Walter Glenn posted an article recently about Windows Phone 8 and this was a pleasant surprise. These posts are few and far between on Lifehacker, leaving users of those phones poorly served. As I opened the post to read it I expected the usual snark in the replies from users of other phone OSs that you see elsewhere, however it wasn't there: pleasant surprise #2. Although rather few in number, the comments were nearly all from WP8 users whom I didn't know existed: pleasant surprise #3.

In a reply to Walter's post I posted a couple of things I'd discovered about WP8 – specifically Lumia devices which, at the moment are pretty much synonymous with WP8 – and I'm repeating them below and hopefully adding more periodically. Also, one thing I noticed as I browse the Windows Phone store is that it contains nearly all of the 'name' apps (or apps for tasks) that get most publicity in Lifehacker or that are most used or helpful. There are only a few major exceptions – the most major of those being Google and it's suite of services.

Here are those original tips

  • You can long press the number shift key on the keyboard and slide your finger to any number or punctuation key for a one-off character from that keyboard selection.
  • Similarly, pressing the period key or the .com key gives you more specific functionality. You can long press most of the alpha keys to get other choices e.g. pressing c gives c, ç and ©.
  • The calculator when rotated left becomes a scientific calculator; rotate right for a binary, octal decimal or hex calculator. As an aside, while playing with this calculator I noticed that Halloween and Christmas day are both the same occasion! Oct 31=Dec 25; that is 31 in base 8 is the same number as 25 in base 10.
  • If you go into Here+, WP8's navigation app you can pin your "My Commute" to a live tile on the Start screen. This will function the same as in Android, where a card informs you of travel time home or to work depending on the time of day, any accidents or road work, and offers you alternative routes.
  • If you didn't read the manual that came with your phone you might not be aware that after long pressing text (word, phrase) in any app that allows editing or writing a cursor appears above your finger which you can drag to your desired editing/insertion point. From here you can backspace or edit in your text.
    In these same editable apps if you get the red squiggly under a word then select it by tapping it and look in the spelling bar above the keyboard. The word with squigglies will be there with a plus sign before it. Tapping this will add the word to your dictionary.

Nokia has started an ad campaign which refers to what is commonly called the "app-gap" is now not so much that as an "app-lag". The apps you want usually make it to the WP8 store last after iOS and Android however they are there. As I wrote above, just about anything you can do on an Android phone with a downloadable app you can do on a Windows Phone, and (in a weird way, considering desktop Windows) you don't need an antivirus application either. Here are just a few of the apps I use or know about that have an official WP8 version.

EvernoteBuzzfeedPlants vs. Zombies
Weather ChannelAccuweatherWeatherbug
IMDbAmazon StoreAmazon Kindle
MintAdobe ReaderPhotosynth
SpotifyRhapsodyBeats Music

Plus a whole bunch of Xbox and other games.

The following aren't official apps but have the same or very similar functionality as the original iOS or Android app written by a third party developer and are highly rated in the WP Store.


Usual well-known appWP8 app
DropboxCloud 6 for Dropbox
Clear (iOS) Koalkat's Clear (Android)Clearly

Plus there are any number of To-do apps of equal or better quality than those you currently use (e.g. Sooner Or Later), the usual complement of Weather apps, music, video apps etc.

If you have a heavy investment in Google then a Windows Phone is probably not going to be a good idea for you as Google does not support the platform. However there are third party quality apps which will allow you to access your Google Drive, Youtube, gmail, Google Play music. There's Google Maps too if you like. You can read, edit and create your google docs in Drive. You can get the full Youtube experience without ads (not just the website as you'll read in posts by detractors). There are apps for gmail but you can simply add it to the mail client and view it either separately or combined with your other mail accounts. There are apps for retrieving your Google play music – not, it must be said your subscription items, just the stuff you uploaded. However Google is currently playing a cat and mouse game with these apps with don't have access to the API. Therefore each small change Google makes breaks these apps till the developer gets on top of the change. Admittedly not a satisfactory situation.