Don of the Day

Don of the Day


Adventures in software development with Xamarin and the Web

Software developer, building things with code in sunny Scottsdale, AZ.

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Windows Phone App Store Problems

Don FitzsimmonsDon Fitzsimmons

As a long-time iOS user, switching to the Windows Phone has been a breath of fresh air. Why? Because it’s different in all the right ways. The phone (Lumia 928) is so smooth and quick. Microsoft really did a nice job with the performance and the feel of this OS. The built in apps are really nice as well, making good use of the unique design of the interface. And Nokia has put out some fantastic apps like HERE maps and their camera app. I also love the SkyDrive integration. Previously, I never gave SkyDrive a thought, but now I’m all over it.

But, once I got into the app store, I started to realize that this decision to switch to the minority platform has consequences. First, the lack of what any iOS or Android user would consider standard apps. Things like a Roku remote, Pinterest, ChromeCast, Spotify, Dropbox, native Gmail client, etc are all missing. There is a Facebook app, but it’s a sorry excuse for user experience and has some major quirks. Twitter has a really nice app and Instagram does as well. But there’s a lot things I’m going to miss, like PayPal Here and Square. But, that might change as Windows Phone gains ground.

Now, let’s talk about the rest of the apps. There’s some serious crap in this store (as is the case for iOS and Android, but it’s more apparent in the Microsoft Store). Countless Facebook apps that are just IE10 wrappers on Facebook mobile. And there’s a lot of them. The majority of the apps I see don’t follow any kind of HIG (human interface guidelines) or as Microsoft terms it, the design language. I get the sense that many .Net developers dove in and created apps because it seemed easy to do (hey, I know XAML and C#, why not), but they miss the boat when it comes to user experience and that’s the key to mobile software.

fbcrapFacebook apps that are all just Facebook mobile wrappers. Funny part is, the one for $.99 is one of the most popular apps in the store right now. All of these are the same.

Another issue I see frequently is abandoneware. Many apps haven’t seen updates for months and some haven’t gotten any love for years. Again, my guess is that there was a rush to get something built because the platform was new and developers were excited, but there’s no desire to nurture and grow the apps into something great. I think many developers believe all you have to do is slap together some functionality, submit it to the store and collect checks. But that’s not how mobile development works. I think there’s more refinement involved. I think it takes time to dial in an app, to respond to feedback and get it right. As Robleh of Tiny Hearts (an iOS app developer) puts it: Version 1 is Just the Beginning. The Microsoft Store has a lot of neglected Version 1’s.

b37a2212-ea89-4271-a79a-04f915e56097This is the best photo editor app I have found (I miss Snapseed) and it was last updated on 10/16/2011. That’s pretty bad, but I still bought it.

I could go on and on, complaining about the garbage in the Microsoft Store, but I won’t. I’m going to put my money where my mouth is (or at least my spare time). I am a .Net developer damnit, and I did buy this phone partly because I wanted to experiment writing apps. So that’s just what I’m gonna do. I’m going to start writing Windows Phone apps exclusively for now, and documenting my experiences right here, so stay tuned…

Software developer, building things with code in sunny Scottsdale, AZ.

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