Windows Phone 7: 10 Free Apps You Need Right Now

Microsoft recently announced that the Windows Phone Marketplace app store now has 6,000 apps and counting. That's not even remotely close to Android's 100,000 apps or the iPhone's 300,000, but the Windows Phone 7 Zune-like interface gives apps a colorful and useful visual flair that's lacking on other mobile platforms. Here are 10 free apps that benefit from the Windows Phone 7 aesthetic.

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The Weather Channel

The free Weather Channel app uses the sleek WP7 interface to its advantage. Even with its larger text, The Weather Channel app still packs in frequently-updated information on different screens that can be swiped through smoothly. With scenic photos as a backdrop, the app provides current temperatures, forecasts and more. Swipe to another screen and there's a five-day forecast with graphics and more details. Another screen lands on a radar map, and a final screen provides video forecasts and traffic cams.

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Netflix

Windows Phone 7 has the advantage of running the official Netflix app before the market-leading Android phones. The free Netflix app on WP7 covers the bases: support for streaming, management of DVD and Instant Queues, excellent video quality over 3G and Wi-Fi, and playback sync so users can pick up a movie where they left off via phone, PC or television. This app is free, but a Netflix subscription is required.

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Facebook

Windows Phone 7 offers Facebook integration right out of the box with its People Hub. But that is merely Facebook information being pulled into the WP7 interface. The official Facebook app on WP7 offers the true Facebook experience. It's a simple-to-navigate app with a main screen that lists all the familiar Facebook pages such as messages, news feed, profile, photos, places, friends etc., with additional screens for "top news" (equivalent of news feed), recently posted photos, events like parties and friends' birthdays, and notifications.

Facebook Bible: Everything You Need to Know About Facebook

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Office Mobile 2010

One app that you'll exclusively get on Windows Phone 7 is Office Mobile 2010. Office Mobile is a free app (requires a sign-in) that comes with the phone — you don't have to go download it from Marketplace. You can view and edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote docs with all the essential tools at your disposal. Office Mobile also includes SharePoint Workspace, which allows you to view, edit and download documents stored on your company's SharePoint server.

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Twitter

The official Twitter app for Windows Phone 7 uses the WP7 interface to its full advantage to improve the user experience. It includes all the same features as Twitter apps from other mobile platforms — Timeline, Mentions, Messages, Retweets, Search, Top Tweets, Trending Topics, Lists, Real-Time Search — but is more intuitively laid out with a more immediate, side swipe-happy interface. Example: key features like Timeline, Mention, Messages and Lists scroll across the top, whereas with the Android Twitter app you must first menu out, then tap a Home button to get to a screen of options.

Twitter Bible: Everything You Need To Know About Twitter

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FourSquare

The location-based social network that lets users check in to various places, earn badges, share their locations and see which places their friends are frequenting, has a simple and elegant mobile app for Windows Phone 7. The app incorporates additional features not included in other mobile platforms such as directions within the app, Bing maps and a "society" area that displays on a map the most checked-in areas of a given town or city.

Foursquare Privacy Basics: Five Tips to "Secure" Your Check-Ins

Location-Based Services: 5 Myths Debunked

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Seesmic

Seesmic is an increasingly popular tool that helps manage multiple social networks such as Twitter and Facebook through one interface. Again the straightforward elegance of the Windows Phone 7 interface is a bonus when using Seesmic to share photos, post updates to different accounts at the same time, attach your location to your tweets and see your friends updates on a map.

Facebook Bible: Everything You Need to Know About Facebook

Twitter Bible: Everything You Need To Know About Twitter

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Flixster

Flixster is gaining more recognition everyday as the ultimate mobile app for movie-goers. The one-stop shop for getting movie times, buying tickets, watching trailers and reading reviews (through a partnership with Rotten Tomatoes) has a slick and intuitive Windows Phone 7 app. Fandango better watch its back.

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Travelocity

Travelocity's Windows Phone 7 app has been touted as the best online travel service app in the Windows Phone Marketplace. It lets users easily check flight and hotel information, flight status, airline schedules and Airport delay information from the FAA. Another handy feature: The app uses the phone's GPS to find local hotels and let you read reviews, check room rates and make a reservation from your phone.

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Last.fm

Windows Phone Marketplace may not have the music service Pandora yet, but it compensates with a cool app for Pandora rival Last.fm. With the Last.fm app, you can listen to streaming music on your WP7 phone and the app archives your listening choices. It then gathers this information to recommend new songs as well as concert recommendations in your area. If you are a Pandora person, you are out of luck on Windows Phone 7, but Last.fm is arguably as good as Pandora and the WP7 app is smooth and easy, like any great song.