Oct. 14, 2010 at 3:25 PM ET
Three days ago I asked where the Windows Phone 7 apps were, and for my sins, I got an answer.
At the time of clicking 'Publish' on this post, there are currently 181 Windows Phone 7 apps at the Zune Marketplace, with quite a few more known to be en route. When I skimmed through them, I got a familiar feeling: The Bibles, the tip calculators, the flashlights, the fart makers, the bus trackers, all of the hallmarks of the iPhone App Store are already cropping up. But instead of being direct ports from the iPhone or Android stores, even apps that are developed by the same people are adopting the Windows Phone 7 design language, with appealing results.
To give you an example, here's a look at some of the early apps' iPhone-to-WP7 transformations, as well as a handful of WP7-only apps that show great promise, both in features and aesthetics. Since the phones aren't out yet, this isn't a review, but anyone considering buying a WP7 phone should keep all these apps in mind. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of NBC Universal and Microsoft, but this post obviously doesn't reflect anyone's opinion but my own.)
Huffington Post - To me, this is a good example of how the WP7 design allowed the developers to freshen up their mobile look, without really changing anything. That's not to say it won't look tired in 12 to 18 months, but for now, it's news in the newest package.
AcroBible - Though, like the iPhone App Store, the WP7 Marketplace will soon be flooded with Bibles, there are only two there now. One is ugly as sin, but the other, AcroBible, appears to have been brought over the right way, by ditching the iPhone language and embracing the WP7 dev kit.
Break.com - This viral vid hub is good on any platform, but while the iPhone app has been crammed with extras where the WP7 one is more simplified. Over time, it too may get junked up, but for now, I like the simplicity.
Wipolo - We're all searching for better ways to organize complex plans, and the WP7 version of Wipolo may do an even better job than the iPhone app in presenting a broad variety of information. It's certainly cleaner.
In my Marketplace browsing, the following apps struck me as smart and attractive:
Twitt - I especially like the use of the background pattern here, like Break.com and AcroBible. (Even though Twitter has an official WP7 app, I may try this one first.)
Pictures Lab - Good use of the interface in workflow, such as editing images. In another screenshot, there's even a pop-up, but it's not jarring in any way. (The app, a Swiss Army knife of photo tweaks, will be one of my first downloads.)
Optumizeme - I'll forgive the weird spelling of the name because everything else about this looks great, especially the use of many different colors. That's hard to do well, because the basic WP7 design plan is so bold and, almost, monochromatic.
Car Bloke - Charts and graphs seem to do extremely well in the WP7 design scheme, probably an intentional part of Microsoft's "glance and go" mentality. But extra props to Car Bloke for the cool clip art.
gReadie - This Google Reader RSS app strikes me especially for its great integration of non-Microsoft fonts and design into WP7. The challenge going forward is how to make creative cool apps within the confines, and this is a good example of where to start.
BabyMinder - OK, you got me, living with an infant (even the second time around) means I've got diapers on the brain, but look how neatly this app merges WP7 design with unique icons. And again, you can see how the platform facilitates rapid-fire info.
As upbeat as I am about these particular apps, that doesn't mean all smells rosy in the WP7 Marketplace. There are already stupid and ugly apps making their way in, including some fart apps that offend as much in aesthetics as they do in content. Yet while I won't recommend them, I welcome them. You have to let in a lot of interesting ideas in order to get the best ideas, and three fart apps — or 300 — won't hurt a thriving dev community. Still, some things do nag me:
• There's really not a lot of early development intended for landscape viewing. Even Break.com's interface was shown vertically, though the videos surely play horizontally. Will anyone ever turn their WP7 phones on the side?
• The icons I'm seeing in the Marketplace are pretty nasty looking in many cases, even with apps that have terrific user interfaces. The trick will be seeing how the junkier icons look on the phone itself.
• How many people hate the cut-off text look? One of the unifying features of the Windows Phone 7 (aka Zune HD) look and feel is the enlarged text that tends to drift off the screen. I think it's cool, but I have always spotted a vocal contingent of commenters who totally hate it. How broad is its appeal? (Zune HD sales certainly offer no help in gauging its maximum reach.)
• Will the WP7 design language get tired? Better yet, how soon will it? Even if you love the black backgrounds, the bold monochromes and the cut-off text, will all of it seem monotonous after a while? The iPhone's interface seemed amazingly modern once upon a time, but now it has a tendency to look a little cartoony at times.
These are the first thoughts on the first look at what will hopefully be a new creative wave in app development. When we get our phone to test out, we'll be pulling in all of these and a whole lot more. In the meantime, download the Zune software yourself (PCs only, for now), and take a look.