by Molly Klinefeller | shared from blog.laptopmag.com

In case you haven’t noticed, Microsoft is really pushing to make Windows Phones a hit. The 7.8 operating system certainly helps—with a customized Start screen that lets you resize your Live Tiles, 20 different colors to choose from and a new lock screen from Bing every day. But consumers really care about apps, and Microsoft has made pretty good progress in the last year. The Windows Phone Marketplace more than doubled in 2012, and is looking to grow even more in 2013. Whether you just bought a Windows Phone or are thinking of getting one, these are the top apps to get.

Amazing Weather HD

Attempting to give you a digital experience every time you check your weather app as opposed to just scanning over the temperature then exiting out, Amazing Weather HD gives users dynamic lock screen and mix-and-match live tiles, along with live HD animations for maximum weather details on 7 day overviews, hourly data, charts, warnings, satellite images, detailed forecasts and GPS live tiles. Users can choose up to 9 different tiles in 3 different sizes, so no Amazing Weather HD user’s interface will look the same.

Evernote

The mother of all organization apps, Evernote tracks your ideas and reminders in the form of notes, snapshots, audio recordings, and web searches. The app then takes all these personal clips and combines them into a comprehensive notebook for easy return access. Evernote also syncs all your info between your smartphone, PC, and the web. It supports Mango functions, such as social media integration and pinning notes, notebooks, and other app shortcuts to the home screen.

Facebook

An absolute necessity for a modern smartphone user, the Facebook app lets you send status updates to the popular networking site, plus read your news feed, view messages, and check your calendar for upcoming events. Users can also upload photos for sharing and check out friends’ Walls. Windows Phone gives the app a sleek, sliding interface for viewing the most-recent updates, photos, events, and notifications, all from the app’s main screen.

Skype

Though still reined in from a full Marketplace release, Skype beta remains an essential addition to your Windows Phone arsenal of apps. Remember when you installed the app on your parents’ fusty old desktop back home? That’s why Skype remains relevant, even in a sea of similar video chat competitors (and copycats). Today, the app is available on most devices running Windows Phone 7.5 and above, and you can make audio and video calls over Wi-Fi or 3G. For folks ashamed of their messy hair, the app also supports instant messaging.

Foursquare

Created by the founders of the original location-based mobile service Dodgeball, Foursquare allows smartphone owners to “check in” wherever they are. Prospective locations run the gamut from restaurants and bars to parks, offices, and sports stadiums. But why share your location at all? Simple: Not only does Foursquare make it easy to see what your friends are doing, checking in can sometimes unlock special offers on merchandise, as well as virtual badges for better bragging rights. Cool Mango-only features include pinning a Foursquare live tile to the home screen to display current updates from friends and a slick side-scrolling interface to showcase all major functions.

GoVoice

Google Voice isn’t just for Android devices and iPhones; GoVoice Free brings the useful service to your Windows Phone. The app pushes Google Voice texts and voicemail to phones running GoVoice and will use your Google Voice account to make and receive calls. Keep in mind, though, that carrier minutes apply, so any calls through this app will count against your allotted minutes.

Kindle

Amazon is the leader in eBook sales, with more than 750,000 books to choose from, so having access to Amazon’s Kindle app is key for Windows Phone users who enjoy a good read. The Kindle app puts purchased eBooks, along with the entire Kindle store library, at your fingertips. To tempt users to check out new titles, the app also suggests titles to buy, plus free classics to download. eBooks typically cost $10 a pop, including new releases and best sellers.

Kayak

Find your next flight or hotel room fast using Kayak, which scours hundreds of travel websites for the lowest fares possible. The app presents its results in a slick, graphically engaging interface complete with 3D rotating menus, brightly colored headers, and deep-black backgrounds. Users can sort results by highly recommended, lowest price, and star rating. Travelers who need a set of wheels can also command Kayak to zero in on car rental info.

Marathon

Don’t just guess how well your workout went; find out exactly how you performed with Marathon. This app uses your Windows Phone hardware to record critical metrics such as speed, distance traveled, and calories burned. Your path is logged for later review, and the software even announces time and distance at various intervals to gauge your progress.

Netflix

If you’re a Netflix subscriber, this app puts thousands of movies and TV shows within easy reach. You can stream video within your instant queue from any location, provided your phone has access to Wi-Fi or a cellular connection. This app also makes it simple to find and add more content by sifting through genres or searching by keyword. The interface is clean, and swiping sideways flips through various views for Genres, Home, Instant Queue, and Search.

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