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November 28, 2011

By Geof Harries in Reviews

12 comments    

The reports of Windows Phone lacking in apps are greatly exaggerated

Tech journalists who demo a Windows Phone often lazily adhere to a predictable formula in their review:

1. Easy to use!

2. Refreshingly different!

3. Live tiles!

4. Not enough apps.

On the last point: I really wish that this pattern would stop. It's not fair of journalists to criticize the lack of apps for Windows Phone compared to those of Apple iOS or Android; they are doing a disservice to their readers by focusing on such a small, inaccurate "issue" of the Windows Phone user experience.

Many people will read that last "Not enough apps" line and blindly dismiss Windows Phone as a good alternative to its competition, when in reality, it truly deserves your attention. Windows Phone has plenty of apps, many of the same as on other platforms, if you only search the marketplace.

I'll admit that I'm not a heavy app user. On my aging iPhone 3GS, I've only got 60 apps installed and 22 of those were added by default from Apple (therefore, 38 from independent developers). I've downloaded just over 100 apps in my two years of owning the device.

Last January, we bought a Samsung Omnia 7 running Windows Phone, from Expansys. We did this to be able to test, experiment and play with the new platform. Earlier this spring, Mike moved from his iPhone to a HTC HD7 with Windows Phone. I plan to do the same over the coming year.

On the Omnia 7, I've been able to find more than suitable replacements for the apps I regularly use on my iPhone. All it takes is searching the Windows Phone Marketplace and clicking the get/buy button on the app you want. Could it get any easier than that? Windows Phone even offers a free trial on every app in their marketplace; a feature that's sorely needed in the Apple App Store.

So, let's go through the third party apps, screen by screen, that I have installed on my iPhone and I'll point you towards the Windows Phone options that have the same functionality, and often, publisher.

The first screen on my iPhone:

TSN Mobile. There's no TSN app at present, but if you don't care about the service provider, there's ScoreMobile or ESPN ScoreCenter both of which are equally good. I use ScoreMobile.

CBC News. There's a CBC News app for Windows Phone and even Windows 8.

Harvest. Try Harvest Time Tracking. When TimeTractor finally launches, it will be a killer option.

Done-zo. Not needed; see below.

Reminders. This app is part of iOS and is run as a different app. Not so with Windows Phone, where it's integrated as part of Calendar, which I find to be a much more natural position. Plus, being packaged, it takes up less real estate on your phone.

Cyclemeter. Try RunKeeper which has very similar functionality and a better interface. It's also free.

RunKeeper

Pkt Weather. WeatherMaster is sweet. Featuring Live Tile support so that your home screen is always up-to-date, WeatherMaster is a colorful, relatively attractive weather app option.

WeatherMaster

Reeder. Wonder Reader also syncs with Google Reader, just like Reeder.

Twitterific. Like Facebook below, Windows Phone has a built-in Twitter app, but I prefer rowi.

Facebook. Another built-in app, but unlike iOS, it's deeply integrated into the entire Windows Phone experience. For instance, Facebook events are part of your phone's central calendar.

The second screen on my iPhone:

RBC Mobile. I don't use this app very much, so the basic web browser version is more than adequate for those rare occasions that I do.

ING Direct. There's a Windows Phone app for ING DIRECT Canada.

Flickr. In using both the iOS and Windows Phone version of this app, I feel the latter is superior. Photos are bigger and the side-to-side swiping is oh-so-natural.

Flickr

CBC Radio. CBC has quite a number of its channels available in a mobile version. Surprisingly, they only have a French version of CBC Radio at present, but no English version. Not a problem; I rarely use this app. Also, I'm sure English radio is on its way.

Alarm Clock. Night Stand Clock is the one to pick. As an aside, I've only used an alarm clock probably three times in the past seven years. Our kids are my alarm clock; they wake up every day at 6:00 a.m. for some insane reason.

Tag. Although Tag Reader is a good app, with Windows Phone, you don't even need to install it. Mango (Windows Phone 7.5) has a built-in tag/QR code reader with Bing.

Tipulator. Give Tip Calculator a shot. Bonus points for being less cartoony and cutesy than the iOS app.

Flixster. Same on Windows Phone.

Flixster

Mixology. Cocktail Flow is a superior app to Mixology: more colourful, easier to use and there's actual pictures of the drinks.

Cocktail Flow

Amazon. No app required. Simply go to Amazon and pin the website to your start screen.

Canadian Tire. Hooray! No buggy, complicated app required. Just go to Canadian Tire and pin the results to your start screen.

Yellow Pages. There's a Windows Phone app called...wait for it...Yellow Pages.

And finally, the third screen on my iPhone:

My iPhone apps

This is my kid screen: Games only. Itsy Bitsy, Diego Music, Super Why! and PAC-MAN, to name a few.

I'm not much of a gamer, but suffice to say, the Windows Phone Marketplace is stacked with games. The other day I downloaded and showed our older kids the game called Kinectimals. Suddenly getting the high score in Fairies Fly didn't matter anymore. Kinectimals blew their mind (as it did mine).

So, if you're shopping for a new phone, give Windows Phone a chance. Don't be swayed or deterred by the greatly exaggerated reports of Windows Phone lacking in apps, because it's simply not true. There's more than enough in the marketplace to satisfy the needs and curiosity of the average user.

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Comments

Mint.com

Chris Kluis on November 28, 2011

Are you joking?

First of all some of the apps you 'prefer' on Windows 7 Phone 7 Phone are available elsewhere: http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/runkeeper/id300235330?mt=8, for example. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/weatherbug/id281940292?mt=8 for another.

Second, you can pin shit mobile versions of sites to your iPhone homescreen, too... it's just that no one wants to.

Finally, it's not about the big name apps like flickr and facebook man. It's about, say, NextBus API apps that help you get to work in the morning (great selection Windows 7 Phone 7 Phone has here: http://www.windowsphone.com/en-US/search?q=nextbus) and a Pandora client (err? http://www.windowsphone.com/en-US/search?q=pandora) and big name games like Tiny Wings (ok... http://www.windowsphone.com/en-US/search?q=tiny+wings).

So. Listen. It's not _all_ about apps, for sure. But if we are talking _about apps_, then clearly Windows 7 Phone 7 Phone is WAY behind.

dude on November 28, 2011

Chris, are you referring to the current lack of a Mint.com app for Windows Phone? Looks like that's true, but I don't use the service, so didn't list it here.

Geof Harries on November 28, 2011

dude,

I didn't say that some of those apps weren't available on Apple iOS. I was just referring to apps that I've been using on my iPhone and if those aren't on the Windows Phone platform, then here's some great alternatives. In several cases, I find the Windows Phone versions superior, but not always.

My point in this blog post is to help surface and promote some good apps for Windows Phone, thereby encouraging people who are on the fence about what platform to choose to give Windows Phone a chance.

As you point out, Windows Phone is still missing some "important" apps, which is a highly subjective term. I recognize that; this is simply a list of the apps that are important to me...and possibly to others.

Geof Harries on November 28, 2011

If you are in the Seattle area, OneBusAway (http://www.windowsphone.com/en-US/apps/30dcbcc4-e3d0-df11-9eae-00237de2db9e) is an excellent app for finding your next ride.

Ian on November 28, 2011

I disagree. I also have an Omnia 7, and while there certainly are some good apps on the Marketplace, there aren't as many that are as delightful to use as iOS apps.

That said, I do find Windows Phone to be a great choice for people moving up from feature phones who don't necessarily care for apps, but want a phone with richer social networking capabilities. It just sucks that those users are being pushed towards Android by their carrier when Windows Phone would be a better fit.

Windows Phone is a great OS in many ways, but it's not for everyone.

Yanik Magnan on November 29, 2011

The problem is not that Windows Phone doesn't have similar kind of apps like iOS. It does. But the majority of them are so plain.

What makes iOS's apps distinguish from its competitors is the characteristic of the app, for example, apps like Instagram, OmniFocus, Things, Tweetbot, Simplenote, Agenda, Calvetica, Instapaper, Camera+, etc. These kind of apps don't exist in both Android and Windows Phone, and that what matters to the people who consider to switch from their beloved iPhone.

Even though I think Windows Phone is a great implemented phone and can really be on par with iPhone in terms of features, design and usability, but still can't compare to the iPhone right now because its lack of distinguishable app.

Because outside of the tech world, normal people don't care if Windows Phone is capable of many things. They want something that's cool and delightful to use.

CK on November 29, 2011

You sound like a Mac user like 15 years ago, running down the list of popular Windows apps, and the Mac counterparts.

Look, Microsoft is working on a way to FORCE people to use their stuff, just like all their other successful products.

In about 12 months, Windows 8 will be out, and it will look like Windows Phone. And suddenly the ludicrous 'Windows Phone' name will make sense (then again, only the layman was confused by the name.. unfortunately for Microsoft, the layman is 95% of the market).

Michael A. Robson on November 29, 2011

Yanik, thanks for your comment. I agree that Windows Phone isn't for everyone and your point about shoppers being "pushed" towards Android as the only viable alternative to the iPhone was the very reason why I wrote this blog post.

For a lot of people, Windows Phone will be more than enough, and there's going to be a lot of people who will love it (like I do). The word just needs to get out there. What's going to be even more important is that Microsoft and the hardware manufacturers start educating phone sales staff to present it as another good option. Right now when you go into most stores, they just gloss over the fact that Windows Phone devices even exist.

Geof Harries on November 30, 2011

CK, have you tried a Windows Phone device? I'd argue that it's highly cool and delightful to use, plus Windows Phone is a fresh personality in the world of mobile software interaction and interface design. I love my iPhone, I really do, but I also love my Windows Phone. They are both fantastic devices in their own unique way.

As for interesting apps, there's more than enough of those on the Windows Phone platform. Some of them are built-in, like Outlook's Calendar and the camera, along with Bing Search and social media messaging integration, many others are from third parties. The latter aren't just as well known or spoken about because the platform hasn't yet received the attention it deserves.

I'm excited to see what other designers came up with for the Fast Track Windows Phone app contest, as I'm sure there's going to be some innovative, distinctive app ideas in there that will make it to market and help with the issues you bring up.

Geof Harries on November 30, 2011

Michael, that's pretty funny because I was a Mac user almost 15 years ago! I started using Macs in 1998 and bought my first Apple computer in 2001. I've switched back and forth to Windows over the years, but always return to Apple.

As stated previously, my point with this blog post was to highlight that many of the popular apps that people think are only on the iPhone or Android devices are also on Windows Phone. The tech journalists' phrase "Not enough apps" isn't necessarily true if you look a little deeper; I'm just encouraging people, especially those in the media, to do so.

Geof Harries on November 30, 2011

Your article inspired me to extend it with a few favourite windows phone apps of my own:

http://ksawyerpaul.tumblr.com/post/13506368907/the-reports-of-windows-phone-lacking-in-apps-are

Network Dashboard especially is a must.

K Sawyer Paul on December 1, 2011