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How good are Windows Phone apps in 2015?

The best of the rest

Besides the key ones mentioned about, the list of apps you can now find on Windows Phone is pretty impressive: there's eBay, Amazon Kindle, Shazam, Deezer, WhatsApp, Skype, Rdio, BBC Sport, Fitbit, 4oD, ITV Player, Adobe Photoshop Express, PayPal and Uber, though broadly speaking they're usually not as polished as the versions available on rival platforms.

A lot of the well-known apps have now made their way to Windows Phone.

In terms of the very biggest and well-known apps, there aren't as many holes as there once were: right now the largest omissions are the likes of Snapchat, Jawbone UP, Tinder, Pocket, Instapaper, IFTTT, Sky Go, Virgin's TV Anywhere and Dropbox (though an official app is apparently imminent).

Games are another area where Windows Phone can struggle: Modern Combat 5, Temple Run 2, Angry Birds, the Microsoft-owned Minecraft, Candy Crush Saga, The Sims FreePlay, Sonic Dash and the Ultimate Team version of FIFA 15 are among the highlights. For most developers – producing titles such as Monument Valley, TwoDots, Hitman GO, the newer Final Fantasy games, Batman Arkham Origins and so on – WP is still a stretch too far.

Angry Birds

Angry Birds is on Windows Phone

Finally, it's worth mentioning Office too. Windows Phone has always been a solid if unspectacular choice for Office users, but last year's iOS and Android apps managed to eclipse even Microsoft's efforts on its own platform – so much so that a company exec has apologised for neglecting Windows Phone users.

Significant updates for Office should appear at the same time as Windows 10, of which more in a moment.

PowerPoint

PowerPoint on Windows Phone

Verdict

We were surprised by how many big name apps there now are on Windows Phone since we last checked: if you can live with Nokia's excellent HERE Maps instead of the equivalents for Apple and Google, and assuming Dropbox arrives in the near future, you're pretty well covered when it comes to the big hitters.

However, this doesn't mean WP's problems are over, because these tools often lag behind their iOS and Android equivalents in terms of updates and features.

Then there's everything below the top rung of the ladder: the plethora of independent, up-and-coming apps for social networking (Snapchat), photography (Afterlight), productivity (Slack) and so on. These aren't so well known but while you're pretty much guaranteed to see most new releases appear on both iOS and Android, most of these smaller companies won't bother with Windows Phone. And that's a problem if you want to stay on the cutting edge of new apps.

There's some encouragement for Microsoft but there's plenty of work to do.

Sure, you can find Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, iPlayer and Instagram on Windows Phone now, but what happens when you want to try a new photography app? Or a hot new messaging service? Or a time management utility? Or the latest game storming up the charts?

You're spoilt with an abundance of choice on iOS and Android, whereas the selection on Windows Phone is disappointing in terms of both quality and quantity. If you're going to be sticking to the major apps we've mentioned, then fine, but otherwise the situation isn't quite as rosy.

There are areas where Microsoft is strong — Office software and Xbox gaming — and when Windows 10 finally sees the light of day, WP users will benefit more from these areas than they do today. Right now though, to buy a Windows Phone is to shut yourself out from most of the interesting, newer apps appearing on the scene as well as pretty much everything Google makes.

And, worryingly for Microsoft, the developers won't make the jump until the users do.