Empower your Lumia Windows Phone with experimental apps from Nokia Beta Labs

If you own a Lumia Windows Phone and don't mind fiddling with experimental software then Nokia may have something available for you in the app store, kept away from prying eyes. Through the Beta Labs website, the Finnish manufacturer gives users the ability to grab and test software that is currently under development and not yet available inside Nokia's exclusive app collection on Windows Phone.

Beta Labs is not new -- in fact it was launched last decade -- but it is frequently updated by Nokia with new software iterations and apps designed for its devices. Some of you may have even spotted news stories discussing various experimental apps for Windows Phone, so let's take a look at what you can (and should) get on your Lumia today to enrich your user experience.

At the moment there are four major apps available: Lumia Storage Check, Nokia Conference, Place Tag and Play To for WP8. All four are designed with Windows Phone 8 in mind and can be downloaded, after logging in with a Nokia account or registering for a new one, straight on your Lumia smartphone by scanning the adjacent QR code. The QR code contains a link which opens up the app store on the device and allows you to grab the respective app from a trusted source -- the Windows Phone app store. Let's take them one by one.

Lumia Storage Check, which has now reached the second beta milestone, is a new iteration of the app that currently ships on Lumia smartphones (and sports the same name). Compared to the stable version, the Lumia Storage Check in beta trim also provides users with the ability to remove offline maps stored on the device (which can also be done through the settings of the Maps app) and even move the offline maps onto the microSD card to free some internal storage space.

Even though, based on my own experience, most beta apps are quite stable, the current experimental version of Lumia Storage Check may crash after five to 10 seconds upon launching it, according to Nokia. That was not however the case when I last used the app a couple of days ago. If a new beta is released, you can upgrade and will receive a counter under the Store live tile.

Nokia Conference is designed to make conference calls a breeze for Lumia users. The app forgoes "switching to the calendar app, remembering the ID/PIN codes, getting the right access number, switching to the phone app, making the call, and entering all the codes". All that users need to do is tap on a single button or dictate a voice command -- "conference join" -- in order to join a conference call.

The company says that Nokia Conference automatically knows which meeting will start or is currently underway, then asks users for confirmation to join and connect them. The app supports conference calls for multiple companies. Users can also manually enter the settings.

Place Tag is a pretty cool app which is meant to enrich the photography experience on Lumia devices. The app, which can also be used as a camera lens, determines your location and displays nearby POIs (Point of Interest) on the screen, similar to HERE City Lens. Unlike the latter, Place Tag is designed to also shoot pictures and store the POIs from within the camera's range in the photo, for which users can get a short description straight from the image.

Play To for WP8 has been released for Lumia users who own DLNA-compatible devices. The app can be used to share multimedia content, such as music, pictures and videos, from a Lumia smartphone via the Wi-Fi network to "that new big screen TV you have or maybe just your Windows laptop and/or desktop or XBox".

The app was first seen on Lumia smartphones running Windows Phone 7, and now Nokia wants to bring it to its Windows Phone 8 device lineup as well. According to the Finnish company, both versions share the same functionality so don't expect any new features just yet.

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