Welcome to the wonderful world of apps! We are here to help you find the official, and most popular, apps available in the “Big Three” app markets (Apple, Google and Microsoft), accompanied by a brief description. Whether it is Microsoft, Apple, or Google, these thriving ecosystems have some common apps that appear in their respective stores. We will also include “Windows 8.x/Pro/RT” tag as the operating system for desktops/laptops/tablets has a Store built in. As a disclaimer: These apps are free to download but some of these services may require a subscription (will be noted) to use their services. Check back as there will be updates to these lists.
Instagram – Part social, part photo filter, all fun! One of the most popular services for sharing your photos and videos, Instagram adds flare to all your photos with many filters, tilt effects, stickers frames, and more. Lastly, users can upload quick videos. This app can feed into your other social circle(s), like Facebook and Twitter, to share with your family and friends. Available on iOS and Android. It is BETA on Windows Phone 8.x – limitation is no video upload but the team promises it in future updates.
Facebook – Considered the biggest social network on the planet. With more than a billion users globally, this network gives you the ability to share photos, create/comment on posts, play games, create events, and see an innovative timeline of your friends and family “lifespan”. The service is available in app form on all platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7.5/8.x, Windows 8.x/Pro/RT.
Twitter – Another excellent network to interact with other members such as celebrities. In some cases they may tweet you back! You “follow” people and some “follow” you back, which creates a feed. This service provides quick news updates, as well as being social with other people using hashtags, links, and other methods. Available on iOS, Windows Phone 7.5/8.x, Windows 8.x/Pro/RT, Android.
Vine – Owned by Twitter, created by you in 6 seconds! This mobile app is strictly video sharing. What makes this unique is the limitation of how short video clips need to be, which is 6 seconds. Users can share, comment, and favorite your videos. Adding to the appeal, sites have been created to pay homage to this service compiling “best of…” videos. Available on iOS, Windows Phone 8.x, Android
Path – This is a lesser known network but growing nonetheless. Billed as an alternative to Facebook, this service aims to streamline content and be more personal to you without the barrage of ads, sponsored posts, and other content that tends to clog up your Facebook feeds. Path is also aimed to take the very best parts of Twitter and Facebook to give a simpler and easier user experience. Available in iOS, Windows Phone 8.x, Android
Pinterest – Social network dedicated in creating virtual corkboards. You “pin” your interests such as photos, recipes, and other materials. This site is excellent for gift ideas as well as projects for school, work, or for fun. You can follow people for quick access to see what your friends are pinning. Must be a registered member to surf the corkboards. Available on iOS, Android, and BETA for Windows Phone 8.x.
The Weather Channel – This is the official weather app from The Weather Channel. It is your one stop app to give your local weather forecast, extended forecasts, and radar maps. You can add various locations from across the globe too. Available of iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7.5/8.x, Windows 8.x/Pro/RT.
NBC News/CNN/FOX News Media – These apps all provide users with late breaking news as well as editorials, videos, photos, and other information from these leading news sources. Each app offers something a little different, but in the end you get your news. All provide push notifications, and ability to integrate into each respective platform. All for the news junkies (like myself!). All available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8.x, Windows 8.x/Pro/RT.
Amazon Kindle – Most popular app for reading e-books, newspapers, magazines, and listening to audiobooks. This app syncs with your Amazon account, so the user can send any newspaper, magazine, book or audiobook, either purchased or borrowed, from the Amazon store to those devices. Available on Android, iOS, Windows Phone 7.5/8.x, Windows 8.x/Pro/RT
Overdrive Media Console – This app is a portal to your local library. You can browse all the e-books and audiobooks your local participating library has to offer. You can place holds, check books/audio in and out and has a built in player for audiobooks. Available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7.5/8.x, Windows 8.x/Pro/RT
Audible, Inc. – This service, owned by Amazon, is strictly a collection of audiobooks, radio podcasts and audio versions of popular news magazines. You can choose from over 150,000 titles and listen to as many as you like. The catch is this is a subscription-based service, even though the app itself is free. Available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7.5/8.x, Windows 8.x/Pro/RT
Barnes & Noble Nook – A direct competitor to Amazon, the Nook app is a portal for all this B&N. The user can purchase/download content much like the Kindle app. It also syncs with your B&N account to update all your electronic purchases. Available on iOS, Android, and Windows 8.x/Pro/RT (NOT AVAILABLE on Windows Phone)
Xbox Music – This app taps into the entire music collection that Microsoft offers. Competing with Apple iTunes & Google Play Music, Xbox Music aims for a subscription model and offers unlimited downloads and streaming to your favorite devices. Certain caveats to use the service on mobile devices include the requirement of Xbox Music Pass which is their subscription service. Free accounts . Available apps on iOS & Android. BUILT INTO Windows Phone 8.x & Windows 8.x/Pro/RT.
Slacker Radio – One of my personal favorite music apps. Streams music directly to your device. Curated by the “geniuses” at Slacker Radio, Inc., the service offers many stations for you to listen to for free. They do offer two subscription-based plans called Radio Plus and Radio Premium . Free plans offer a limited, 6 skips per station, and ad-supported music. Overall Very good choice for a “set it and forget it” listening. Also has a search function to find your favorite artists, and will intelligently find similar artists to build a custom station. Available on Windows Phone 7.5/8.x, Windows 8.x/Pro/RT, iOS, and Android.
Pandora – One of the most popular music apps, and billed as music “personalized for you”. The user can curate their own stations, like and dislike artists/songs, and discover new music. This is a way for Pandora to track your listening habits and become more customized for your tastes in music. You are required to have a Pandora music account, but basic users can listen to ad-supported streams for free. Also offers a subscription-based plan for ad-free music via Pandora One; this service costs $4.99/month. Available on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8.x.
Spotify – Another great service for streaming music with over 40 million subscribers, including 10 million premium members. Users can join for free or join their Premium Subscription plan to for unlimited, commercial free music. Also, listeners with premium accounts can enjoy music offline by downloading them to your connected device. Paid membership fee is $9.99/month. Lastly, connecting this service to your Facebook account will unlock its “social” aspects. Your friends can see what tracks/mixes you published to your timeline. It asks to use your Facebook account to log in Available on Windows Phone 8.x, Android, and iOS.
WeChat – This is a very popular app with 400+ million users globally. This app makes it easy to communicate with other users from around the globe. You can send voice notes, pictures, video and text. A cool feature, called “Message in a Bottle”, lets users “throw” a virtual bottle into the digital ocean for a user to read (or hear if you send a voice message). There are many other features to check out that are more social networking. Mainly popular in Asia but gaining traction in other territories. Available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7.5/8.x.
WhatsApp – Most widely known messaging app globally, with over 500 million active users. This app also lets users send and receive voice notes, texts, and pictures. This service has a 1 year free subscription which after that will charge $0.99 a year to continue using WhatsApp. They also note on their site that uninstalling and reinstalling the app will not reset 1 free year subscription. Lastly, this service is now owned by Facebook, Inc. Available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7.5/8.x.
Skype – One of the pioneers in cross platform messaging and video chatting apps around. Began as an independent company before being acquired by Microsoft in 2011, this service lets users send text messages as well as video calling with loved ones across the globe. There is a subscription version of the software reserved for internet calling to users domestically and international; usually pay for the minutes. Free for just video chat with one user, and texting. Excellent choice for businesses as well as casual users. Available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7.5/8.x, Windows 8.x/Pro/RT.
Viber – An excellent app for the traveler. This app enables users to send pictures/texts over the web as well as make free domestic voice calls over Wi-Fi to other Viber users. Users can send “stickers” with their texts too. Also offer cheap international plans for calling abroad. Lastly, a user can call someone outside Viber network, for a small fee. Available on iOS,Android, Windows Phone 7.5/8.x, Windows 8.x/Pro/RT.