Couple of months ago, I called WP8 “strictly mediocre” and I am sticking with it. One particular thing that has annoyed me with the OS is the lack of updates to the existing applications. I have been using windows phone since the pre NoDo days so I have been through every update and the amount of feature additions to native apps like - Phone, Calendar, Music, etc have been disappointing. So instead of us waiting for Joe Belfiore to announce the next iteration of Windows Phone 8 (simultaneously crossing our fingers for updated native apps, orientation lock, notification center, etc in the process) with updated native applications - I have compiled a bunch of applications that Microsoft could take notes from for future iteration of the OS and at this moment, you can even replace or complement these application with existing native applications on your Windows Phone.
- [highlight] CALENDAR [/highlight]
Unlike most of the native apps, Calendar is one of the most useful ones. However two critical features are missing:
- No weekly view. I cannot even imagine how Windows Phone team uses this application on daily basis but havent bothered to add a weekly view yet.
- WP8 and WP7.8 have large tiles now. So now you can have more information on both front of the tile and back of the tile. Best use case would have been appointments on calendar live tile but guess what – just one appointment on live tile per day. Outrageous? Indeed.
Chronos calendar has replaced the official calendar application on my home tile. Start up is a weekly view with single click to add appointment. You can hook up Microsoft and Google account to sync calendars locally. Region specific holiday support (limited yet growing) and most importantly, a live tile that shows all the appointments and successive appointments too making proper utilization of the big live tile.
Also what is commendable is the amount of customization available for the live tile. Love the attention to detail.
I am going to get a lot of flak for this but I just couldn’t resist. Well, let’s just say Alarm app does it’s job. Nothing fancy.
627.AM is an application that takes Alarm apps to the next level. As default – sets weekdays and weekend alarms separately. You can set alarm for every day at same time, modify individually and enable / disable accordingly in an absolute gorgeous UI that will make you fall in love with an Alarm application (which I didn’t think was possible). Not only that you get alarm notification on Live tile along with temperature and a To Do list. Couldn’t’ get better.
- [highlight]PEOPLE’S HUB[/highlight]
I am a big fan of People’s Hub. It’s probably my favorite native app and I end up using it a lot. However there is one very important and supremely basic feature that is missing from it – search via numbers. You just cannot search your contacts by number. I am sure it doesn’t quite a few people but based on all the feedback I have received over the years both online and offline – it’s apparently a big issue.
Rap dialer not only fixes this issue but it does it with an outstanding UX application. You have to experience it yourself to see what I am talking about. Some great gesture support coupled with features like speed dial, contact share, group SMS, etc. This is one application that I sincerely hope Microsoft has taken a cue from and implemented some of the goodies in their next iteration of People Hub.
Also see: People Search
People Search is a Rap dialer like app that also backs up your settings so when you move from one device to another – you can restore from the cloud. Nifty.
- [highlight]MUSIC [/highlight]
Xbox Music on Windows Phone 8 is pretty decent. Loads of fancy stuff including streaming but lo and behold – not the most basic thing in the world – a search button. You cannot input artist, song, album in a textbox because there isn’t any. It is frustrating.
Find My Music
Appropriately named app, Find my music, lets you search songs in your library. It does a lot of things – select the search query and you can choose to play that song or the entire album. You can have your background and live tile as a collage of your music album artwork. Pretty cool. However the fact that you can do more than just search is what makes me use it.
Also see: Listen
Listen breaks the metro UI mold and bring you something unique. Interesting UX couple with synchronized lyrics – It works as a great complement to the native music app for music lovers.
- [highlight]IE10 BROWSER [/highlight]
IE10 mobile should be used to define the word “barebones” in dictionary. It renders everything better than IE9, no doubt but as far as UI goes – it is weak. There is no feature worth mentioning to be honest.
UC Browser is one of the most popular applications in the marketplace with features like download manager, offline mode, visit as PC, incognito mode, speed dial and lot more make UC browser extremely feature rich and is the go to browser for a lot of users. Personally I am not a big of the UI – it is a bit cluttered but the features more than compensates for it. A right mix of IE10 UI and UC10 features would make a perfect web browser.
- [highlight]SPEECH RECOGNITION [/highlight]
Let’s just put it this way: It’s no Siri. In fact, it doesn’t come close the voice assistant.
Also see: Ask Ziggy
Both the application offer variety of voice commands and features to make up for the lack luster voice feature set on Windows Phone but then again, they are no Siri either! A proper native application update is required from Microsoft on this front.
- [highlight]CALCULATOR [/highlight]
Calculator is perfect for basic calculations but what if you need to do something complex? To the marketplace, we sail.
Calculator ^ 3 comes to the rescue. It has multiple modes – basic, scientific, programmer, currency and unit converter. Something for everyone out there.
Alright, that’s about it. There are several more applications that I would love to recommend but these are some of the essential applications that could either replace existing application or complement the existing ones. I don’t think I need to stress on the need for Windows Phone 8 native apps to be updated since it is so obvious and I have stated it before in detail but we are still waiting for any sort of clue for next iteration of Windows Phone to comment whether its being worked upon or not. Here is hoping Microsoft takes a cue from these applications and implement some of it in the next update. Hopefully we will see Joe Belfiore on stage of Nokia’s 14th May event making some significant announcement.
Did I miss any application? Let me know in the comments below.