Best Windows Phone apps – May 2014


Microsoft’s Siri alternative isn’t far off now.


By: Microsoft
Price: $TBA

Xbox and PC gamers should already be familiar with the name Cortana. As the fictional AI identity in the mega-selling Halo shooter franchise, Cortana proved to be a versatile and able assistant, so what better codename for Microsoft to pick for its personal assistant app set to take on the likes of the iPhone’s Siri and Google Now? Details about Microsoft’s voice-controlled helper first leaked last year, but with the Windows Phone 8.1 update getting ever closer, new information on the digital assistant has come to light. According to reports, Cortana adopts an approach that marries the functionality of its rivals: conversational abilities and a personal flair to mimic Siri’s vibe of an actual identity, while contextual awareness pertaining to the user’s location/time will offer Google Now style alerts and notifications.

One of Cortana’s key features is the use of a ‘notebook’, in which the assistant records user information gleaned from core Microsoft services (like mail and calendar), but also possibly from third-party apps that will be able to plug into the system. Despite the Cortana codename and its Halo background, it’s unknown whether Microsoft will stick with a female character concept or adopt a more gender-neutral service like Google Now in the long run. Other additions expected in the Windows Phone 8.1 update include a long-awaited notification system, plus new media controls, search features and more. Microsoft is expected to officially unveil Cortana in early April, so we won’t have too long to wait to find out more.



By: Microsoft
Price: Free
Download from: Windows Phone Store

Microsoft recently changed the name of its cloud storage offering, rebranding for legal and marketing purposes to the decidedly singular-sounding OneDrive, which it says is the “one place for your most important stuff” like photos, videos and documents. (You know, like Dropbox or iCloud.) Well, we can’t argue with the value proposition, but the company’s endless legacy of changing names and features in this category — OneDrive, formerly known as SkyDrive, Windows Live SkyDrive, Windows Live Folders and so on… — is almost farcical, and must be a confusing deterrent to the mainstream folk Microsoft hopes to attract. Which is unfortunate, because for WP users OneDrive is the slickest official storage option available on the platform, now including incentives to top up your storage for every friend you bring along.

Facebook Messenger


By: Facebook
Price: Free
Download from: Windows Phone Store

All the hubbub around Facebook at the moment might concern its purchase of messaging giant WhatsApp (which cost an appropriately gigantic US$19 billion), but Facebook’s own messaging platform hasn’t been forgotten about… yet. Facebook Messenger just made its official debut on Windows Phone with the assistance of Microsoft, giving users a standalone app for chat, group chat, photo sharing and let’s not forget those all-important stickers! The Windows Phone version is trailing behind its iOS and Android counterparts a little in terms of some other features, but we don’t expect it will take too long to catch up.