A Snooker/Pool multi-player online game, available for everything from Windows Phone 8.1 to UWP play on laptop, Xbox, and more, sounds pretty terrific and it's got potential, certainly. But Real Pool 3D is massively overwhelmed by [deep breath] freemium mechanics, mini-games, gift chests, virtual cash, 'treasure hunts', 'lucky cues', power ups, watch-to-earn ads, and cosmetic frippery - and the end result is all a little garish, tasteless, and offputting.
Here's a UWP game that we've not covered before - it's my favourite genre too, mimicking a real world sport. In this case lawn tennis, time shifted back to the 1920's, the idea presumably being that, apart from being a bit quaint, there's no need to model modern extravagances like Hawkeye, electronic score cards, big crowds, and so on. Instead, you get a decent game of tennis against real opponents around the world, playing on a variety of platforms, yet with the game mechanics designed to even out any UI advantages. Even the freemium is restrained and sensible!
With Apple's AirPods inventing the 'True Wireless' earbud market but at extravagant cost, there have been a number of far cheaper alternatives of gradually increasing quality. Working with Windows phones, Android and iOS, the TaoTronics 'SoundLiberty 53' are the best I've tested so far - and they come in at under £30, compared to over five times that for Apple's offering. Plus these sound far, far better. And they're waterproof. What's not to love?
There's one small issue with most Qi wireless charging pads... We all love them, charging our Lumias, Galaxies, iPhones, whatever, but the vast majority of them are horizontal, meaning that there's limited visibility of stuff arriving on the phone screen and limited interaction possible with the device. Pads are usually horizontal because then the user can align the phone's Qi coils with the pad precisely, whatever the model. Happily the new Choetech T555 is vertical and yet has multiple Qi coils so that most/all phones would still work with it, at up to 15W.
It's a fair cop, this new accessory from Xiaomi doesn't connect (anymore) with Windows Phone or Windows 10 Mobile. But it's a good data point as to where the wearables market is going and will be of special interest to any fans of the old Microsoft Band, since this is very similar in many ways - except that it runs for a month on a charge and only costs £30! It's something of a technological miracle, saved from perfection only by holes in the Xiaomi integration into Android's notifications system - and in my phone's battery each day.
Instagram, for a service that's not officially supported under Windows 10 Mobile anymore, is actually quite well represented. Winsta UWP is a nice general client that lets you post and interact with others, but it has a few functionality gaps, not least being able to see posted images in original detail and not being able to save media to your phone. Enter Saver for Instagram PRO, also a UWP for all Windows 10 devices, and which offers a different Instagram feature set, see the review here.
What do you get if you combine word searches and Tetris? You get Word Block Stacks, a full UWP game for all Windows 10 computers, including phones - and it's rather terrific. Fast, attractive, clever, fun, and - most importantly, these days, effectively free forever. I couldn't put this game down and it therefore comes highly recommended.
Part of Microsoft's stated 'plan B' after pulling out of plan 'A' (Windows on phones) was to integrate Android and iOS smartphones into Windows on Desktops and, after many betas/Insider versions, this has emerged as Your Phone, a pair of applications on the phone and Desktop. These work together to bring across notifications and text messaging to the latter. And the system works... after a fashion. It's just currently all too laborious to set up and a little underwhelming in possibilities, I contend.
Flash card apps are perennially popular on all computing platforms, partly because they're relatively easy to program and partly because they're genuinely useful when trying to memorise long data sets (e.g. foreign language words). Anki Universal is created to access AnkiWeb flash card 'decks', of which there are thousands online - that this is also an almost perfect UWP application for all Windows 10 devices, polished to within an inch of its life, and also completely free, boggles the mind...
New UWP games aren't that common and first impressions here aren't brilliant, in terms of display scaling and ad placement. But look past these and there's a semi-decent 'Mario' style racing game with freemium elements that, for once, aren't totally oppressive.