Apps

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Windows Phone App Review: RateYourBeer

RateYourBeer for Windows Phone

Like beer? If so, take a look at the Windows Phone app RateYourBeer. It's a one stop source for beer brands and if you see something you like, you can chime in and share your comments. The app was originally released on the U.K. Windows Phone Marketplace and it has been recently unleashed on to the Marketplace in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and France.

RateYourBeer is our own Jay Bennett's home brew and was his first venture into Windows Phone development. It's a clean cut, straight forward app that presents a healthy amount of beer information. Oh, and as a way of giving back to the Windows Phone community Jay has open sourced the RateYourBeer API. Jay wanted to open up the API to everyone who might want to try their hand at Windows Phone development. You can find all the API information here at Jay's Blog and hit the break to learn more about RateYourBeer.

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easyRing&Music for Windows Phone

A while back we took a look at the Windows Phone app easyRing. easyRing is an app that allows you to download custom ringtones to your Windows Phone. It was a nice, simply app at the time but has since been updated and given a name change. easyRing is now easyRing&Music, adding the capability to play/download music, as well as creating custom ringtones, to the Windows Phone app.

The update not only changes the name but also gives the app an entirely new look and some rather nice features. You now have pages for Hot Music picks and Active Music Groups to help you build/listen to playlists.

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WP Central

We've received reports from some readers that the recent update to Ask Ziggy version 2.0, the Siri-like SkyNet-type app for Windows Phone, has left the app unusable. The recent update addressed some issues and fixed some bugs, but it seems that users may experience problems when launching the app after updating.

Like many apps that experience issues when launching with crashes or errors, a simple way to fix the problem (especially if it's after an update has been installed) is to re-install the troubled app. We advise Windows Phone users to troubleshoot before reporting issues to prevent frustration. This should fix Ask Ziggy too.

Thanks to everyone who sent in troubled reports.

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Windows Phone App Review: PocketBracket

PocketBracket for Windows Phone

March Madness is upon us and PocketBracket is here to bring all the scores and bracketology to your Windows Phone.

PocketBracket helps eliminate the challenges of creating and managing your NCAA College Basketball Tournament brackets. Key features of the app include:

  • Create unlimited NCAA® tournament brackets
  • Automatic bracket scoring and ranking
  • Organize unlimited pools available across the PocketBracket Network
  • Create Private pools
  • Detailed Stats screens
  • Rotate for a full Bracket view
  • Get game scores and updates

You also have the ability to use a "SmartPick" feature to help you choose those too close to call games and share your picks through Facebook, Twitter or email.

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Updated Microsoft Weather app optimized for Tango

WP Central

In a small post on his MSDN blog, Microsoft's Mike Battista let us know about the recently updated Weather app which hit version 2.0 yesterday. Your response to it has been overwhelmingly supportive of the new version with many giving it high praise.

What's interesting though is how the app was redesigned from "the ground up" to take advantage of the new Tango guidelines:

"In addition to having new features, this version was architected from the ground up for performance following many of the guidelines I call out in my recent blog post Optimizing Apps for Lower Cost Devices.

I encourage you to follow the same performance/UX principles demonstrated by this new Weather update.  Following these principles will ensure your apps perform great regardless of the device."

Lead by example. Granted the app is hardly pulling a lot of info but it's still very fast. And it's nice to know that those on Tango will get the same experience. So devs, heed Mike's advice and take a second look at your app and performance using those guidelines. For those curious, here is a listing of Tango limiations

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GroupMe

Here's one that will cause some confusion: there are now two GroupMe apps in the Marketplace. The first one is v3.0 which reported on back during Mobile World Congress. That's the version 3.0 overhaul that we really like as it includes a Live Tile, notifications and a complete UI redesign.

But it also had a few bugs and quirks as many of you had pointed out. Luckily, version 3.1 is now out and it reportedly fixes a lot of those issues. Problem is, you won't see the update notification for the Marketplace.

Two GroupMes?

The reason? There is a second, newer GroupMe app in the Marketplace but it's listed under Microsoft Corporation. For those keeping track, Skype bought GroupMe in 2011. Microsoft bought Skype, so by the transitive property, Microsoft owns GroupMe. And we guess they are now claiming it as their own, re-releasing the official app under their account (in fairness, there's no other way for them to get around this issue, so two it is).

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MS Weather

Microsoft has updated their free Weather app for Windows Phone, finally bringing Mango support in version 2.0. We first reported on this looming refresh a few weeks ago and now the app upgrade is available in the Marketplace.

MS Weather

New in version 2.0 is the ability for fast app switching, multiple city support and the ability to pin each city to your Start screen with (get this) Live Tiles. Yes, now each city will display the current temperature and icon for current weather conditions right on your Start screen. While it lacks anything more advanced e.g. written forecast, radar maps, cams, etc. for many such a simple, minimalist weather program is all they want and need. In that regard, this app is pretty great for its "too the point" brevity.

Weather Live TIle

So if you want simple, free and no ads, this is your app. Pick up Microsoft's Weather right here in the Marketplace. Thanks, Joseph K., for the tip!

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Nextgen Reader gets big update with new RSS feed-finder

Nextgen Reader

For those of you who have Nextgen Reader (quite a few of you won a free license recently), you should be getting your version 2.5 update right about now. If not, you'll want to go check as it has some swanky new features on board, including a new "Featured" area which will be updated daily.

That "Featured" function is part of the new "Manage sources" area which allows you to quickly discover RSS feeds based on topic. So instead of just importing your Google Reader feeds or randomly searching for key terms, the app itself will suggest feeds based on various subjects, including Windows Phone, Microsoft, food, gaming, politics and more. It's really quite smart as it gets you easily started on using Google Reader right from your device by adding new feeds on the go. Other notable updates in v2.5 include:

Nextgen Reader

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Windows Phone App Review: 30 Day Challenge

30 Day Challenge for Windows Phone

Does your photography need a little motivation? Or maybe you just like taking pictures and are looking for a challenge. Whatever the reason, if you like taking pictures you need to take a gander at the Windows Phone app 30 Day Challenge.

30 Day Challenge presents you with a new photography challenge each day. Such as taking a picture of something geeky to taking a picture where no ones feet are touching the ground. Challenges range from people to places to things. 30 Day Challenge is a fun app that can spark new life into your camera or keep it from getting rusty.

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Windows Phone App Review: BarBuddy

BarBuddy for Windows Phone

BarBuddy is a great app to have on your Windows Phone if you're not sure what you want to order at the bar or make yourself. It also doubles as a novelty sobriety test.  It's not as extensive of a mixology app as Cocktail Flow but BarBuddy ain't too shabby in its own right.

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We're just going to come out and say it: Zero, the new to-do list app from tomzorz labs, borrows heavily in inspiration from an iPhone app called Clear (see the iMore review). What makes that funny is Clear is understood as borrowing heavily from Microsoft's Metro UI design language meaning we're finally coming full circle with Clear Zero coming back to Windows Phone.

The to-do list/task manager app is very minimalist in design with zero chrome, ahem. It is primarily gesture based forgoing the traditional bottom-bar method found in most Windows Phone apps--in that sense, it actually deviates against Metro UI but only because it's going more minimalist instead of less. Gestures are simple and universal: up/down to create, left to delete, right to check off, pinch in to go back, pinch out to re-order lists. Because of the gestures, you'll need to tap through a brief (but well done) tutorial at first but you'll lean the system quick enough.

Zero

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Windows Phone App Review: Sketch Camera

Sketch Camera for Windows Phone

Sketch Camera is a neat, simple photography app for your Windows Phone camera. Neat for the effects you can apply to your photos, simple for the layout.  The photography app allows you to apply six artistic filters to images as you capture them as well as apply the filters to existing photos.  

If you're a fan of sketch or drawing filters for your photos, Sketch Camera is worth a look at.

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Ask Ziggy

We showed you the latest version of Ask Ziggy, the Siri-like app knowledge app, last week and we told you it'll be here soon. Sure enough, the app has now been updated in the Marketplace, bringing all that new re-designed goodness free to your phone.

As we remarked and showed in our video, Ask Ziggy v2.0 brings a new Metro look, geolocation localization to answer questions about whereabouts, weather, time and searches. It's also a bit smarter, allowing the developer to update certain features from the backend.

Ask Ziggy

So how much attention is Ask Ziggy getting? A lot. Our first video has 166K views, Microsoft has taken an interest in it. And now we have word that that Nokia has personally invited Ask Ziggy to give a special demo of their voice recognition technology at its 3-domed “Nokia Lab” at the SXSW (South by Southwest) Festival on March 12th. What's more they've doubled their staff from one to two people, which is quite impressive when you think about what they're up against.

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Baconit v1.8 now in Marketplace

We here at WPC love us some Reddit (as if you couldn't tell) and we're also big fans of Baconit, the metro-style Reddit app.  The oft-updated app has just been upvoted to version 1.8, which packs a whole lot of additions.  Among the major ones is Image Mode for subreddits, which allows full screen viewing, endless image scrolling, comprehensive viewing options (pinch to zoom, drag to pan, double tap to reset) and the ability to save images to your phone.

Other significant changes include:

  • Added landscape support for subreddit, web page, and comment viewers, as well as submit a link
  • Added story domain in to story list
  • Added orientation lock
  • New comments are tracked on stories that have been viewed
  • Fixed long self-text / comment cut off problem
  • Improved web page viewer
  • Improved up vote and down vote hit boxes

There are other changes and fixes as well, which can be viewed in their entirety here.  And as you can see in the change log, version 1.9 is already in the works.

You can download the free version, or reward the developer for a great app with a $1.99 donation.

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Official Qantas Windows Phone app almost here

Qantas WP7

It has been almost a year since we last heard of an official Qantas app being developed for Windows Phone at MIX '11 (see our wrap up for more details). We've now caught word from their Twitter account that the app, which has been somewhat-delayed, will be available this month (March).

Windows Phone owners who use Australia's flag carrier to hop between countries will be pleased to learn that development of the app is at a stage where it's ready to be submitted and / or approved. The Qantas Windows Phone app will enable users to view upcoming flight times, quickest routes to airports, check into a flight, and more.

WP Central

We'll update with a follow-up post when the app has been released with more details (and screenshots) available, so keep an eye on this space.

Source: @GCrance1982; thanks Geoff for the tip!

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Marketplace Deals makes bargain hunting easy

Marketplace Deals

We’ve covered the WP7applist app before – it’s an excellent way to browse apps, find price drops, etc. Our friend Luigi Violin – who runs WP7applist – has another Windows Phone app that should appeal to bargain hunters out there. It’s called Marketplace Deals, and it’s free.

Marketplace Deals, as the name implies, lists games and apps that have dropped in price or gone free. Each deal category is sorted by date, so you can easily find the day’s new deals. It even labels expired deals. Categories include Popular deals, Apps Gone Free, Top Rated sale apps, Xbox Live sales, and all Deals. Tapping on an individual app or game takes you straight to its Marketplace page for download.

The Marketplace Deals app is just about everything you could want in a deal-finding app. Still, an update is just around the corner that will add the following features:

  • Live tile(s?) support
  • Option to hide expired deals from the lists
  • Share deals via social networks and/or email

Luigi loves user feedback and will be happy to include any good suggestions you send his way – just follow the app’s Contact Us link and drop him an email.

Marketplace Deals is free and supported by advertisements at the bottom of the screen. You can grab it here on the Marketplace. WP7applist is also free, and located right here.

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ACC

Great news if you're on a Nokia Windows Phone and happen to like sports, specifically basketball this time of year with March Madness afoot. Nokia has evidently teamed up with the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) group to make an official app for their phones. The app snuck onto the Marketplace on the 28th and we just found it accidently. As you'd expect from Nokia, the app is top notch and well polished:

ACC

"The ACC Sports App is the official mobile source for the Atlantic Coast Conference sports on your Windows Phone. Watch Live ACC Network coverage of the 2012 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament on your Windows Phone for FREE from March 8th-11th. Get other basketball and football game details such as play-by-play, schedules, standings, stats and more from your favorite ACC team. Don't miss any of the action with interactive scoreboards, ACC news feeds and schedules. The ACC Sports App also includes the latest insider video coverage including the daily video updates and highlights of all conference basketball and football games!"

Like we said, it's a nice app and we no reason why you would not get this if you're into those teams. Pick it up here in the Marketplace for free (only via your Nokia phone as the web Marketplace won't show it).

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It's been awhie since we've talked about Ask Ziggy, the Siri-like app from developer Shai Leib. Powered by Nuance for voice-search and some backend tweaks to customize how things work, the app is a great example of developer ingenuity.

Since the app went viral, Leib has gone back to the drawing board and reworked a lot of the app in response to user feedback. For instance in the new version expected in a few days, it's much more Metro influenced with the SMS chat bubble. But more importantly, the feature list has greatly expanded to include using your geo-location ability to pinpoint weather/time/search requests. You can even set reminders (it will create a Live Tile and alarm), call people, pull up calendar information for any day upon request and much more. (You can see some more screenshots here)

Ask Ziggy

The app should be hitting the Marketplace in a few days and it is still free as far as we know. This is also just the beginning as Leib has much more planned for new and unique features. For now, you can watch out video though to get an idea of what's coming and you can download the old verison here in the Marketplace.

We'll keep you posted when version 2.0 goes live probably next week, so stay tuned.

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Windows Phone App Review: MyWalk

My Walk for Windows Phone

MyWalk is a simple app for your Windows Phone that tracks your exercise walks. But the app goes a little further than simply tracking your walks.  Your walking efforts are presented accumulatively daily and as you walk about,  you can monitor calories burned.   MyWalk tracks your walking exercises by location services and by your Windows Phone motion sensors.

You'll need to choose if you're walking indoors or out and from there, all you need to do is walk.

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Weather26 update adds Live Tiles and GPS

Weather26 gets updated

The Windows Phone weather app Weather26 (here's our review) was updated today to version 1.6 which now adds Live Tile service. The previous update, version 1.5, added location/GPS services to your location search page.

The Live Tile will place the current conditions for your default location on your Windows Phone Start Screen. The reverse side of the tile will show when the conditions were last updated. 

WP Central

The other big addition that hit with the v1.5 update is the use of location services to set a forecast location. When you go to add a forecast city, just tap the satellite button at the bottom of the screen. From there you can customize the location and add it to your list.

The Weather26 updates brings two nice features to a nice weather app for your Windows Phone. I would have liked the next days forecast appear on the reverse side of the tile but knowing when the tile was last updated has its uses.

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Windows Phone App Review: Health&

Health& for Windows Phone

If you need a simple Windows Phone app to track your weight, blood pressure, glucose levels, and medications take a look at Health&.  I liked the Health & app but it may not appeal to everyone.  The layout is simple, straight forward but I couldn't help but feel something was missing.

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CamSpeed Screenshots

Want to know just how good your Windows phone's camera is?  Check out CamSpeed, the new app from Sofica.  With CamSpeed, you can benchmark the focus and image capturing capabilities of your phone's built-in camera.  Not only that, you can compare it your other devices, as well as those of other CamSpeed users by uploading your results to Sofica's online charts.

CamSpeed allows you to adjust resolution, focus mode and flash mode, then measures:

  • - Focus Time
  •   (time from focus call to successful focus event)
  • - Capture Start Time
  •   (time from capture call to the moment when the capture sequence has started)
  • - Capture Image Available
  •   (time from capture call to the moment when an image is available)
  • - Capture Completed
  •   (time from capture call to the moment when the capture sequence is complete)

Download it here for free.  Online results can be viewed at http://www.sofica.fi/CamSpeed/.

Thanks, Markku, for the tip!

QR: CamSpeed

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Windows Phone App Review: Phototastic

WP Central

Phototastic is a nice little photography app for your Windows Phone that lets you create photo collages or apply a series of borders and effects to your photos. You can create collages from twenty four templates and apply such effects as a photo booth film strip or Polaroid border to your pictures.

You can apply Phototastic's effects to newly captured images or choose a photo already in your Pictures Hub to customize. Phototastic supports sharing your creations through Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and Photobucket.  Overall, Phototastic isn't a shabby little photography app and can give your pictures a little pop.

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TrueCaller heading to the Marketplace

TrueCaller for Windows Phone

TrueCaller is a global number search with integrated call blocking functionality.  TrueCaller has been available over on iOS and Android platforms and it will soon be available over at the Windows Phone Marketplace.

With TrueCaller you can see who is calling by connecting with yellow and white page directories from all over the world. TrueCaller also offers Social Caller ID that lets you know what your friends are up to before you answer their calls by displaying information from their Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

One of the more interesting features of TrueCaller is the ability to automatically block calls by adding unwanted numbers to a spam list. It also appears that you have the ability to tap into a centralized spam list.  A list that is created from other users on numbers that have been deemed as unwanted or spam.

TrueCaller is expected to be a free app that should be in the Marketplace any day now. Until then you can check out all the details on TrueCaller from their website.

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Windows Phone App Review: Sleep

Sleep for Windows Phone

Sleep is one of the many sound generators available over at the Windows Phone Marketplace designed to help you relax and fall asleep easier.  And we all know that a good night's sleep is essential for good health and fitness.

We've covered several and Sleep holds its own amongst the sleep/sound/relaxation apps we've tried. There's still some room for improvement but overall, Sleep ain't too shabby.

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