In a mobile world that's dominated by two outfits - Apple and Google - it seems strange that Microsoft is still in fourth behind...of all companies...BlackBerry. What with the iPhone 5 still selling like gangbusters and Samsung just announcing their vaunted Galaxy S4, Microsoft is continuing to march forward with the little OS that could. The thing is, users of Windows Phone 8 swear by it and everyday new apps spring up designed specifically to take advantage of what both the OS and and the handsets have to offer. With that in mind, here's TechRadar's ever-growing list of the best Windows Phone apps.
Hardcore Windows fanboys will no doubt bemoan this entry, but when it comes to search not everyone is down with Bing. Sure, it works just fine, but everybody, and by that we mean everybody knows how to use Google and understands it. Thankfully, the official Google app for Windows Phone behaves just like the Google you know and either love, or have just come to accept.
While the success of Nokia's handsets is debatable the fact remains that their location apps are great. The cornerstone of Nokia's location software, Here maps not only give you the ability to download offline maps before you venture to wherever life takes you, but it also essentially "crowd sources" from all its users to fill in the blanks.
While Windows Phone ships with its own maps client it pales in comparison to some of the other options that are out there. Sure, you can download Nokia Here Maps for free, and we love that service, but the fact remains that you can't beat Google Maps. Sadly, Google doesn't have an official app for Windows Phone but don't fret. Gmaps Pro to the rescue! Simply put, Gmaps Pro (for US$1.99) gives you everything you'd get from a Google Maps app: directions, Street View, search, transit information and a compass.
Xbox Music ($9.99/month)
If you're using a Windows Phone device then it's safe to say that you've already bought into the whole Windows ecosystem. If not, you'd be remiss to not jump on the Xbox Music bandwagon. At $9.99 a month (or $99.99 a year) Xbox Music lets you listen, stream, and download unlimited music to not just your Windows Phone, but you can also use the same service to listen, stream and download music to your Xbox 360 and Windows 8 PCs. The service boasts upwards of 30M tracks so the chances are good that the music you want to hear will be available.
The subscription-based thrills of Last.fm open up a world of music streaming on your mobile. You have to "buy in" to the odd Last.fm way of organizing things and suggesting new music, but if you're easily led and not restricted by bandwidth it's a superb tool.
Whether you're looking for bragging rights with your tech buddies or you're just curious why the speed you experience varies so widely depending on where you are, SpeedTest is a great way to find out what type of data speeds you're experiencing. Of course, data speeds also vary from carrier to carrier, so SpeedTest is also a great way to shop for the carrier that has the best speeds in your area.
Yelp gives you a similar option to Google's wide range of social place reviews, only here you also get an augmented reality screen display, so you can point it at the skyline and see what five-star eating establishments are in the area. Places are backed up by user reviews, too, making it easy to get an up- to-date opinion on how generous a particular cafe is with the chips.
Facebook for Windows Phone is lacking in features compared to Facebook itself, but a recent update added Inbox support, finally allowing its users to communicate in almost real time. The app is fast and stable, with a simplicity that reminds you of the old days when using Facebook used to be bearable.
4th & Mayor
The official Foursquare app lets you pin live tiles for "places" and "specials" and it supports multitasking so it's faster to switch back from other apps, but we prefer 4th and Mayor which has much nicer live-tile options. As well as pinning CHECK-IN NOW to your Start screen, you can pin tiles for your favorite places and friends you want to keep track of - and you can choose the title and image to use for them.
As well as supporting Flickr uploading, this app also lets you capture photos from within the app and comes complete with a set of filters, so you can "hipsterize" your life with ease. It supports sharing with Twitter and Facebook as well, so your other, non-photo-nerd friends can enjoy the results of today's snapping session.
A new way to look at the pleading face of Jimmy Wales. The official Wikipedia Windows Phone app is very nice to use, presenting a simplified version of the desktop site's content, plus an ever-useful offline saving option if you need access to pages when out of reception range. You also get location aware features, making it easy to randomly browse for interesting things in your vicinity.
Every sports fan has to have the ESPN ScoreCenter app for Windows Phone 8. Not the flashiest app in the world, it's pretty much all about information. From up-to-date news and scores to highlight videos, ESPN ScoreCenter for Windows Phone 8 can be configured to only give you information about sports and teams that you care about.
Another app that's been out there for a while, the eBay tool has also been updated so much that it's now a credible alternative to the desktop site. A recent update brought the ability to list items direct from the app, while there's a simple PIN system that makes paying for your winnings via PayPal much simpler and less convoluted than it is on the full blown web site.
Endomondo Sports Tracker
This free version of Endomodo is essential if you're sporty, or even if you just like using a GPS tool to stalk yourself walking around. You select an activity, initiate GPS mode and it'll keep track of you, time you and even whisper robotic words of encouragement at you, before generating a stylish map charting your achievements. A map which you can spam out to social networks to show off the fact that you can ride a bike.
The Netflix app does it all, offering access to the full catalogue of digital film and TV rentals, presented in a clean and simple layout. The only fancy features are PC syncing so you can pick up where you left off on mobile if it's getting near bedtime, plus Facebook sharing so everyone can keep up on how your Secret Diary of a Call Girl marathon is going.
Feature-packed, with the latest version offering full integration with other apps, letting you spin content and send it directly to the app for easy updating. This version of Wordpress could do with more image insertion tools, though.
After the Windows Phone version of SkyDrive, the next best solution for keeping all your "business" in one place is Evernote - it lets you stash and sync all your text notes, voice memos and files on your phone and access them through a desktop computer. You can pin templates which can include tasks like taking a photo and saving it as a note with some boilerplate text - ideal for recording receipts, business cards, wine labels or anything similar. And when you search on Bing, you can swipe across for a list of matching notes in Evernote.
Living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area the TechRadar crew is obsessed with the real estate market. Whether you're a current homeowner, you're looking to buy a house, or you're just a real estate voyeur, the Zillow app for Windows Phone 8 is actually a lot of fun to use. You can add filters to view homes that are for sale, homes that are for rent, and homes that have recently sold. Of course, our favorite "game" to play is driving around different neighborhoods and seeing how much the houses we pass are worth.
While your iOS and Android friends, as well as Maxwell the pig and Alec Baldwin, can't get enough of Words with Friends, the fact remains that there's more to life than playing a Scrabble clone over the course, God knows how many minutes or hours. Enter Wordament. Free in the Windows store, Wordament is a great way to kill two minutes. Based on Boggle, where you have a limited amount of time (two minutes) to form as many words as you can from the garbled letters on the screen, the cool thing about Wordament is that you don't just play against your friends. You play against everyone in the World who happens to be playing on whatever Windows device they happen to be playing on. The only downside is that your data connection has to be active.