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Here’s my take on the most interesting and useful Windows Phone news from the past week. Love it? Hate it? Jot down a comment and let me know!
Big updates for Angry Birds, Facebook and more
It was a big week for app updates in Marketplace. First, Rovio added 90 new levels to their blockbuster game Angry Birds. This update unlocks Episodes 10 and 11, and brings the total number of levels in the game to 245. Download it now. But that’s just for starters. A bunch more big-name apps also received notable upgrades this week, including Facebook, Groupon, USA Today, Evernote (blog), and WordPress (blog).
11 tips for taking better pictures on your Windows Phone
Has your phone become your primary camera? Then you’ll want to check out Dave Johnson’s handy PC World article that offers some suggestions for squeezing better shots from your Windows Phone. One of his suggestions is to stock up on image-enhancing apps. Not sure where to start? Check out Know Your Mobile’s list of top 5 photography apps in Marketplace.
Sydney’s top Windows Phone apps…
Who the heck is Sydney and why should you care? Good question. Sydney is Sydney Myers, teen lifestyle editor of the mobile tech site Phonedog. You may remember that we featured Sydney here last week when she wrote an illuminating essay on why she switched to Windows Phone from Android. Well, now Sydney has struck again. This time she’s named her 10 favorite Windows Phone apps, and it’s a refreshingly quirky list. Always fun to see the phone, and Marketplace, through the eyes of a new convert. Check out her list
Gizmodo, meanwhile, maintains its own authoritative lists of what its editors deem the absolute best apps for each major mobile platform. The lists are updated monthly, and Giz just published its Windows Phone picks for July. Which Marketplace apps made the cut? Click here to find out. “Windows Phone 7 is impressively rounding itself to an awesome OS,” the editors write in the new intro.
Tips for managing your contacts
Device Magazine publishes a regular tips column on Windows Phone that’s perfect if you’re new to the phone—or smartphones in general. Geared to beginners, the latest installment is about better ways to manage your contacts. Check it out. And don’t forget about our own popular tips sheet on the Windows Phone website.
Now on Windows Phone: Cro-Mag Rally
Say hello to Cro-Mag Rally, the first kart-racing game on Xbox LIVE for Windows Phone. The game features a two-player mode, nine race tracks, and several vehicles—plus 200 achievement points. The game, which costs $2.99 and includes a free trial, is for anyone who needs their arcade racing fix. Download it now
I'm a longtime Windows Mobile professional and I was planning on switching from my HTC HD2 to a portrait QWERTY Mango device from Nokia or Samsung however since Microsoft pulled the plug in July on the Windows Mobile Marketplace and the My Phone app I'm strongly considering jumping to Android. This move by Microsoft made my HD2 prematurely obsolete. I also miss the efficient tactile QWERTY keyboard I had on my WM 6.5.3 Palm Treo Pro.
As a road warrior the clincher for me not being able to rationalize waiting for a Mango device much longer are the following statements from Concur.
These statements from Concur are an absolute contradiction.
1) Our relationships with each of our customers is of paramount importance to us at Concur.
2) We recognize and honor that many companies have chosen Windows Phone 7 as their platform of choice.
3) We do not currently support Windows phones and it is not in our short term roadmap to do so.
This does not compute. Statements 2+3 equal the opposite of 1.
Therefor until Concur changes statement 3 to read:
"Windows phones are on our short term roadmap."
Concur is actually saying:
"Our relationships with each of our customers are of very little importance to us at Concur.
If Microsoft can't convince Concur to support the Windows Phone platform by September 30th I will become a former Windows Mobile professional.
This is great progress, but we really need some weekly updates as far as WP's upcoming marketing plans. How hard will MS push Mango devices and from how many angles? Updates are important to us current subscribers but we're not enough to keep the platform afloat. Please let us known that all your hard work and efforts will finally be made public,,, if that's the case.
@u2dave: plenty of expense tracking apps. Why that one in particular?
Contradiction is standard practice for most businesses and governments. If you're really interested in getting concur on the platform, have them contact Brandon Watson. He'll evangelize them. If you choose to leave, I'm pretty sure you'll be back later.
Enjoy Windows Phone 7.1!
@Leigh It's not realy my personal choice. Since my company (One of the other top 10 IT companies) along with many other US businesses outsources our travel to AMEX Travel and Concur is their online expense tracking and approval system. Concur Mobile is simply the smart client for the online Concur travel/expense system.
In the past I've always advocated that Windows smartphones are for working professionals but now that my coworkers with their Androids, iPhones and Blackberrys have business apps like Concur Mobile the opposite is becoming true.
With so many working US business professionals using Concur it would probably be worth Brandon Watson's time to help convince American Express Travel to support Windows smartphones with their Concur Mobile App.
Even though I am a longtime fan of Microsoft products I need to pick a platform that supports the business apps I need to be more productive.
Sometimes, I wish there were a lot less apps available for download. Some of the crap that is currently on the Marketplace is unbearable to scroll through.
Looks pretty sweet. Keep up the good work!
@U2Dave....might I suggest the Dell Venue Pro. That will give you your keyboard. And while I can't help you with suggestions on Concur, it might well be that Concur couldn't work on current WP7 devices (necessary APIs not available, etc.). Once Mango comes out maybe the platform will be complatible with how their development team would implement that app. What do THEY say when you talk to them?
Completely agree with you there's just too much crap in the marketplace and atimes the best apps are right at the bottom of the list
@u2dave to your point as well if a company uses Concur (mine does) not having support for a particular mobile platform (such as Windows Phone) may discourage adoption of that platform in the workplace. Right now, my company is moving away from BB to Iphone and lack of support from a player like Concur will certainly curb any effort to Support Windows Phone in the future.
Now isn't THAT funny? In an age where most people seem to stand on the "my phone has more apps than your phone", people are actually complaining that there are too many apps? I wonder if I could suggest that WP7 users are more discriminating and, dare I say, a bit smarter than iPhone or Android users because we aren't fooled by the sheer number of apps--we're more interested in significant UTILITY of the apps that are available? Just a thought.
I agree with Angel...there are way too many apps that are total crap. Wish I could sort apps by ratings. At least then I could avoid most of the crap!
@Angel, Kenny, Scuba, Hawk: Interesting discussion. Do you think that it would be helpful--in addition to the typical automated sorting options you find in an app store--to have more lists and articles written by discriminating humans that feature or call out good/interesting apps?
Would you find that useful?
Or would you still feel compelled to slog through all the new entries in Marketplace yourself regardless?
I'm tempted to say "Yes Yes 100000 times Yes" but....the problem is that your app preferences may not be the same as my app preferences. For example, I hated the accuweather app (it broke my live tiles they no longer refreshed!) but I like the weather channel app, (it could use some speed improvements). But I keep hearing about the accuweather (or weather bug, which I never got a working live tile for).
That being said, apps where there are 300 free versions (I'm looking at you flashlight!) it might be beneficial to have a discerning human give the top 1 (or 2 maybe) or at least tell us "None use the LED, so yeah...just give up."
Or Weight watcher's points. The official app isn't all that great, but even before an official app there were like 5 unofficial ones, maybe have a discerning human limit that down?
"Quality over Quantity" (Noting prior mention about number of apps) I couldn't agree more.
We need quality in advertising as well!
Update Samsung Omnia 7 - 'NoDe'
we just please help.
@Michael Stroh....I think that would, in fact, be helpful, but I'm struggling to imagine what form that would take. I think most realize that there are often user reviews that you can read when you look at the details of an app. And, of course, there area number of recognized sites that do frequent reviews of individual or like-category apps. Having some sort of consolidated place for that might be better, but, again, I try to look at solutions from a Lean perspective, and I can't think of a good proposal. It should be something that really answers the Voice of the Customer, but is easy enough to maintain by Microsoft--or whomever--that it's a reliable source. Most processes fail because they are cumbersome to maintain.
Speaking more to the direct problem statement, there are so many apps of dubious value & quality (plethora of comic book apps, for example) that it does make it challenging to even DO an "new app" list and find something that strikes our fancy. To be honest, every few days I go into Zune and pull up the New Apps just to see if there's anything that I might want--it might not be something I was specifically looking for, but sometimes "window shopping" reveals some gems. If Zune had a "Review/Comparison" section or if there was a WP7 app for that, something like that might work. Of course, doing reviews & comparisons is always time intensive and, to some degree, subjective. Personally, I find comparison reviews much more helpful (e.g., compare weather apps).
I know Microsoft has made some changes to their app policy while trying to keep the process as easy as possible for developers--and it's helped some. I noticed that additional categories have shown up in the Marketplace, which helps create more specificity when looking for apps. And, of course, the star-rating is there as you list apps. Perhaps also adding the count of reviews to the star-rating? I tend to place more validity in a 5-star rating if it's had 30 reviews than if it's only had 6. Perhaps, also, creating an icon for "Editor's Pick". As a scuba diver, I like when the magazines do comparisions and then also mark their Pick. Again, these are resource intensive, and I'm struggling to come up with a good suggestion on execution.
@Scuba, Michael (spelled properly this time!)
Something else to consider is the fact that too many people are using for their iconography official images and names causing confusion.
I hold as my example CNN. Run that through the ZUNE marketplace. I count 10 or 11 apps that are all using the name "CNN" and the "CNN logo." Not a single one of these is official, several are pay apps and a few are just varients (the various sections of CNN's website) If I punch in recognizable name (Like CNN, Bank of America, whatever) I don't mind extraneous apps showing up....BUT the first app that shows up ought be the official one (assuming one exists) and any that use official logos ought be official. Otherwise your just waiting my time having to plow through looking for an official app only to find one doesn't exist. (The same thing happens for BBC). What's worse is skimming these reviews, most of these apps are just RSS readers or even worse, wrappers for the CNN mobile page. How did this junk even make it past review, much less with official names and logos attached to them.
Oddly there was an official Colbert Report app, it got pulled and now some crappy unofficial one is the only thing that comes up when you search.
Obviously there would be plenty of exceptions, but how about creating subcategories? For example under "tools" would be
"non phone tools" and then the "flashlights", "compasses", "levels" etc. And keep it dynamic to grow as the market changes. This would simplify searches also.
I'll like to say tes,though not so sure about how to implement it,but I think it can be done neatly.for example,Mustard software have different apps for each category of Yahoo news,same as EZ who have different weather apps for each city.things like this this should not be allowed it just makes the list to browse lengthy.I for one love the HTC hub and the way the weather works there,I can add cities if I want,the live tile updates itself when I travel from one city to another.
Another idea I just thought of is to include the number of times an app was downloaded
@Kenny Rawlins, exactly my point: Multiple apps whose only differentiation is that they are a different city should be prohibited. If you can't write the app to allow the user to load or select what they want, then go back to developer's school.
@tsrblke, I like the idea of having the official app always be the first one of the list and then, maybe, followed by the rest sorted by rating? Or, have a sort option at the top (alpha, rating, official, etc.). After all, let's face it, sometimes the official app is NOT the best one (e.g., 4th & Mayor was way better than the official Foursquare app until recently).
Your point is well taken, but if I punch in "Foursquare" return Foursquare. Perhaps then return apps using some algorithm involving similarity mixed with downloads. Rightnow punching in "Foursquare" nets me 1) foursquare (yay!) 2) Droid 7 (WTF?) and 3) 4th and Mayor (which your right was better until 2.0). But what if 4th and Mayor hadn't been so run away popular? What if it were like news apps where people were downloading them en masse trying to find the good ones? That's what the rest of the marketplace looks like. If official apps came first, followed by the highest downloaded SIMILAR apps (based on category and something else) we'd be a lot better off.
Also 4th and Mayor is a perfect counter example to what I said (i.e. how it should be done). No where in the title or logo did it say or use iconography that said "Foursquare" thus telling me that it wasn't official. I'm like that, really. I guess what I really want is MS to purge trademarked things that aren't legit.
Meanwhile on multiple City things. Yes, 1000 times yes...but. I can see a few problems. Transit sites may use wildly different API's to plug into their schedules and bush locators. I'm not a programmer, is it possible to handle that well in one app? If so then yeah, MS should od a marketplace cull going through and removing devs who clearly just spammed the marketplace.
I guess I'd have to understand more about the Transit thing. I don't do mass transit here in the U.S. I was forced to experience it a bit back in the 80's when I was on a show tour, but it seems to be a well-crafted app would take variations into account. It seems just a bit.....lazy....to me to just pump out 32 transit apps for 32 individual cities. If other developers can load in-app to grab additional content, I'd have to hear a pretty compelling reason why it can't be done with those apps, too.
Fair point, and I'm sure at least a few of them have overlapping systems. So there should be some condense down somewhere.
hi..im very happy user with my windows 7 mbile.. still looking for the following features in upcoming windows phones::
to access apps in phone..implememt zune local place/zune system place (like zune market place)
with same zune market interface (add recent /favorite apps)in horizontal...direction
search box metro ui interface (it should first list from metro interface tiles..next go to apps)
one common mail box live tile for all mail configured in the mobile(hotmail.gmail.yahoo mail) implement mil box/virtual mail
one common live tile chat box for all chat clents configured (fb.msn.skype.yahoomail) chat box/virtual chat it should list all the availble people from all the chat clients configured
@srikanth reddy....On accessing apps in the phone, I'm not sure what you mean. The method now used makes better sense on the phone, e.g., pinned apps & hubs on the Start page and the entire list of apps swiped to the right. Mango will add the jump list (like the People Hub and the Zune Hub).
On the second issue of "Favorite/Recent" apps, again, this is where your Start page comes in. I'm trying to see what the value would be of a THIRD page that just holds recently used apps. If they are recent enough for me to want to call up, I darn well would add them to my Start page.
I don't understand what you mean by the "Search box metro UI interface". Mango adds local search to the search capabilities.
On the 'one common mailbox live tile" you already have that in the current release of WP7. I have four different email addresses all connected within Hotmail. If you go into the Inbox and then select the dropdown for Options you'll see where you can easily configure Hotmail to send AND/OR receive from multiple accounts. You can also configure it to either drop them all into the same inbox folder or separate ones. Once this is configured in Hotmail, your WP7 device will show all those different email sources as one live tile. I love it. And, since it's "managed" from within Hotmail, it doesn't matter whether I'm on my Samsung Focus, my laptop or my desktop computers, the user experience is identical. Mango will enhance the email experience for handling multiple accounts as well.
Regarding one common live tile for chat....there's more integration coming in Mango, as well as threading, so I think most of what you're looking for will be incorporated there.
@srikanth reddy and Scuba
Mango is going to include combined inboxing as well. I can understand why some people don't want to have to do it through hotmail. I like my mail accounts to be seperate, but I'm sure some people would like to only have one on the phone (even if they're seperate on a nonmobile device).
@tsrblke....now, see, I really don't understand why a person who wants a consolidated inbox wouldn't want to let Hotmail do it. It has a very good spam filter (which I didn't realize initially) and so it's taking in all my various email addresses and cleaning the garbage out on top of any spam filtering that my individual email providers might be doing. I suppose I could be convinced, but the fact that I have a consistent presentation regardless of platform makes much more sense to me--it's a lot easier to spot an anomaly.
@everyone who answered my question. Thanks, guys. Lots of good points and ideas here. I especially like the one about the official version of app X appearing at the top of search results. As for finding great apps, my own personal feeling as someone who tries to stay familiar with and uses all the major app stores is that common search pivots like New or Top are handy--but not the only answer. I think automated app lists and lists compiled by people ("Top 10 Amazing Indie Games You've Never Heard Of") are complimentary, and it's good to have both.
As a result, expect to see more of the latter here. :-) Please keep the thoughts, opinions, and suggestions coming.
thanks..for giving solutions on my quires...