Despite its relatively weak market share, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 is a really good operating system for smartphones. Tech reviewers have mostly nice things to say about it, and it makes a strong alternative if you want something a bit different.
And in many ways Windows Phone 8 is better than Apple’s iOS for iPhone or Google’s Android. Instead of just a bunch of boring static apps, your Windows Phone home screen is filled with beautiful icons called Live Tiles that update in real time with information such as new Facebook photos in your feed or the latest weather conditions.
But no matter how good Windows Phone gets, it still has a pitiful app selection compared to iPhone and Android. Developers prefer to make their apps for iPhone and Android first because those two platforms have the most users. It doesn’t make sense for many companies to spend resources making Windows Phone apps when relatively few people will be able to use them.
Today, Microsoft and Nokia announced that Windows Phone 8 will soon have two of the most sought after apps, Instagram and Vine. (Vine, if you’re unfamiliar, is Twitter’ popular video sharing app.) That’s not all. Popular news reading app Flipboard is coming to Windows Phone too.
Instagram is an especially big win for Windows Phone. It’s easily the most popular photo sharing app for smartphones with more than 150 million users. But Facebook-owned Instagram has been reluctant to make the move to Windows Phone until now.
There’s no specific launch date for Instagram, Vine, and Flipboard on Windows Phone, but it sounds like they’re all very close.
Now, does this solve all of Windows Phone’s app-selection woes?
It’s taken three years for Instagram to come to Windows Phone. And there’s still a chicken-or-the-egg problem with Windows Phone apps. Consumers want to buy phones with the apps they want. Developers want to make apps on platforms that have the most consumers. The unfortunate reality in Windows Phone’s case so far is that neither side has been willing to budge.
The good news is that Windows Phone’s market share is creeping up. Nokia shipped 7.4 million Windows phones two quarters ago, and there’s talk that it may have shipped 8 million more last quarter. (We’ll find out for sure on October 29 when Nokia reports earnings.) That’s nowhere near the level of iPhones and Android phones shipped each quarter, but it does seem to be enough to get big-name developers interested.