by James A. Martin

Microsoft Snubs Windows Phone, Releases 2 Android-Only Apps

Oct 23, 20143 mins
AndroidConsumer ElectronicsMobile Apps

Microsoft's startup-within-a-big-company, Microsoft Garage, boldly developed two new apps that are only available on Android. (For now, at least.) mobile apps reviewer James A. Martin breaks down what you'll like about them, as well what you won't.

Are you sitting down? I’m glad I was when I heard that Microsoft just released two new mobile apps, Next Lock Screen and Journeys and Notes — for Android devices and not Windows Phone.

Did the South Pole suddenly switch places with the North Pole? Has winter become summer? Did the ozone layer finally disappear?

Thankfully, no. Microsoft’s Android-only apps do represent a different sort of climate change, though, and I think it’s brilliant.

Long criticized for being too big, too entrenched in the PC world, and too slow to react to mobile, Microsoft has seen the light. One of those lights is called Microsoft Garage, a kind of startup within the software behemoth that’s designed to let “interns, employees, and teams from everywhere in the company” turn their “wild ideas into real projects.”

Letting your employees loose to work on “wild ideas” isn’t a new concept; Google’s been encouraging such behavior for years, and plenty of tech companies hold “hackathons.” Still, it’s difficult not to be impressed by Microsoft’s bold move into Google’s app space, if not its management philosophy.

About those new Android apps…

Let’s start with Next Lock Screen, a free lock screen app. It provides an at-a-glance look at calendar appointments, email, texts and missed calls, just by turning on your Android smartphone. You can swipe to return a missed call notification or dial into a conference call on your calendar, and the conference code is automatically entered. Very cool.

Next Lock Screen also lets you segment your most-used apps between those you use “At Home,” “On the Go” and “At Work.” If you don’t like the default wallpaper for each of these three segments, you can add your own or choose another from a set of preloaded options.

GO Locker is another popular, and free, Android lock screen app, and it’s packed with features. Next Lock Screen might appeal more to those looking for a simpler, less feature-rich option.

journeys and notes Microsoft Garage Android

Then there is Microsoft Garage’s Journeys & Notes, which is meant to be a kind of social travel diary, in which you leave notes about what you see and do during trips  — whether they’re across town or across the globe. You can view notes from other users and “bond” with them, too.

The app is new, so you won’t find a huge community of users just yet. Your satisfaction will mostly come from “live-blogging” your own journeys. The app is clean and light but, honestly, it’s not something I’m likely to use. I’d be more inclined to use an app like Evernote for travel planning and journaling, since Evernote is available on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.

These are just two Microsoft Garage-built apps. Though most of the others are for Windows devices, there’s also SNIPP3T, an iOS celebrity news app; Torque, for Android Wear devices; and CityZen, which is designed to connect citizens with their municipal governments and is available for Android and Windows Phone.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Microsoft Garage cooks up next. Maybe a Mac OS-only app? That really would tip the world off its axis.