Windows Phone app challenge: Can it stand up to the big boys?

Summary:This is where the rubber meets the road with Windows Phone. We take a selection of regularly-used apps and see whether Windows Phone can provide similar functions. The results may surprise you!

So far, we've seen some wins and losses in the Windows Phone app challenge. How will it all pan out? Let's continue...

My primary editorial management tool with the other ZDNet and CBSi editors and project manager is Google Hangouts. Can I still chat with my team?

This was a bust. I found a couple of applications that claimed to connect with Google Talk, which, theoretically, would have allowed me to chat over Hangouts to my colleagues. However, none of them would allow use of app-specific passwords and they each wanted my main Google account password. Uh. No.

I also tried using just IE, but that turned out to be a bust. I was able to load a very nice Google Plus interface, and I could post to, but I was unable to get Hangouts notifications. I could send a Google Plus message to a specific individual, but from the point of view of rapidly collaborating with my team: no way.

  • Functionality on 0-3 scale: 0
  • Usability on a 0-2 scale: 0

I use the Logitech Alert system to monitor the grounds around my home. I have a great little app on both iOS and Android that I can check. Can I do this with Windows Phone?

Nope. There was no app, and when I tried to access the Web site interface using Windows Phone 8.1 IE, the site detected the use of a mobile browser and pointed me to downloads for iOS and Android.

When I told Windows Phone 8.1 Internet Explorer to identify as a desktop device, I could get the Logitech Alert login page, but since I wasn't running Flash, there was no joy.

  • Functionality on 0-3 scale: 0
  • Usability on a 0-2 scale: 0

How is Kindle reading on this thing?

Smooooth. This may well be one of the nicest Kindle readers I've used, because of the simply gorgeous screen that comes on the Lumia Icon.

In addition, you can pin the book you're currently reading to the home screen, and the result is a cover image of the book. The only downside is when the tile flips, it shows reading status in white text on a light orange background, which is useless.

But I'll say this: I use my iPhone now pretty much as a Kindle reader at night. The Lumia would do just fine replacing that function. It's a sweet reading experience.

  • Functionality on 0-3 scale: 3
  • Usability on a 0-2 scale: 2

I use Google Authenticator and another authenticator application for multi-factor authentication. Do I need to dig up my Android or iPhone to authenticate to services or can I use Windows Phone?

Here's where things get a little ugly (and worrisome). Google Authenticator does NOT run on this. There are skanky-looking third party apps that claim to generate auth codes and I've heard from some users that they work.

I do not feel comfortable using some third-party authentication code generator for my main second-factor security tool.

  • Functionality on 0-3 scale: 1
  • Usability on a 0-2 scale: 0

Because I use Google Authenticator for a lot of systems (not just Google applications), the lack of official Google Authenticator support might well be a deal-killer for me if I tried to use Windows Phone full time.

If Google doesn't create a Google Authenticator app for Windows Phone, and if one of the third-party apps works, I'd recommend to Microsoft that they acquire it, brand it, and bless it as safe. Otherwise, a lot of systems will be locked out for the lack of this one small app.

Evernote and Dropbox are critical daily-use tools. How do they stand up?

Evernote works fine on Windows Phone with a native app.

  • Functionality on 0-3 scale: 3
  • Usability on a 0-2 scale: 2

Dropbox does not have an app on the Windows Phone store. There are a number of third-party apps that may well be using the Dropbox API, but there are still security concerns using third party apps as the primary interface to Dropbox.

  • Functionality on 0-3 scale: 2
  • Usability on a 0-2 scale: 0

I'm giving it a 2 for functionality because you can get the job done, and while some of the apps are well done, they're not from Dropbox and that is somewhat worrisome. Therefore, in terms of seamless usability, I have to ding this requirement.

What about CrashPlan? With either iOS or Android, I can check and manage my offsite backups.

There is a native version of CrashPlan on the Windows Phone store. It works quite well. I was honestly surprised to find a CrashPlan app, but not a Dropbox app, but that tells you to never go into these things with preconceived ideas.

  • Functionality on 0-3 scale: 3
  • Usability on a 0-2 scale: 2

What about my password manager? I can use it on iOS and Android, Windows and Mac, but what about Windows Phone?

As it turns out, there's a native version of the password manager I use on Windows Phone. It works quite well.

  • Functionality on 0-3 scale: 3
  • Usability on a 0-2 scale: 2

What about Withings? I use Withings to manage weight and blood pressure, by connecting via Bluetooth to either Android or iOS. Can I do this with the Windows Phone?

I found a number of applications that worked with the Withings WiFi scale, but nothing that worked with the blood pressure monitor.

  • Functionality on 0-3 scale: 0
  • Usability on a 0-2 scale: 0

I've just started using Trello as an organizing tool. How well does that work on Windows Phone? It works just fine with very nice iOS and Android apps.

While the original-equipment Trello app doesn't exist on the Windows Phone store, there is a third-party app that implements Trello quite nicely. As long as you don't have anything that's particularly of a security concern, using Trello on the Windows Phone is a go.

  • Functionality on 0-3 scale: 3
  • Usability on a 0-2 scale: 2

Next up: the final grades and my concluding thoughts. Should you buy one? Click on...

By the way, I'm doing more updates on Twitter and Facebook than ever before. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz and on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Apple, Apps, DIY, Google, Google Apps, iOS, Smartphones, SMBs, Windows Phone

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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