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February 11, 2011

Pinworthy: Finding the best Windows Phone apps (#5)

Well, well, well. Things are getting a bit more interesting, aren’t they?

If you’ve been following the news today about Microsoft’s new partnership with Nokia, you might be wondering what it means for our favorite subject here on Pinworthy: apps. Just as I was pondering this question myself, Matt Bencke, a guy who’s very plugged into the world of Windows Phone apps and the whole Nokia deal, just posted his thoughts on the Windows Phone Developers Blog. It’s worth a read, even if you’re not a developer. 

My own takeaway from Matt’s post and today’s events: Whether you’re a talented app developer or just someone interested in a new smartphone, and you’ve been sitting cautiously on the sidelines wondering how this whole Windows Phone thing was going to play out, I’d say you have your answer.

Of course, the first thing that flashed through my mind when I woke up this morning and read the news was this: Nokia is based in the Finnish city of Espoo, not far from Helsinki. And you know who else is in Helsinki?

That’s right: Rovio, maker of Angry Birds. Coincidence?

I hope not.

Check out my 5 picks for this week’s most promising new Windows Phone apps and let me know what you think.



Outdoor Navigation

Outdoor Navigation


This gorgeous-looking app unleashes the power of your phone’s GPS and provides a slew of handy features for outdoorsy types. The highlights include street, satellite, and topographic maps; route planning and recording; a digital compass; and a dozens of trip-related tools, like the ability to share your your wanderings and favorite points of interest via Facebook or email.

I especially liked how Outdoor Navigation combines maps with pictures. For example, you can take a snapshot of something that interests you—a cool rock formation or a new restaurant—and see an embedded thumbnail of it on the map, right in the spot where you took it. The app also has a solid pedigree: The developer, GPS Tuner, has been making award-winning apps for smartphones and Pocket PCs for years. So if you hike, bike, jog, ski, boat, fish, or hunt, this app is worth a closer look.

Download Outdoor Navigation

Received: Feb 3.  Price: $4.99+free trial  


Windows Phone Insider

Windows Phone Insider

Windows Phone Insider

If you’re new to Windows Phone—or smartphones in general—this free app can help you quickly learn your way around and feel more at home. Windows Phone Insider offers tips, tricks, app picks, and free wallpapers from Bing. (Even pros might want to pick it up just for the free wallpapers.)

Tips and tricks come in the form of a self-guided scavenger hunt—the app challenges you to figure out how to complete basic tasks like pinning an app to your Start screen or playing music. If you get stuck, you’ll find links to Microsoft’s how-to articles for the answer.

Once you exhaust all the challenges, I suggest checking out the tips & tricks page on the Windows Phone website for more fun shortcuts. And—blatant plug alert—there’s always my book, which provides tons of info about the phone via lots of pretty pictures.

Download Windows Phone Insider

Received: Feb. 4. Price: free.


Flickr for Windows Phone 7

Flickr for Windows Phone 7

Flickr for Windows Phone 7

This will be old news to some of you, but just in case you missed it: Yahoo! released the official Flickr app, which is easily one of the week’s best apps (here’s a short video demo). The free app makes it easy to upload your shots to the popular photo service. You can also browse other people’s photos, favorite or comment on images, and share via Facebook and Twitter.

Download Flickr for Windows Phone 7

Released: Feb. 2. Price: free


NY Times Newsreader




The NY Times Newsreader is a dedicated RSS reader that provides a handy way to browse all the paper’s stories and Twitter feeds. This app was developed by 7AppsLabs, which has cranked out nearly 20 dedicated newsreaders for Windows Phone. This is one of their better efforts.

Flick your finger to choose from 14 major news sections of the paper—including U.S. and world news, business, technology, sports, science, arts, opinion, and more—and more than 100 subsections.  You can save your favorite articles, browse the Times’ Twitter feed, and send friends your favorite reads via email, and go directly to the full articles on the Times’ website via Internet Explorer Mobile.

Download NY Times Newsreader

Received: Feb. 8. Price: free


Balloon Gunner

Balloon Gunner
Balloon Gunner

Major props to Matthew Milton, the indie author of this fun 3-D shooter, for what must have been some challenging solo coding work.  Balloon Gunner is already a fun title, and I predict it’s only going to get better over time.

You pilot a balloon outfitted with various weapons, including cannons, missiles, and bombs. Tilt your phone to swoop or accelerate toward your enemies, who are visible on your radar display. The paid version of the game comes with 40 missions against different kinds of enemies—from balloons to biplanes to more futuristic craft. The free trial lets you play just the first 3 levels.

While the flight physics felt realistic and the aerial dogfights had me unconsciously leaning sideways at times, there are limits to your flying. You can’t crash, for example.  I think the game would be even more fun with those risks in play. Also, the explosions and other animations could use some touching up. Otherwise, a solid effort worth checking out.

Download Balloon Gunner

Released: Feb. 5. Price: $1.29 + free trial.