The 30 Best Windows Phone Apps

The 30 Best Windows Phone Apps

Windows Phone, as such, is going away. Before the end of the year it will be replaced by Windows 10, or more specifically, Windows 10 Mobile. This is huge, as it will become a flavor of the same operating system that runs on more computers than any other. There will still, of course, be apps that make more sense for phones than for desktops. Those that make sense for both will be dubbed Universal apps. The tight integration with the leading desktop OS could give Windows on smartphones the boost it really needs, with lackluster sales of the handsets. Another fillip will be the new "hero" phone to be released with the new OS.

Windows 10 Bug ArtAnother development that will have massive effects for the Windows Phone app landscape will be Android near-compatibility with Windows 10 Mobile. Internet sleuths have discovered an Android subsystem in the latest Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview build. At its Build developer conference, Microsoft announced that Android and iOS apps would be a cinch for developers to port so they could run on Windows 10 Mobile. That should help open the floodgate of new apps to the Windows phone ecosystem and lessen people's apprehension about making the switch.

But why make the switch? There are several reasons this is an appealing mobile OS. The tile home-screen design not only makes getting to the app you want easier (even with one-handed operation) but also displays info relevant to the app right on the home screen. The Facebook app shows your latest activity, and weather apps show current conditions and forecasts—without you even having to launch the apps. The tiles can be translucent, showing your image through, and the lock screen is more customizable and informative than that of the Apple iPhone, too. And the Rooms family sharing space and Kids Corner mode make the OS more family friendly than the alternatives.

Windows Phone's shape-writing keyboard with word prediction is the best I've used, blowing away any of the iOS add-in keyboards and even the Android stock keyboard. Other advantages include the Cortanavoice-response digital assistant. A bragging right over Android is that you're more likely to be running the latest OS version, since Microsoft will bypass the carriers when updating it. But another motivation to switch to Windows Phone is that you're an iconoclast and don't want to be another iPhone- or Android-toting clone; you want to stand out from the crowd.

 

 

Indeed, people who own Windows Phone love their operating system, according to PCMag's Readers' Choice survey. Some unique models are available for the platform as well, including the unmatched 41-megapixel camera-boasting Nokia Lumia 1020$149.99 at Amazon, the Lumia Icon, the Lumia 1520$199.99 at Best Buy phablet, and the stylish HTC One (M8) £219.98 at Amazon.

There's no denying that Windows Phone still trails iOS and Android in both the sheer number of apps and the speed with which hot new apps appear on the platform. But with over 300,000 entries now in the Windows Phone store, it's hard to complain about a dearth of apps. Yes, a lot of them are of questionable quality, but Microsoft recently announced measures to improve their profile. Of course, with that number available, our top 30 may not include your top app, but our choices are intended to have wide appeal. There were plenty of quality candidates that we weren't able to include.

The Windows Phone app situation isn't as bleak as it used to be: It's got you covered with pretty much all the essentials: Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Pandora, Spotify, Angry Birds, Temple Run, Words with Friends, Yelp; the list goes on. Don't forget that Windows Phones come with Microsoft Office Mobile, letting you view, edit, and sync Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents with the ultimate in file compatibility.

We've also seen releases of hit apps Dropbox, Instagram, and Vine, as well as apps for widely used services such as Mint and Evernote. Gamers get some exclusives not found on other mobile platforms, such as the Halo series and the Asphalt car racing games. A couple of hold-out app standards remain, however, including Snapchat and Pinterest, though there are third-party options available for all of these.

Another issue is feature-fullness of these apps. I've often run into the case where a top app is perfectly functional, but doesn't include all the features found in the iPhone or Android versions. There's good movement on this front, however, as well: Updates are rolling in for a good many major apps, with Mint and WhatsApp recently announcing major feature adds, including voice calling for the latter.

As with most mobile app stores, nearly all of the apps here are free. One advantage over the other app stores is that Windows Phone apps that cost money usually have a Try option, so you can test the app for a limited time period without having to pay a cent.

Without further ado, click the link below to get started on the journey through our top-recommended Windows Phone apps. They're organized five on a page, or you can alternatively view them as a slideshow by clicking the main image in this article. And if you think we've left out a star app, don't hesitate to mention it in the comments below.

Continue Reading: 6tag to Cool Tiles>

 

 

6tag
Free
I know that there's now an official Instagram app for Windows Phone that's perfectly serviceable even though it's still in beta, and I know it's a top downloaded app. But 6tag, at least for now, offers a far richer Instagram experience. You get in-app photo and video shooting (not in the official app) with all the filters, tagging, and so on. It even offers a cool map view of your photos, and the latest version lets you save videos to your SkyDrive cloud storage. My only concern is the possibility of Instagram shutting down 6tag's API access, in which case you can simply switch to the official app. 

 

 

 

 


Angry Birds Star Wars

Free
The archetypal phone game took a hit last year with accusations of its use by the NSA. But Rovio, the company behind the app flatly denied that it played an espionage role. Indeed, it's been posited that just by using a Windows Phone, you're outside the NSA and European spy agencies' gaze. But that aside, let's start flinging some birds at pigs—in space! The game follows the story of the three prequel Star Wars movies, and introduces Angry Birds versions of iconic characters such as young Anakin, Jango Fett, and Darth Maul. In addition, players can "Join the Pork Side" and play as one of the evil pigs. 

 

 

 

 

Asphalt 8: Airborne


Asphalt 8: Airborne
Free
Ever have the urge to floor a Lamborghini? This racing app not only lets you do that, but adds 46 other cars to the mix. You can also perform airborne stunts like barrel rolls and 360s in a choice of nine settings, including the Nevada desert and Venice. A multiplayer option allows up to eight competitors, or you can challenge a friend to an asynchronous race. At 820MB, though, it's not a small app, so you'll want to be in Wi-Fi range and have some free storage. 

 

 

 

Bejeweled Live +

 

$2.99 (free trial available)
Who needs Candy Crush Saga? Instead, play its more-gleaming original, Bejeweled! This version of Popcap's classic match-three game offers five modes: Classic, Diamond mine, Lightning, Butterfly and Zen. I actually like this better than the iPhone version, because of its cooler animations and larger display.

 

 

Cool Tiles

 

Free
People generally seem to like Windows Phone's tile-based interface, which for one thing makes it easy to use the phone with one hand. Cool Tiles not only lets you do more with home-screen tiles, such as using your own images on them and assigning basic settings to tiles, but even offers a replacement for the main phone interface that looks more like iOS or Android's grid of buttons. 

 

Dropbox

 

Free with 2GB; $9.99 per month for 1TB.
Personally, I prefer OneDrive for all my file storing and syncing needs, but Dropbox is a hugely popular service with more than 400 million users, so it merits a place in our top apps list. It's a Windows Universal app (one that runs on Windows Phone as well as Windows PCs). It furthers Dropbox's aim to have all your documents and digital media available on all your devices all the time. The Dropbox app was built by rock star Windows Phone developer Rudy Huyn, the same author of the Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder, and Wikipedia apps. It does a solid job of giving you access to your files, and includes an automatic-photo-uploading feature.

 

 

Evernote

 

Free, with Premium option for $5/month
Evernote has more name-recognition than the OneNote app that's been included with Microsoft Office for nearly 10 years (and is also included in Windows Phone's standard Office hub), but both serve about the same function: To let you quickly jot down notes along with links, images, audio notes, and handwriting. Organization of your notes is a strong point, with notebooks, stacks of notebooks, and tagging at your disposal, as is powerful search. The Windows Phone Evernote app lets you pin a particular note right to the phone's start screen.

 

 

Facebook

 

Free
I see a lot of people looking at cell phones on my way to work every day, and the No. 1 thing I see them doing is looking through their Facebook news feed. These days, not having Facebook is pretty much like not having a telephone. The built-in Windows Phone People app lets you hook up your Facebook (and Twitter) contacts and see the latest updates, but the official Facebook app lets you do every kind of Facebooking—posting updates, photos, and check-ins. You can pin tiles to the home screen for Facebook messages, Places check-in, or groups, as well as just for the overall app. One of our absolute favorite features, though, is that you can have the app set your lock screen to cycle through your top-liked photos.

 

 

Flixster

 

Free
One of modern life's great conundrums is which movie is worth your valuable time and money. Flixster is abundantly up to the task of helping you to make the decision, with trustworthy reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, trailer viewing, and box office rankings. It also shows you what's playing nearby, keeps you abreast of the latest DVD releases, and lets you watch your UltraViolet movie collection. One downside: There's no in-app theater ticket purchasing.

 

 

 


Halo: Spartan Assault 
$4.99
Halo has long been one of the legends of first-person shooter video games, and PCMag thought well enough of this sequel to award it a 4 out of 5 rating. You don't need to have ever played the game's previous versions to enjoy this one: Its gorgeous graphics and fun, touch-based gameplay will draw you in. The music is quite impressive, too, not the typical low-budget canned electro stuff. A perk is that you can pause the game on one device (PC, Windows 8 tablet, or Windows Phone) and pick it back up from the same spot on another.

 

 

 

Hulu

 

Free Subscription required ($7.99/mo)
Need to catch up on Family Guy, Glee, or Modern Family but you're nowhere near a television? Hulu offers not only recent hit sitcoms, reality shows, crime stories, and the whole gamut of boob tube offerings, but also, at the other end of the visual entertainment spectrum, the high-end film library of the Criterion Collection. Also choose from children's shows, Latin fare, documentaries, and many other genres. While watching, you can skip to anywhere in a movie or show, or continue watching on another device where you left off. 

 

Kik Messenger

 

Free
This free text messaging app is a hit among connected youths, maybe partly because it doesn't require your phone number for identification, as WhatsApp and Viber do. The app is more than just Aol Instant Messenger updated, however: Kik Messenger lets you include photos in your messages and engage in group chat. Setup is a snap, and there are versions of the app for pretty much every mobile operating system you can think of, so you won't lack for people to chat with.

 

 

LastPass

 

Free app download; $12 per year service subscription. 
You need a password manager. I can't stress that enough. Not only does it make everything you do online more secure, but it makes your life easier in ways that you might not have envisioned. Not only does a password manager create nearly impossible-to-guess passwords, but, with a master passphrase, lets you access them from any devices with an Internet connection. You can launch and sign into mobile sites with a click, but unlike the app on other platforms, LastPass on Windows Phone doesn't integrate with other apps. An ancillary two-factor authentication app such as Duo Mobile is recommended to make LastPass even more secure.

 

 

Mint

 

Free
Intuit's purchase of this Web-based personal finance planner has lent credibility to the Web wunderkind that appeared on the scene in 2007. Mintservice lets you check on all your bank account, credit card, and investment balances in one place. The app lets you keep track of and categorize your spending, helping you stick to a budget. It can also help you figure out your true net worth and what you owe.

 

 

 


Minecraft: Pocket Edition
$6.99 
Microsoft wasn't messing around when it picked up Minecraft for $2.5 billion from Mojang. The blocky world-creating-and-sharing blockbuster game pretty much defines today's tween generation. It's also a showcase for Microsoft's futuristic HoloLens 3D reality-augmenting headset. The phone app supports all the Minecraft activities fans are accustomed to, including Survival and Creative modes, multiplayer over a Wi-Fi, infinite worlds, caves, biomes, mobs, villages, custom skins, fishing, boats, and more.

 

 

 

Netflix

 

Free Subscription required ($7.99/mo.)
The smallest screen has gotten bigger, and now provides a reasonable way to view video entertainment. As the predominant source of streaming movie and TV show content, Netflix is the go-to source for such entertainment, and the Windows Phone Netflix app is up to the task. It lets you continue watching shows you started on a bigger device, or choose new selections and add them to your queue. It's full-featured yet minimalist player interface make for a viewing experience that's just right.

 

 

Pandora

 

Free; $4.99 per month for ad-free listening.Listening to your favorite music on the go is a mobile must. The Windows Phone Pandora app lets you do just this. It was ad-free till the start of 2014, but I don't notice ads in the app. The streaming music service has a genre and even sub-genres for every taste. Though you can't specify exact songs for your playlists, you can skip up to six songs that don't please. The app lets you pin your favorite stations as start screen tiles, which display the currently playing song, as does the lock screen. It even knows to block explicit songs if a child's account is using the mobile. Just as important as any of this is the service's top-notch sound quality.

 

 

Ruzzle

 

$2.99
A fast-moving word game, Ruzzle has you swipe across, up, down, and diagonally to create as many words as you can in a set amount of time. You can compete against Facebook friends or Twitter followers, or just random folk across the Internet. The game keeps track of your achievements, like word length, accuracy, and ranking. One cool feature is that you can use a split screen mode to play across a table with someone in the room. A free version includes advertisements. 

 

Shazam

 

Free
Shazam may no longer seem like it works by magic, but it's still a darn useful app if you fancy the terpsichorean art. Or if you're just at a bar and love what's playing but don't know who's performing the tune. If you couldn't use Windows Phone's built-in search to identify music, Shazam would be indispensable, since the onboard capability will serve most users' needs. Nevertheless, Shazam is a fuller solution, with off-line tagging, local tune suggestions, and the enjoyable LyricPlay feature that scrolls through songs' words as you listen.

 

 

Skype

 

Free
The video phone is here, and it's Skype! Of course, your video-calling partner doesn't need a Windows Phone: You can Skype with anyone on just about any platform you can think of—Android, iPhone, Mac, or Windows PCs. And there's a whole lot more to Skype than just the marquee video-chatting feature: It also lets you send instant messages, and make calls and send SMS texts to regular cell and land phones for very low rates.

 

 

Spotify

 

Free; $9.99 per month for ad-free listening.
Music lovers have swarmed to this all-you-can-eat sonic buffet. The thing that distinguished Spotify from the start is that, unlike Pandora, it lets you specify the precise songs and albums you want to listen to. You can either get this convenience by enduring occasional advertisements or by paying $9.99 per month (the same as an Xbox Music (now Groove) subscription; in fact that service is nearly identical, except you can also listen on an Xbox). This year's update adds the Your Music feature and excellent tools for discovering new music. The music catalog is comprehensive and sound quality excellent.

 

 

Tube Pro

 

Free
The official YouTube app from Microsoft is a bit disappointing, due to limitations imposed by Google. For example, it doesn't let you record and upload videos! Tube Pro doesn't have that limitation and offers plenty of other goodies on both the video consuming and uploading sides. For example, you can save videos for offline viewing. It also makes good use of distinctive Windows Phone interface features like tiles and swiping.

 

 

TuneIn Radio

 

Free
Use this app to play any Web-streamed radio broadcast on earth. TuneIn Radiocan find local radio stations, has a sleep timer, and can keep playing in the background while you do other things with your PC. Stream categories include local radio, music, sports, news, and talk. And you can search by other locations or find and play podcasts. I only wish the app let me choose a bit rate for stations that offered several, like those from SomaFM, but this app shares that limitation with its iOS version. I also wish there were an ad-free version I could buy for Windows Phone.

 

 

Twitter

 

Free
Twitter seems like such a simple thing: write 140-character microblog entries and subscribe to those of other people. But what about seeing full conversations or dealing with multiple accounts? The Windows Phone Twitter app lets you do these things in an ad-free, clearly designed user interface. It also lets you include photos and location with your tweets, and you can watch Vine videos right inside the app. 

 

Viber

 

Free
Viber offers a subset of Skype's features, with the added benefit of letting you send calls between your different devices such as a Windows 8 tablet and smartphone. Like Skype, it offers free user-to-user calling, with cheap rates available for calling standard mobile phones and landlines. Viber features a fun texting interface, and since it uses data and not SMS and works on just about every mobile OS (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Windows, Mac, Symbian, Nokia S40 and Bada) it's sort of an answer to Apple's iMessage for those without iPhones.

 

 

 

22. vine


Vine
Free
I was a real Vine skeptic when it first came out: Six seconds? What can you show in six seconds? It turns out that a lot of very clever Vine users have proven me wrong, in this video version of Twitter. The Windows Phone app lets you enjoy all those mini-vids from your followers and even shoot and upload your own. Since our last roundup, it's been updated to include shooting helpers like the ghosting feature for stop motion and direct messaging.

 

 

 

23. The Weather Channel
The Weather Channel

 

Free
With all the drastic weather that's been going on during this past year, you really never know what to expect. You could really be in trouble if not for consulting an app like the Weather Channel. Yes, like iPhone, Windows Phone comes with a tolerable weather app pre-loaded. But the Weather Channel's Windows Phone app offers far more detailed weather information from a reliable source in a pleasing and clear design. In it you'll find radar maps, hourly and 10-day forecasts, and videos of local and general interest. Extras include the severe weather center and the ability to browse user-contributed iWitness weather photos.

 

 

WhatsApp

 

Free
Can a billion people be wrong? That's the number of active users that this messaging app is quickly approaching (it's already passed that number of downloads for Android alone). The big news for the latest Windows Phone update is that it now supports Internet calling as well as messaging. You can also use it to send photos and videos, and voice messages. Sign-in is easy, just requiring your phone number, which also means your phone contacts are automatically accessible. You can also use the app to share your location, conduct group chat, and send and receive messages even if you or your contact are offline.

 

 

 


Words with Friends
$2.99
Maybe it's just me, but I find this app from Zynga indispensable: It gives me a way to keep in touch with far-flung friends on a daily basis, as well as scratch my wordplay itch. Words With Friends is a variant of Scrabble that was made famous by a scrap involving Alec Baldwin on a jetliner. But more than that, it offers built-in chat, asynchronous play, and the ability to keep 20 games running simultaneously. Play with someone you know or be matched with a random person on the Internet.

 

 

 

Yelp

 

Free
What's the point of having a smartphone if it doesn't show you the nearest Starbucks, pizza place, bar, or gas station? You could use the built-in maps for this, but Yelp is the last world on crowd-sourced ratings for all manner of local storefronts. The Yelp community is the best measuring stick I've found for ratings of local establishments. You can also check in for deals and add your own reviews right from the app.


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