will only help to create cooler features for your phone.
Like I said, there are a TON of great free apps out there (and I have more that I use every day). Hopefully these apps will get you started on getting your news, finding new apps, playing some games, and maybe even making some of your own.
If you like what you read, or want to give feedback on what you want to see in the future, let us know in the comments section below.