Free Windows Phone 8.1 Apps to try (March 2015)

Even though some users have tried the Windows 10 preview builds using the Windows Insider app, there's still every reason to stick to Windows Phone 8.1 for now especially if you've grown accustomed to the workflow, user interface and of course, the WP apps.

The Microsoft Store occasionally spits out a free app that is a diamond in the rough. Here are a few that may be worth your while:

1. VLC for Windows Phone - VLC needs no introduction nor even a review. The included Video app for Windows Phone 8.1 is fine but there is a certain amount of comfort associated with running VLC in any platform (even Linux). VLC for Windows Phone 8.1 currently has a search feature, the ability to access streams and login to Last.fm, and (as expected) great playback support.


 


 


2. News360 - I've already discussed the CBS News app, which doesn't have as much content as its competitors in other mobile OSs, but is stable even on the Lumia 925's humble hardware. The CNN app for WP is buggy while the Flipboard app, though usable, isn't exactly a speed demon on mid-range to budget Lumia devices. News360 is an excellent alternative. There is an incredible amount of content available through the news app and the layout is pleasing to the serious reader.


 



 


3. BitTorrent Sync for Windows Phone 8.1 - You can read more about using the BitTorrent Sync app for Windows Phone in a recent article at Unsolicited But Offered.


 



 


4. WeChat - I'm not a huge user of instant messaging even back when IRC was a thing, but if you're working or studying in China you have to find some way to keep in contact with your Chinese colleagues. Unlike Sina Weibo or any other popular communication app in the Middle Kingdom, WeChat has a solid English interface for the Windows Phone platform. I can't guarantee you'll end up sending messages to someone who looks like Fan Bingbing or Tang Wei but WeChat will help you communicate with friends or colleagues who don't use iMessage or Skype.

5. UC Browser - Everyone needs a backup browser regardless of what mobile OS they are using. If you run iOS, install the Google Chrome app. If you have an Android device, chances are you have both Google Chrome and a preinstalled browser. I have UC Browser installed on my Lumia 925 as a backup browser. UC Browser looks great and is loaded with options and features that encourage you to expand your exploration of the Internet. For power users, there are several settings you can change to suit your browsing experience.


 



 


Make no mistake, I still prefer Internet Explorer 10 on my Windows Phone 8.1. UC Browser may not be ideal for users who just want to visit specific pages. UC Browser can be distracting to use and brings back the good(?) old days of overloaded browser plug-ins and web portals. Having a second browser on the other hand on a Windows Phone, however, ensures that you can check a web page if IE10 loads a page incorrectly, say the web version rather than the desktop version.

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