Windows Phone has come a long, long way in a very short amount of time. The latest version, Windows Phone 8.1 – which launched this month on the new Lumia 630, and will roll out to existing WP8 users from June – has answered many of the criticisms leveled at previous releases. Finally, it feels like a complete mobile operating system.
But in almost all reviews of the OS, and in many commentaries on the platform as a whole, there is one area in which Windows Phone is frequently criticised for continuing to lag behind its rivals: apps.
At its BUILD conference in San Francisco last month, Microsoft revealed that the Windows Phone Store is now home to more than 250,000 apps – and that’s a remarkable achievement, whichever way you look at it. Little wonder, then, that there is talk of the ‘app-gap’ finally being closed for the OS, although we would argue that that is not quite the case yet.
Early last year, we asked our readers which apps they missed most from Windows Phone (and its PC counterpart, Windows 8), and many of the apps that they listed have now launched on the platform. But gaps still remain, and in some cases, gaps have been filled in not by official apps, but by third-party developers, such as Rudy Huyn and Daniel Gary. The brilliant and tireless efforts of developers like these have brought software and features to Windows Phone that users would otherwise still be waiting for, since some brands continue to overlook the platform.
But for those new to Windows Phone, the presence of official apps remains an important measure of its suitability for their needs – it is not a compelling argument to an iPhone user that, although there is no official Snapchat app on Windows Phone, there is 6snap; or that while there is no DropBox, there is FileBox. Most potential buyers will not wait around long enough to hear that these third-party apps are excellent alternatives, and will simply be content to stick with Android or iOS.
The speed at which apps arrive on Windows Phone remains a problem too. Secret, for example, launched on iOS in February, and has just launched on Android. But its developers have said nothing yet of plans to launch on Windows Phone.
However, we shouldn’t overstate our case. The ecosystem isn’t perfect, but it has come a long way, and the addition of big names like Instagram, Vine and (soon) BlackBerry Messenger has given the platform a considerable boost. But gaps still remain.
Whether it’s your airline, your bank, your preferred supermarket, your favourite newspaper, your sports team, your local public transport service, or something else entirely, there’s a good chance that some aspects of your life remain unfulfilled by apps on Windows Phone – apps that may well be available on rival platforms.
So we’d love to hear from you, to let us know which apps you’re still waiting to see on Windows Phone, and just how important those apps are to you. Are you considering abandoning Windows Phone because of the app situation, or have you perhaps recently switched to the platform despite missing one or two important apps? Is there one app that you want more than any other, or maybe a bunch of apps that you don't really miss on WP?
Please share your thoughts and comments below, or send us a tweet via @neowinfeed with the hashtag #appyness.