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Need to use your Windows Phone in the car? You can rely on several apps for maps, dashcams and car mode interfaces.

Driving With A Windows Phone

Windows Phone 8 offers various tools, native and third-party, that can be used to assist and entertain you while driving. You might, for instance, want to use a guided satnav application to help you find your destination, or listen to music. Dashcams are also available, while Windows Phone 8’s built-in voice recognition software is good enough to assist with making and receiving calls and launching apps. Alternatively, you might have forgotten where you parked your car. Whichever is the case, you shouldn’t miss out on unifying these apps into a single user interface, specifically for use in the car.

Car Mode Apps for Windows Phone

Although you can use plenty of apps in your car, the best way to approach this is with a suitable car mode app. This is a tool that offers a simple, “easy to hit” user interface for opening the apps that you need when driving.

Two such apps are currently available free from the Windows Phone Store.

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Car Mode is a functional enhancement for Nokia Car App (above, left), offering support for NFC tags to launch the app as your phone is docked with your windscreen or dashboard mount. Nokia Car App enables you to easily launch apps from three shortcut tiles, although curiously Xbox Music is not among them.

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Meanwhile, Car Dash (above, right) offers a similar interface, with four preset shortcuts: Home, Destinations, Music and Contacts. You will need to tell the app where your home is so that it can be quickly set as the new destination when you’re heading back. Up to six frequently called contacts can be added, while the Music screen is a basic MP3 player for files on your phone. The app also displays the time and date, battery life, weather, and offers three configurable tiles for custom app shortcuts.

Navigation With Windows Phone 8

Although several maps apps are available for the platform, only two satnav apps that are currently worth your consideration, both free.

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First is CoPilot GPS, which although free does not include turn-by-turn voice guidance without making an in-app purchase for the upgrade after the 14 day trial period. It is, however, a perfectly good satnav with a useful 2D offline mode for minimising battery use and tools such as multi-stop route planning, alternative routes and a walking mode, among other features. Sadly, it doesn’t support SD card storage for maps, which can prove problematic on devices with limited storage.

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Nokia’s extremely popular HERE Drive+ on the other hand is completely free. Although a bit of a battery drainer, the app offers guided directions in 88 languages, support for 95 countries, and real-time traffic condition notifications and ETA adjustment. HERE Drive+ also supports customizable route settings and My Commute for personalised daily commute assistance. Our review of HERE Drive+ Navigate From A To B Fast With HERE Drive+ For Windows Phone 8 Navigate From A To B Fast With HERE Drive+ For Windows Phone 8 Your GPS-enabled smartphone can replace a SatNav! Equip your handset with turn-by-turn navigation app and you're ready to go. HERE Drive+ is an excellent navigation aid for Nokia Windows Phone 8. Read More  includes additional reasons to use it.

One of the most popular Windows Phone apps from Nokia, HERE Drive+ will also help you find your parked car (alternatively, you might use Where’s My Car, also free).

Windows Phone 8 Dashcams

Mounting dashcams (dashboard cameras) has become an increasingly popular activity among those wary of road accidents or other incidents and more recently with insurance companies hoping to crackdown on fraudulent claims Can Dashcams Stop 'Crash For Cash' Fraud? Can Dashcams Stop 'Crash For Cash' Fraud? The car in front of you suddenly brakes without warning... and you plough into the back of it. Read More .

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While Action Cam was for a time the only solution on Windows Phone, several others have since come along, superseding it. Our review of Action Cam Action Cam – A Dashboard Camera For Windows Phone 8 Action Cam – A Dashboard Camera For Windows Phone 8 Need to keep a video record of journeys in case of an accident and subsequent insurance claim? For Windows Phone users, Action Cam is a strong choice, but will it do the job reliably? Read More should give you a good idea of what it can and cannot do.

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For instance, Dash Cam ($1.29) is a more elegant solution with auto-start recording and the ability to upload footage to OneDrive, although this is only possible over Wi-Fi. Various onscreen buttons help you manually record and disable the screen – also useful for saving battery life and minimizing distractions.

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A free alternative is Auto Witness, although uploads to OneDrive are limited to three until you purchase an in-app upgrade. With a choice of video resolutions (including 720p and 1080p), detection of rapid acceleration and deceleration enabling automatic video saving and loop video recording to save space on your device, this is perhaps the best dashcam option for Windows Phone 8.

Native Windows Phone Apps For The Road

You should take note of several built in Windows Phone 8 tools, like its voice control system Windows Phone 8 Voice Recognition Tips and Tricks Windows Phone 8 Voice Recognition Tips and Tricks Why would you pick up your phone if you could just tell it what to do? Windows Phone 8 has several very good speech recognition options. Give laziness and productivity a boost with our tips... Read More . While not currently as developed as Siri or OK Google, the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 update will introduce Cortana Microsoft Announces Windows 8.1 Update And Cortana Personal Assistant Microsoft Announces Windows 8.1 Update And Cortana Personal Assistant Windows Phone 8.1 gets a new personal assistant named after the Halo franchise's Cortana and a Windows 8.1 Update with a lot of minor changes to improve the experience for mouse and keyboard users. Read More , which promises to change that.

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You’ll also find that Xbox Music is a useful app when driving, although you can choose from several other audio streaming and MP3 players.

If all of the above sounds like too much and you just want weather alerts and music, then a custom lock screen Windows Phone 8 Lock Screen Options: Calendar, Email and Weather Windows Phone 8 Lock Screen Options: Calendar, Email and Weather It might not look like much, but your Windows Phone lock screen can provide all manner of interesting and important information to you – and it can do this natively, without third party apps. Read More might be more to your liking.

Driving With Windows Phone 8? Be Safe

You can enjoy music, find your route and record your journey with Windows Phone 8 Windows Phone 8: The Complete Review Windows Phone 8: The Complete Review Question: how do you improve on perfection? Answer: you wait for someone else to have a go. A quick look around the smartphone market reveals that Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems are top... Read More , unifying those apps into a car mode app with customizable shortcuts. The vast majority of these apps are free, or available with in-app purchases for extended functions.

Time to hit the Windows Phone Store!

Before you continue, however, heed your local laws when it comes to operating a smartphone when driving. If you need to make a call, pull in. Similarly, should you need to access your maps app or change track on your MP3 player, pull over to do so or ask your passenger to help.

Do you have any preferred in-car apps for Windows Phone that we haven’t included, or any thoughts and opinions on those we have? Let us know in the comments.

  1. Andy Frame
    April 17, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Although Here Drive+ is very good, it is impossible to see the screen on a sunny day, which renders these apps useless.

    • Christian C
      April 17, 2014 at 10:02 am

      As I live in the North East of England, this isn't a problem I've ever experienced...

      Seriously though, I can only imagine you're driving a convertible or have your phone mounted in the wrong space - screen brightness has never been an issue as far as I'm concerned.

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