A switcher's guide to Windows Phone
With Nokia on-board, there is a huge amount of interest in Microsoft's Windows Phone OS at the moment, and so there should be. Windows Phone is a well-designed smartphone operating platform, with speed and simplicity central to the user experience.
The problem for Microsoft (and Nokia) is that so many people interested in the capabilities of a smartphone have already bought one, with consumers mostly choosing to buy into either Apple's iOS or Google's Android ecosystems. This means that they have bought apps, learned the shortcuts of the system and integrated these tools into their everyday lives.
If you've decided to ditch your iPhone or Android and splash out on a new Nokia Lumia 800, here are the apps that you should consider downloading first.
Definitely start with the Nokia Collection tab in the Marketplace. If, for some reason, your phone doesn't have Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive and Nokia Music installed, do this first. Also, consider Nokia's Creative Suite photo-editing tools. It has some cool effects, and is free.
One of the parts of using Windows Phone that drives us barmy is having to dig into the menus every time you want to turn Wi-Fi or Bluetooth on and off. Connectivity Shortcuts is exactly as its title suggests, with the added bonus of being able to "pin" individual settings to the home screen.
News feeds, RSS and Google Reader may not be a huge part of your day, but they do take up a fair bit of our time. Wonder Reader isn't the perfect reader app, but it's the best that we've come across so far. You can easily plug in to Google Reader, you can save items to read later on and you can "pin" favourite topics or categories to Home Screen to return to them more efficiently.
If you've been using an Android phone lately, chances are you've had a weather widget on your home screen, updating you with regular forecasts. The next best thing in Windows Phone is an app that takes advantage of Live Tiles. WP Weather doesn't have a fancy graphic showing you how the clouds are forming outside, but it does update itself with the latest weather, and it passes on this info in a clear, easy-to-read fashion.
As many of the news apps do, News360 makes great use of Microsoft's Metro UI design metaphor in delivering its news service to Windows Phone. This is a great-looking and informative app, which favours large, colourful images over long feeds of text.
Despite the silly spelling of its title, Fhotoroom is a great photo-editing app, and the closest thing you'll find to Instagram on Windows Phone. Users from around the globe can share edited photos in a shared space, or you can upload them to the other social networks that you use.
Developed Down Under
One of the most difficult things about exploring a new app store is finding apps that are relevant to you. Developed Down Under is a great tool for honing your search to apps made in Australia that show relevant local data. DDU runs the gamut of app genres, and is the best way to find local transport apps, local news and services.
With the excellent Facebook integration in the People Hub in Windows Phone, you probably don't think you need to download a discreet Facebook app. We recommend you do, though, as this app is probably the best attempt at a mobile version of Facebook that we've seen so far.
Surprisingly, the major Twitter clients, like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite, haven't yet been adapted for Windows Phone use. Luckily, Seesmic has, and by taking advantage of the pages-style layout of Metro UI, it is a very user-friendly app for catching up with Twitter.
Some people love reading on their smartphones; others hate it. If you fall in with the former, you'll be happy to learn that there is an official Kindle app for Windows Phone. There's nothing truly remarkable about it on this platform, but it is one of the better options for e-reading.
This final entry is bound to be the most contentious, given that the Lumia 800 already comes with two mapping solutions: Bing Maps and the excellent Nokia Maps. But if you simply cannot live without Google Maps, then gMaps might be your best bet.