How many apps do you really need for a phone?

I must have had this conversation a dozen times, and seen it from various trolling on the internet … the Windows Phone Store doesn’t have very many apps, and therefore iPhone / Android phones are better.

Honestly .. I can’t say I’ve noticed ..

The stores of course differ wildly in size, back in March 2011 the “app store” sizes for each of the major handsets was (apparently)

  • Apple – 330,000+
  • Android – 206,000+
  • Windows Phone 7 – 11,000+

So .. only 10k apps (I believe the number is a lot higher this year, especially with Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Office 2013 all making their moves towards an “app” model) but the premise is the same .. there are a LOT more apps for iPhone / Android than there are for Windows, but does that actually make a difference to your phone?

I thought I would share what apps I have installed and use regularly, just to see how much I am “missing out” by not getting myself the latest shiny tech device from competing providers.

So here they come, in no particular order..

Twitter

Take your pick, there are a whole bunch of them out there in the Windows Phone marketplace. There is the official twitter app plus the popular rowi and Seesmic variants.

For 99% of what I need I actually use the built-in “People Hub” which allows me to read the latest tweets and also post some of my own updates too. However it doesn’t include direct messaging, search or (un)follow capabilities so a dedicated app is still sometimes useful.

Facebook (only just!)

Same story here to be honest. The “People Hub” does pretty much all I need and I can’t say I have logged into the web interface of Facebook for almost 2 years. I still use a dedicated app (in my case the “official” Facebook app, published by Microsoft) but this is only to check direct messages and occasionally change the odd setting or check something .. but I only tend to fire it up once every 3-4 months.

Honestly I could survive with just the people hub which is built into the phone (as I can always use a computer for those hard-to-reach places if I am desperate) .. but there are dozens of Facebook apps in the marketplace anyway so I tend to have one to hand anyway.

Weather

Probably the first one I install to be honest. I used to use AccuWeather but now Microsoft have released their very own Weather app (which I have been using for the past few months). Its useful to have it pinned to the home page so I get live-tile updates (in case I can’t be bothered to look out of the window), but its nice to know if I should expect rain in London before leaving for work so I can grab a rain-coat or umbrella.

Adobe Reader

This is just for simple PDF support. I occasionally receive PDF files as email attachments and sometimes download them (usually terms and conditions) from websites so having some kind of PDF app is a must. Luckily the integration is solid and it launches “on demand” when a PDF file is opened.

YouTube

Now I’m not even sure if you would need this in Windows Phone 8 due to the HTML5 and Native Flash support in the IE10 browser but on my WP7.5 device I still need an external app to view YouTube videos.

Again, the integration is seamless, if you click to view a video the app launches automatically then plays the video in the native phone video player.

Flashlight

Simple this one .. I have dual LED bulbs on the back of my phone (for the camera) but why not use it as a flashlight (or a “torch” as we say in the UK).

I live in a very dark part of the countryside so having a handy flashlight when I need to navigate my garden at night, or getting from the car to the house without tripping over things is really useful.

Tube Map

Ok .. I admit it .. the London Underground is a bloody rabbit warren. If you haven’t lived there for 30 years, don’t like jellied eels or don’t understand what “dog and bone” or “apples and pairs” means then you will need a tube map!

I specifically use one which allows me to have offline maps because (surprise!) there is no signal on underground trains 🙂

..

And .. that’s it ..

As I have a Nokia phone it comes with world leading Voice Turn-by-Turn SatNav courtesy of “Nokia Drive” with full (free!) offline maps worldwide and offline searching too, as well as a whole bunch of camera functions, public transport apps and streaming music.

All Windows Phones have Office built in which gives you excellent Word / Excel / PowerPoint / OneNote integration (the OneNote is especially awesome and I use it all the time!)

Social integration is baked in with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (which are the 3 social networks which I tend to use on a daily basis .. probably like most people in the SharePoint industry).

The “cloud storage” story is an interesting one as SkyDrive is baked in across the product (you can auto-upload your photos, as well as opening documents from the office apps and browse photos using both the People Hub and the Pictures Hub) but arguably you might get a bit of legs from installing a custom app (there is for example dedicated DropBox and SkyDrive apps in the marketplace)

Wireless HotSpot capability is built in so I can use my phone as a roaming wireless router for my laptop / tablet of choice (along with the usually Bluetooth / hands free functions).

And the email client supports a whole range of email accounts from Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo through to Exchange and Nokia Mail .. or even just a custom POP / IMAP email account.

The only thing that really stands out is more the “one off” apps that crop up from time to time. You are watching TV and they say there is a companion app .. or one for online banking .. or an app which goes with your latest cook book .. these all seem to be Android and iPhone .. but I survived without having apps for absolutely everything so I think I’ll continue to survive with a Windows Phone.

What is your story?? Any apps which you really can’t live without? (that you can’t find in the Windows Phone marketplace?)

  • Martha Walton

    from your site i came to more about Phone apps needs and its solution.

  • Rene Modery

    Remove Flashlight (there are no dark spots in Singapore, and I manage to navigate around our hours even in darkness) and Tube Map (don't need a Singapore equivalent, our subway map is simple enough), add Whatsapp (to send pics/videos to my wife for free, and chat with my sister in Germany without having to pay anything) and Evernote (not so much for note taking, more for lookups) and you've got my most used apps!
    I've got more installed, but these are the ones I use on a regular (daily/weekly) basis, the rest only on demand (some probably not even for a few months)