A key criticism of Windows Phone is its lack of Google apps, but if you've just moved from Android to Windows Phone or simply enjoy the simplicity of Google's apps, there are ways to access Gmail, Google Contacts, Google Calendar, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Search, Google+ and even Google Drive on Windows Phone. Here's how to sync Google services with Windows Phone 8. Also see: Best Windows Phones 2015.
How to sync Gmail, Google Contacts and Google Calendar with Windows Phone 8
When adding a Google account to your Windows Phone, you can simply go to Settings, email+accounts, add an account, but we've always found it easier to deal with contacts and Gmail separately, allowing you to get the People, Google Mail and Calendar apps working exactly how you want them.
First, open the People app on your Windows Phone. Tap the three dots icon at the bottom left of the screen and select 'add an account'. On the next screen once again tap 'add an account', then choose Google. Windows Phone will request your permission to go to Google, so click Connect. Read all smartphone tutorials.
Sign into your Google account with your username and password, then accept the permissions requested by Google. Windows Phone will now sync your Google contacts.
Having synched your Google account with Windows Phone, go back to the People app and tap on the link at the top that says 'showing contacts with phone numbers'. Under 'show contacts from my' select Google. Also here you can switch off your Outlook contacts to avoid duplications, and choose to turn off hiding off contacts without phone numbers. Your People app will now show only your Google contacts.
You'll also now find a Google Mail app on your home screen. Open this, then tap on the three dots icon at the bottom left and choose Settings. From here you can choose Sync settings and choose how often Windows Phone should sync data with your Google account. Scroll down the page and you'll find options to sync email, contacts and calendar, and you can deselect any you don't want to sync with Windows Phone. (You can access these same options by heading to Settings, email+accounts, Google.)
As with Google Mail, open the Calendar app and you'll find your Google Calendar has been synched with Windows Phone. Once again tap on the three dots icon at the bottom of the screen to access Settings, then specify whether you want to view your Google and/or Outlook calendars and how they should display. Also see: Funny questions to ask Cortana.
How to watch YouTube on Windows Phone 8 - how to download YouTube video to Windows Phone 8
If you want to watch YouTube videos on Windows Phone 8 you'll need an app - but not the YouTube app. There are several third-party apps that allow you to browse YouTube, and a particular favourite is the free Tube Pro. Tube Pro also lets you download YouTube videos to Windows Phone 8, set up playlists and pin channels and playlists to live tiles.
To start using Tube Pro just open the Windows Store app and search for Tube Pro. Tap on the app, select install and, when prompted, allow the app to access your location (this is required).
How to use Google Maps on Windows Phone 8
As with YouTube, there are several third-party apps on the Windows Store that purport to offer Google Maps. These aren't the real deal. However, it's quite possible to view Google Maps online in Internet Explorer. Just open the browser and head to maps.google.co.uk. You can then see your location on a map, get directions and more, as you would on a PC or laptop.
How to use Google Search on Windows Phone 8
Windows Phone uses Bing as the default search engine, but if you'd rather use Google Search then there is a workaround. Open Internet Explorer and browse to google.co.uk. Now tap on the three dots icon at the bottom of the screen and choose either 'add to favourites' or 'pin to start'. If you choose the latter then you'll find a new tile on your home screen that will take you directly to Google Search each time you want to get online. Just fill in your search query and hit the magnifying glass as usual. Also see: How to back up a Windows Phone.
How to use Google+ on Windows Phone 8
Google+ is another Google service you can access and use via the Internet Explorer browser on Windows Phone. Just open Internet Explorer, browse to plus.google.com and sign in. You can then post statuses and photos, check in and read other people's updates.
How to use Google Drive on Windows Phone 8
You can get read-only access to documents in Google Drive by opening Internet Explorer and browsing to drive.google.com. However, that's no good for creating and editing documents, and you can't download Google Sheets or Google Docs to Windows Phone. But we have heard that Microsoft Office - preinstalled on your phone and with cloud functionality - is a relatively decent productivity suite...
Read next: Windows Phone 8 review.
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