By Taylor Martin | May 23, 2013 4:18 PM
When someone uses a particular platform for any given time, they become invested in the ecosystem – the apps, the built-in and related services, and the way everything syncs up perfectly and seamlessly. You become invested in the platform and the user experience. And switching to any other platform is certainly more difficult than just a context switch and getting used to a new interface.
It requires stopping, switching gears, and changing directions. You have to spend days (maybe even weeks or months) trying to fill gaps and find compatible and comparable alternatives to all the services you used to use.
For instance, if you have everything possible synchronized with iCloud between your iPhone, iPad, and Mac, jumping to an Android smartphone would seem illogical and it might be a bumpy ride. The same goes for an Android user invested in Google’s arsenal of cloud services wanting to switch to something that doesn’t play so well with Gmail, Drive, Hangouts, Google+.
This is exactly the hurdle Microsoft has faced in the smartphone market. For five and six years, respectively, users have had practically no other choice than to become invested in the Android or iOS ecosystems. And without a totally complete ecosystem and the will to play nice with competitors, convincing users to jump to Windows Phone is increasingly difficult with each passing moment for Microsoft, regardless of how refreshing the operating system may be.
The Windows Phone Store is rapidly growing (from 100,000 in June 2012 to 145,000 as of this month). But it still pales in comparison to Android’s Google Play and the iOS App Store, with over 850,000 each as of April. Below is a short list of some of the most notable – critical, even – applications still absent from Windows Phone.
Admittedly, I’m no longer an Instagram user. After opening my eyes to the absurdity of advocating and sharing cropped, low-quality pictures whilst complaining about the poor quality of most smartphone cameras, I abandoned the service in December and have yet to look back.
But there are still millions of users who use Instagram … religiously. Our own Jaime Rivera and Michael Fisher are huge proponents of the network, along with the 100 million other monthly active users.
An Instagram app for Windows Phone is reportedly in the making. But like many of the filled gaps, the application will be developed by Microsoft, not the Instagram team. And as we’ve learned from existing examples (ahem, YouTube, Facebook, etc.), this isn’t always the best solution.
For what it’s worth, there are already some fully-featured alternatives, like Itsdagram. But it’s just not the same, and its $1.49 for what is otherwise a completely free app and service on other platforms. A small price to pay … if you can deal with knock-offs.
Continuing the discussion of Microsoft-made apps, the Facebook application on Windows Phone is like a long lost forgotten property. It’s there as a technicality, and it’s reminiscent of mobile Facebook apps of yesteryear.
It’s slow to load, unresponsive and lacking important features. It doesn’t even really feel like the same service as the recently (and frequently) updated Android and iOS apps, which are made by Facebook, not Apple or Google.
As with Instagram, a third-party implementation never feels quite the same or as polished as an app made firsthand from the creators of the service.
At Google I/O last week, Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page gave Microsoft a swift, laser-sighted verbal lashing, a one-two punch. On stage, in front of 6,000 attendees and hundreds of thousands of people watching the live stream, Page said:
“I’ve personally been quite sad at the industry’s behavior around all these things. If you take something as simple as IM [instant messenger], we’ve had an open offer to interoperate forever,” Page said. “Just this week Microsoft took advantage of that by interoperating with us. This is really sad, and not the way to make progress. You can’t have people milking off of just one company for their own benefit.”
I will go as far to say that this is one of the largest reservations many people have with making the switch to Windows Phone, particularly from Android. For example, the switch from Android to iOS isn’t all that difficult. There are many Google-made applications in the App Store – Hangouts, Gmail, YouTube, Maps, etc. On Windows Phone, those offerings are nonexistent.
Personally, I use Drive, Gmail, Maps, Hangouts, Calendar, Google Now, Google+, Play Movies, Play Music, and Google Voice almost daily. With the exception of Gmail and Google Calendar, none of those are easily accessible on Windows Phone, unless you succumb to using a haphazard Web app or third-party remake. Again, as evidenced by the dozens of third-party Google Talk applications on iOS prior to the official Hangouts app, third-party offerings aren’t always up to snuff. In fact, they rarely are.
When the entire experience on another platform is compromise after compromise, it really begins to add up. A this is the root of Microsoft’s problems with Windows Phone. Not only is it struggling to capture the mind share of consumers, but it’s also struggling to capture the mind share of key developers.
An example of just that is Pebble, currently the name in the blossoming smartwatch realm.
Three of us here at Pocketnow – Michael, Joe, and yours truly – use and rely on Pebble to deliver notifications to our wrists that are impossible to miss. Unfortunately, Pebble does not support Windows Phone. And according to Pebble’s FAQ page, official support for Windows Phone isn’t even on the radar yet:
“We won’t support Windows Phone 8 at launch. All of our energy is focused on iPhone and Android. It’s possible that we might support it in the future, but I cannot guarantee it and it would not be in the near future.”
If you listen to podcasts on Android or iOS and you haven’t tried Pocket Casts, you should. (If you do not yet listen to podcasts, we have one each week, appropriately dubbed the Pocketnow Weekly, and you should definitely check it out). Pocket Casts is, hands-down, the best mobile podcasting app available. It doesn’t just allow you to easily listen to your favorite podcasts, but it syncs your subscriptions across multiple devices and platforms.
Alas, there is no Pocket Casts application – or even a comparable alternative – for Windows Phone. And as far as we know, there isn’t one in the making or on the horizon either.