Microsoft’s Windows Phone is a fine platform with a huge app problem.
Popular apps available for iOS and Android simply aren’t there for Windows Phone.
Worse, Microsoft’s app store is filled with fakes and ripoffs — and some of those are among the 100 most popular.
A 30-page report published today by Jackdaw Research highlights how bad the situation is.
- A search for “YouTube” on the Windows Phone returns dozens of obvious fake YouTube apps. Check out a screenshot here. The real app is circled.
- A search for “Swing Copters,” a game for iOS and Android created by the maker of “Flappy Bird,” returns more than 25 fake apps with “Swing Copters” in their title. In fact, the app isn’t available for Windows Phone.
- Of the top 100 most popular apps, 38 of them are also available on iOS and Android (in other words, Windows Phone has very few exclusives), 38 are generic apps like flashlights, 9 are substitutes for popular apps that haven’t come to Windows Phone yet (like Snapchat), 8 are fakes, and 7 were made by Microsoft.
- There’s usually a lag of at least 200 days between the time a popular app comes to iOS and Android and when it comes to Windows Phone. Microsoft’s platform is almost never in the first wave of releases.
The paper also suggests that Microsoft may never be able to turn it around. Because Windows Phone’s market share is so low — it peaked at 3.4% in the last quarter of 2013, and has since fallen to 2.8%, according to IDC — that developers see little reason to build apps for it. The lack of apps drives people to other platforms, which keeps popularity low, which keeps app count low, and so on, into a death spiral.
The researchers don’t think Windows 10 will help. Microsoft says with Windows 10, programmers will be able to make apps for PC,s tablets, and phones without much extra work for each platform. But the types of apps that are needed on Windows Phone typically aren’t the same kinds of apps made for PCs, and developers may not do the work necessary to customise their apps for the smaller screen because, again, there’s not enough opportunity to justify the cost.
Jackdaw’s recommendation for Microsoft? Build a great flagship phone, explain what Windows Phone actually stands for, and somehow convince developers that they can make money on the platform.
Easier said than done.