Nowadays, apps are an integral part of smartphones. All devices, regardless of platform, have your basic features like a Web browser, media player, cameras, productivity tools, and so forth, but apps allow you to really make the device yours with the tools to fit your needs and lifestyle.
Of course, with Windows Phone 7 being a new platform, the app selection isn't quite as robust or strong as iTunes or the Android Market. However, Microsoft says the Windows Phone Marketplace will launch with more than 1,000 apps and games when the first phones ship in the U.S. on November 8, and the company expects to release several hundred apps per week till the end of 2010.
We've already provided you with a preview of some of the Windows Phone 7 apps, but here's a hands-on look at some of the latest apps to hit the Marketplace.
Yelp Here we have the Yelp application for Windows Phone 7. From the main page, you can search by entering a specific term or business name, or you can select one of the general categories.
If you pick a general category, such as restaurants, the Yelp app will return search results closest to your location. With each listing, you can see the address, distance from your location, price range, average star rating, and category if applicable (e.g., type of food). You can also use the contextual toolbar at the bottom of the screen to sort your results by different filters, view the listings on a map, or search again.
Need to make restaurant reservations on the fly? That's no problem with the OpenTable app. On Windows Phone 7, you can search for places by your current location, a specific location, restaurant name, or recently viewed.
Once you've entered your details--date, time, number in party--OpenTable will present you with a list of what's available along with several time options, neighborhood, and cuisine type. You can then get more details by selecting an individual result and make reservations by entering your account information.
The official Twitter app for Windows Phone 7 is pretty simple. Like all the other apps, it uses the panoramic layout and navigation so you can scroll side to side to see your timeline, mentions, direct messages, and lists.
One thing we'd like to see improved is load times. It takes a few seconds for the timeline to populate, and then when you swipe over to Mentions, you're in for another wait. Same for messages.
The app provides a list of trending topics on Twitter and also offers a directory of topics, where you can view tweets from persons well-known in that specific area, such as sports, music, politics, and humor.
Facebook is already tightly integrated into Windows Phone 7. If you attach your Facebook account to your phone during setup, the system will integrate your Facebook friends into the People Hub and Pictures Hub.
That aside, there is also a dedicated Facebook app, which allows you to access more of the social network's features in one place, including event invitations, notifications, and friend requests.
Much like the desktop version, the news feeds displays your friends' latest status updates, links, and photos. You can tap on the plus sign to add a comment or like a post. There's a section at the top of the screen where you can add your own updates or pictures.
The WeatherBug app is pretty straightforward. You can get current weather conditions as well as a weekly forecast. If you pin the app to the Start screen, the app will update the live tile with data at a user-specified time interval. You can also disable these push notifications if you wish.
Shazam is a music discovery engine. If you happen to hear a song come on the radio or in a club, you can use the app to identify and tag the song and artist. On Windows Phone 7, there's also an option in the app to purchase the song from the Zune Marketplace.
Here's a screen grab from the "Due Date" preview. We simply tapped the "Play Trailer" button from the listing page, which launched the video player. The trailer took a few seconds to load but played back beautifully on our Samsung Focus review unit.
Apps like Hipstamatic for the iPhone and FxCamera for Android are hugely popular for adding cool effects to your camera phone photos. PicFX for Windows Phone 7 doesn't offer quite as many effect options as the other two apps, but you can choose from Black & White, Sepia, Tilt Shift, or Pola.
The streaming music service allows you to create personalized radio stations and playlists and also makes recommendations based on the songs and artists that you listen to. The app lists your recent tracks and stations and also provides concert information.
An ingredients list makes it easy for you to make a shopping list, and the app provides step-by-step directions for cooking the dish. iFood Assistant Plus is supported in landscape mode, so if the directions are too small for you to read, you can rotate the phone and each direction will be presented on screen in larger, bolder text.
You can catch up on the day's news with the AP Mobile app. The top headlines are presented on one screen and separated by category: top news, sports, showbiz, U.S. news, and so forth. If you want to see more news in a specific area, simply tap the "more headlines" link.
After you've entered your hotel requirements, the Travelocity app will return with a list of results, which you can then filter by price, rating, or distance. Individual listing pages also offers a brief description of the hotel, photos, and, if available, information about amenities, dining, transportation, and more.