Saturday, March 22, 2014

Quantity v Quality in App Stores (Part 1)

Apple, Google and Microsoft all brag about the number of apps in their respective stores. Today, at DVLUP Day New York City in front of a crowd of 250 aspiring WP8 developers, Nokia shared that 400K apps developed by (apparently) 450K developers* made it into the Windows Phone Store to date (see https://twitter.com/dvlup/status/447363457336111104/photo/1). In absolute terms, this does not compare well to Google’s & Apple’s 1 million+ apps, but in relative terms the Windows Phone platform improved from about 20% to about 40% the number of apps available in the iOS Store over the last year. (All numbers from PR releases and Wikipedia).

At first glance, that is good news for both users and developers in the Windows Phone ecosystem: Users benefit from a wider app selection, happy users lead to greater adaption and thus more downloads for developers. So – with such a rich app selection, and virtually every paid app on Windows Phone offering a free trial, we should expect to see a high number of downloads per app? Unfortunately not. In November 2013 (http://techcrunch.com/2013/11/20/windows-phone-now-sees-10m-transactions-and-500-new-apps-daily-has-served-3b-total-downloads/), Microsoft announced 3 billion downloads. That was four months ago, and with 16 million daily downloads today the number should now be at most 5 billion. That equates to less than 12,500 downloads per app, which is less than a quarter of Apple’s & Google Play’s north of 50,000.

Surprised? If you looked at the Windows Phone store recently, you may have noticed that many of the 400.000 apps just aren’t very good. There are some great Windows Phone apps out there, beautifully designed and packed with amazing features. But many others really shouldn’t be there and Microsoft should never have let them into the store. We’re guilty too – we recently published a bunch of apps for the DVLUP NFC challenge. The sole purpose was to test a few app ideas and collect DVLUP XP at the same time. Don’t check them out, they’re of no use without an NFC tag (of limited use even with one) and will be taken offline soon. Many apps on Windows Phone are plainly awful. They are either terribly designed and constantly crashing or the 700th Flappy Bird clone.

Compare this with iOS – from amazing utility apps to awesome games, most apps are great. Well designed, thought through, well developed and tested. Trainyard, Notability, Doodle Jump, Instagram, Snapchat and so on were all initially designed for iOS, and while some of them are now available on WP8, the gems in the making are likely developed on iOS and perhaps Android. That’s a shame, because Windows Phone is a superbly designed OS that runs great on lower cost hardware, is very easy to develop for and for most parts provides excellent documentation and a friendly developer community.

In Part 2 of this post, I’ll look at what attracts quality developers (Hint: paying $100 to each developer publishing an app it is not), why Microsoft’s in-app ad solution is an insult to developers and why we here at the App Cauldron develop for Windows Phone.

(* More developers than apps suggest a few may have registered for different purposes. Perhaps because installing cracked apps via http://www.g***s-wpd.com & co requires a WP developer Account?)

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