Like many of you, I’ve returned to the gym to burn off some unwanted leftovers from 2011 and need easy access to music on my phone for workouts. As I climb on the bike, I don’t want to fumble through a catalog of artists, albums, and playlists inside an app. I want to hit Play and get going.
But that’s no problem. A variety of music apps (not to mention the built-in Zune player) have recently launched in Marketplace or been updated with Live Tiles that let you play music from your Start screen with one touch. In this post, I’ll tell you about some options, which I’ve broken down into two categories: subscription music apps and radio apps.
Subscription music apps
Zune, Spotify and Rhapsody let you rent unlimited music from a library of millions of tracks for about 10 bucks a month. Music can be played streaming or cached to your phone for offline playback. Zune and Rhapsody also enable you to create personal radio stations, where you choose a music category, and the service picks the individual tracks.
I’ve used all of these services before, and they’re great. Each offers something unique (social network integration, music identification, staff recommendations, etc.) and are available in different markets. I encourage you to do your homework and sample each, but here’s how they stack up when it comes to quick and easy access to your music:
Caption: Zune—found in the Music + Videos hub—provides the greatest number of options for quick access to your favorite music by allowing you to pin artists, albums, songs, playlists, and music genres as well as Smart DJ selections to your Start screen
Caption: Rhapsody comes in second in the Live Tile category with favorite artists, albums, and playlists that can be added to your Start screen.
Caption: Spotify allows you to pin your playlists and playlists from fellow Spotify users who are your friends on Facebook. Artists, albums, songs, guest playlists, and more must be saved as your playlists before they can be pinned to your Start screen.
There are also apps you can use to create customized radio stations and access to hundreds of music, news and sports stations from around the world. iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio and Slacker Radio are pretty cool and offer unique features, such social media integration, artist biographies, album reviews and song lyrics. They’re all free so check them out to find the one (or few) that best suit you. And, of course, all of them allow you to pin stations to your Start Screen.
Caption: iHeartRadio delivers over 750 US radio stations, celebrity-hosted channels, local traffic reports and more, as well commercial-free shows – all of which may be added as Live Tiles to Start Screen.
Caption: TuneIn Radio lets you choose from over 50,000 stations and 1.2 million on-demand streams from around the world, add the stations, songs and shows you love most to your presets, and pin them as a Live Tiles to your Start screen.
Caption: While it may not provide access to live radio stations from around the globe, Slacker Radio’s appeal comes from its ability to create radio stations tailored to your music interest. Millions of songs from thousands of artists help you create and pin your own radio stations to your Start screen
In the past year, Windows Phone was among the fastest growing app catalogs in history (a close second to Apple in growth rate) and today features thousands of apps and games, including 90% of the most popular titles available on both the top two leading smartphones according to TNS research. This week I’ll take a look at five of those most popular apps available on smartphones today, including: Amazon Kindle, Bank of America, The Weather Channel, IMDb, and CNN – all on Windows Phone.
Amazon Kindle has been covered in the Windows Phone blog before, so rather than dive into its features, I’ll explain how Mango makes the app even better with Bing Vision and App Connect.
Try this yourself – it’s cool: touch the Bing Search button and select “vision” (it’s the eyeball icon). Hold your Windows Phone over a book and it will scan the text and deliver results. Select your book from the “results” and select again from “products.” Swipe to the right once to access “apps,” and select Amazon Kindle. The app will go directly to your book, which you can select, buy (if you already have a Kindle account) and start reading immediately. I did this at work when I found a book I wanted in a co-worker’s office. In less time than it takes to wait in line at a bookstore, I was reading it on my phone!
Bing Vision Scanning Book with Results App Connect to Amazon Kindle Book
I use the BofA website to manage my accounts, so I was interested to see how the app compares to the online version. Just like the website, you enter your passcode and are directed to accounts overview. The app version has been simplified to include only your bank accounts and does not feature “Special Offers & New Accounts,” which is okay because this section is advertising anyway.
While the primary selection tabs on the Online Banking website are “Accounts, Bill Pay, Transfers, Investments, and Customer Service” the app version was created with mobility in mind, and replaces “Investments” with “Locations” and “Customer Service” with “More.” Locations enables you to search for BofA ATMs and banks based on your current location or by entering a zip code, and More includes a “Contact Us” tab with both online/mobile banking technical support and customer service options as well as settings, related mobile services, and more.
The bottom line is that the BofA app for Windows Phone offers virtually everything from the website, and more for mobile, in a format that is both easy to navigate and use.
BofA Accounts Overview Screen Bank of America Recommends Locations
I switch between using Accuweather and The Weather Channel often, and while Accuweather is an app that I recommend highly, this post is a popularity contest and the Weather Channel ranks among the top 20 apps on smartphones today. Live animation in apps is great, and The Weather Channel delivers when you open it by displaying a panorama view of the day’s weather. In my case, it’s moving clouds today and when I swipe to see the 5-day forecast each day includes falling raindrops, and, or stirring clouds – that’s Seattle in October.
Swipe to the right and you can view a radar map, which doesn’t appear to offer much, until…you tap on it. This launches an interactive Bing map with the option to add layers, including current temperature, wind speed, clouds; select points of interest, such as schools, airports, and parks to view; and animate with motion graphics. Pan to the right again and you receive a menu of additional features, including hourly forecast details (happy hour on the patio anyone?), videos of local, regional and national forecasts, weather photography with some great shots by locals, and a social connections option that enables you to share your local weather with a custom message on Facebook or by email.
5-Day Forecast with live animation Bing Map with motion graphics of radar
IMDb is an app (like Amazon Kindle) that hasn’t been updated to Windows Phone 7.5 with features like double-sided Live tiles, yet still takes advantage of Mango advancements on your phone to make the experience even better. For example, I tapped on Bing Search, selected “voice” and said “Ides of March movie.” Voila! IMDb recommended right there at the top of the screen. Launch the app to see show times, popularity rating, plot summary, cast, reviews, trailers to watch and more. Want to see another example of how Windows Phone 7.5 boosts this app? Select “watch trailer” and see how Internet Explorer 9 and hardware acceleration go to work to deliver a fast, eye-catching video.
App Connect Recommends IMDb IMDb trailers are better with Mango
While I keep current on industry-related news, the same isn’t always true for the latest headlines in entertainment, sports, politics, etc. To date, I’ve relied upon drive time news radio, which is good but the information tends to be hyperlocal. So, I’m glad to discover CNN News from Gurund as a result of writing this column. After downloading the app, you choose topics from a broad list and you’re ready to go. Now you have the latest news at your fingertips that you can read from the app or Internet Explorer, share via Facebook, forward by email and more.
Choose Topics from a broad list with CNN Post CNN News Stories to your Facebook
Have a Windows Phone App question? Ask me in the comments section of this post or Find me on Twitter
AccuWeather today announced a new version of its free Windows Phone weather app, which is available now and includes several tweaks to take advantage of new Windows Phone 7.5 features. A few highlights:
To see it in action, check out this handycam video I made — or the official demo from Accuweather.
What’s your favorite Windows Phone weather app?
Have a Windows Phone App question? Ask me in the comments section of this post or Find me on Twitter
The big day is finally here! As Eric noted this morning, we’re officially rolling out Windows Phone 7.5 (which many of you know better as Mango) worldwide through our mobile operator partners. While many of 7.5’s killer new features like Bing Vision, Threads, Groups and the new IE9 have been on display for a while, there are a few secrets we’ve kept under wraps. Today I’ll walk you through them.
First up is Internet Sharing, which you might know better as “tethering”. Starting today our hardware partners and mobile operators have the option to let you use your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot so you can stay connected anywhere there’s a data connection. If this feature is enabled on your phone and by your carrier, you’ll see an additional “Internet Sharing” item under Settings. It’s pretty cool stuff and a feature that I’m really looking forward to using – I spend a LOT of time on the road and I hate it when I’m not connected, so this is a great option for me. And since Internet sharing lets you connect up to 5 devices at a time, I’ll be able to keep all of the PCs I travel with online when I’m on the go. I should note that this feature will only be available on new Windows Phones that have radios capable of broadcasting a connection; if you update your existing phone to 7.5, it won’t give it the ability to use Internet Sharing. (Although it would be cool if it did, right?)
The second new feature is our the brand new Web Marketplace, which will serve as your online resource to discover, try and buy new apps and games (and share them with your friends via Facebook & Twitter), and get them automatically delivered to your phone without any complicated multi-step installs. The Web Marketplace is too awesome to accurately describe in screenshots and text, so I shot a video of what the Web Marketplace looks like, how it works, and how you can take advantage of it. Check it out:
Amazing, right? I’m blown away by the fact that my Windows Phone receives and installs apps silently in the background. It makes getting apps – both new ones, and ones that I need to re-install, a breeze.
I should also note that along with the Web Marketplace, today you can also start using the new “My Windows Phone” section of WindowsPhone.com, which lets you easily find, lock and even erase your phone if it gets lost and gives you lighting fast access to apps, photos and docs.
So now that you know how to work the Web Marketplace, what’s the first app you’re going to download?