Apps

Apps with Live Tiles are always fun, so here's one from Touchality, makers of that popular Foursquare app on Windows Mobile.

It shows the Homeland Security info like threat level (color codes, though we abandoned that though) as well as airport statuses via lookup. It also has links to the Department of Homeland Security websites for quick reference. But really, it's the color coded Live Tile that's kind of cool here--even though it is set to expire in April.

The app has been out for awhile now and fetches for $0.99. While it is nicely done and works well enough, we can't help but think it's not much use either, especially after April.  But if you're the "I own a bunker" type, then we got you covered. No trial. Grab it here in the Marketplace.

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One of the big limitations you may have noticed with apps like ShopSavvy or even Microsoft's own Tag app is that live-scanning of barcodes is not permitted--you have to snap a photo, which is then scanned before a look-up is performed. It is technically possible but Microsoft is not allowing developers access to the APIs necessary to implement--not yet at least. [Edit: Although LG does have a live scanner called 'ScanSearch' available on the Quantum and Optimus 7]

Sensboston, who's been doing lots of neat tricks for our new OS (e.g. flashlight), has managed to use the previously documented API to release a working scanner. Based on zxing library and Kevin Marshall's (from Clarity Consulting) code, the app works like other barcode scanners on other platforms: you turn it on, it live scans and gives results. The app works offline, can save info to email or SMS and searches for info using Bing or Google.

You'll need good light for it to work and the auto-focus seems to time out after about 15 seconds (save battery?) but overall, it works pretty darn well. Sensboston is looking to add features/improve the UI, so if you have any ideas, let him know in that thread. Looks like the hombrew scene is raging these days...

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Having quick access to connection settings is one of those top request by Windows Phone users--after all, if you toggle your WiFi or Bluetooth on or off frequently, doing the whole 'Settings' thing feels like a few too many steps.

We recently reported of some apps that will allow you to create shortcuts on your Samsung Windows Phone to speed up the process. Two issues though: non-Samsung phones were left out and the icons were generic.

Now, Schaps has created quick links to Connections, WiFi, Bluetooth, Location and Airplane mode, all with cool custom icons. More importantly, these seem to work on all Windows Phones (they were like a charm on our LG Quantum, see above). As a reminder, this is only for developer unlocked devices, since it has to be side loaded (and you'll want that program to break the 10-app limit too).

More info and downloads are here.

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An odd limit of unlocked Window Phones (even our sanctioned developed unlocked device) is the ability to side load more than 10 apps on the device--you simply can't do it. Reportedly, this was put into place to prevent developers from creating a ton of "cheap" apps.

One repercussion of this limit is it severely hampers the hombrew scene--after all if you're installing shortcuts to your WiFI, Bluetooth, Accent Changers, flashlights, a compass, etc. it doesn't take long to hit ten. Awhile back, Thomas Hounsell modified ChevronWP7 to disable this limit, but ChevronWP7 has it's own issues including being disabled in the future.

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Wiki Bee - Review

Hekool is offering a Wikipedia app over at the Marketplace, Wiki Bee. Wiki Bee is a straight forward, simple to use, Wikipedia portal for Windows Phone 7.

The Windows Phone app comes in two flavors; a free version (Wiki Bee Free) and a paid version (Wiki Bee). Both versions allow you to search in 35 languages, auto-complete searches, quick navigation through a table of contents, and the means to immediately return to your most recent topic searched.

The differences rest with the paid version of Wiki Bee. With the pay version you add the ability to save topics as favorites, jump to any topic in your search history, and have offline access to your history and favorites.

For more on the Wiki Bee apps, buzz on past the break.

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Splash! - Review

The Windows Phone game Splash! puts a new twist on dodge ball. Similar to the Windows Phone 7 game Dodge These Balls, Splash! allows you to be more offensive in protecting your ball.

The premise of the game is that you control a white ball and try to avoid hitting the other balls that appear on the screen. You move your ball around by tilting your Windows Phone. The more severe the tilt, the faster the ball moves.

To help you protect your ball, Splash! allows you to splatter the colored balls for points. The balls sprout up from the gaming screen and while you can splat them as they grow, you get more points by splattering the full sized balls. The only ball you can't splat is the black balls (which you'll need to avoid). The longer you play, the quicker the colored balls are generated and the more black balls you'll have to dodge.  I have to admit it was challenging trying to move the white ball to safety while tapping the colored balls into oblivion.

Splash! is a fun game that ran smoothly and there is a slight addictive quality to the game.  Being able to squish the colored balls helps keep things from getting stale too quick.  There is a trial version available with the full version running $.99.

You can find Splash! here (opens your Zune desktop) at the Marketplace and after the break you can catch a video of the game in action.

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Bubble Burst - Review

Do you miss the Bubble Burst game that was pre-installed on just about every Windows Mobile phone? If so, Z Games has just what you need. Bubble Burst for Windows Phone 7 brings you the classic Windows Phone game and takes it a step further.  You've got a few new game modes and a challenge feature that helps add a little variety to the game.

To see what's new with this classic game, follow the break.

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Parachute Panic now available in the Marketplace

Just a small heads up, the popular Parachute Panic for Xbox LIVE on Windows Phone (phew, that's a mouthful) is now ready for your testing. The game is fetching for a very reasonable $2.99 and should be available worldwide.

Our initial impression? Get it. The graphics are really stunning (for that hand-drawn thing), we really like the Achievements and the game play is quite addictive. We do wonder if we'll still want to play in say, two or three weeks, but for now it has our attention. Of course you can trial it before you buy. Grab it here in the Marketplace.

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New Twitter app 'Birdsong' first look [Video]

We got word today of a yet another Twitter app in the Marketplace (see Beezz, Seesmic, Twitt, etc.), this one called Birdsong, which has a nice ring to it.

The app fetches for a pricey $1.99 and there is a free trial, but is it worth it? Our initial impression is for a v1.0 app it's pretty rockin' and yeah, we actually bought it. The main thing we like about is its looks: it feels almost like a native Twitter app. It also caches nicely, has threaded conversation views, retweet (old and quote), landscape support, inline pic viewing, Twitpic uploading and more. The UI is real slick and there's "infinite scrolling" so no more "load more" screens.

We look forward to seeing what comes next from the developer, who is already working on v1.1. You can check the developer's site here for more info and grab the trial here in the Marketplace.

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Slick Deals app hits 2.0, gets a Live Tile too

You like bargains especially on tech stuff? Then Slick Deals might be your app. Based off of the website Slickdeals.net, it hails itself as

...a free, user-driven deal sharing site with a mission to provide consumers an avenue to collaborate and share information in order to make the best shopping decisions. Slickdeals achieves this by providing its users a forum for communication and various shopping tools. Slickdeals.net prides itself on being user and community focused, never allowing paid placement for frontpage deal listings.

And here's the mobile app, which just hit version 2.0.  The app itself is pretty nice with configuration options, including how many days it should go back. Unfortunately going through to the links to the actual deal website might not always work but as a way to catch deals, it's pretty solid.

The newer version seems more stable and the layout has changed a bit. But what really caught our eye was the new Live Tile, which we're always a fan of. The tile here just acts as a counter, letting you know that a new deal has been posted--which is really all you can ask for with this type of app, so we're stoked.

You can grab the free app here in the Marketplace.

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One area where we like to see OEMs hare at work is in the "exclusive" app department. Everyone except Dell has done a real nice job of offering unique programs on their phones, free of charge, to enhance the user experience.

Samsung's niche seems be photos as they have released 'Samsung Photo Sharing', 'Photogram' (see review) and now 'Photo Studio'.  This new one is actually quite nice, allowing you to shoot in different modes, including Lomo, to speed of the process. From the app description:

Photo Studio is an all-in-one solution for taking, editing and sharing pictures though your WP7. Photo Studio allows the user to take pictures with effects such as LomoShot, Beautyshot and PlusMe. All pictures can modified with various photo effects. Users also can also easily upload their pictures to the most popular Social network services including Facebook and Flickr.

  • LomoShot: Users can vignette pictures in the style of softening or shading away the edges of the subject. There are four option modes: Normal, Gray, Warm and Cold
  • BeautyShot: Users can brighten and sharpen the portrait
  • PlusMe: Users can take two pictures separately and mix them together
  • Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, MySpace, Photobucket, Friendster support

The app so far is quite decent, especially for free, but real photo hounds will want to stick with Thumba (see review) for more fine-tuned control.

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Awesome Sheep - Review

Give or take a few, there are approximately 690 puzzle applications for Windows Phone 7. One of such is Awesome Sheep, a puzzle game for your Windows Phone that has you leading your sheep from the barn to pasture.

Sounds easy, right? It would be if the path was straight and narrow but Awesome Sheep has your tackling see-saws, diving from cliffs (the sheep are equipped with parachutes) and other hurdles to tackle. Awesome Sheep has moved up the popularity list for Windows Phone puzzle games and to see what all the excitement is about, just leap on past the break.

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The wildly popular iPhone game (yes, we're taking them all, thank you) Parachute Panic by FDG (in conjunction with MGS) is coming to our Windows Phones this week.

The game is a classic "parchute game" where you try to land your hapless skydiver on a moving ship. In the meantime, aliens, birds and even a shark all try to complicate your progress. Having played the game on my iPad, I can say it's actually quite a lot of fun: addictive and yet frustrating too.

This unique casual game requires you to successfully land a host of parachutists into passing boats. Beware of imminent dangers such as helicopter blades, U.F.O´s, sharks and thunder clouds. The game offers beautiful hand drawn graphics, smooth animations, catchy acapella music and awesome sound effects. In addition to that we created funny animations for any failed enemy encounter :D We had a lot of fun creating this game and hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

No word on pricing but this should be a pretty big hit, we think. [Update: price is $2.99, available worldwide]

Source: FDG Website; via @KarlStricker

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AlphaJax getting Xbox LIVE status? [Rumor]

Yeah, so we've fallen over the whole AlphaJax craze (see George's double review of it and Spell It!; my thoughts here)

An obvious next step for the app would be for Xbox LIVE support--after all it already has great asynchronous game play/multiplayer support, push updates and is just a solid app. But not many games have gone from non-Xbox status to Xbox LIVE certified--actually we can't think of any. That's because to get that coveted status, you need to do a lot of collaboration with Microsoft and meet their very high standards to get access to the LIVE universe.

Will AlphaJax be the first to transition? We don't know but on their Facebook page, they strongly hint at the possibility. When asked about Xbox LIVE support they responded with "stay tuned...!"

Oh we will, we will. Thanks, Ricardo Dawkins for the tip

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One current limitation of Windows Phone 7 is the inability to download and manage podcasts on your device over-the-air. Awhile back we reported on a free app called simply Podcasts! which at least allowed you to stream any podcast, though not save. The app worked very well, but if you didn't want to use your precious 3G data minutes, then you were out of luck.

BringCast ($1.99, trial available) gets around this by finally allowing you to download audio and video podcasts. The selection of 'casts is limited but that's fine as you can request your favorite to be added and more importantly, you can type in the RSS URL or OMPL file to import your selection.

The app worked flawlessly on our end, though sometimes it was a bit stuttery on screen transitions. Still, for a v1.0 app we really have no complaints--the download screen is nice, it integrates with Zune's history and we dig the "what's new" screen. Pretty solid. The trial is fully functional except you get a nag screen on 1st launch and you are limited to any three feeds--but that's more than enough to tell you if it's worth the $1.99. Grab it here in the Marketplace.

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AlphaJax vs Spell It! - A Head to Head Review

When we first mentioned AlphaJax, a scrabble-type word game for Windows Phone 7, there were a few comments suggesting we take a look at another word game, Spell It!. Well, who are we to shy away from a request.

Over the past few days, we took both out for a test drive to see if there was a clear cut choice between AlphaJax and Spell It! The game premise of both are virtually the same but are there enough differences that may give one an edge over the other? To find out what we thought, ease on past the break.

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One thing people love doing is turning their phones into virtual Swiss Army knives and one way of doing that is making it an bedside alarm clock.

Nite Buddy caught our attention because it's free (ad supported), automatically fetches weather (GPS), has adjustable brightness, colors and overall looks pretty nice. Plus it just works so well with the HD7 or Surround's kick-stand feature. Of course when running, it will keep the screen on, so make sure you're plugged in if you want to make it till morning.

Any of you have a go-to clock app that you swear by? Let us know in comments. Grab Nite Buddy here for free in the Marketplace.

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Twitt 2.0 video tour

We've had a few requests to take a look at Twitt 2.0 a newly updated Twitter application in the Marketplace. Reason? There are two: it costs $0.99 when most Twitter apps are free and there's no trial. So naturally people want us to trial it for them and we're more than glad to take a bullet for you folks (cough, Daily Show app, cough).

The short of it is: it has pros and it has cons and whether or not it's right for you will depend on what features you feel are important. Vague, eh? Just watch the video and you'll see what we mean.

Twitt can be bought through the Marketplace right here.

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We've already seen the NES emulator ourselves and it's pretty cool, but what about one for Game Boy Pocket?

Samuel Blanchard, a French .NET developer. has evidently thrown together a rough player for Windows Phone 7 and it looks pretty darn spiffy. Noting on his blog (translated):

The emulator is far from complete. It lacks particular, the management of the Flash RAM and the backup status in the game but still playable. The display of pixels on the screen is super fast and uses a trick which I will discuss in a future article.

All we say is gimme! What is particularly impressive is the Metro interface for selecting a game and just how well is seems to play. We'll be following this one closely as we try to reclaim our youth through 21st technology. Too bad it won't be officially available in the Marketplace though...

Source: Blog of Samuel Blanchard; Thanks Samuel for the heads up and good luck with the project!

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Today Unbound Medicine put out a press releases announcing that their many medical-based mobile apps are now available for Windows Phone 7.  The most well-known of their applications to make its way to WP7 is Relief Central, a free mobile and web-based resource for disaster relief workers.  It was recently named winner of the Windows Phone Federal Apps contest.  Other available titles include Nursing Central, 5-minute Clinical Consult, McGraw-Hill’s Diagnosaurus, Taber’s Medical Dictionary, and three versions of The Merck Manual. 

When asked about Microsoft's new mobile platform, Philip Peterson, chief technology officer of Unbound Medicine, had this to say:

"Windows Phone has made a significant contribution to the mobile platform landscape with a feature-rich and easy-to-use interface...Unbound Medicine recognizes that the Windows Phone platform is a game-changer. We will continue to develop applications as new platforms become available in order to provide our users with what they need—up-to-date information."

While these tools are unlikely to perform medical miracles when death is on the line, they will aid medical professionals and students in everyday situations, and demonstrate the wide breadth that the WP7 platform spans.  It is unclear as to whether or not Congress will attempt to repeal the apps in the near future (zing).

Check out the full list of available Unbound medical apps here or search for "Unbound Medicine" in Zune now.

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Did you know that the Zune Marketplace regularly offers songs for free? No DRM, you own it, it's all yours. The catch is these "deals" are only for single songs and they're temporary. The other issue is finding them.

Developer PoppaString has created a free app to find those free songs. The app, called Free Marketplace Songs is extremely simple and to the point: you launch it, it finds free songs and then you can go grab them in the Marketplace. Cool. Version 1.1 just hit and seems to fix some early bugs, or rather we successfully downloaded a free song--so, win.

Any downsides? Yeah, for one it's a very limited selection, so if you're a picky music listener, it's highly doubtful you'll find something you like. The other would be these freebies expire quickly--so if you can grab two songs for free, consider yourself lucky. Check early, check often.  But hey, the app is free and if you like collecting music, it's a smart way of finding those deals.

Grab it here in the marketplace.

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We last mentioned Beau Allison's (aka codeJoker) a few weeks back which involved creating a WiFi shortcut on Samsung phones--it basically allowed you to hop from your Today screen right to the WiFi settings to quickly toggle them on or off. It's actually one of the more simple homebrew hacks yet it's the one we use the most, for obvious reasons.

Now he's gone further creating three new shortcuts: Bluetooth, Airplane Mode and Connection Manager. The first two are self-explanatory but the last is really the best. Connection Manager brings you all the previous shortcuts under one screen. Huzzah! As you can see above, it has WiFi, Bluetooth, Mobile Network and flight mode all under one quick access panel. What's more, he's trying to incorporate the status-sliders below each setting for a direct toggle. Once again, this will only work with unlocked Samsung phones (sorry HTC, LG and Dell).

This app is so useful we don't know where to begin outside of saying Microsoft (and or OEMs)--you could do this too!

Source: codeJoker

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We mentioned about the Homebrew Device manager by Schapman which was suppose to be released this week. The application not only offers a new way to interact with the phone to load media but also unlocks the phone so one can sideload applications on it.

Since that time, Microsoft and ChevronWP7 have confirmed that the upcoming update will fix the programming error that the jailbreak exploited.

In turn, Schapman is not too keen on releasing his app only to have MS block it a few weeks later so  he's doing the "cat and mouse" thing--wait for Microsoft to patch, then make sure his Device Manager works around it.  He notes that his app works different than ChevronWP7 but regardless, we don't see any guarantees that he'll still be able to jailbreak the phone himself:

Windows Phone Device Manager release delayed until MS update, as I still haves a lot of cool stuffs to implementation, Also Want to make sure my code will not be broken and my unlock method will pass after the update.

This is all well and good but we're even starting to wonder if waiting for this Device Manager is really worth the hassle and if Schapman, who often promises a lot but tends to under deliver, can really beat Microsoft's new improved security by himself.

Source: TouchXperience Blog ; via Plaffo; Thanks, Antonino Ardizzone.,for the info

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SPB Brain Evolution 2 - Review

SPB Software isn't a stranger to Windows Phones. Offering a wide range of applications for Windows Mobile operating system, they have finally made the transition to Windows Phone 7. The software developers first venture with the new Windows Phone is to bring their bestselling game, SPB Brain Evolution 2 to WP7.

The popular puzzle, math, logic game offers 12 mini games that will test your concentration, speed and mental processing skills. It doesn't stray too far from the original SPB Brain Evolution we saw on Windows Mobile. If anything, the game seems to have become more challenging.

To read more on SPB's Brain Evolution, ease on past the break.

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SpeedGauge - Review

SpeedGauge is another Windows Mobile application that has made the transition to Windows Phone 7. The Windows Phone application is a speedometer that tracks your speed through your phone's location services.

You also have the ability to various travel statistics, change the color of the display and change the display to a heads up type. The only thing missing from the Windows Phone 7 version of SpeedGauge is an analog display.

To read more about SpeedGauge, zip on past the break.

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