Category Archives: applications

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Improving the native Windows Phone app experience with third party applications

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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

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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.

  • [highlight]ALARM[/highlight]

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

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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

 

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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

 

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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

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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

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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.

Maluuba

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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.

Calculator3

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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.

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Lumia Storage Check beta updated – now store your offline map data on SD Card!

Nokia detailed their latest “should have been made by Microsoft in the first place” Lumia exclusive application – Storage Check. As the name suggest – Storage check gives you a visual look at storage management on your device. There are separate sections for applications, games and media. You can also take a look at how much space individual application is taking and most importantly – you can clear out temporary storage as well. Storage Check was made available on specific firmware last week but some users faced issues in the application while most didn’t get access to it. Nokia’s betalabs however has released an updated version of the application, now in beta stages, to be made available for download.

Complete change log here.

The most nifty addition to the list is that you can now store your offline maps in SD card. I am sure lot of you guys are struggling with the “Other Storage” issue or having trouble living with inbuilt storage (like me) – this feature will be extremely useful.

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Next ideal step? Get applications to be stored on SD Card. If Gameloft and other publishers keeps releasing those 1GB+ games, there is going to be a lot of demand for it soon.

Get the application from BetaLabs and do check the minimum firmware requirement before you proceed.

 


 

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Hulu Plus Coming to Windows Phone

One of Windows Phone major complaints by consumers is the lack of applications that are found on Android and iOS. While Windows Phone has been criticized for its application delay, things are changing. Developers are coming and creating apps for Windows Phone that are prominent mainstays on Apple’s iOS platform and on Android’s platform like Temple Run and Chaos Rings. Now it’s time to add Hulu Plus to that list.

When asked about a Windows Phone app, Hulu gave a lot more than the usual teasing of application response that has been seen from other prominent developers:

Thanks for writing in with your interest in using Hulu Plus on your Windows Phone. We get a lot of requests for this platform, and we’ve been working on making it available for some time. In fact, the app should be released in the near future.

As soon as we’ve announced upcoming support for a device, we’ll be sure to post it on our Hulu Plus devices page (www.hulu.com/plus/devices). I’m sorry that Windows Phone 8 platforms are currently unsupported, but If you have an other questions whatsoever, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Thanks,
Duncan R.

And another major app comes to Windows Phone. So, what does everyone think?

via: reddit

Gaana.com Windows Phone app now available

Quick heads up. It’s been a long wait but Gaana.com has finally released a Windows Phone app. Gaana.com is a good mix of Grooveshark like UI and Spotify like music subscription service (more details on upcoming premium service Gaana+ service here). Competitor services like Dhingana and Saavn don’t have a Windows Phone application as of now (however the services are offering their mobiles apps on iOS, Android and even the Nokia S40 devices – of course).

Gaana.com application was published live in the Windows Phone at Tech Ed 2013 in Bangalore today by Satyan Gajwani, CEO of Times Internet. The application is available for both Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 devices. Playlists, radio, favorites, proper Metro UI application – nothing to dislike about this application except one  tiny bit – live tile. Not a big fan of the logo either on the homescreen. I’d highly recommend you try it out.

The application is being currently indexed in the marketplace so hit this link and push the application to your device remotely to get the application immediately.

 

 

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How to watch Twitch.tv streams on Windows Phone

Not only do I love gaming but I also love watching other people play live. Twitch.tv is my go to website for game related live stream – fantastic community – excellent streams and most importantly, it’s free. There’s one big problem though, Twitch.tv offers video streams in flash so there’s no way to watch the stream on mobile unless there’s a mobile application for it. Unfortunately for the users, Twitch doesn’t really care about Twitch app for Windows Phone. I sort of got tired of waiting for one and then finally gave up hope altogether.

Yesterday, I found this amazing application called FlashVide​o+TubeMusi​c, which added Twitch.tv stream support very recently. What it will do is scan the webpage and stream the video directly to your device. It works incredibly well and I recommend you buy this application for the amazing number of websites it supports besides Twitch. There’s one problem though, there’s no comment with video which I’d love to see but then again, I don’t think it’s possible to do that for third party developer. Hit the download link below for some Twitch.tv love because I don’t see it coming for WP8 anytime soon.

 

 FlashVide​o+TubeMusi​c for Windows Phone download link

 

Quick tip for the interested folks. More WP8 tips coming really soon, I finally have a Windows Phone 8 unit :)

p.s – it’s the HTC 8X

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ESPN Radio comes to Nokia Lumia devices

Nokia has been putting out exclusive apps for it’s Nokia Lumia customers and this is just cranking up. The owners of Nokia Lumia devices now enjoy exclusive apps like Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive, Nokia Transit, Nokia Music, ESPN, Camera Extras and many more. Nokia has released another app with this exclusivity – ESPN Radio.

ESPN Radio will have similar features like 35 different broadcasts, live listening to the World Series and other big games, and offline listening. It looks like a well designed app; it has a cool Metro design with the red look & feel of the familiar ESPN brand.

This looks like a must-have app for sports fans. It should be available for download in the Windows Phone Marketplace very soon.

Source: Nokia Conversations

RIP Metrotube

MetroTube is back in the marketplace, available for download in marketplace for free!

Metrotube is back and boy am I so glad! Developers LazyWormApps announced the return of Metrotube on July 5th and are now planning to release the application for free after giving up on finding an sustainable workaround for the issue.

I consume a lot of Youtube videos on my mobile and ever since MetroTube (previously LazyTube) left the marketplace, it’s never been the same. Developers LazyWormApps had to unfortunately pull the application from the marketplace due to a workaround they were using for streaming HQ videos. You can read more here. The application wasn’t available in the marketplace for 7 long months but it still worked and developers made sure the paid customers got a copy. The new version v3.1 is being made available at download link below and you can now enjoy MetroTube for free.  There is a downside for it though for the developers – the application won’t be paid anymore but now they will reach more users than ever before and I hope they cover it up with user comments / feedback. So don’t forget to review the application!

MetroTube for Windows Phone download link

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Official Encyclopaedia Britannica app now available in Windows Phone marketplace

Britannica Encyclopaedia  was first published in print in the year 1768 and last print edition came out in 2010 – clearly digital is the way forward for the company. Clearly, digital is the way forward for the company comprising of more than 4,000 authors to date. Britannica Encyclopaedia partnered with Microsoft recently which would enable answers from Britannica Encyclopaedia Online to be included in Bing. I guess Bing integration wasnt the only thing that was part of the deal – Britannica Encyclopaedia also launched their Windows Phone application in the marketplace.

 

Encyclopaedia Britannica for Windows Phone

Encyclopaedia Britannica for Windows Phone

I haven’t tried the application yet because there is NO trial version available which is disappointing. The application will cost you $4.99 for the first year. Download link below:

Download Britannica Encyclopedia for Windows Phone 

p.s – Remember in the early 2000 when Britannica and Microsoft Encarta fought it out in the digital space (CD ROM War!). Look how things have changed now :)

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Windows Phone 8 in-depth: Screen resolutions

Windows Phone 7 devices that have launched till date have had WVGA i.e. 800 x 480 resolution. Microsoft’s initial roadmap suggested the addition of HVGA i.e. 320 x 480 to the supported screen resolutions for low-end, cheaper devices for specific markets. But, we haven’t seen any Windows Phone device with a HVGA display yet. Every single device from the initial first generation Windows Phones like the HTC HD7 to the current crop of Mango devices like the Nokia Lumia 900 & even the lower-end Tango devices like the Nokia Lumia 610 have WVGA displays.

In the Windows Phone Summit on June 20, Microsoft announced new screen resolutions for Windows Phone 8. First, WVGA just like in the current crop of Windows Phone devices with a resolution of 800 x 480 and an aspect ratio of 15:9. Second, 720p with a resolution of 1280 x 720 with an aspect ratio of 15:9 widescreen. A number of high-end Android phones have 720p displays now. Third, WXGA (also referred to as 720p+) with a resolution of 1280 x 768 and an aspect ratio of 15:9. No other platforms support WXGA as of now. All existing Windows Phone 7.5 apps will run on all of the resolutions without any changes. Developers can optimize for the new resolutions if they want to, but they don’t have to.

So, Windows Phone 8 brings in support for 2 new higher screen resolutions that will ensure new form factors, displays with higher pixel density & thus, taking the Windows Phone display support a big step further.

Image source: The Verge

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Dragon Ball Z: Transformation Guide – App Preview

Much as the name suggests, Dragon Ball Z: Transformation Guide is a WP7.5, Mango-enabled app that chronicles the many transformations that occur throughout the hit anime series Dragon Ball, as well as its sequels, Z and GT. Within the app, find loads of high quality images, and in depth information regarding each transformation, including first appearances in both the anime series, as well as the original manga!

This app categorizes transformations by character set. Currently available character sets include Saiyan, Freeza, Cell, Buu, and new to version 1.5: Fusions!

App also includes tap-to-zoom images!

Be sure to check this app out for the fantastic price of FREE, and rate it if you like it. Also, you can e-mail the creator (that’s me) directly from the app itself, and include any suggestions you might have or like to see implemented.

http://www.windowsphone.com/en-US/apps/6c9865f2-f3f8-4c15-b81b-3a880ba32ade

http://windowsphone.com/s?appid=6c9865f2-f3f8-4c15-b81b-3a880ba32ade