There’s an App for That!

The first of the posts to be making their circle this year is posting what apps they recommend on their phones. My friends Jeff Blankenburg and Brian Jackett made posts, and I figured I’d join in on this.

My Phone

I have a Samsung Focus on AT&T with the Mango update. Hard to believe, I’ve had my phone for over a year now. Very pleased with the Windows Phone interface, I’ve added many apps to my phone since getting it.

Social Media Apps

  • 4th & Mayor – It took me awhile to get into the whole Foursquare check-ins trend. But after devLink this summer, I’ve checked into a few places – currently at 184 check-ins, 4 mayorships, 21 badges, 12 tips, and 42 friends. My top places include places where I was contracted to work and where the user groups meet. In the past 6 months, my top categories include airports, food & drink shops, and offices. All of these statistics are easily attainable in 4th & Mayor! Once again, Jeff Wilcox has put out an awesome app.
  • Birdsong – While talking with my friend Chris Woodruff while we were in Seattle last year, I asked him if he could recommend any apps for juggling multiple Twitter accounts. Birdsong is great for that! Whether I’m Tweeting as @sadukie, @clevtechevents, or one of my various conference accounts, I have one app that allows me to switch between accounts and tweet from there. While I don’t use it often when I have my laptop on hand, I do find it helpful if I need to post a picture to Twitter while I’m on the road.

Productivity Apps

  • Amazon Mobile – Definitely handy when you’re buying items from a brick and mortar store and really wondering if you should spend that amount on something that you could wait a few days for. Being an Amazon Prime person and having free 2-day shipping on orders, this is a must-have for me.
  • Diagnosis – Whether you’re trying to diagnose battery usage and signal problems or wanting to tether out on your phone, this is a must-have for Samsung Focus users. You can find more on the Samsung Focus Diagnosis app on the XDA-Developers site.
  • GoVoice – If you have a Google Voice account, you can check your Google Voice texts and voicemails on your Windows Phone with the GoVoice app. This has been helpful in deciphering what some of my transcribed voice mails really were.
  • Last.fm – Listen to the streaming music over last.fm right on your phone with this app!  When I’m not listening to last.fm on my XBOX, I may be listening to it on my phone.  It’s nice to have this option in addition to any other options I’d have in whichever car I’m driving.
  • Mileage Log – Being in business for myself, I have a new world of tax write-offs, including mileage to places.  Also, with getting a new car last July, I was curious to see how its mileage would be throughout the year.  This app allows me to track my mileage (including the price) so that I can see the mpg trends in my car.
  • Stopwatch – Good for timing laps and as a general timer.
  • Translator – Right now, the supported languages include English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish.  I like having this on hand when I am dealing with an international audience and need to get words or sentences translated.
  • Unit Converter – I’m known to run searches such as “150 lb to stone” or “47 degrees F to C” and then getting the conversion from a search engine.  However, having Unit Converter on my phone means that I have these conversion abilities right at my fingertips when I’m on the go.  Whether I’m looking at length, temperature, speed, time, volume, angle, weight, or area, this app has been very helpful in getting me the conversions I need when I need them.
  • WordPress – If you have 1 or even more than 1 WordPress website, this Windows Phone app is great for managing your WordPress sites.  One thing to note, XML-RPC publishing needs to be enabled on self-hosted  WordPress blogs before you can publish from the app. WordPress.com-hosted apps have this enabled by default.
  • World Clock – If you have business clients (or in my case, family) throughout the world, this app can help you keep track of what time it is in other parts of the world.  For me, having family in London, Sydney, and Hong Kong, I need to have something like the World Clock app to help keep their times straight.

Misc Apps

  • Across the Room – Recommended to me by Jeff, I’ve found this helpful whether it’s delivering a message to friends in the same talk as me at a conference or sending a message to my husband when he’s sitting away from me in our front room. Of course, he steals my phone so that he too can play with this app. This is just a fun way to deliver a message, as the name suggests, across the room.
  • Coin Flipper – When you live in a house of indecision like I do, it helps to have a coin flipper for making decisions, especially if you don’t like carrying coins around.
  • Fandango – Whether it’s a girls’ night out to Sex and the City 2, a family trip to The Muppets, or a date night to the latest James Bond movie, I like having movie times and being able to purchase movie tickets right at my fingertips. I can see what’s now playing, what’s coming soon, and even what’s showing at nearby theaters – including showtimes for the current day!
  • FML – If you’re having a bad day and need something to make you laugh, just know that other people are having it as bad or worse. This app is great, showing the data from fmylife.com.
  • Geocaching – After a few of my college friends talked me into geocaching, I’ve found it to be a good excuse to get out of the house and a great way to explore cities. Take scavenger hunts to the next level with this GPS scavenger hunt-like activity. Whether I’m on my own or out with friends, I’ve always enjoyed figuring out where the cache is hidden.  This is tied into the geocaching.com database.
  • IMDb – Pulling data from the IMDB.com website, this app is great when you need to wow your friends with a quote from a movie or satisfy your curiosity of who was in the original Ocean’s 11.
  • Periodic Table – Have I ever mentioned that some of my friends are super smart when it comes to science?  If they ever get to talking about elementary topics, I’ve got a periodic table of elements on my phone to remind me how that was structured.
  • Portal Sounds – I’m a fan of the Portal games, and I’ve found that having the sounds at my fingertips can be a great distracting tool.  There have been times where my little nephew (who’ll be 2 in the spring) has started getting fussy, and I’ve played some of the Portal sounds which have caught his attention and got him to settle down.
  • Wikipedia – This app needs to words, other than it takes the data from the Wikipedia.com site.

Games

  • Angry Birds – Shooting birds to attack pigs… this game is an addicting puzzle game.
  • Bejeweled™ LIVE – I have to admit that I have a weak spot for PopCap games. The Bejeweled series was the first of their games that roped me in. I love this gem-matching game, whether I’m at the doctor’s office or stuck on a long ride.
  • Color Sprouts – a coloring book app, good for keeping kids distracted
  • Doodle Jump – a fun little game that makes great use of the accelerometer!
  • Fireworks – nice little app to create a distraction for little ones
  • Fruit Ninja – Be it on my Windows Phone or on Kinect, I have to admit that I am a fruit-slashing addict. On the phone, your fingers are what does the slashing. Slice and dice the fruit, and watch out for the bombs! This game is great stress relief!
  • Parachute Panic – Such a catchy theme song! It’s fun trying to land parachuting guys on boats while working around obstacles.
  • PvZ – I’ve got this on my PC and was super thrilled when I saw it was coming out for Windows Phone. I have this on my phone now as well, and I made it a point to unlock the Whack-a-Zombie mini game for yet another form of stress relief!
  • Swipy Man – Another game that makes physics fun, trying to land a stick figure guy on a platform.
  • Wordament – I’m a words-game junkie. Banagrams, Scrabble, Boggle, and Balderdash are just some of the word games I like playing in person. Wordament is a good Boggle-like game.
  • Toy Xylophone – You never know when you need to distract a kid or play as an accompaniment at Music Monday. Having a toy xylophone on the phone is just a silly thing to have on hand.

Conclusion

Got any apps on your phone that you’d like to recommend to others? Blog about it and post a link to your blog post here in the comments! I’d love to see how others are using their phones and what apps they find useful!

Others’ recommendations so far:

Microsoft Promoting Windows Phone App Building

I just noticed today’s date, and I’ve had my Windows Phone for about a year.  Has it been a year already?!?  Time flies when you have a phone that you like (and I truly like my Samsung Focus)!  But have you, as a developer, found yourself with a smart phone and a need for a particular app but couldn’t find the right app?  That’s an opportunity to build your own app!

The [Your App Here] Campaign

Yesterday, I received an email from Microsoft about their [Your App Here] advertising campaign program.  They’re looking for the next wave of great apps for Mango (Windows Phone 7.5) phones.  Unfortunately, this program is limited to developers in the United States.

The email mentions two campaigns – January and February – with respective submission deadlines of 11/16 and 12/22.  By submitting your app, you are entering for a chance to win placement in a digital Windows Phone campaign, with banner ads and up to a million impressions through the MSN Network.  The app will also be featured at the Windows Phone marketplace.

So that app you’ve been thinking about… maybe it’s time to build it and get others using it as well!  For more details, see The [Your App Here] Campaign site.

Windows Phone Camp Hands On Accelerator Lab

What better way to work on your Windows Phone app than to check out the Windows Phone Camp Hands On Accelerator Labs that Microsoft is hosting in various cities throughout the country?  Next week, Tuesday (11/15) through Thursday (11/17), Microsoft is hosting a 3-day camp in Columbus, OH to help you get your apps out to the Windows Phone market.  Whether you’ve got a totally new app idea or maybe have an Android, iPhone, or BlackBerry app that you want to see on Windows Phone, this can be a great opportunity to work with Microsoft resources on how to get your app built and out to the Windows Phone Marketplace.  For more details on the Columbus Windows Phone Camp Hands On Accelerator Lab, click here.

31 Days of Mango

My friend Jeff Blankenburg is a Developer Evangelist over at Microsoft who’s been passionate about Windows Phone for quite awhile.  He wrote a “31 Days of Windows Phone” series awhile back, and now he’s publishing his new series – 31 Days of Mango.  If you aren’t familiar with some of the new features in Windows Phone 7.5, then you really should check this series out.  I really like that these articles have pictures to go along with the descriptions, so that as the reader, we have some context as to what we should be seeing if we’re following along with the blog post.  There are plenty of resources in this series for working with Mango – to date, including emulator tools, reminders, motion, contacts API, and the calendar API. For more details, you can check this out at http://jeffblankenburg.com/31daysofmango.

Other Resources

There are plenty of resources for getting started with Windows Phone.  In addition to those above, you can always check out http://create.msdn.com.  With all of these resources at your fingertips and the need for an app on your Windows Phone, what are you waiting for?  Start your app today!

Gaming on the Mobile Platform…

My friend Jeff wrote an interesting post titled “Mobile games should revisit the past…“. Being a gamer myself, I figured I’d weigh in on this.

Intellivision Games taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/david_s_carter/3085049592/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Gamer Background

First of all, I’ve been gaming since Intellivision, when my dad introduced me to console gaming. From there, I’ve seen many console systems and played many games. Whether it was playing BurgerTime, Pacman, Blades of Steel, Tecmo Bowl, the Dragon Warrior series, Chrono Trigger, Sonic, or Bubsy (to name some of the games I used to play), I really enjoyed getting into the game. However, if you asked me if I’d play these on my phone, I’d probably say “no”.

Controlling the Game

While it’s great that phones now come with accelerometers and other nifty features that may be used in video controls, they really aren’t the same as the controllers of a console system. I can’t see myself tapping up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, B, A, Start on my phone.

Now granted… rather than having the D-pad for directional control, it could be cool if mobile games used the accelerometer to determine which way to move your avatar. But you still have the buttons to simulate, and those are different as well.

User Experience is Hard to Replicate

Recently, I tried Pacman on my Windows Phone, and it was an awful experience. If I dragged the guy on the direction pad to the direction I wanted him to go, then it would work. But really.. I’d rather just press the button or push the button in the direction and have him move – the action of sliding/dragging versus the action of pushing a button or moving a joystick are very different experiences.

Console controls of the past allowed for a lot of button mashing, directional pad moving, joystick jockeying. Mobile apps – you replace that experience with swiping, tapping, and shaking/determining movement based on the accelerometer. It’s a different user interface nowadays, which means a different user experience.

Mobile games going forward…

My challenge to mobile games developers is this – if you want to have a successful sale on your game, find a great game of the past and find a way to emulate the controls of yore with the technology of today. If you can capture that well, then it’s your world to succeed in!

Searching for Apps on the Marketplace SUX

So last Monday, I replaced my Motorola Q9h with a very sexy replacement – the Samsung Focus.  I had been reading about it online and drooling over it for awhile, so to get the last one at one of our local stores that morning… so very happy!

As expected, playing with my Windows Phone is leading to at least one SUX post.  Let me start by saying the Samsung Focus, even a week later, has not lost its sexiness.  It’s still an amazing piece of hardware.  However, even the sexiest things have their quirks.

For me, the only unhappy experience I’ve had so far is in searching for apps.  I have friends who’ve written apps, and I have other apps that I know are there but haven’t been easy to find.  The problem I have is that the Search button doesn’t seem to offer any context-specific searching from within the marketplace – so I get albums, songs, and artists in my results when I’m only concerned about apps.

For example, let’s say I’m wondering if there was a Cachemate app for Windows Phone.  When I go into the Marketplace and go into apps, I would hope that the Search button would search just the apps.  Widening my search, if I do a search for “cache”, I see artists and albums in my results, and not just apps as I had hoped.  And the Zune software – which seems to have series star status here in the SUX column – doesn’t offer me any hope either.

So Marketplace team – whoever you may actually be – could you guys please add a feature so that we can narrow our searches down to just what we want (apps or albums or artists or … you get it…)?  It would add a pleasant user experience and could get a “does not SUX” post in the future.

But for now, searching for apps in the Marketplace is clunky at best and truly SUX.

Looking forward to Windows Phone development…

Ever since I saw the Samsung and LG devices that they’ve been using for Windows Phone testing, I’ve been hooked.  My poor Windows Mobile 6.1 phone gives me fits because it knows that it’s going to get replaced with a Windows Phone 7 device.  From liking the features to seeing how easy it is to write a Windows Phone 7 app, I’m really looking forward to getting my own Windows Phone 7 phone.

Want to see how easy it is to write for the Windows Phone 7 platform?  Check out my friend Jeff Blankenburg‘s series that he’s writing this October – 31 Days of Windows Phone 7!