There aren’t many (online) people in this world who can escape Google. It is everywhere. Or at least that’s what everyone says. Google is your gateway to all things Android and some of the top downloads on Apple App Store are Google apps.
One place Google is unceremoniously absent is Windows Phone. Of course, we all know a bit about MS and Google’s rough past but if Microsoft could bring Office to the iPad why can’t Google bring its awesome suite of apps on Windows Phone? That’s something to ponder upon.
But right now, we need a quick fix. If you have a Windows Phone for work or have been using Google services for so long that you just can’t let go (Gmail is the best), there are some official and unofficial ways of getting Google Mail, Maps, and Gtalk (Hangouts) to Windows Phone.
Go to Settings -> Email + accounts -> Add an account -> Google and enter your details. Make sure the Mail option is checked. If you go looking in the app list, there’s an app called Google Mail where you’ll find all your mail. The app isn’t as feature rich as the one on Android or iOS but it works well. You can even pin it to Start screen if you want.
There is no official Google Maps app on Windows Phone but if you want the “official” experience, go to www.maps.google.com from Internet Explorer, make sure it is the mobile site and give it the permission to access your location.
Yes, the web app looks primitive and is a slower than Nokia Here Maps and you don’t get turn by turn navigation. But it’s good to know that if, for some reason, you absolutely need to open Google Maps, it is only a web page away.
gMaps is an unofficial Google Maps app for Windows Phone 8.1. It uses Google Maps API to bring you the Google experience. It is much better to use than the website. Searching and getting directions is really easy. Zooming and scrolling is smooth. You can save places, get traffic and weather data as well.
What you don’t get is again, turn by turn navigation. But if you tap on a place marker, you’ll get an option to open turn by turn navigation in other apps. Tap Here Drive+ to open up the navigation in Nokia’s app. Nokia’s Here Maps are really good, far better than they get credit for. You should play around with them.
While Google retired the Gtalk brand name and the app, and replaced it with Hangouts, the protocol still lives on. So if you have a Google account, you are good to go. You can talk to your buddies on Hangouts or Gtalk using one of these apps. And when I say Hangouts, I mean IM and not Hangouts video chat.
IM+ is an all-in-one social messaging app. Log in with your Google credentials and you’ll see all your Gtalk buddies listed there. The free apps comes with ads and no group chat function.
The app has good reviews, but in my testing, it was buggy and sometimes wouldn’t show messages as all. If that happens with you as well, try the app below.
Agent + ICQ
Agent + ICQ is a good looking app that’s a great example of Windows Phone design language done right. The type and bright blue colors blend in well.
Functionality wise, Agent works well. You need to create an account by using your phone number as authentication or Facebook/VK. Once in, go to your Profile and add your Google account. All your buddies will now show up. What’s more, the app allows you to do a group chat as well.