Windows 8 Apps: Maps, People, Music and Video, Photos, and Weather

Apps, day the second! Check yesterday’s for Calendar, Mail, and Messaging. Carry on for dumb beauty, region code errors, drama, and cloudy skies!

Maps

Another gorgeous Metro app. I love Bing maps’ look; the aesthetic is clean and bright, easy on the eyes and extremely readable. It launches quickly and finds your location without much effort.

And then you start to use it.

Rendering the map isn’t fast on old hardware. It chugs, and refreshes at odd times. Also, its contextual awareness is atrocious, as is its parsing of Bing search results. It’s so bad that I don’t even think it uses Bing’s real search; it seems like Maps exists in a bizarre pocket universe where Bing search data doesn’t exist.

Here’s a true example: I do a Bing Local web search for the address of an orthopedic clinic in the West end of Ottawa, by name and street. I get a web address, street address, email address, and phone number, with the option to map it in the web app. I do the same search in Maps and get no results. I search for the address, without specifying the city (because the app already knows my location) and end up with a result in the southern United States.

Really!?!? This is where I need to go to get my orthotics adjusted?

I repeated the search with the exact address including city, province, and postal code, and Maps can only find the street. That’s pretty sad.

I want to use this app, but it needs to be smarter before I’ll use it over the Bing Maps web app or Google Maps, whose business/ search is still miles better.

People

This is contacts management and social feed consolidation at their most obtuse, and everything I like about the People hub on Windows Phone has been lost here. The horizontally-scrolling updates aren’t the best way to display updates, especially for 140-character Twitter updates; you can fit three or more tweets vertically per column without changing the layout in any significant way.

Reading conversations on Facebook, seeing likes and shares, are easy. The ability to quickly respond to social media without the need to pull up a web browser is really nice. But Twitter integration still isn’t there. You can’t see conversations.

Like the Messaging app, this is a good way to respond but not to post. People is a good idea, and it works well on Windows Phone. If this was more like its mobile version, then I’d like it a lot more.

Video & Music

These are barebones players with merely okay indexing of local media. That said, they’re functional and I want the Video interface to come to Windows Phone. I’d like the ability to easily scrub through media.

It was totally worth watching the Immortals trailer to get this screenshot of video previews. Aside: it wasn’t.

Now, I have yet to use the renting/purchasing features as I’m running into a region problem, but watching previews of media I could download from the marketplace was fast, and I liked the music previews as well. It seems like a solid system, even if the playback is a little meh. I can see it being something that I’d like to have at a party or something; the scrolling photos in the background of the music player could liven up a playlist substantially.

As intrigued as I am by these apps, I’m still using desktop VLC as my primary video player. Video and Windows Media Centre are too heavy and slow for my tastes. Once I start making use of the rental features, I imagine I’ll like these apps better.

Photos

This is a good-enough photo viewer with few to no bells and whistles. It syncs with all SkyDrive and Facebook albums as well as local photo files. And, in a nice exception to the rule, it works with Share charm (email only as of now). If you’re looking to show someone your pictures and want them consolidated from your many online sources into one place, you’ll enjoy it immensely. If this is intended to be a Metro replacement for Photo Viewer, as it is, it fails. Simple tools like rotate, crop, and autofix are absent.

Weather

It’s simple but pleasing. A live tile with current weather, and inside the app are forecasts, trends, and maps. Scrolling with the mouse and keyboard is somewhat jittery and could use smoothing. And it’s really, really pretty.

Are we done yet? Almost! Tune in tomorrow for some of the really important stuff– Skydrive and Internet Explorer Metro! Romances will be kindled! Hearts will be broken! And no guff will be taken!

Paddle your own canoe, guys and gals,

Trevor

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