Editorial

Windows Phone: The ‘app-gap' isn't closed yet, Joe

Editorial

At the beginning of this year, we had an open discussion here on Neowin with our readers, asking them which apps they most wanted to see come to Windows devices. At the time, Windows Phone had just over 150,000 apps, but there was still a long, long list of apps that users were still waiting for.

What a difference a year makes. As 2013 draws to a close, many of the apps that Windows Phone 8 users desired most have now arrived on the platform.

BBC iPlayer, Citrix Receiver, Pandora, Wells Fargo, Waze, Vine, United Airlines, Spotify, Photosynth, Good for Enterprise, Hulu Plus, and many, many more have joined Windows Phone 8 in the last year. Some other apps that have long been awaited, including Mint, Flipboard and Path, are expected to launch soon.

But the most high-profile addition to Windows Phone's app portfolio – having come to represent the platform’s app shortcomings across the tech community – was Instagram. Announced by Nokia alongside some of its latest devices in October, the app launched last week in beta form, and while there was some initial confusion about just what features were included, most appreciated the significance of its arrival.

This was, after all, a momentous occasion for Windows Phone. Nokia’s vice-president of software program management, Samuli Hanninen, told The Inquirer last month: “We have been screaming about Instagram for the past eighteen months… It’s one of the main apps in general that has been absent from the operating system.”

Its launch – even as a feature-limited beta – has come to symbolise the progress that Microsoft has made in attracting top-tier apps to Windows Phone. Nokia, too, can share in this glory, and should be greatly applauded for its own efforts to boost software on the platform, which even included developing the #2InstaWithLove app, as a means to encourage Instagram and its Facebook overlords to bring it to Windows Phone.

The sense of relief and satisfaction at the two companies over Instagram’s arrival is obvious. It was enough for Joe Belfiore, the well-known and well-liked head of the Windows Phone team, to share this tweet on the day of Instagram’s launch:

While some sites understandably reported on this tweet as an admission from the platform’s head that it would be another year before Windows Phone is finally on an even keel with its rivals, Joe cleared things up the next day, admitting that he had actually meant to type ‘2013’ instead:

So the third ecosystem is here, and considerable percentage growth in Windows Phone sales suggests that handset buyers increasingly appreciate this too. And let’s not forget that the year isn’t even over yet – there’s still time for more high-profile names to join Windows Phone in the next few weeks.

So will we, as Joe claims, all look back on the end of 2013 as the ending of the app-gap for the platform? Not so fast, Mr B.

As WMPowerUser reported last week, the results of a recent survey by Strategy Analytics shows that developer support for the platform is increasing. 32% of respondents said that they plan to develop for Windows Phone next year, up from just 16% who created software for the platform in 2013. That’s a considerable improvement – no doubt about it – but it’s important to look at that figure in context.

Take a look at the graph above, which shows developer intent for the various mobile platforms. Let’s set aside HTML5 – as that’s platform agnostic, rather than a platform in its own right – and you’ll see that Windows Phone is indeed the third ecosystem when it comes to developer priorities.

But look at the two platforms that lie ahead of it. 68% of developers plan to create software for iOS next year, while a staggering 84% intend to launch apps for Android. As David MacQueen from Strategy Analytics pointed out, “that’s primarily down to the huge installed base; we asked developers why they were supporting particular platforms and the top answer for both of these platforms was the user base.”

As Windows Phone’s sales grow, then, we can reasonably expect developers to adjust their priorities accordingly, and to increasingly include Microsoft’s mobile OS in their software development plans. But that isn’t going to happen this year; and, if we take Strategy Analytics’ findings as indicative of broader developer intent, it isn’t going to happen next year either.

But the broader issue here stems from how the ‘app-gap’ is defined. For some, it means little more than a focus on bringing apps to the platform that have long been available elsewhere. Fill in those gaps – to finally offer the likes of Mint, HBO GO, et.al – and the app-gap itself is closed. Problem solved, right?

Wrong.

In fact, there are two very significant reasons why the app-gap won’t be closed by the end of 2013, or indeed for some time to come.

The first is an issue that is perfectly exemplified in the Instagram launch, but is by no means exclusive to that app: feature parity with other platforms. When an app launches on Windows Phone that has previously been available elsewhere, it is by no means certain that that app will include the full range of features that users on rival platforms enjoy.

Yes, Instagram’s launch came with the ‘beta’ tag, which waves a flag warning users not to expect too much of it. But one has to wonder why this initial launch was so limited, given the time and resources available for its development. It is especially unforgivable when you consider that independent developers, with a fraction of those resources, have succeeded in creating apps that are vastly superior to Instagram’s official launch offering in almost every way.

Perhaps some will feel that the presence of the ‘beta’ tag makes it unfair to pick on Instagram, so let’s highlight a couple of other examples. When Viber launched on Windows Phone 8, it did so with no support for voice calls. When Scruff launched on Windows Phone 8, it did so with no support for sharing private photo albums or for sending videos. When BBC iPlayer launched on Windows Phone 8, it did so with no support for watching live TV or downloading shows to a device for offline viewing.

These are three examples of high-profile apps representing a broad spectrum of users, and each of them arrived on the platform missing key features. In some cases, months later, these features have still not arrived.

Whatever the reasons behind each of these shortcomings – and those found in many other apps compared with their counterparts on rival platforms – the fact that even big-name apps are launching on Windows Phone with features missing is a pretty solid indicator that the app-gap cannot simply be considered ‘closed’ just because the app has finally made it into the Store.

The second indicator to consider is that of how quickly apps continue to arrive on the platform. While it’s all well and good to congratulate Windows Phone for finally attracting the apps that people have long been waiting for, that doesn’t say much about the prospects of new apps that continue to pop up on rival platforms.

Instagram arrived over eighteen months after it launched on Android. Draw Something launched on Windows Phone long after the peak buzz and excitement surrounding it had faded. Given how fickle device users are when it comes to apps and games – constantly seeking out newer, cooler stuff to share with friends – it’s not enough to say “better late than never”; it’s not enough to fill in the gaps long after everyone else has moved on to the next big thing.

This, especially, is what makes the ‘32%’ developer intent figure so significant. 32% is double what it was previously, yes, but flip that around and it indicates that 68% of the developers surveyed have no interest in developing for Windows Phone yet. That will change, of course, as Microsoft grows its installed user base for the platform, but that will not be an overnight job. Many hearts and minds are still to be won in the developer community, and among even the biggest global brands; many still remain far from convinced that Windows Phone is a platform worth spending time and resources on.

Microsoft and Nokia have done an exceptional job this year in stimulating developer interest in the platform, and it is greatly to their credit that many of the most-demanded apps that were previously absent from the Windows Phone Store have either arrived or will launch soon. But while Windows Phone has firmly established itself as the third ecosystem, it is still a second thought for many developers, a situation that continues to leave the platform’s users waiting indefinitely for apps that appear by default on Android and iOS.

Barclaycard, Virgin Atlantic, BBC News, Starbucks, JCPenney, Manchester United, Amtrak, BBM, Bad Piggies, Dots, Uber… the list of popular apps still not firmly on the horizon for Windows Phone is long. And aside from the apps that already exist elsewhere, there is no ignoring the fact that WP users can never knowingly expect a new app to launch on the platform with the same certainty that Android and iOS users enjoy. If an app is announced – from any brand, anywhere in the world – those with Androids and iPhones can confidently expect the app to become available to them quickly. For now, Windows Phone users are consistently left to face long gaps between an app’s availability elsewhere and its launch on Microsoft’s platform.

As elucidated earlier in this piece, this state of affairs will surely change in time; the gap will narrow and, eventually, close. But there is still much work for Microsoft to do.

When the company officially takes over Nokia’s devices business next year, it will command 90% of the market for Windows Phone handsets. That puts the onus of growing the platform and expanding its user base almost entirely upon Microsoft. Without that growth in user numbers, developers and brands both large and small will continue to consider Windows Phone as an afterthought when it comes to app development.

That is not a problem that will be resolved overnight, nor is its resolution the only key to sorting out the platform’s current absence from the radars of many developers. The platform itself needs work too, and Microsoft’s pace of development in that regard has been painfully slow.

The Windows Phone OS still lacks features and APIs that have been available on other platforms for ages, without which developers are simply not able to create certain apps for it, even if they are willing. More substantial enterprise support, for example – including features such as auto-VPN, enhanced MDM policies, S/MIME support and certificate management – was announced for Windows Phone in July, but won’t actually be available until sometime in the first half of next year. Apps that tap into these features therefore can’t launch on Windows Phone until this ‘enterprise feature pack’ finally arrives.

There is much more to “ending the app-gap for Windows Phone” than ticking off the ‘top-50’ list of apps that other platforms already have, and closing the gap will take a lot more than simply declaring that task complete. As the user base grows, the problem will become less pronounced as developers and brands see opportunities to reach larger audiences, but that growth will take time.

The OS itself needs development to catch up to its rivals too, while developers themselves must continue to be encouraged, prodded and nagged until they offer apps for Windows Phone with features that match their counterparts on other platforms, and without the long delays that users have sadly grown accustomed to.

While Joe Belfiore and the rest of the Windows Phone team will certainly be aware of the scale of the challenge that lies before them, and what needs to be done, it does no-one any good to pretend that the mission is already accomplished, nor that it will be anytime soon.

When 2013 draws to a close in just a few weeks time, the app-gap will still remain wide open. It will likely be a long, long time before we can all look back and declare that the gap has finally been closed. 

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The painfully slow pace of development is precisely what is holding WP back. 8.1 may bring a lot of the features needed and solve most of the problems... but it should have been out already, in October when the PC and RT versions of 8.1 were released.

MSFT could easily close this "gap" by taking a chapter from apple's book. Create a feature in wp8 called "de-google" which is an android VM that sandboxes android apps. Let users run apk android files from the google store. Essentially, if there is no wp8 app, install the android using "de-google".

The biggest problem of all is that iOS and Android is where apps start. All the populars Apps are tested usually on iOS first since that the largest perceived market. By the time it trickles down to WP its either been stripped of a lot of the functionality or its just too late. Until developers develop for WP first or at least launch their apps on all 3 platforms at the same time nothing will change. Now as far as the WP7-8 app issue. Microsoft changed code bases from what I have been told. I hope this doesn't happen with the WP to RT shift, not sure if MS can afford another hit on this one.

Another one of my biggest issues is that Microsoft themselves does a pretty poor job of updating the core apps on Windows Phone. Internet explorer hasn't been updated in ages, the built in weather app is a joke. The hubs also haven't been updated to include new social networks. Some of the core stand outs for Windows Phone are starting to get lost in all of this

The problem right now with windows phone is the mystery they have created for developers and consumer to make app, buy apps. Is windows and windows phone is going to be merged? if there is only one platform, which one is it? I am assuming it would be windows 8 that dominates after all. They should pull their **** together and make the ****ing decision on what the hell they are going to do with platform. WP 7.x was a massive failure and I know many people enthusiasts that got 7.8 phone and they got stuck and most apps are not compatible with it. they really got disappointed and will probably never switch back to WP at least for a while. I have a feeling they are going to do the same thing with WP8 to unify the platform. I was hoping they take the short path but pretty much they did the same as android did until android 4.x which they unified tablets, mobile apps. apart from the fact that android started 3 years earlier, so at bestby 2015 there will be good WP devices out. 9 series perhaps

Andy, your editorial is addressing the "real" app gap. I read Joe's forward-looking tweet as addressing the "perceived" app gap. I'd argue that those are two very different things.

The most critical "gap" is the current widespread perception among developers that "nobody uses" Windows Phone, and the corollary consumer perception that there are "no apps" for Windows Phone. Until those two views are changed, the "app gap" will never be closed.

Microsoft knows very well that Windows is still not the first or second choice platform for developers, and that its job is not done until it is. But Joe is doing something very important here: with recent momentum in both sales *and* apps, now is the time for Microsoft to attack those two absolutely deadly perceived platform deficits, and start to fix the perception of Windows Phone. Perception is what drives behavior, so it is critical that they do this. "Declaring victory" (when it is backed up by evidence) can sometimes be an effective way of changing people's minds.

Windows Phone doesn't have to reach absolute parity with iOS or Android to be give serious consideration, just the perception of real momentum and progress. That's a super important metric, more important than the absolute number of apps in the Store.

Yeah, you make some very good points. The point that I was trying to make was that that difference - between the 'real' and 'perceived' app gaps - does exist, and that it will take more than just bringing a few high-profile 'missing' apps to the platform to put Windows Phone on a more even footing with its rivals when it comes to software.

I absolutely take your points on board though. Thanks for sharing them!

Being so late to the party I honestly do wonder how Microsoft intends to resolve this vicious circle:

User: No WP apps (that I want)? I'd rather buy an Android or iOS device instead of waiting and hoping for the best.

Developer: No WP users? I'd rather develop for Android and/or iOS.

Romero said,
Being so late to the party I honestly do wonder how Microsoft intends to resolve this vicious circle:

User: No WP apps (that I want)? I'd rather buy an Android or iOS device instead of waiting and hoping for the best.

Developer: No WP users? I'd rather develop for Android and/or iOS.

Do pay attention to history in this circular context.

Windows 3.0 software was non-existent for a long time, with Wordpefect and Lotus both turning down development offers from Microsoft. WP and its relationship to Apps looks a lot like the early Windows 3.1 era in 1992.

However, by 1993/1994, everyone was racing to support Windows 3.x, even at the expense of their locked in marketshare on Macs.

This stuff can and does change quickly, and even more so on mobile device that have a shorter lifetime than PCs did back in the early 90s.

In a couple of years if WP hasn't surpassed iOS or Android, Microsoft might have a problem, but even then they are planning to hold a near equal marketshare third place. (It already has surpassed iOS is several markets, so this is very possible.)

I'm not claiming the situation can't change quickly, but can you think what might make users or developers change their minds? The only way forward for Microsoft seems to me to be dependent on users who place their faith in Windows Phone and buy it even if all the apps they want aren't available yet. That's the only way I see the user base growing to a point where developers automatically consider it a viable option and not a distant afterthought compared to iOS and Android, as is the situation at present. Unfortunately, even though WP might be a lovely OS (not that it doesn't need to improve a lot), I don't see people moving to it en masse purely based on faith alone. I know third-party apps are often available to fill in the gap, but that's not the real solution.

Let's see, perhaps I will be proven wrong and one day WP might actually be in a position to compete with Android, but I think moving past iOS to #2 worldwide (not just in a few countries) will be a great accomplishment and the best WP can hope for unless something changes drastically. Also, even if they do move past iOS they can never dream of matching Apple's fat profit margins (Nokia will have its best sales in developing countries and the lower end of the market).

I had to send my 8X back for fixing (for the second time!) and in the mean time i've gone back to an S3 and i really miss the Windows Phone OS, i mean really miss.

At first i used to moan about the odd missing app but thankfully this is becoming less of an issue.

To be honest, I don't think the app gap is the most deciding factor when it comes to these things. If your 'stock' apps are good enough, you can already cover a great number of users that won't install more more additional apps. I wonder if the studies on how many apps people install back this up.

As a users there's a lot of features that wp just doesn't have. An APP won't solve the fact that wp8 doesnt have 802.1x authentication for Wifi. which is something that has been on iOS since the iphone 3G days and on android since 1.6. if I'm not mistaken whatsapp was using until not very long ago some weird way of delivering notifications that apparently weren't push. and I believe things like this happen because the platform hasn't matured in the right places. i would hardly blame the developers on certain things.

the truth is, wp8 doesn't do stuff that android and iOS were able to do one year from their respective launches, and wp8 has been around for longer than a year. wp7 was at some point praised for being able to deliver timely system updates, in contrast to android's still messed up way. that all went to the crapper when wp8 came along, and then nokia decided to take a lot of matters into their own hands ( I don-t blame them) . and the rumours of microsoft unifying their platforms are well, believable. so that probably means another platform jump like wp7 to wp8, and that kind of stuff doesn't really appeals developers.


that said, I still hope windows phone succeeds. competition between iOS and android has only been beneficial for the consumer. a third player won-t hurt

I agree, I dunno what this craze about apps is all about. I've installed less than 6 apps on my Nokia Lumia 920, and they were in the Windows Marketplace. I paid for a few, the others were free. A few give me new functions that are invaluable (transit, for instance), the others work as supplements to the basic built-in functionality. All enable me to be productive both in work and personal life. A few are fun games (I' tried about 25, but stuck with 3 or so).

I don't need one million apps in my Marketplace, nor do I need to have 3,500 apps installed on my smartphone (that's what my PC is for). I "need" less than a dozen WELL-WRITTEN, STABLE essential mobile apps.

Then again, I'm not a 15-year old obsessed with social media and/or selfies... so perhaps my mileage varies.

Yeah I tend to agree Michael for me I haven't noticed the "app gap" myself but I think we have to keep in mind there are a lot of users out there that like to have 500 apps installed and have an app for everything so for them it matters...whether it should matter more of form, functionality, ease of use, integration etc is up for debate.

Being the 3rd ecosystem though its never going to have the same number or same level of apps as the top two above it, so we can sit here going over these articles every year until the cows come home really.

I think the main take away points are that WP isn't going anywhere, its here to stay and things are getting better, the OS is maturing and improving (perhaps not as fast as some of us might like but its getting there) and the number of apps, feature apps and newer apps which are getting WP versions is certainly increasing.

Being from OZ the thing i miss from Android is a sports app that works. I had the NRL/AFL and Aleague apps which updated live scores had details on the ladder and news. The apps on WP never update scores what is the point then.

The new Bing sports comes close but not complete, it has Cricket and A league but no AFL, NRL or ANBL.

It is really all I miss however.

Am i the only one who doesn't care about apps?

when i visit the play store there are allot of apps, that's true, but none of them really are good in my opinion oke better then no app but still no good.

Now about games, the free ones are mostly trash they are pay to win games or/ and need internet connection the paying ones are not really my style i play games on my pc so non of these games come close the ones out of the app stores.

So for me i can just do fine with a wp, my future mobile os. wp works on low ram deices and nearly all the apps do to but not on i have a device with 512 mb ram nearly all apps run just fine (used a lumia 620 from y friend for 2 weeks) unlike android, with 512 mb ram just doesn't most of the apps crash etc i also have a device with 1gb ram that one is better but still 1gb ram is in my opinion barley enough for android.

so the way i look at it with lower spec devices i can run nearly all apps in the wp store try that with android.

Also the lumia 620 as pdf reader out of the box my phones had none you can install an apps but none of them are fast an relayable, maybe i use the wrong apps.

i like the simple ui of wp also the build in office witch is a an good suite to use unlike any i tried on android.

Bottom line i am done with android to many bad experiences.

btw rewind in time and look at android's market place from a few years ago same thing as wp8 even worse in my opinion.

The problems with WP apps is that mosts are basic, so it is not so strange why those runs fine with only 512mb of ram.

And 1gb for Android is more than enough.

I agree with the article, but do think there's hope yet and that the mistype of "end of 2014" may have been ironically foreshadowing.

Many windows phone apps are low quality. Unstable. Slow. Ugly. Even the ports from android and ios often lack features and polish. Its far away from closing any gap.
The os itself is missing important features. Ms is not doing well. They need too long for anything and their many services and devices dont even cooperate as well as they should. What a missed opportunity.

Should we point out that in the short list of Apps not coming to WP, some of them are already on WP, with one App specifically that has been available since just after the launch of WP7?

Maybe the author was trying to over make their case just a bit?

As for the conclusions of the article, I would agree that 2013 isn't the end of the App gap, but it is the end of the gap in requested Apps.

As for the missing APIs/functionality, the 8.1 release is only a couple of months away, and not only will the 'Enterprise' features appear, but WP8.1 will have available a richer API set than Android or iOS. (This is information that has been announced by Microsoft if you know where to look.)

The HTML5 development 'focus' is a good thing overall. Remember that Microsoft has been the major company behind pushing the use of HTML5 and true browser based Apps and even offer OS features to these types of Apps. Apple only gives HTML5 development support to the point that it doesn't interfere with their Store or App base, and Google pushes developers to use their Webkit for App development instead of pushing for HTML5 based sites. (Thankfully developers have been dumping the Webkit craze - like Netflix). Google also doesn't fully support HTML5 content on Android, especially when consuming content. (ie Play an HTML song from a site on Android and notice it stops playing when you navigate away from the browser.)

Seriously though, work through your list of Apps not available/coming to WP anytime soon. In that short list above, there is even a recently announced WP release for late 2013 - early 2014 for another of the Apps you claim isn't coming to WP soon.

There's no Barclaycard app. Barclays (the bank, which operates separately from the credit card) said back in March that they'd be launching an app in 2014.

There's no Virgin Atlantic app, and I've not found a firm delivery window indicating its arrival. This is especially odd, given that Nokia and Virgin Atlantic had a collaboration last year.

There's no BBC News app, and the BBC has made it clear that it doesn't want to invest in Windows Phone development until the platform grows.

There's no "My Verizon" app currently available on the Store, although I was unaware that one had been released in the past. I've removed this from the list, and instead replaced it with four other apps that have not been released and which do not have any official estimated delivery window: Starbucks, JCPenney, Manchester United and Amtrak.

A report claimed that BBM would be coming to Windows Phone. That has not been confirmed. An unsourced rumour is not a guarantee of launch.

An announcement was made last years that Bad Piggies would be coming to Windows Phone 8. To my knowledge, it was not released. It is not currently available in the Windows Phone Store.

The version of Dots that is available on the Windows Phone Store is a (very good) copy of the official game from Playdots, Inc. but is not related to it.

An Uber app was released for Windows Phone 8 earlier this year. It was then pulled from the store a month later and has not returned. It is not currently available and I have found no information suggesting that it will return.

If you know differently regarding any of these, I'd be grateful if you could share that information, and I'll be happy to correct the article and credit you for your knowledge.

the statement about BBC is especially funny. Windows Phone is doing really well in UK and closing the gap to the iPhone. I wonder how much more does the platform has to grow for BBC to start taking care!!! I say... bull**** excuses.

"the 8.1 release is only a couple of months away, and not only will the 'Enterprise' features appear, but WP8.1 will have available a richer API set than Android or iOS."

I'm not a developer and I marvel at the skill set that it requires to create this stuff. Everyone talks about what's missing etc. etc. but no one ever discusses why. It would seem to me that the discussion should be about how easy the platform is to develop for, and how easy they are making it for developers to do their jobs. Microsoft is the software company, and I have to believe that they are hard at work developing the tools required to lay the "pipes" for apps to talk to the platform and to each other. Not sure I worded that correctly, but I fail to see how creating any of this is "easy". Statements like yours seem to be one of the only intelligent comments to be found in a sea of commentary. If what you say about a "richer" set of API's to come is accurate, that tells the story that I want to hear about the incentives that developers need.

gcaw said,
There's no Barclaycard app. Barclays (the bank, which operates separately from the credit card) said back in March that they'd be launching an app in 2014.

There's no Virgin Atlantic app, and I've not found a firm delivery window indicating its arrival. This is especially odd, given that Nokia and Virgin Atlantic had a collaboration last year.

There's no BBC News app, and the BBC has made it clear that it doesn't want to invest in Windows Phone development until the platform grows.

There's no "My Verizon" app currently available on the Store, although I was unaware that one had been released in the past. I've removed this from the list, and instead replaced it with four other apps that have not been released and which do not have any official estimated delivery window: Starbucks, JCPenney, Manchester United and Amtrak.

A report claimed that BBM would be coming to Windows Phone. That has not been confirmed. An unsourced rumour is not a guarantee of launch.

An announcement was made last years that Bad Piggies would be coming to Windows Phone 8. To my knowledge, it was not released. It is not currently available in the Windows Phone Store.

The version of Dots that is available on the Windows Phone Store is a (very good) copy of the official game from Playdots, Inc. but is not related to it.

An Uber app was released for Windows Phone 8 earlier this year. It was then pulled from the store a month later and has not returned. It is not currently available and I have found no information suggesting that it will return.

If you know differently regarding any of these, I'd be grateful if you could share that information, and I'll be happy to correct the article and credit you for your knowledge.

Ok, you do realize that region/carrier specific Apps only show up from the Store App on the phone itself? Which would be odd for anyone to bloviate about its development failings if they don't even understand how the App store works.

Have you even used a WP device or developed for WP to be presenting such an authoritative article on the subject?

For example, here:
http://www.windowsphone.com/s?...a504-e011-9264-00237de2db9e
(Even if you are a Verizon customer and are allowed to install the App, you cannot do this from this website link, you have to use your phone's Store app.)

This App has been around since the HTC Trophy launched on WP7 and since WP8 has had two major revisions.

(There are around 10 various Verizon provided/sponsored Apps that are only accessible from the Phone Store App.)


As for the choice of the other Apps you keep playing with, you still are not 100% accurate.

It is also a little dubious to include an App like Starbucks, when the phone already can use Scout to find a Starbucks and its built in Wallet supports Starbucks rewards/cards, thus a dedicated 'Starbucks' App is just not needed.

WP can even use NFC for Starbuck Card purchases/rewards, which you can't even do on iOS and I don't think NFC Android devices support this with the Starbuck App either.

Do you see how this App list can be a bit misleading? Especially when you are throwing out random stuff that you think is important or don't realize is already supported?

jimmyfal said,
"the 8.1 release is only a couple of months away, and not only will the 'Enterprise' features appear, but WP8.1 will have available a richer API set than Android or iOS."

I'm not a developer and I marvel at the skill set that it requires to create this stuff. Everyone talks about what's missing etc. etc. but no one ever discusses why. It would seem to me that the discussion should be about how easy the platform is to develop for, and how easy they are making it for developers to do their jobs. Microsoft is the software company, and I have to believe that they are hard at work developing the tools required to lay the "pipes" for apps to talk to the platform and to each other. Not sure I worded that correctly, but I fail to see how creating any of this is "easy". Statements like yours seem to be one of the only intelligent comments to be found in a sea of commentary. If what you say about a "richer" set of API's to come is accurate, that tells the story that I want to hear about the incentives that developers need.

This is a good question and one that MS should address more often to consumers in addition to developers.

The reason the API sets have been 'restrictive' to developers on WP7 and WP8 is due to the new OS model WP uses. Beyond the lower level kernel, the upper layer were Apps run is a new framework design. This by design is unlike anything that existed for a major OS platform.

This new model focuses on security, stability, and also brings a new true OO platform.

The security and stability are were the API limitations come from, as WP will NOT allow a 3rd party application to touch anything.

This is why WP has never had malware, as an App cannot touch anything except through a few very concise APIs. It is also why 'crashes' are virtually non-existent - most users will never see an App crash/close.

The security/protection/statbility of the new framework is not just 'in theory' as you find in a protected mode operating system, but uses a true isolation sandbox model.

With WP7 this model initially had more limitations but has advanced a long way with WP8 that still uses the isolation, but now has native code/etc.

However, even with WP8 developers will often complain that they can't touch feature XYZ, and for security they NEVER should have been allowed to touch feature XYZ on Android or iOS. This is where you find some developer conflicts, as they may never be able to implement their App as it would be a security nightmare.

For example, Microsoft will not let an App send out automated SMS messages from the user's phone account. This prevents a malicious App from sending out 100s/1000s text messages and incur charges to the user and generate SPAM. A developer can do this on Android, and often this is one mechanism malware uses on Android, as it hides itself and will send out SMS messages to a number that collects money from the user's phone bill.

With Windows 8, Microsoft created WinRT. It also follows the same security and isolation model that first appeared on WP.


With WP 8.1, this is the where the WinRT platform and experience is combined with the WP platform. The beginning of merging the two platforms together. This will give WP developers even more API access/features, yet still keeps the hardlines of security and stability that both WP and WinRT are designed to uphold.


In contrast to all of this, Microsoft could have given developers direct access to the entire OS, as they did with Windows Mobile or software on the Windows desktop gets. This would have never been as tight, secure or stable as WP. Simply put, Microsoft was NOT trying to recreate/copy iOS or Android where Apps have unfettered access; instead they set out to design a really smart and secure App platform that puts end users first.

Mobius Enigma said,
...

You just said that region/carrier-specific apps only show up on the phone itself. Then you included a link which shows it on the web. I already acknowledged that I was wrong about the Verizon app - what more do you want?

You say I'm "still not 100% accurate" about the apps that I mentioned. I asked you previously if you would be kind enough to share some actual information and detail about this rather than just repeating that I'm wrong. If I'm wrong, then please correct me - which official apps that I listed are currently in the Store? which have been officially confirmed as being in development? - and I'll gladly admit my error(s), publicly and openly, and credit you with that correction.

The capabilities of the platform that you highlight with regards to the Starbucks app are correct, and I appreciate you highlighting them. But you can upload photos and share your status to Facebook, yet there is still an official Facebook app. You can tweet from the Me hub and upload photos to Twitter, but there is still an official Twitter app. Why? Because the full app offers more functionality than the OS-integrated elements alone, and it does so in a single place. The same can be said of a Starbucks app. And how many users do you think are even aware that Wallet supports Starbucks cards? How many Windows Phone users use Wallet at all or even know that it exists?

And yes, I have used a Windows Phone device - and you obviously knew that, but just wanted to make a point in the most patronising way. There really is no need to be so condescending or arrogant, nor to phrase your posts in such a needlessly confrontational manner.

It makes the site just that little bit less pleasant when people go out of their way to rub people up the wrong way, instead of courteously sharing their knowledge and helping others to learn. I am not perfect, nor do I pretend to be, and I'm enormously grateful to readers when they point out my errors - it helps me to get better at what I do, and it ensures that I don't spread incorrect information when I write. If you could so with more of an emphasis on being helpful, and with less emphasis on showing off how incredible you are and how terrible I am, that would be great.

Oh, and on the subject of 'bloviating', I note that your posts are longer than pretty much anyone else's. Physician, heal thyself.

Sir Topham Hatt said,
Not having a Barclaycard app was the only reason I now bank with Natwest.

It took a while for that NatWest app to arrive to, but it was a HUGELY welcome addition to the Store for me when it arrived! Using Windows Phones as my primary devices, it was always a pain in the you-know-where to not have access to a banking app. Navigating through the online banking site on a tiny screen was horrid.

It's a pretty decent app too!

Microsoft should continue the good work that they are doing for the last one year in bringing popular apps to WP.

But the only way the app issue gonna resolved is increase in sales. If the growth of WP continues for the next 1-2 years, then it wont be a big problem anymore.

Few things they(MS) could do is release the flagship variants on all carriers around the same time.
Also, release more unlocked phones on prepaid carriers. They should release Lumia 625, 720 on prepaid carriers like they did with Lumia 520.

In some cases there are the Android and iOS ports but they are sub par compared, never updated and in some cases there isn't a free version like on the other platforms either, the two examples in my case are Wordfeud (bare bones version of it) and Words with Friends (no free version).

Steven P. said,
In some cases there are the Android and iOS ports but they are sub par compared, never updated and in some cases there isn't a free version like on the other platforms either, the two examples in my case are Wordfeud (bare bones version of it) and Words with Friends (no free version).

Considering WP went from around 1% marketshare in 2013 to 4-5% worldwide, developers will start giving Apps attention. (This is the 'start' point of marketshare to get attention, as any Mac user can testify.)

There are even growing markets that have anywhere from 10-50% WP marketshare, and any developer with customers or wanting to gain customers in these markets will be forced to give WP development more attention.


As much as I love Microsoft and WP, the release of Spotify earlier this year really opened my eyes. The feature parity on that app is nonexistent when compared to the other platforms and it rarely updated. To top it off, it is developed by Microsoft which does not explain why it is so horrible. This made me take a look at the OS as a whole and notice all of the inconsistencies, lack of updating, and lack of parity on the OS level.

After staying with WP for years, I'm giving them until 8.1 to make some significant changes to the OS that can justify such stalled development speeds. If they walk out onto the stage and present a notification center and more "framework changes to attract more people," I'm done. There has to be some massive change to justify 18 months of stagnation on a platform that removed features from it's previous version.

The only thing keeping me from going back to iPhone are those damn small screens, and if the rumors are true, a 5 inch iPhone would lure me back.

Lets not forget that Microsoft are the ones also doing the Facebook app, which was also very poor in the first few months it was out. Facebook does Android and iOS versions but have no plans to do a WP version yet. Now THAT is a company with a big enough userbase and resources and no excuse to not develop for it?

Vonauda said,
As much as I love Microsoft and WP, the release of Spotify earlier this year really opened my eyes. The feature parity on that app is nonexistent when compared to the other platforms and it rarely updated. To top it off, it is developed by Microsoft which does not explain why it is so horrible. This made me take a look at the OS as a whole and notice all of the inconsistencies, lack of updating, and lack of parity on the OS level.

After staying with WP for years, I'm giving them until 8.1 to make some significant changes to the OS that can justify such stalled development speeds. If they walk out onto the stage and present a notification center and more "framework changes to attract more people," I'm done. There has to be some massive change to justify 18 months of stagnation on a platform that removed features from it's previous version.

The only thing keeping me from going back to iPhone are those damn small screens, and if the rumors are true, a 5 inch iPhone would lure me back.

The version for WP7 was developed by a 3rd party, but the WP8 version is developed by Spotify. Unless Spotify is lying.

If you Google/Bing Microsoft Spotify WP, the top results are from forum threads talking about the 3rd party WP7 version being built by a guy from Microsoft, which is the only way I can see people might have this misconception.

The problem most people have with the Spotify App is that it is designed more for premium users than free users.

With access to Nokia Music and Xbox Music, I have never been a fan of the other streaming services. Especially since the subscription model of Xbox Music predates most of them and allows downloads and access to content offline if needed, which is handy for a Cell Phone with spotty service or premium bandwidth prices.
(Seriously consider an Xbox Music Pass, it has a lot more content and features and flexibility than any other service. It was the 'original' social music subscription service that Pandora and Spotify have been working to match.)

Mobius Enigma said,

The version for WP7 was developed by a 3rd party, but the WP8 version is developed by Spotify. Unless Spotify is lying.

If you Google/Bing Microsoft Spotify WP, the top results are from forum threads talking about the 3rd party WP7 version being built by a guy from Microsoft, which is the only way I can see people might have this misconception.

The problem most people have with the Spotify App is that it is designed more for premium users than free users.

With access to Nokia Music and Xbox Music, I have never been a fan of the other streaming services. Especially since the subscription model of Xbox Music predates most of them and allows downloads and access to content offline if needed, which is handy for a Cell Phone with spotty service or premium bandwidth prices.
(Seriously consider an Xbox Music Pass, it has a lot more content and features and flexibility than any other service. It was the 'original' social music subscription service that Pandora and Spotify have been working to match.)

I started using streaming music with Xbox Music Pass and loved it, but the catalog is quite lacking. My predominant genre is Electro and most of the artists I listen to are on every service but Xbox Music.

Nokia Music has the exact same problem.

Spotify has stated in emails to users complaining about the apps quality that the app is maintained in a joint effort by them and Microsoft.

Steven P. said,
Lets not forget that Microsoft are the ones also doing the Facebook app, which was also very poor in the first few months it was out. Facebook does Android and iOS versions but have no plans to do a WP version yet. Now THAT is a company with a big enough userbase and resources and no excuse to not develop for it?

That's not true. Facebook develops their own Windows and Windows Phone apps (and Instagram). The old WP7 app was Microsoft's, but when they relaunched the overhauled version this year, it was Facebook's work.

The Facebook app STILL sucks on all platforms. At least it doesn't suck beyond belief like it did until this year, I guess... Still get a lot more functionality via a mobile browser.

Brandon Live said,

You're just talking about the publisher ID? That's because they wanted the old one to be upgradeable when they switched from the MS one to the FB one.


My mistake then seems odd it isn't published by Facebook though? Can you confirm that Facebook do both the official one and the beta?

Steven P. said,

My mistake then seems odd it isn't published by Facebook though? Can you confirm that Facebook do both the official one and the beta?

I know they do the Win8 one, and my understanding is they do the WP8 one now. Maybe MS provides help, not sure. I'll try to get a firm answer when I get the chance.

While it sucks that official apps aren't at parity with their counterparts on other platforms, at the start. One would hope that will change, it's getting harder and harder to ignore a growing 3rd platform with millions of users. Sure it's lagging behind the other 2 but with the sheer scale of the smartphone market even if you're at 10% out of 200million phones sold per quarter that's 20mil, not a small number IMO. And the smartphone market is looking to become way bigger than where it is now by 2015-2017.

MikeChipshop said,
#donttypewhiledriving << isn't that an incredibly immature hash tag?

Not just immature, down right pathetic if he wasn't joking... nothing annoys me more than seeing folk driving while using their phone and it's definitely on the rise.. ****es me right off.. but that's another debate.

Why's that immature?

Surely that's a sentiment everyone should be expressing D:

#LegitConfused

EDIT::
Just saw the full conversation.. Makes more sense now. Figured he was on the "Don't text and drive" bandwagon >.<

articuno1au said,

EDIT::
Just saw the full conversation.. Makes more sense now. Figured he was on the "Don't text and drive" bandwagon >.<

Haha yeah that's what i was getting at