The ins and outs of the Windows Phone Store

The soul of any mobile operating system is its app store, and Windows Phone 8 is no different. The Windows Phone Store is where you’ll be able to find and download a range of free and paid apps for your Windows Phone handset—including productivity apps, social networking apps, and, of course, games. Here’s how to get started with the Windows Phone Store on your new Windows Phone 8 device.

Getting started

A list of apps in the Windows Phone Store

To open up the Windows Phone Store, navigate to your phone’s applications list and tap the Store icon—it looks like a tiny shopping bag bearing the Windows logo. The app may also come pinned to your start menu. (When your apps have updates, you'll see a number next to the shopping bag icon in the tile).

The first screen you see will depend somewhat on your carrier and your phone’s manufacturer—I’m using an HTC phone running on AT&T, so my Store home screen includes links to both AT&T and HTC apps. Similarly, accessing the Windows Phone Store through a Nokia handset will display a Nokia collection of apps in addition to the carrier apps, while accessing the Store from a Samsung ATIV S also gives the option to find apps in the "Samsung Zone."

Regardless of what carrier or handset you have, you'll still see the main home screen, which links to other parts of the Windows Phone Store: Apps, games, music, and podcasts are all options here. To get to the App Store section, tap the link that says 'apps.'

Discover apps through screens

App categories in the Windows Phone Store

The Windows Phone Store is set up specifically to help you find and discover new apps. The first screen, as well as the fourth and fifth screens, highlights featured apps that Microsoft thinks will appeal to you based on general popularity or your personal Store activity. The first screen spotlights a single app, with details about that app, the price, and the rating. The fourth and fifth screens feature eight more highlighted apps in thumbnail view.

The second screen features six tiles organized by category: 'Top free,' 'New + Rising,' 'Top paid,' 'Best rated,' 'Collections,' and 'Picks for you.' Selecting any of these categories will take you to a list of apps within that category; however, swiping left or right from your initial selection will take you to a list of apps for the other categories.

A note about the 'Picks for you' tile—it will work only if you set up the feature. To do so, tap the tile (or go to the Settings menu and tap the Suggestions button). You’ll be asked to connect your Microsoft account and/or Facebook account to Bing; this will allow your phone to collect information based on what you do on your phone, in the Windows Phone Store, and in other Microsoft products to learn your likes and dislikes. Your phone will also use your location data, as well as Facebook friend information (if you connect your Facebook account) to offer app suggestions.

For example, if you turn the on 'Picks for you' feature and then download a bunch of physics-based games, you might get suggestions for games such as Angry Birds and Cut the Rope.

The third screen has a full list of more-specific categories, such as 'Entertainment,' 'Tools + Productivity,' and 'Kids + Family.' It has 18 categories altogether, including 'All.' This is where you’ll likely do most of your browsing—tap on any particular category and you’ll be taken to a list of apps, as well as a few more screens that will show you the top free, top paid, best rated, and 'New + Rising' apps in that category.

Download an app

Screen for downloading a paid app

Once you find an app that you’d like to download, tap on its name to go to its main screen. This main screen ('details') will show you the app’s icon, star rating, and description. On this screen you will also find buttons for installing/buying or sharing the app. Apps can be shared using tap + send, text message, Xbox SmartGlass, or via any email or social networking accounts that you have synced to your Windows Phone.

If the app is free, you’ll see a button that says 'install.' Tap this button, and the app will begin downloading.

If the app is paid, you’ll see a button that says 'buy.' Tapping this button will take you to a confirmation screen that will let you purchase the app. You can buy apps using your mobile service, a credit or debit card, a Microsoft gift card, or a PayPal account. To use a different service, tap the Add or switch payment methods link listed under your default service, and then tap the plus symbol to add a new payment method.

Some paid apps also have a 'try' button next to the 'buy' button. Tapping 'try' will let you download a free trial version before you purchase the full app. But not all paid apps have a trial version.

However, if you want to learn more about such an app before you download it, you can swipe through the app’s screens. While the initial screen ('details') holds information about the app, the second screen has full user reviews, the third screen has screenshots, and a fourth screen will show you apps that are similar to the one you’re looking at.

Start browsing!

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