It is time for a Windows Phone reality check and simply accept the fact that Windows Phone will always be the third wheel in the mobile smartphone arena with Android and iOS holding the other two spots.
In some areas of the world Windows Phone, especially Microsoft Lumia devices, are doing very well and in some situations surpassing these other two platforms. The main reason for that though is not high end devices but the steady stream of budget Lumia’s that are hitting those markets.
Over the last few months we have seen regular news about apps and developers pulling their wares from Windows Phone. In some cases companies have abandoned the Windows Phone platform entirely after making very public statements of supporting the platform.
Here are some examples:
- Kabam abandons Windows Phone development after releasing just one game
- Bank of America Windows Phone app shut down
- Chase Mobile app removed from Windows Phone Store, app will shut down March 22
- NBC drops Today Show app for Windows Phone
- Official Pinterest app removed from the Windows Phone Store
- Weather Flow removed from the Store due to insufficient revenue to cover costs
Apps being pulled are not the only problem for the Windows Phone platform either.
We have seen some top tier companies bring their apps and services to the platform however, it is usually that first release that remains in the store for months on end with no updates. In the meantime their iOS and Android counterparts receive regular updates and new features.
- Official Twitter app last updated in January 2015 but the iOS and Android versions were updated 06 April to add the new tweet quoting capabilities.
- Instagram released an official beta version of their app in March 2014 which did not even have all of the features the service offered such as video support. The app listing retains the beta label and has received no updates in nearly a year.
- Amazon app in Windows Phone store last updated in September 2014; iOS and Android versions updated in March and April 2015 respectively.
- The Amazon shopping apps for iOS and Android, both were updated in the last month, offer a significantly different experience and capabilities compared to Windows Phone. The Windows Phone version was last updated in December 2014.
I could go on and find a huge list of examples of apps coming to Windows Phone and rarely being updated. There are also plenty of examples of iOS and Android versions of apps being feature rich compared to Windows Phone versions even though there are no limitations on Windows Phone that would keep them from performing those same functions.
We have even seen this from Microsoft, who has gone all in on their cross platform push for their services, when iOS and Android apps enjoy significant updates before their own platforms do.
The issue is developers are not putting their time into Windows Phone because their time is money and there is simply not the same level of money and opportunity compared to that with iOS and Android.
There are some interesting stats from a survey performed by Developer Economics of 8,000 developers that was published back in February of this year that helps deliver the reality of the Windows Phone platforms place in this mobile landscape.
The one that jumps out right at the top is this:
The platform wars have ended in a stalemate. Android is a priority for 40% of full time professional developers, iOS for 37%, whilst Windows Phone and the mobile browser have just 8% and 7% respectively.
Another point from this report shows that across all platforms over 50% of developers make $1,000 or less from their efforts. On Windows Phone nearly 75% make less than $500 per month.
Developers do hard work and should be paid for their efforts, I have always been a supporter of that fact and will continue to be so, but they also have to pay the bills.
The reality is that less than $500 per month for over two thirds of Windows Phone developers means they have to focus their efforts in other platforms/areas in order to just live and exist. That means the big platforms, iOS and Android, are always going to be the focus because that is where the customers are and not on Windows Phone.
It is that very reason that Microsoft has been making this massive push to be cross platform with their services and products even if that means their platforms play third string for updates/features.
Look, I enjoy using my Windows Phone and like the platform as part of my daily existence. I have been on it since Windows Mobile days and bought my first Windows Phone when they hit the market. I want it to continue existing but the reality is that may mean always playing from behind and accepting that some apps will come to the platform, some will not and some may get pulled.
There is a lot of effort from Microsoft behind the concept of universal apps and having them work across the entire Microsoft platform ecosystem with Windows 10. That may help draw developers and big name apps to the platform since they can easily target their apps not only for Windows Phone but also Windows Mobile devices and Xbox. That may succeed and bring in developers who want their apps in front of billions of desktop PC users and at the same time make it easy for them to also deliver those apps to other Windows 10 devices.
Reality is not about being a fan. In this case reality is a business decision.
As I was preparing this article and discussing it with our own Rod Trent he hit the nail on the head. Microsoft is focusing on where the market is for the devices and services. That is why we are seeing all the new handsets hit overseas areas first instead of the US. They are making a business decision to go where the demand is just like all the other big companies and services are for their own apps.
This new reality is about knowing and understanding what the deal is and to deny where Windows Phone stands these days is simply avoiding that reality. As fans we do not like hearing this but that also does not change reality.