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One Way to Assess Windows Phone: Apps Availability

Apple this week unveiled Rewind 2011 on the App Store, a collection of the top apps and games released this year for the iPhone. And it occurs to me that one of the key ways in which we might assess the health of Windows Phone is to examine which of these top iPhone apps--if any--are also available on Windows Phone.

So. How does Windows Phone fare?

It's not pretty.

App of the year: Instagram

The iPhone app of the year is Instagram, that already old, annoying photo-sharing app that lets you make a modern smart phone photo look like it was taken with a 1970's Polaroid camera. This app is not available on Windows Phone, though there are some reasonable alternatives, including Filterlab and Apict. But here's the kicker: Where Instagram is free, those WP7 alternatives are both paid apps. Sigh.

Filterlab version of a photo of my wife and daughter in Paris

Game of the year: Tiny Tower

The iPhone game of the year is Tiny Tower, one of many Farmville-type "God" games where you build a living space for cute little "bitizens" and provide for them in various ways. Honestly, no game that has in-app purchases should ever win any award in my opinion, but no matter, it's apparently very addictive. It's also not available on Windows Phone. And I'm not aware of a viable alternative.

App of the year runners-up: VidRhythm and Band of the Day

VidRhythm lets you sample video and audio and then combine them into your own video creations. It's from the makers of "Rock Band" and provides hooks for sharing your creations on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and appears to be pretty excellent. There's nothing like it on Windows Phone to my knowledge.

Ditto for Band of the Day, which appears to answers some of my complaints about the inability to discover new music on the iPhone: It provides a peek at a new band every day, 365 days a year, with information, full song plays, reviews, and more. And no, it's not available on Windows Phone.

Game of the year runner-up: Tiny Wings and Touchgrind BMX

Tiny Wings is a very addictive scrolling game that is nothing like Angry Birds and is, alas, not available on Windows Phone. (It was a previous app pick of the week on Windows Weekly.) That said, I prefer the not-really-comparable iBlast Moki, which is available on Windows Phone. Not that it matters.

Touchgrind BMX is a pretty unique looking bike racing game with interesting physics features and a nice presentation. There really isn't anything like it on Windows Phone, though there are some good racing games, including Jet Car Stunts.

Final tally: Windows Phone for the fail

Looked at in the most critical sense, none of the top six iPhone apps and games of 2011 are available for Windows Phone, so that's a pretty serious fail. If we are feeling generous and provide half a point for games that have reasonable alternatives, I'd give Windows Phone a score of 1 out of 6, or about 16 percent. Also not great.

Of course, individual users will want different apps and different types of apps. And we can look at a more representative list of iPhone apps to come up with a better and, perhaps, fairer comparison of the two platforms. And Apple does provides lists of its top five apps in several categories. Of course, only a very tiny minority of those (including iBlast Moki, go figure) are available on Windows Phone.

Anyway, not to beat a dead horse. But this is the perception Microsoft must overcome with Windows Phone. I suspect it will be a lot better in 2012, and to be clear, I'm personally very much OK with the current app selection on the platform. But perception is everything these days. And the perception is that Windows Phone falls far short of iOS from an apps perspective. This year-end list nicely highlights that gap.

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