Favorite Cool Windows Mobile Apps

Unlike fellow blogger Mike Riley, I had a lot of difficulty deciding what my favorite "cool" applications for Windows Mobile were. For starters, I'm still not entirely sure what the term "cool app" means. After giving it a few minutes' consideration, I've decided to focus on those applications that supplement Windows Mobile's core functions. In other words, the list that follows includes those applications which I believe perform indispensable functions that Windows Mobile itself would provide in a perfect world. Microsoft has already lost those who only care about prettiness to the iPhone (good riddance!). The core of Windows Mobile users have always consisted of power users who need and demand functionality, not glitter.

The list that follows is not in any particular order.

PhoneAlarm (Phone Edition Devices Only). The most useful function of this gem is that it displays missed call, text message, etc. alerts on your today screen. In addition to alerting you visually, it can play sound files at user defined intervals. It also allows one to create phone profiles that each have their own phone volume and ring volume settings and related unique properties. For example, I have a "home" profile, which is full volume for everything; a "work" profile, which has lower volumes; and a "meeting" profile, which is all vibrate. Everything in PhoneAlarm can be customized, the program can be skinned, and it can even perform advanced functions like tracking your cell phone usage.

CorePlayer. Core Player is the commercial incarnation of the ubiquitous TCPMP, which fellow blogger Mike Riley included in his list. As he said, this program is hands down the best all around media player out there. In addition to this obvious achievement it is also worth noting that Core Player has a much cleaner interface than most Windows Mobile programs I've used. If you buy one media player, it should be this one.

SPB Finance. I can't speak for people that live elsewhere, but most people I know here in the States have stopped carrying a checkbook around. Instead, they use an ATM/check card, which is linked to their checking account. This is a great development IMHO but it often creates bookkeeping problems. Who can keep up with all those receipts, right? While most banks now offer transaction information online, there are always the annoyingly inevitable delays in processing time that can lead to some serious bank charges if you're not careful. Enter SPB Finance. This program has completely replaced my checkbook register and is more suitable for the on-the-go check card user than carrying a checkbook around. In addition to serving as a checkbook register, this program can break down your expenses by category, help you create budgets, be backed up, etc. I use this program every day.

SBSH Pocket Weather. A basic weather program is a no-brainer for any Internet-capable mobile device, but in SBSH Pocket Weather, one gets a weather powerhouse. I consult this program several times a day and have it set to download updates every half hour. This is the pinnacle of Windows Mobile weather program achievement and I don't think it will ever be beat.

SBSH Pocket Breeze. Every Windows Mobile power user has a program similar to this one, if not this program itself (the chief competitor is SPB Diary). Simply put, this program provides an eye-friendly way of displaying--and making available for editing--Pocket Outlook data on the today screen.

SPB Pocket Plus.This one ties a lot of the others on this list together. SPB Pocket Plus does a lot of things, but its main value IMHO is that it provides an intuitive way to make use of limited screen real estate. A number of tabs can be created in which you can put shortcuts to programs and even whole today screen plug-ins (this is its chief virtue)!

Pocket Informant. The default Pocket Outlook components that come with Windows Mobile are horrible, plain and simple. I'm pretty sure that australopithecus used more sophisticated tools. There are several alternatives available, but my favorite is Pocket Informant. Also, SBSH Pocket Breeze can be configured to integrate Pocket Informant!

Here's a screenshot of my today screen taken earlier today:

screentodben01

At the top, is PhoneAlarm. Below that is SPB Pocket Plus with a tab containing SBSH Pocket Weather. Below that is SBSH iLauncher, another excellent program.

Final Thoughts

Once I've added all of these programs to my device it more or less does what I want it to do. But that's after I've spent how much money on additional software? $100? $200? I've been a Windows Mobile user for years and so acquired this software over time, but if I were new to Windows Mobile, the cost of getting the operating system up to speed might be prohibitive. And although even with this cost, Windows Mobile is much better than the horrible PalmOS, the same cannot necessarily be said for some of the Linux-based mobile operating systems that have recently appeared on the horizon.

And while we're on the subject of "completing" the Windows Mobile OS, no developer is going to be able to fix the glaring omission that prevents Windows Mobile users from being able to sync their devices with Vista PCs without a recent version of Outlook installed. I will never stop bringing this up until it is fixed (or until the Ubuntu team finds a way to sync Windows Mobile devices with Ubuntu, at which point I switch to Linux forever).

Hi Ben

We sure have a lot of favorite software in common. Pocket Informant is by far the best PIM I have come across. I think I shall draw up my list soon too.

Tariq: I look forward to reading your list. I've been out of town for a few days so I haven't yet (I don't even know if you've posted a list yet).

Masa: I can't remember why I switched to CorePlayer now...there was some reason though. You're right though: TCPMP does almost everything one would need.

stanleym, thanks for the suggestion! I REALLY want to be able to do this. I took a quick look at the egroupware sight but it looks like it might be above my meager abilities (e.g., the systems requirements state that I need an Apache server, an SMTP server, etc....I'm not even really sure what an Apache server is...). Is there an "Apache server for dummies" guide anywhere?

Thanks for the feedback, stanleym. I need to learn a little bit more about all of that server stuff but don't know if I'll be able to anytime soon (what with my non-computer real job and all). I will definitely keep it mind, though, and thanks again.

Anders: Your points are well taken. My relatively inflexible insistence on the importance of functionality is a response to the equally energetic enthusiasm by everyone else for ease of use. To me, the idea that a large portion of people would prefer a device that has a mere 16 apps over a device that has thousands upon thousands simply because the former is easier to use is really pathetic. And while people are allowed to have pathetic preferences, it starts to concern me when device makers start worrying about making things prettier rather than making them more powerful.

However, I agree with you that ease of use importance. Where we differ, it seems, is that I don't think it should be AS important as most people do.

Thanks for your contribution!

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