The Litchfield Windows Phone 8 set-up and top app loadout

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Having now been living with the Nokia Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8 off and on for the last two months, I've found that my setup has been iterating week on week, eventually stabilising on what is my 'optimal' Start screen and application loadout. Now, I know that every Windows Phone will be set up differently, but hopefully something about my final configuration and app picks will prove of interest to the AAWP readership.

Let's start (naturally enough) with my Start screen, shown in two images below. Although Start screens can be much longer, I'm a firm believer in not having to scroll or swipe too far. After all, a Start screen (/home screen) is supposed to only be the things that I use most, so there's no point in putting everything there. Two screen-fulls is about right for me. I can't fit everything in one - I tried. But swiping is quick and two screens turned out to be perfect.

Another philosophy which kind of evolved is to have most of my most used tiles small and on the right, since I do try to use my phone one-handed a lot of the time and these small shortcut tiles are then perfectly placed for my right thumb.

Start screenStart screen

  • Pride of place goes to the AccuWeather live tile, always showing a rough idea of what the weather is doing, with the full app only a tap away.
  • You'll recognise shortcut tiles for Messaging, my Gmail, Nokia City Lens, my email and the Windows Phone Store. Those with unread messages or updates show their number and this proves very useful.
  • Also shortcutted here is Handy Safe, my encrypted database of personal information, this follows me from platform to platform and has all my passwords, PINs and reference numbers. Syncing from a PC to Windows Phone involves several taps and clicks, but turns out to be painless. I sync about once a month, since I don't make that much changes to this data.
  • There's Skype (still in 'preview' status, but I love using it for video calls) and MetroTube, the best YouTube client for Windows Phone.
  • Calendar, Music (& Videos) and Settings will all be familiar to you.
  • Twabbit is my current favourite Twitter client (though there are many which work well on this platform).
  • Podcatcher is my current podcast-gathering tool of choice - it's still being actively updated and improving week on week.
  • The BBC News double wide tile comes courtesy of the BBC News application and is handy to see when there's something really important that's just happened.
  • The double wide Photos tile will be familiar - I love having random favourite photos just pop up on the Start screen.
  • Games (here are some top free Windows Phone 8 titles) and Local Scout will be familiar to you.
  • Ah yes, all work and no play make Steve a dull boy - shortcuts to my favourite two Windows Phone games/sims - RC - AirSim and International Snooker!
  • Two Nokia Mix Radio playlists, stocked up by someone else, which means I often get to hear new (ok, usually 40 year old, but still...) music and that sets me off on a whole new voyage of discography discovery.
  • People - this large tile comes with Windows Phone 8, rather prominently, and I never really use it for anything other than looking someone up to call or write to them. But I still leave it as a large tile because it's still cool seeing friends and family popping up every day...
  • CM is CloudMuzik, the free Google Play Music client. Yes, it's a rival ecosystem, but having uploaded my entire 20GB of music to the Google Music system (hey, it's free), this is a quick and easy way of playing any song at any time, should I really need to.
  • The 'phone' icon you'll know, the pretty yellow tile is a shortcut to my wife's contact card, for communicating quickly, and the 'Me' tile is another Windows Phone stalwart that I hardly ever use. Maybe it's just me. Even that incrementing number (showing mentions of me on Twitter) is fairly irrelevent, since if I tap it I'd then have to tap on every one of those 24 mentions individually - there's no breakdown of what people said. Surely Microsoft will fix this at some point?

Hopefully something in that Start layout will have triggered an idea for you in your own experimentation with Windows Phone 8? Just in case, here are some of the other applications I've ended up with, accessed via the usual 'swipe left' and alphabetic breakdown:

  • AAWP - of course, our very own application for easy access to all our content! Highly recommended.
  • Amazon Mobile - a great experience, shopping made extremely easy....
  • Evernote - access to all my cross-platform Evernote 'stuff'. Must sort it all out one day though....
  • Flashlight - there are dozens of LED flash utilities, it rather beggars belief that Microsoft (or Nokia or HTC etc) didn't build this function into the OS, mind you, as Nokia did with all recent Symbian smartphones. I've tried most of them and have ended up with this one because it comes on after tapping its icon without having to go through menus and extra taps.
  • gMaps Pro - strictly speaking, I shouldn't need an extra mapping application, but it's handy to have (in this case a basic version of) Street View, for 'looking around' a spot before travelling there. There's also Google's Point of Interest database, which is handy to have when Nokia's own database turns out to be seriously flawed.
  • Netflix - the famous TV and movie streaming service. This is a big win in our household, since it runs on just about all desktops, tablets and phones and the Windows Phone client is as good as it gets.
  • Nokia Drive and Nokia Maps - essential software and only not on my Start screen because, if I'm honest, it's very rare that I'm heading somewhere where I don't already know the best way to go. But reassuring that this is here if needed.
  • SkyDrive - many things from my Windows Phone already sync themselves up to SkyDrive, but it's surprising how often I want something extra available for my other devices or to share on further. In these cases, it's easy to use the dedicated SkyDrive client to pick something and set it uploading directly.

The setup above has replaced most of what I use on other platforms (though, of course, there are still differentiators based on individual hardware). Windows Phone 8's kludges to get round the lack of true multitasking are no worse than those on iOS and, for the most part, don't annoy me too much. Well, not all the time. And Windows Phone 8 on the latest hardware is pretty fast at most operations.

What about you? Is my setup simpler than yours? or more complex? Am I missing a trick? Comments welcome!