11 must-have apps for your new Windows Phone

Credit: Image: Michael Homnick

While still lagging far behind Android and iOS in terms of users and scope, Windows Phones are slowly building an audience (they're mad popular in the Middle East—go figure!) and boasts some top-shelf hardware of its own.

Still, the big knock against the ecosystem is the apps—or lack thereof. Sure, the WP app store is comparatively tiny and the apps that have attempted migrating over have faced some difficulties, but things seem to be going in the right direction.

While the WP app market continues to mature, there are plenty of good grabs within the 200,000-plus strong ecosystem right now. We've highlighted 11 Windows Phone apps that will make your mobile experience as smooth as Steve Ballmer's scalp.

Translator

Free

5 translator wp

This Bing-powered translator app is a must-have for when making your way around this big multi-lingual world of ours.

Translator gives users the ability to translate words and phrases between 40 different languages. Users can input text via talk; type; or OCR (optical character recognition) technology, which allows devices to "read" written or typed text.

Like its Google-powered translation counterpart, WP's Translator app's OCR tech is still a work in progress, however, it will translate typed or voice-captured text with ease.

Photosynth

Free

4 photosynth wp

Photosynth allows users to create and share wrap-around panoramas by stitching multiple images together. It's a unique way to record amazing vistas from vacations or just give an immersive peek into your personal everyday humdrum.

Behold, my desk:

While Photosynth is supported for the iPhone, you can take some pride that it's not available on Android. 

SkyDrive

Free

6 skydrive wp

Microsoft provides all users who sign up for a Microsoft account seven free gigabytes of cloud storage via SkyDrive. Isn't that sweet of them? The official SkyDrive app acts as a bridge to your local device and allows users to view, download, or upload photos, text documents, AV files, and various other digital debris.

Baconit

Free or $2 donate version

7 baconit wp

Like to keep up on what the (occasionally regretful) Internet hordes are up to? Then look no further than Reddit!

One of the best windows (excuse the pun) into Reddit is through the third-party Baconit app. The app boasts a fast, intuitive interface that will allow you to organize all the best and worst that Reddit has to offer up.

Are you a complete Reddit newb? No worries, you don't even need to have an account to peruse—you just won't be able to vote on links or leave comments or posts. If you like the app, perhaps consider buying the $2 donate version—that's how these things get better.

Waze

Free

8 waze wp new

The crowd-sourced traffic and navigation app Waze was Silicon Valley's must-have acquisition of 2013. And there's a reason: It's good!

Like any car navigation app, Waze will provide turn-by-turn directions between any two points. But Waze facilitates a passive two-way conversation between you and the Waze network that—along with all the other Wazers —creates a real-time snapshot of traffic and road conditions, which Waze will then factor into its directions.

Skype

Free

1 skype wp

Considering that Microsoft paid $8.5 billion to acquire Skype back in 2011, the company should—at the very least—have expected a decent mobile app out of the deal. And the good news is: They got just that! While other major tech brands have had issues making the jump into the WP ecosystem, the Skype app works as well as in any other environment.

You probably already know what Skype is and what it can do for you. If you are one of the unacquainted few, just know that Skype is arguably still the best cross-platform video chat tool. Download that sucka.

Flashlight-X

Free or $2 ad-free

2 flashlight wp

No mobile ecosystem would be complete without a bevy of flashlight apps (just beware which flashlight app you download). And the Windows Phone store is no different. And one of the most popular for WP has been Flashlight-X.

The app offers up a number of useful tools including a continual light source from the phone's flash, a blinking SOS mode for emergencies, and a decent compass that works even when you are out of range from your network signal.

Even if you don't use this app on a daily basis, it's a useful tile to have pinned to your home screen should an emergency arise—or for when you need to make your way around when the lights go out.

Twitter

Free

3 twitter wp

Today, to be on the Internet is to tweet, so the official Twitter is a must-have app. If you are coming over from Android or iOS, you'll notice that Twitter hasn't yet gotten around to updating the WP app with its new-look flavor. Basically, the WP Twitter app is exactly what you would expect from the app in other ecosystems up until last month. Still, the app works in all the ways it should. #TweetAway

Pandora

Free

10 pandora wp

Chances are that you reading this feature with very few days left in 2013, which is unfortunate as this WP version of Pandora gives users ad-free tunes and no monthly streaming cap for the rest of the year (you know, the one that will end in a few days).

But ads or no ads, Pandora on your smartphone can add the perfect soundtrack to your daily jog or a welcome replacement for the bland terrestrial radio during your morning drive.

Vine

Free

9 vine wp

When it comes to Vine and Instagram, I think Instagram is the superior social video service. Unfortunately, Instagram's whack WP app pales in comparison to the actually functioning Vine app. So, if you are a Windows Phone user who feels the deep burn to share your life in teeny tiny video snippets, then Vine is the way to go. At least until Instagram gets their act together.

Netflix

Free

10 netflix wp

Netflix is the disrupting juggernaut that is slowly dismantling the pay TV paradigm. And you can help contribute to the destruction by binge watching your way through whole seasons of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. A Netflix account will bring all the buffet-style video entertainment to you new device.

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