I got a first look at the Lumia 800 yesterday, Nokia’s brand new Windows Phone that the company hopes will help Microsoft climb out of its sub-5% market share in mobile.
The phone is a real beauty, a remarkable chunk of industrial design that’s simultaneously refreshing and functional.
It will be the most well-rounded and best looking Windows Phone you can buy.
But it doesn’t really matter for one looming reason: Windows Phone still has a huge shortage of apps.
Time and time again I’ve contemplated making the move to Windows Phone, especially after using the new Mango operating system for one week. It makes iOS, which hasn’t changed much visually in the past four years, look drab in comparison.
But on Windows Phone, there’s no Spotify app, and there’s no Twitter app as good as Tweetbot. There’s no subway app as good as iTrans NYC, and there’s no selection of games as good as on the iPhone.
In fact, Spotify just announced a new app it’s working on for Blackberry, a platform that’s clearly heading downhill.
And for goodness’ sake, Microsoft’s brilliant photo-stitching iPhone app called Photosynth isn’t even available on Windows Phone.
There’s a reason the Windows Phone Marketplace is limited. If you’re a developer, where’s the incentive to completely re-design your app inside the Metro UI guidelines to reach a meager 5% or less of users?
If you build an app for Android or iPhone, you know you’re going to reach tens of millions of users. Building an app for Windows Phone is not yet a good investment for developers, just like it wasn’t for WebOS apps on the Pre or TouchPad.
If Microsoft really wants to break into the smartphone game, it needs to spend some serious time courting developers. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice Apple loves to feature third party apps in commercials, marketing materials, and product launches.
And I’ll give credit where credit is due. Nokia and Microsoft are throwing thousands of free phones at developers, but they need to try harder. Nokia plans the biggest marketing push it’s ever run for its Windows Phone line, and it needs to work.
Nokia did unveil Nokia Drive, a GPS turn by turn navigation app for Windows Phone yesterday, and this is a good start.
Android has its own native turn by turn navigation system, and some people consider this a “killer” reason for owning an Android device. iPhone still doesn’t have a native turn by turn navigation app.
Another great start is Evernote’s app for Windows Phone, which takes advantage of the operating system’s strength to let you “pin” things like specific notes to your home screen. The Evernote app app is better on Windows Phone than on Android or iPhone.
We’re at the point where Android, Windows Phone, and iOS are functionally very similar. The hardware is there on every operating system, and the Lumia 800 is one of the sleekest phones there is.
Android and iOS even look a whole lot alike these days. There are few killer apps for any of these operating systems that will convince people to switch, but the experiences are good enough to convince people to stay.
Until my favourite apps are on Windows Phone, there’s no way I’m switching from the iPhone. Because when I spend most of the day using apps, the apps are what makes the platform, not the Kevlar backing, laffy taffy bezel, or Retina display.