What If…Windows Phone had the Same Apps as iOS and Android?

What If…Windows Phone had the Same Apps as iOS and Android?

We Windows Phone fans are an interesting breed. I’ve never seen another tech fandom that was so based on faith, apologies, and excuses. It does make sense though. Windows Phone is something that we love, so we find ourselves constantly asking ourselves, “Why doesn’t everyone else like this too?”

So we come up with excuses. Here’s a general rundown:

  • Microsoft just showed up too late to the party
  • Everyone has simply made their choice by now
  • If they would just rebrand it to Surface Phone…
  • If we just had the apps…

Make no mistake, these are all bullshit. Since this article serves to talk about what would happen if the fourth item on the list came true, let’s do a quick rundown on the first three.

Microsoft Showed Up Too Late

Microsoft didn’t show up too late. Windows Phone 7 came out in 2010. It was preceded by Windows Mobile 6, PocketPC, and Windows CE (in that order) which dates back to the mid-90s. Of course, they did show up late to the modern smart phone market.

I don’t think it matters though. New technologies replace old ones all the time. Sega replaced Atari, Sony replaced Sega, and Microsoft replaced Nintendo in the console market. One thing that we can also learn from this is that there’s really only room for two major platforms in any market.

Everyone has Simply made their Choice by Now

This is completely untrue. If you’re reading this, the circles that you run in might have made their choice by now. After all, we’re enthusiasts, so we actually have chosen our preferred platform.

Most people have not. Most users just want a smart phone that fits their needs. Most users walk into an AT&T Store when it’s time to upgrade and have no idea what they’re going to walk out with. Make no mistake, a better product will win over these people.

If they would just Rebrand it to Surface Phone

The Surface Phone theory has been especially popular as of late. That doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. I’ve been telling people for some time that Surface is just a brand. Changing a brand doesn’t change the core problems.

Most will respond with the fact that Surface is a successful brand and Lumia is not. That still doesn’t help. After all, Surface was a losing brand for a couple years there but Microsoft turned it around. Lumia was the next up and coming brand for a while. Remember the “Don’t fight. Switch.” ads? I freaking love those ads. For funsies, I’m going to leave some here. To wrap it up though, rebranding isn’t going to help anything.

Ah that was fun. Moving on.

What If…we just had the Apps?

The number one reason cited for people leaving Windows Phone in favor of iOS and Android is the apps. Microsoft is doing a lot to combat the problem, including bridges to port iOS, Android (Project Astoria fate undetermined), web, Win32, and Windows Phone apps to Windows 10 universal apps.

Then there’s the universal app strategy. The Windows 8 Store failed because Windows 8 was only around 14% of the market. Why would you develop a Windows 8 app for 14% of the market when you can make a desktop app that serves 100% of the market? Now that Windows 10 is a free upgrade, the idea is that more people will get on the new platform and developers will make apps. Those apps will also work on Windows 10 Mobile, so they’re essentially using their desktop market share to leverage the mobile platform.

I’m not here to talk about whether the bridges or the universal app strategy will work. I’m here to say what if. What if Windows 10 Mobile had the exact same apps as iOS and Android.

For one thing, it would put Windows Mobile on a level playing field with iOS and Android. There’s this hard fact that we all face, that no matter how good Windows Mobile might be, it still doesn’t have the apps that people need.

The question now is, now that they’re on a level playing field, can Windows Mobile compete with iOS and Android based solely on the merits of the OS? My guess is, probably not.

People like to compare operating systems in terms of features. In that case, we can point out that Windows Mobile doesn’t have a mobile payments solution, that native printing isn’t fully baked, and that there’s no native way to transfer files to a non-Windows PC.

But while that’s how we like to compare operating systems, that’s simply not what causes someone to love or hate the device that they purchased. What actually matters is user experience.

You know how when you open the Facebook app and it says you have no data connection, despite the fact that you’re standing right next to your Wi-Fi router? You know how you get that error when you try to download an app from the Store? You know how Microsoft has released six iterations of the RTM build of Windows 10 Mobile?

Most Windows Phone fans will answer this with, “Well, sure, it’s not perfect but…” The problem is that iOS and Android are perfect. Apple’s number one priority is to provide the best possible iPhone that they can make. Android is high on Google’s list as well.

While iOS came out in 2007 and Android was released in 2008, they both have one thing in common. Apple and Google have been consistently iterating them to make them better over time.

Microsoft isn’t doing that with Windows Phone. We had Windows Phone 7, it wasn’t a hit, they started over with Windows Phone 8. It wasn’t a hit so they gave us Windows Phone 8.1. It wasn’t a hit, so we got Windows 10 Mobile.

I’ve been hearing that the next version is going to fix everything for years now and it never does. Now, people are saying the same thing about Windows 10 Mobile and that we should wait for Redstone.

Let’s really ask ourselves, would it really be all fun and games if we had the same apps? Would Windows Phone and Windows Mobile really be better at that point?

About the author
Rich Woods

Being a computer programmer wasn't enough to fulfill his love of technology. In 2013, Rich founded For the Love of Tech and has been writing about his love of tech ever since.

  • jeffsters

    This article reminds me of an Apple magazine piece back around 1996. It never mattered if the Mac had Office, heck Excel started on the Mac, it didn’t help the Mac. There just comes a point where the ship has sailed. As Bill Gates said in 1985, “to really change things a product can’t just be on par, or slightly better…” I paraphrase. Windows Phone’s biggest obstical is inertia. It’s not just apps it’s an eco-system. I wish it wasn’t true.

  • I’ve been thinking more and more and I am almost convinced that Microsoft got themselves exiled from the island before WP7 even came out. Their reputation from the PC side pretty much convinced potential partners that creating apps for them for mobile was a mistake.. The last 4-5 years its been more about quantity of users vs effort in creating a product. Look how many companies created an app a year or so ago and they have already pulled their app from the market. If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it really fall or was it already on the ground.

  • cdb033

    I’ll say this, as long as they make them I will buy them. Apple and Android doesn’t do it for me. Love the article, a lot to think about here.

  • gufort

    Hi Rich, great article and I agree with you on many points, but I cannot agree iOS or Android is perfect. Many issues on both. For me, W10 has all the apps I need and that’s the reason why I keep coming back to Windows after tempted by other platforms. And it is not only a question of habit. I really try other stuff including adapting to other applications and way of working. But, for me W10M is a better OS. True it needs some polish, but it is good.

    So, to your article question, I believe that by having all the apps, it would definitely increase the promoter score of the device and improve the general platform penetration. But, would it be deal breaker? Not sure, for me sure as W10 OS is the best, for others, we may need other unique and killer features.