Microsoft this week released a set of well designed apps for Android, iOS and, of course Windows, each with a specific focus, such as news, weather, sports, health or money. I checked out all six apps, primarily on Android, and they're all worth a look — but I do like a few more than others. All of the following, except for MSN Weather, are available on the Google Play, Amazon, Apple and Windows app stores.
MSN Weather is one of my favorites among the new MSN-branded apps, and I plan to use it regularly. It has two features I've not seen in other weather apps. The "Favorites" feature lets you see current weather conditions for your favorite cities in one glance, so there's no need to swipe between screens. A "Historical" feature shows a graph of month-by-month historical averages in temperatures and rainfall for specific locations. This feature alone is great for planning travel, as you can see, for instance, which months are the rainiest and driest on average in your destination. This app is only available for Windows and Android today, but it should be released for iOS within a few months.
MSN Money is another keeper. You can catch up on the day's financial news and major indices using a single "Today" screen. You can monitor "Market" charts that illustrate Dow, NASDAQ, S&P 500 and world markets across a day, week, month, year or five years. It's simple to see how commodities, currencies, bonds and rates (such as 30-year fixed mortgages) perform. And MSN Money lets you quickly check out the latest prices, volume and other data for your stocks of interest. MSN Money is perfect for finance geeks.
MSN Health & Fitness offers a ton of information, ranging from a symptom checker (that worked well in my test) to yoga videos. You can also record fitness activities and diet data. If you have an iPhone with a motion coprocessor, Microsoft's app can track your steps and sync it with Apple's Health app. I doubt MSN Health & Fitness will replace RunKeeper for tracking my runs, but it is a good overall health/fitness app and a valuable resource.
Microsoft also released MSN News, which has a news feed that's too busy for my tastes; MSN Sports, a solid app that lets you check schedules, scores, standings and news, and view galleries and videos; and MSN Food & Drink, an Epicurious wannabe with lots of images of food, wine and cocktails. Unfortunately, some of the image captions don't include links to online recipes, and others have links that take you to pages that don't contain the desired recipes.
Of the new set of Microsoft apps, MSN Food & Drink is the one that could use more time in the oven. Otherwise, the folks in Redmond continue to do a great job of abandoning the company's former Microsoft-first-and-only policy that has kept it from being a strong mobile player.